Sometimes I think I might be better off just waiting for the trade paperbacks of all the Wonder Woman strips. No more having to ferret around trying to find out what issues she’s in. No more wondering when the next issue in a story is going to turn up.
Case in point: last week’s releases. After weeks of none of Diana’s regular titles appearing on the (digital) shelves, DC has finally decided to give us not only the weekly Sensation Comics (Featuring Wonder Woman), but also the latest issues of both Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman. Nice, hey?
Except rather than carry on the regular story and conclude Brian Azzarello’s run on Wonder Woman, we’ve got a one-off Wonder Woman: Futures End that ties into the somewhat tedious ongoing multi-comic, alternative future, ‘Futures End’ crossover that’s been running for who knows how long (well, I do, actually. Since May, to be precise).
And guess what. Rather than resume the normal action on Charles Soule’s rather marvellous and fun Superman/Wonder Woman title or even resume and conclude the somewhat tedious ongoing multi-comic ‘Superman: Doomed’ crossover that’s been running for who knows how long (well, I do, actually. Since May, to be precise) and has invaded Superman/Wonder Woman for the past few months, Wonder Woman: Futures End #1 crosses over into Superman/Wonder Woman, too, to give us Superman/Wonder Woman: Futures End #1.
Anyway, after the jump, a review of one comic that features the unexpected return of an old Wonder Woman villain and reviews of two comics that feature the unexpected return of another old Wonder Woman villain. None of these comics will, however, have any effect whatsoever on anything. I wonder when normal service will resume?
Sensation Comics #6
When last we left, Diana in her semi-post Crisis universe of Sensation Comics #5, all looked bleak. After refusing to publicly confirm the existence of the Greek gods who created her and whom she worships, one by one her powers disappeared, seemingly punishment for her heresy.
Losing her strength, speed and even beauty, Wonder Woman nevertheless feels duty-bound to take on her adversaries, including her mirror opposite Cheetah, who also knows what it’s like to have to deal with capricious gods.
Finally, bereft of hope, Wonder Woman returns to the interviewer who tricked her into denying the gods, hoping for a bit of comfort. You know. That kind. Except it’s all a trick – on both sides.
One post-Crisis Wonder Woman power that often gets forgotten is her ability to speak with animals. And the animals are telling her that actually, this disappearing powers thing is all in her mind. Which can only mean one thing. Or person.
First introduced by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston back in the 1940s, Doctor Psycho has always been the antithesis of Wonder Woman: a misogynistic, murderous psychopath man of small stature but with a powerful mind, able to control others. Occasionally, he’s been shown to have more depth than that – the pre-nu52 Odyssey reboot (keep that one in mind, by the way – it’ll be coming up again later) of Wonder Woman even had him as an ally of Wonder Woman, the only person who knew that the world had changed and that the woman he loved (Diana) had changed, too.
Here, though, he’s back to his older, rapier tricks, trying to demonstrate that even Wonder Woman will be desperate for male attention once she starts to lose her beauty and strength, and ultimately that he can get her to believe she’s just a statue once all her powers have been removed.
Except Wonder Woman’s onto his game and stops him before he can get any further.
As an idea, the whole strip just about works. It takes a lot of dancing around to make Wonder Woman vulnerable to Psycho’s telepathy and there’s no clear reason why she would return to the interviewer and the TV studio for, ostensibly, a shag, rather than go to one of her friends for a chat. Yes, you can argue that she’s playing along, but why would with this be Doctor Psycho’s plan? You can see the subtextual parallels with pick-up artists and ‘negging’, but textually, it doesn’t work in the slightest.
The relationship between this Wonder Woman and her gods doesn’t seem particularly post-Crisis either. Diana maintains that were her gods ever to get really angry with her, they’d just kill her, which really isn’t what happens in Greek myth (well, maybe sometimes) or even the post-Crisis DC Universe, given how often the gods do get angry with her in that timeline.
Lastly, the art’s a bit off – it’s good enough, but when Wonder Woman supposedly loses all her beauty, she looks exactly the same as in every other pane. Oops.
All the same, these aren’t such flaws that they ruin the overall enjoyment of the strip. So if you’ve missed Doctor Psycho and wanted to see him – and Cheetah – again, now’s your chance, and the twists are at least a step above the ordinary.
Wonder Woman: Futures End #1/Superman/Wonder Woman: Futures End #1
I must confess that I haven’t read any of the ‘Futures End’ issues that preceded this one, so I’ve no idea how standalone this two-parter might be. They’re both out in a week when every other comic has a similar one-shot, showing what happens five years from now in the DC Futures End alternative universe, so I suspect they’re both self-contained, with no effect on many other comics, while simultaneously massively tied in in some unfathomable way.
But that’s the trouble with crossovers: massively confusing once they reach a certain size, unless you’re prepared to buy the lot of them or wait until a trade paperback assembles them in what’s hopefully a comprehensible order.
Anyway, this two-parter is written by Charles Soule so is actually very good, giving us many, many firsts for the nu52 Wonder Woman, even if it’s all an alternative universe with no effect on the real one. Essentially, this is a Wonder Woman story that guest stars (for the first time in Wonder Woman) Superman. Wonder Woman, who is of course the goddess of war, has been fighting a five year campaign, it seems, against the goddess Nemesis. If that seems familiar, it’s because in the Odyssey reboot, that’s whom she was fighting, too.
