Last catch-up week this week, with two doublers to deal with, both Wonder Woman and Justice League having had Christmas-fortnight issues that I missed out on reviewing. So after the jump we’ll first be looking at the return of a very old and important character to the Wonder Woman and probably even DC universe, as well as Superman’s immune system.
Also after the jump are the concluding part of the first Wonder Woman ’77 story, in which Wonder Woman has to deal with another old enemy, and Injustice: Gods Among – Year Three gives us a battle between Wonder Woman and a super-powered Batwoman. I wonder who’ll win that one?
Wonder Woman #37-38
While most of the Amazons are having to deal with a whole bunch of Ares’ pet birds…
…others are involved in a dangerous ceremony conducted by lippy old Amazon and someone else (cough cough Hecate cough cough), who requires both the sacrifice of a child and the clay into which Hippolyta has been transformed.
Where’s Diana during all of this? Sparring with her boyfriend while being sad about the loss of her mother.
Not best pleased by all of this, the Amazons demand that she choose between her responsibilities in the outer world and leading them.
Except then they’re attacked by some more of Ares’ pets, so Wonder Woman leads the charge in some shiny new armour.
Afterwards, Diana has to leg it to help out the Justice League, which doesn’t impress the Amazons much.
So how’s that ceremony been working out? Pretty well, because it’s created life – a very familiar life!
Now it’s time for a two-headed dragon. How many pets did Ares have?
Diana’s late to this fight again, meaning there’s a whole load of dead Amazons.
So Diana goes to sort out the dragon. Except, it doesn’t need sorting out…
…because she’s the goddess of war and she’s its boss.
…and her own worst nightmare. Thanks to Strife.
The Justice League need help again, but Batman’s a bit worried by Wonder Woman’s new role as goddess of war – does this mean she’s changed or does it mean that trouble’s going to come looking for?
But then Clark runs into trouble in the volcano, as Clark is prone to do. Who’s betting it’s more of Ares’ pets?
Meanwhile, Donna Troy’s getting ready…
…to lead the Amazons as their new queen.
Is it any good?
If you were to draw a graph of quality from the first of the Finches’ issues through these next two issues, it would be pretty much a straight line upwards. It’s still not perfection, but clearly both Meredith and David Finch are learning on the job very quickly.
Okay, maybe not straight away in David Finch’s case, since the second issue is full of his trademark “blow-up” pouting, hollow-eyed teenagers, none wearing anything other than a crop top or bikini, except when she’s completely naked in Donna Troy’s case. But surprisingly, come the third issue, that’s all been thrown aside and he appears to have changed his style almost completely, and while the fighting Amazons are still wed to their One Million Years BC bikinis unto death do them part, suddenly women are not only dressing normally but looking like they’ve actually had a square meal for a change, with both Diana and Donna Troy – just for starters – looking like strong, grown women.
It’s clearly still a learning curve for him, since some of the artwork’s a little rough at times, but it’s all quite beautiful and Brian Finch’s change in style and leaving of his comfort zone are to be praised. Even his efforts at drawing London aren’t that bad.
That’s not quite what a Belisha beacon looks like…
…but you barely need to apply an “American artist filter” to deal with them or the rest of the issue, and at least the cars are on the right (left) side of the road.
The writing, on the other hand, has been uniformly improving. For example, while Wonder Woman #36 felt very much like it was an obvious attempt to do everything differently from the previous 35+ issues, these two issues are more comfortable in dealing both with past continuity and pre-nu52 continuity. We have the return of the Brian Azzarello creation, Strife, indicating that Finch hasn’t forgotten the gods.
We also have the return of Diana’s friend Hessia, first introduced in Superman/Wonder Woman #1. While things didn’t pan out well with her in her last appearance, the fact that Wonder Woman’s status as goddess of war appears to be new enough that Batman and Diana are both still processing it suggests that this issue precedes Superman/Wonder Woman #9. We also have Superman in both issues, which is nice, and apparently Diana’s offer to train Clark in martial arts has been taken up.
Finch’s writing style is evolving, too. Diana’s establishment of an Amazon council to make decisions in her absence at least gives an indication that she isn’t a total novice at leadership. Finch also uses Hessia as a sounding board to discuss the ongoing theme of what it is to be goddess of war, rather than having Diana do a monologue plot dump to the nearest man while clutching a teddy bear.
Diana’s continual juggling of priorities may be common to all superheroes, not just women, but Finch is doing a reasonable job of looking at Diana’s specific problems at this specific time. True, for a near-immortal race, Amazons don’t appear to have much patience or regard for the needs of an actual living goddess amongst their ranks, but we’re pretty much operating at the level of metaphor (Wonder Woman as woman), rather than realistically, so that can be overlooked, I think.
