As we head into the new year, for Wonder Woman, it seems an appropriate time to say, “Out with the old, in with the new.”
For starters, in Wonder Woman #15, not only do we have the much-heralded, full-on return of the New Gods to the DC Universe, we also have some new characters – including, naturally enough, a new relative for Wondy – and new powers for her as well.
But over in Justice League #15, the flip remark I made when reviewing Justice League #14 turns out to have been prophetic, too: Wondy has a new secret dating identity. Yes, ‘Diana Prince’ is back. Woo hoo!
And since our Wondy seems to be getting some proper ‘screen time’ in the DC Universe for a change, this month, she’s also popping up in Aquaman for the first time since the nu52 reboot. Although, it has to be said, it’s a less than edifying experience for all involved. And it’s not just because of the usual Aquaman fish jokes.
And, just for fun, she flies a bit in Batwoman #15. Well, falls, flies, it’s much of a muchness. But it does give us the chance to ask a vital question that DC seems to have been posing for a couple of months now: is Wonder Woman a goddess? And to answer another vital question that DC seems to have been posing for even longer: do its writers really do any research?
Wonder Woman #15
Orion, one of the New Gods, arrives on Earth where he meets with another of Wonder Woman’s brothers: Milan, a homeless guy who lives in New York but who appears to have the power of prophecy.
Wonder Woman has arrived in New York with her entourage and she wants to meet Milan, too.
However, her entourage is a little disruptive…
…although they do eventually come to an understanding.
Lennox and Wonder Woman go looking in the subway for Milan, but bump into Hephaestus first. Hephaestus decides to give Wonder Woman’s bracelets an upgrade.
Which comes in usual when Wonder Woman and Lennox come across Milan and Orion.
Meanwhile, the First Born is off looking for his weapons. However, he finds something else instead.
Is it any good?
After a period when it seemed like nothing was ever happening in Wonder Woman and when it did, it was offensive and detrimental to women, the title seems like it’s almost finally back on track.
Although it still feels a little like the dialogue’s been through Google Translate and back a couple of times (and I’m unconvinced Wonder Woman would say “Woah”), it all flows smoothly, and it’s a pleasure to have Cliff Chiang back on inks. We have action, thanks to the arrival of Orion and the ice giants. We have humour thanks to Zola and Hera.
We also get just a hint of DC’s big bugbear with Wonder Woman: feminism. We remember that Wonder Woman’s more important parent was her mother – and Wonder Woman remembers her. Hera and Zola are becoming a very odd ‘odd couple’, with something approaching a rapprochement developing. Zola points out that Hera should really have punished Zeus for his infidelities, rather than her. Ultimately, it’s all Zeus’s fault, not Zola’s, and it’s possible Hera could come to believe this, too. Why Hera believes Zeus is blameless when even in the myths she didn’t (and largely it was Aphrodite’s playful fault anyway), I couldn’t say.
Given that we have yet another sympathetic male character arriving on the scene, this is at least a welcome move. The Orion-Milan double act is a far more palatable piece of divinity than the old gods and goddesses depictions in the title so far, particularly that of Apollo and his oracles from issue #1. One can only wonder if that’s deliberate or a decision to honour Jack Kirby’s depiction of the New Gods. It could even be the start of an eventual rehabilitation of Apollo towards something approaching how he was in Greek religion: while a tad spiky and prone to the occasional egregious act in myth, he was generally the embodiment of goodness and civilisation, a benefactor to many including young men.
We also have another hint of what I think is DC’s grand plan for its characters: slow evolution, rather than fully formed heroes. One of the biggest gripes I had during the first 10 or so issues of Wonder Woman was that she wasn’t very wondrous. For someone who had been blessed by the gods with the gifts of speed, flight, strength and more in the previous volumes, she didn’t seem very powerful. She couldn’t even fly, merely hover, by the looks of it.
But back in issue 12, she recovered her ability to fly. Now, we have the arrival of a new power: her bracelets can create swords and possibly lightning, thanks to some tinkering by Hephaestus.
This isn’t a wholly original turn up, of course. Back in Volume 3, Zeus activated a latent ability of Wonder Woman’s bracelets (which were then made from Zeus’s aegis) to create lightning.
