Things are still hotting up with Wonder Woman‘s movie world. As well as another shiny new Wonder Woman toy – the box shot says nu52, the outfit says Batman v Superman…
…there have been a few set photos confirming that some of the action (barring some form of war recreation society, etc) of Wonder Woman will be set during World War I.
Meanwhile, last week was the usual monthly Wonder Woman week in the comics, with both Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman hitting the stands. Also out was the latest The Legend of Wonder Woman, which teams up with Wonder Woman to present us with the message that both war and War are good.
Meanwhile, what’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?
No, it’s Brian Azzarello teaming up with Frank Miller to give us the not especially awaited sequel to the originally much anticipated but eventually much reviled sequel to the seminal The Dark Knight Returns. Yes, Azz has got his hands on Wondy again. What’s he going to do with her this time?
Wonder Woman #46
When last we left her, Wonder Woman was facing the somewhat odd revelation that the person organising a war against both her and Olympus was none other than… Eirene, goddess of peace. As I said at the time:
Certainly, since becoming goddess of war in the nu52, Diana hasn’t been exactly warlike, let alone goddess of war-like, and has promised to make it more peaceful. Perhaps there’s a certain ying-yang thing going on here, with Eirene becoming more warlike to balance Diana’s more peaceful nature. Given that she’s hoping to kill off Diana, it might even be the case that Eirene can’t exist without a proper god of war to balance things out.
Hey. Guess what. I was completely right. That’s exactly what was going on.
This has literally never happened to me before. I almost don’t know what to do with myself. It’s as if Lex Luthor actually managed to kill Superman. Except a bit more non-descript and a bit less evil and super-villainy.
In fact, most of the issue revolves around Eirene (the aforementioned goddess of peace) trying to explain the virtues of war to Wonder Woman. A world without war isn’t a world without violence. War isn’t just slaughter – it enables the oppressed to organise together, to fight against oppressors to achieve freedom. Take war away and people lose the will to fight back against those who have ganged up to take away their rights.
Odd that Eirene has the hots for war (and War)? Turns out she and Ares were something of a thing. Strange? While that’s not something of the original myths themselves, the pairing of Aphrodite and Ares was popular in culture and religion, and Aphrodite Pandemos was a goddess of peace. Indeed, the worship of Ares wasn’t just to placate a god of war who might have you all slaughtered if you didn’t – the worship of Ares was popular with city guards and he was often associated with righteous anger against law-breaking. So not 100% accuracy from Meredith Finch, but something that matches surprisingly closely to the spirit of Greek myth and religion.
But other things were going, of course, because it turns out that yet again, everything had been planned by Zeus before his literal infantilisation. With a touch of his magic baby hand, a miracle happened.
And although the Fates were killed, the loss of mortal belief in them robbing them and the other gods of their immortality, Zeus figured if he could get a replacement, one born of clay and thus the Earth herself, Gaia, that might be a stronger foundation going forward. And hey presto, look what he magicked up.
Is it any good?
Like the conclusion of Finch’s previous ‘mythic cycle‘, the conclusion to this cycle is all a bit hurried, with numerous plots being finished off in a single issue, largely through page after page of unnatural plot-dump dialogue and the eventual Deus Ex Machina of Zeus fixing everything in advance. Also, “Zeus’s master plan”. Really? A ‘master plan’. Not just a plan, but a ‘master plan’? You’ve been reading too many comics.
But it’s less hurried than the previous conclusion, thankfully, and doesn’t totally feel like everything’s just been chucked out there. There’s a bit more rhyme and reason to it this time and the overall plot does work quite well in its comic book context.
It’s also confirmed yet again that no one can ever die in comics. Admittedly, that now includes gods, who shouldn’t be able to die anyway, so the reversal should have been no surprise to the faithful, but it would be nice once in a while for some decisions to have definite, unchangeable conclusions.
Lastly, it’s yet another effort by Finch to basically unpick the bad bits of the Azzarello run from the good bits and either retcon the bad bits or fix them. Whatever you think about Wonder Woman becoming goddess of war, it’s not something that anyone did much with, other than Azz and Charles Soule. It gets mentioned every so often in the other titles, but special powers, plots, et al, haven’t been springing from this new job title, any more than the ‘two swords from her bracelets’ power did. So Finch’s restoration of the status quo – assuming Ares gets his old job back – is actually welcome, since it might give DC a chance to sit down and do something better, rather than try to polish it.
Also welcome are the return of Apollo and Ares. Who knows how, but they’re back and in full form. Now, whatever you think about Azz, he and Cliff Chiang were great at coming up with iconic depictions of the gods, and their Ares and Apollo, if more than a little unfaithful to the myths, were at least strong and interesting characters who were always worth reading. Even if it means ferrying them back from Tartarus, they can only be good additions to the Finch run.
Overall then, it feels like both Finches are getting the hang of Wonder Woman now, and even if they’re not in Azzarello and Chiang’s leagues as storytellers and artists, they’re at least carrying on with some of their predecessors’ spirit, while jettissoning some of their mistakes.