Finch is also drawing on pre-nu52 continuity. Now, to a certain extent, this isn’t something on which I’m so keen. While many fans like to see older stories referenced, the nu52 was supposed to be a clean slate so that new stories could be told, rather than the same old stories constantly retold. This was something Brian Azzarello was very good at and was rightly lauded for – originality is very much a virtue.
Now, the return of Hecate, at least, is very much in keeping with that aim. Pre-nu52, major Wonder Woman enemy Circe was the incarnation of the former goddess Hecate, but Hecate herself only got briefly featured in flashback.
Now, she’s a full-fledged goddess again (probably), complete with Azzarello and Chiang-esque look, although perhaps a bit more generic and less Greek religion-esque than those two would have made her. Admittedly, Finch had originally wanted to use Circe, but she had already been taken. Still, necessity is the mother of invention and as a result, we have a relatively clean and innovative break. And while one could argue with the very unreverential attitude towards one of the most revered of goddesses, by having an actual baby sacrifice to her, it’s clear that the Finches aren’t going to abandon Azzarello’s Vertigo/horror vibe either.
And as a nod to both Greek myth and previous Wonder Woman origins, we have lippy sorceress claiming that she prayed to Hera (newfound friend of the Amazons in the nu52), not Hecate, to give the Amazons a new queen. While the Amazons of myth didn’t pray to Hera any more than any other god or goddess, Hera, of course, was a goddess who gave birth to a child without the need for a man.
Then straightway large-eyed queenly Hera prayed, striking the ground flatwise with her hand, and speaking thus: ‘Hear now, I pray, Gaia and wide Ouranos above, and you Titanes gods who dwell beneath the earth about great Tartaros, and from whom are sprung both gods and men! Harken you now to me, one and all, and grant that I may bear a child apart from Zeus, no wit lesser than him in strength–nay, let him be as much stronger than Zeus as all-seeing Zeus than Kronos.’
Thus she cried and lashed the earth with her strong hand. Then the life-giving Gaia (Earth) was moved: and when Hera saw it she was glad in heart, for she thought her prayer would be fulfilled. And thereafter she never came to the bed of wise Zeus for a full year . . . But when the months and days were fulfilled and the seasons duly came on as the earth moved round, she bare one neither like the gods nor mortal men, fell, cruel Typhaon, to be a plague to men.
True, it didn’t work out very well for her in the end, but the precedent is there for parthenogenesis.
But, of course, on top of Hecate, we have the return of Donna Troy, and Meredith Finch does something very interesting with her. For those of you who don’t know, although there have been various different versions and origins of the characters over the years, the Volume 2/3 ‘Wonder trio’ was:
- Wonder Woman – made from clay by Hippolyta
- Donna Troy – made by magic by the Amazon sorceress Magala as a ‘mystic twin sister’ of Wonder Woman
- Cassie Sandmark (aka ‘Wonder Girl’) – a daughter of Zeus
Both of the other Wonder Women were important in their own rights, had comics of their own and made multiple guest appearances in Wonder Woman, sometimes even assuming Wonder Woman’s mantle themselves.
But while Cassie Sandmark has been in Teen Titans since the nu52 first started, Donna Troy has been MIA for the past three years. Was she ever going to show up, people wondered, or had she gone the way of other missing characters in the Big Autumn Clean?
Now, when Wonder Woman’s origin was changed in the nu52 reboot, there were many criticisms of the change. These included:
- Her previous origin hadn’t needed men and so had been the perfect feminist origin for her
- Her new origin was the same as Wonder Girl’s had been and so derivative
Here, Meredith Finch does a clever juggling act, taking Wonder Woman’s Volume 2/3 origin and giving it to Donna Troy, so that not only is Donna still a daughter of Hippolyta and therefore sister of Diana, we have:
- Wonder Woman – a daughter of Zeus
- Donna Troy – made from (Hippolyta’s) clay by an Amazon sorceress to be a ‘mystic twin sister’ of Wonder Woman
- Cassie Sandmark (aka ‘Wonder Girl’) – daughter of Wonder Woman’s half-brother Lennox (a son of Zeus)
On top of that, the criticisms levelled against Diana’s new origin are put into the mouths of the Amazons and Donna Troy’s new origin is made a virtue – she’s made by an Amazon mother and a goddess without male involvement, so is ’the perfect Amazon’. Paradoxically, given that Wonder Woman is the heroine of the piece and goddess, that does actually make Donna a worthy adversary, highlight the muddier feminist nature of Wonder Woman’s heroism – it’s not ‘pure’ female heroism so is it inferior? – and once again make Wonder Woman an outsider.