So this is to some extent a variant on that former ability, restored to our heroine. It’s more in keeping with the nu52 Wonder Woman for Brian Azzarello to give her some cool swords than lightning, but maybe she’ll get that, too, at some point. Quite where it fits into chronology, given she doesn’t appear to have the ability in Justice League, remains to be seen. But more on that in a bit.
I will, as I usually do and have already done, continue to nitpick the Greek myth side of things now. To a certain extent, Azz has already deployed the ‘get out of jail free’ card that the First Born has been written out of myth and history by Zeus, so to complain that these ice giants are amythical begs, to a certain extent, the answer “Well, of course we never knew about them – they were written out of history, too.”
Yet, Kronos, Rhea and their Titan siblings never had monstrous children in myth – that was the prerogative of Gaia. Ice giants should rightfully belong to the previous generation rather than be uncles or aunts. Now given that Gaia gave Hera a monstrous child (Typhon), it’s always possible that we’ll get a similar explanation for these ice giants, but at the moment, I’m just going to nitpick away.
There’s a couple of other nods to Greek myth with the First Born – he wore a skin from a creature he slew (cf Heracles), although this was a dragon (cf Apollo) rather a lion. I can’t nitpick those, but they feel a little derivative rather than innovative. Ah, you can’t win with me, can you? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Bad luck, Azz.
But on the whole, a really good issue that leaves you wanting more.
Justice League #15
After Superman and Wonder Woman got physically close last issue, things have moved on a step this issue: they’re getting emotionally close. Superman explains why Clark Kent wears glasses and has a suggestion for Wonder Woman.
Glasses intact, Diana is ready to give her dating secret identity a try and it seems to work.
So much so, Clark suggests it be a regular thing.
Of course, then things turn bad, necessitating a quick change.
It turns out that Atlantis is a bit miffed and is now intent on invading the upper world. And that all gets continued in Aquaman #15.
Is it any good?
The usual caveats apply – this isn’t really grown-up comic writing. But it’s quite fun and quite sweet. Best of all, we have the reintroduction of (presumably) Diana Prince. Diana Prince – Wonder Woman’s alter ego – has been around since even before there was a Wonder Woman: she appears in Sensation Comics, the comic that introduced Wonder Woman before she got her own title.
All the way through Volume 1, Diana Prince endured. The first prospective Wonder Woman TV show was called Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? and, of course, she appeared far more often in the Lynda Carter show than Wonder Woman herself did.
Volume 2, however, dispensed with Wonder Woman’s alter ego entirely and from 1987 until the mid 2000s, there was no Diana Prince. Allen Heinberg, who’s currently writing the latest attempt at another Wonder Woman TV series, reintroduced her in Volume 3, though:
But the nu52 reboot appeared to do away with Diana Prince altogether (although arguably she all but disappeared under Gail Simone in Volume 3, anyway). Now, she appears to be back, glasses and all, even if she doesn’t have a name yet. She even does the Volume 1 style twirl with the lasso to change clothes. Woo hoo!
It’s a little troubling though. While arguably Diana Prince was an authorial steal from Clark Kent anyway, it’s strange that she needs him to suggest it. After all, we’ve seen in several issues of her own title that she’s comfortable wandering around in sometimes quite snazzy ‘civilian clothes’ anyway. True, she’s still been herself and has always worn her bracelets, but it’s not a major leap. Given that Wonder Woman can fly in this issue, it has to be set after those early issues as well, so it’s not like what was happening was a natural consequence of that chronology.
She also seems to be following Superman’s lead rather a lot, seemingly unable to operate without him. This is not a good development.
Lastly, we get the first glimpse of something most people, even those in favour of the Wonder Woman-Superman romance, were hoping to avoid: Wonder Woman and Lois Lane at each other’s throats (click on the pic to make it larger).
You’ll notice that Lois is jealous of Superman and Wonder Woman. Oh dear. And it only gets worse in Aquaman, also by Geoff Johns.
This also is not a good development.
However, on the whole, not a bad issue. The Wonder Woman and Superman interactions are all fun and Wondy gets to show off both her strength and flying skills, which are the equal of Superman’s. Cyborg, Batman and Aquaman all get some ‘screen time’, although the Flash seems to be MIA. New inker Ivan Reis does a good job with all the characters, including Diana, although not so much when she’s Diana Prince. It’s a decent read.
An Atlantean turns up after saving Lois Lane to reveal that the upper world is under attack. He’s a bit uppity so punches Superman, something to which Wonder Woman takes great offence.