Rating: 5/7 (artwork: 5/7)
Superman-Wonder Woman #23
While Wonder Woman was an interesting musing on the nature of war, as well as the theological organisation of the universe, Superman-Wonder Woman is more a slugfest, mixed in with some relationship issues for our now (supposedly) broken up power couple.
The issue is basically two parts: Superman and Wonder Woman trying to persuade Parasite to help them fight the baddies, mostly by hitting him; then Superman, Wonder Woman and Parasite going off to fight the baddies, mostly by hitting them.
As has been the case more or less since Peter Tomasi took over the title, there’s nothing much compelling about the highly conventional superhero storyline, and he’s not helped by having to simultaneously deal with the continuing pan-DC depowering/endickment of Superman. All the same, Tomasi’s characterisation of both characters can’t really be blamed on anyone but him.
Wonder Woman here uses violence as the first weapon in her arsenal, hitting people, even her prisoners, purely because she seems to enjoy it, not because it’s necessarily effective.
She’s also continually emphasising patriarchal courtesy.
There’s an element of humour to it, but it’s humour forced on the character, not stemming from her. You could imagine Black Canary or Power Girl saying it and it being amusing. Wonder Woman? It’s a hard sell.
There are some good things about the issue, though. Parasite powers up on Wonder Woman’s godly energy, something he’s never encountered before, and she’s able to virtually shrug it off after a couple of moments, something Superman would find a whole lot harder.
And the ending’s interesting. Whatever it means. (Wonder Woman mind-controlled? Hmmm…)
Rating: 3/7 (Artwork: 4/7)
The Legend of Wonder Woman #3
Wonder Girl has been off exploring Paradise Island, where she meets all kinds of wonders, including Pegasus and Mount Olympus.
However, the evil she’s been sensing on the island is getting closer.
Fortunately, Alcippe is on hand to protect Diana from the horrors that lurk within.
And Alcippe agrees to teach her how to fight.
Is it any good?
As with Wonder Woman, we surprisingly have a paean to both war and War, with Wonder Girl begging to be trained by one of Ares’ own in the arts of war, so that she can defend her fellow, peaceful Amazons from the approaching storm of horrors.
We’re shown all the beautiful things Wonder Girl wants to defend and the horrors that are approaching. And while we don’t get Ares turning up to do the teaching himself, since The Legend of Wonder Woman is avowedly male-free, we do get one of the House of Ares explaining to both Wonder Girl and all the young girls reading the importance of fighting to defend others.
It’s not an issue that adds hugely much to the storyline, beyond give motivation to the characters’ future actions, but it is a good ‘un and surprisingly creepy in its own way.
One for the kiddies but that’s no bad thing.
Rating: 6/7 (Artwork: 7/7)
Dark Knight III: Master Race
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was a hugely important graphic novel of the 80s, imagining a future, decrepit Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to fight a Gotham gone to pot, all while Superman impotently acts as an agent of the government, giving us the first Batman v Superman fight of note. Want to know where next year’s Batman v Superman (and indeed Batman Begins/The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises) come from? The Dark Knight Returns‘s your spiritual boy.
Notably absent from TDKR was pretty much every other superhero of note, but it wasn’t until late 2001 that Miller produced a sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, to explain where they all were – and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, nothing about TDKSA was pretty and a lot of it felt like an insane, emotional reaction to 9/11.
For those of you wondering when ‘Superman-Wonder Woman’ really kicked off, though, while there were hints going back to the Golden Age and 1996’s Kingdom Come at least pushed the boat out on the idea, TDKSA is probably the moment DC Comics thought it a good idea. Even if it wasn’t quite the Superman or Wonder Woman of mainstream DC continuity.
In the TDKR universe, Wonder Woman is still an Amazon warrior, but she’s not a very peaceful one and she doesn’t like men much. Except one. And she has an odd attitude towards him.
Not quite as bad as Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin Wonder Woman but getting there.
Superman and Wonder Woman also have a daughter called Lara, who’s as fierce as an Amazon, as cold as a Kryptonian, and has the powers of both her parents.
But the first issue of Dark Knight III: Master Race is really about the return to Gotham of Batman – or is it someone else? Nevertheless, Wonder Woman does make an appearance to fight a Minotaur-Centaur.
You may notice that she’s in a jungle. Turns out that this Wonder Woman isn’t so much Amazon as Amazonian, since the home of the Amazons is on dry land, possibly near the Amazon, judging by the architecture and the people Wonder Woman is protecting.
The observant will also notice that this Wonder Woman now has a baby. A son called Jonathan, in fact. One of whom she’s extremely protective.
Is it any good?
Well, it’s better than The Dark Knight Strikes Back, but so’s waterboarding, so that’s not saying much. All the same, the art’s almost good in places, you don’t feel violated by reading any page of it and the Wonder Woman characterisation is… okay. Could it be that Brian Azzarello is actually a good influence on Frank Miller? That would be unusual.
All the same, it’s too early to judge whether the story’s going to be a merely insipid cash-in or something game-changing from Miller and Azz. Azz’s Watchmen‘s prequels were among the most missable of the series and Miller’s not done anything good in years, so the odds are against it. But maybe together they’ll produce something good.
Rating: 3/7 (artwork: 3/7)