Now that’s not to say that the issues are now perfect, although they’re certainly a lot easier to read and less offensive, and they’re also completely pun-free. Finch falls into the usual traps facing novice writers, including warping narrative to suit the expected audience – take a look at Donna Troy’s unveiling again:
“Rise, Donna Troy, and take your rightful place among the Amazons.”
Gasp! “They’ve brought Donna Troy back!” exclaims the audience.
Lower curtain, end issue. A great big cliffhanger at the end of the second issue.
Except… in these two issues, we have Amazons called Dessa, Hessia, Derinoe, Clyemne, Bremusa, Aella and now… Donna Troy. Doesn’t really follow, does it? She’s called Donna Troy because that’s what the fans want and will understand, not because it follows from the characters or the plot. Heaven knows what nu52-only readers will think.
A more confident writer would have given her an Amazon name to start with, allowing fans to speculate, before ultimately renaming this new Amazon ‘Donna Troy’ when she’s in the outer world. But either through wanting there to be ‘buzz’ about the title or wanting to service fan desires and end with a good cliffhanger, we have the very forced reveal at the end of #37.
Still, it’s a good reveal, a good choice of character to bring back and a good way to do it, one clearly not slaved to previous continuity, in which Donna Troy was very much a sister. And if anyone thought Hippolyta was coming back soon, it looks like they’re gravely mistaken…
Thankfully, it seems Wonder Woman might be in good hands after all.
Wonder Woman ’77 #3
Using her Lasso of Truth, Wonder Woman frees Steve from the effects of the Silver Swan’s song.
While Steve handles the disco dancers…
…Wonder Woman handles Silver Swan. At first, the Swan’s voice is too much, but then Diana registers that it’s the gem at her neck that gives her powers. That gives her a handy solution.
With the Silver Swan and the Russians in police custody, that means there’s only one thing left to do – dance!
Is it any good?
So, after three issues, it looks like we’ve got a firm grasp of what Wonder Woman ’77 is – fluffy, empty, 70s-themed but not especially authentic stories, with mild connections to both the comics and the TV series and characters who look about 75% like their TV counterparts. It’s enjoyable enough, but I was hoping for a bit more from them. Worth it if you just want more Wonder Woman, particularly drawn like Lynda Carter, and it’s as cheap as chips so you can’t complain too much, but if you want something with bite, even Sensation Comics has more going for it.
Justice League #37-38
Batman and Superman are off hunting for Patient Zero – the first person to contract Lex Luthor’s Amazo virus. Unfortunately, the virus is giving him the ability to grow superpowers:
Fortunately, Wonder Woman’s here to help:
Unfortunately, Batman’s hazmat suit gets broken and he contracts the Amazo virus along the way. But that doesn’t stop Wonder Woman and Superman getting both him and Patient Zero to the hospital.
Unfortunately, that’s where all the other infected superheroes are…
Is it any good?
It’s not so much a Justice League strip as a “let’s learn more about Lex Luthor while a few members of the Justice League go punching” strip. That said, despite being minimally about character, maximally about plot revelations, in typical Geoff Johns style, what there is is pretty good.
It turns out the Amazo virus was intended to deprive superheroes – particularly Kryptonians of their superpowers – but unfortunately for Luthor, the very person it was aimed at (Superman) turns out to have been immune. Now the virus is out, he may be the key to a cure (assuming he can trust Luthor with his blood and to then not try to depower him again) to what has apparently become a unified consciousness across all infected people.
Artist Jason Fabok continues the impressive work of the previous issue, providing one of the best renditions of Wonder Woman in the nu52 so far, and together with Johns’ scripting, there’s regular air-punch moments for Wonder Woman fans throughout the issue, right down to the moment two gods stand together and realise they’re the only ones left standing – apart from Lex Luthor.
Rating: 4/5 (for Wonder Woman moments); 3/5 (overall)
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three #17
It’s clobbering time, as Superman’s group of superheroes invade the Tower of Fate to fight Batman’s group of superheroes. Batman’s group take his special pills so that they’ll have superpowers, so who’s going to win? And who’s going to fight whom?
In the case of Wonder Woman v Batwoman, the answer’s obvious.
Except John Constantine has a trick up his sleeve. It’s a very big sleeve, too.
Is it any good?
It’s a series of fights. Meh. Everyone does everything you’d expect. Batman proves a better fighter than Superman, until Superman stops holding back. Sinestro shoots someone in the back. Harley Quinn outwits Shazam.
Could have told you that would happen.
For Wonder Woman’s part, she wins her fight easily, although the “I take it back” line is a little out of character. On the other hand, her anger at Sinestro murdering someone by shooting them in the back is very much in character.
So despite being limited in scope, for what it is, it’s not bad, and the Escher-like Tower of Fate is a nice touch…
…that harkens back to the pre-nu52 Olympus.
Rating: 4/5 (for what it is)