When Wondy and Supes take him back to Watchtower, he reveals himself to be an old friend of Aquaman and that Aquaman’s brother is behind the invasion. Aquaman asks for a chance to fix things with bro himself.
But when that doesn’t pan out, the Trinity step in, something that Aquaman doesn’t really appreciate.
Is it any good?
To be honest, it’s a bit rubbish, a damp squib like most of the previous Aquamans. Most of it is jokes about Aquaman being rubbish, too, and occasionally Mrs Aquaman (aka Mera) turns up to do awesome things that go a bit wrong and pine over Mr Mera. But it has all the thrills of a wet weekend in Bognor. The art’s not as good as Justice League‘s either.
We also get the continuation of the Wonder Woman-Lois Lane rivalry. Here, Wondy gets all territorial and insists on our Lois knowing her place. It’s a bit of an over-reaction and Lois gets in her face over it. Of course, Wondy turns out to be right, but neither woman comes out of this looking good.
While there’s always been a certain rivalry and suspicion from Lois towards Diana, something that petered out thanks to the famous ‘Day In A Life‘ piece that Phil Jimenez did, it’s never been this petty or childish. Quite why DC have decided to have two of its most famous women at each other’s throats, when Lois isn’t even supposed to be interested in Clark at this point (she’s moving in with her boyfriend over in Superman), I don’t know, but it’s not a great sight to behold and doesn’t do anyone any good, except maybe Supes. But probably not even him.
Still, it’s all in the Geoff Johns plan, so what you going to do?
PS I hope they stop doing crossover continuations of stories in other titles. Wasn’t that supposed to be something the nu52 was going to get rid of?
Well, there’s not a lot of plot. It’s basically Batwoman’s girlfriend revealing what she’s been up to while Batwoman has been off looking for Wonder Woman. While Wonder Woman and Batwoman fall out of the sky.
Is it any good?
Nope. Tedious as hell. I’ll nitpick just a little bit now.
We have a baddie calling out ‘Mitera’. Batwoman’s girlfriend jumps to the conclusion baddie is speaking the Ancient Greek word for mother. Now far be it from me to quibble, but do you know in which modern language ‘Mitera’ also means ‘mother’? I’ll give you a clue, it’s written μητέρα. Yes, that’s right: modern Greek.
Now far be it from me to nitpick, but while it is puzzling for a non-Greek crim to be speaking Greek, it’s a lot less puzzling than their speaking Ancient Greek, so why girlfriend leaps instantly to that conclusion, I don’t know.
But her thoughts in the first page do prompt me to re-examine a question we previously visited with issue #0 of Wonder Woman: is Wonder Woman a goddess?
This has been coming up quite a lot of late, particularly in Batwoman, where the idea of Wonder Woman being not just a demi-goddess but a goddess has come up regularly, mostly in the context of the disbelief it raises among Christians, particularly Christian sidekicks, but also because of Wonder Woman’s own musings about whether she’d be as courageous as Batwoman if she were mortal. My initial reaction has been to think no, particularly since Diana doesn’t seem to think she is in Justice League #12, but I’m now considering that potentially DC is at least considering her to be a goddess.
In myth, Dionysus is the son of Zeus and a mortal yet is a god so being a demi-god and being a god can be synonymous. As we’ve seen in Wondy’s own title, Lennox, a demi-god, appears to have near immortality, not having aged since the 1940s. Other demi-god relatives, such as Sirocca, are more like gods and have survived terrible wounds and damage. Wonder Woman has herself. Of course, gods and goddesses can’t die (hence their being called ‘deathless gods’) but in the DC universe, this might not be true.
If they are pitching for ‘Wonder Woman is a fully fledged Greek goddess’, it would be an interesting development and one I’d rather like. Diana, of course, has been a goddess before, back during Johnny Byrne’s run in Volume 2.
But that lasted all of about three issues so doesn’t really count. Making it not just a one-off but a defining characteristic of her, as much as Superman’s being Kryptonian is a defining characteristic of him, could be very interesting.
But if it’s true, what do we make of the claim in the last issue of Batwoman by Wonder Woman that immortals can take a mortal’s lifeline to heal even one broken bone, when patently that’s not true?
I’m going with “No one’s thought this through or done much research”. Sigh.