Indeed, in this alternative future, Wonder Woman even appears to be wearing a variant of her Odyssey outfit that’s partly nu52ish.
In this future, Wonder Woman has been losing the war and eventually decides the problem has been that she’s refused to embrace her nature as the goddess of war.
Except then Superman turns up and reveals that actually, Wonder Woman has been in Tartarus the whole time and just been hallucinating the war.
Things get a bit more confusing when it’s revealed there’s been some kind of falling out between Wonder Woman and Superman and this is actually the pre-lapserian Superman sent into the future to try to help Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman returns to Olympus for a summit of the gods, including Apollo who used to be dead… and black.
Wonder Woman looks at the world and decides that the tactical mistake she made was to take Eirene, the goddess of peace, with her when she went to broker peace with Nemesis.
After that, war had no balance and she became something she shouldn’t have. But if one god can come back from the dead, then just as Diana took on Ares’ responsibility, so she takes on Eirene’s responsibilities and becomes the goddess of peace.
Now, there’s a lot to commend, as usual with Charles Soule’s work, in both these titles. Even though effectively the first is ‘all a dream’, it’s an enjoyable look at what might happen to Diana if she fully embraces being War over the next five years, as well as some of her powers as War.
However, the second issue is a veritable cornucopia of delights for long-time Wonder Woman fans and a lot of material for everyone to ponder, even if this is all an alternative future.
Now, the question of whether the nu52 Wonder Woman is still Wonder Woman, given her warlike nature and status as goddess of War, is one that has divided a lot of people, with many long-term fans decrying the change in her mission and status, newer and adaptable fans arguing that she’s still the same, just with a twist that enables different stories to be told.
However, the obvious conflict between the two is somewhat personified in what god Diana ends up being in each universe. Post-Crisis, she briefly became the goddess of truth during Johnny Byrne’s run, but abandoned her position once it became clear that these gods weren’t interested in doing anything direct to interfere with mortals’ lives.
Meanwhile, in the nu52, under Brian Azzarello’s lead, Wonder Woman first became the pupil of Ares as a child, before assuming his mantel when she had to kill him to defeat the First Born. Goddess of truth v goddess of war – the divide has been reasonably clear.
Soule has, however, been one of the few writers other than Azzarello to pick up on this and whether it’s deliberate or some kind of ‘morphic resonance’ that forces writers to write something close to an ideal once there’s a critical mass around it, has been tempering Wonder Woman back towards her pre-nu52 self. While using her powers over War, he’s shown Diana’s equivocation and desire to change it into a less malignant force.
Here, he takes that to the ultimate extreme, by making her become goddess of peace. I doubt it’ll have any effect on mainstream DC continuity, but given this is the idea of what may happen in five years’ time, there’s always the implication that this is in some ways where Diana’s storyline is leading.
For the two issues, Soule also picks any number of things from nu52 and other Wonder Woman continuities. As well as Nemesis and the Odyssey outfit, there’s the reformed Paradise Island, the Amazons and more. And in contrast to Brian Azzarello’s ultra-minimalist pantheon of Greek gods who largely can be condensed down to one-word archetypes/job titles – War, Moon, Sun, Justice, etc – Soule isn’t afraid to hit the Greek myth books* to give us Eirene, who AFAIK has never appeared in any Wonder Woman title until now. It’s a pleasing move that adds a depth that has been sorely missing to Wonder Woman.
Slightly more trickier is the artwork on Superman/Wonder Woman. How much of this is deliberate and how much a guest artist (Bart Sears) referencing older continuity because he doesn’t have anything else to work with and doesn’t want to hit the nu52 reference points, I couldn’t say, but everything looks a whole lot post-Crisis/Odyssey: Paradise Island, Wonder Woman, Superman, Nemesis, even Apollo, who’s more like the mythical god (blond, white) than the nu52 Apollo (obsidian). Indeed, the big surprise is that Apollo’s even alive, given he appears to have been killed off in Wonder Woman – as has Wonder Woman: Futures End guest god Hades – which suggest either death isn’t as permanent for gods as the nu52 has suggested or that Charles Soule hasn’t been reading Wonder Woman for the past few months.
Whatever the reason, the continuity glitches are a little jarring and unexplained for the dedicated nu52 reader. It’s not exactly an insurmountable problem, but you do spend a long time afterwards wondering why this future is the way it is and how much is going to end up in future nu52 continuity. Maybe that’s the idea, though.
While the two issues are as out of continuity as Sensation Comics, and have no effect on any current storylines anywhere, as far as I know (although it’s worth noting that this particular arc is going to conclude in the presumably mainstream continuity Superman/Wonder Woman: Aftermath, so might well have all kinds of effects through magic and time travel that we just don’t know about yet), they’re an enjoyable enough read. Wonder Woman: Futures End gives us a vision of Wonder Woman’s future, while Superman/Wonder Woman gives us a fair few moments of note between Clark and Diana. Combined, they’re also a lot more positive than an Azzarello story, embodying Soule’s usual optimism.
* The Tartarus depicted in the title is more in keeping with the post-Crisis/nu52 Tartarus, since rather than being a bronze-walled prison for the Titans, it’s actually a labyrinth that only someone with divine blood can navigate. Odd, for something that’s supposed to be a prison for gods…