Weekly Wonder Woman: Batman v Superman, Teen Titans #18, Justice League of America #8 and more

Yes, it’s Sunday, but here’s Weekly Wonder Woman anyway. After all, Bank Holiday Monday stopped the last WWW and I’m going to be away on Monday, so I’m thinking I need to do something. So much for resting on the seventh day.

It’s been a busy old fortnight for Diana, as you also might have noticed. For the first time in 75 years, she’s appeared in a movie – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – as well as a number of comics, including DC Comics: Bombshells #36-37, Justice League of America #8, Teen Titans #18, The Legend of Wonder Woman #20-21, Wonder Woman ’77 #20 and Wonder Woman #50. All those will be reviewed to varying degrees after the jump.

However, the big comics news has come from the recent DC Comics ‘Rebirth’ press conference, ‘Rebirth’ being the new reboot/tinkering with the current DCYou/nu52 universe that’s going to come into effect once everything’s got to issue #52 (June). As well as the nu52 Superman being replaced in some way by the pre-Flashpoint Superman who’s currently married to Lois Lane and has a super kid, Wonder Woman is going bi-weekly.

Originally, Marguerite Bennett was going to be writing this title, but rumour has it that:

I am told that after a few issues were written and approved, that the editor of Wonder Woman was suddenly changed and Marguerite Bennett was gone as well. And that she would be replaced on the book by a higher profile writer.

Indeed, the big surprise is that said higher profile writer is none other than Greg Rucka, who once foreswore off working with DC Comics ever again after some behind the scenes ructions. Rucka, of course, is responsible for one of Wondy’s most notable runs – the final few issues of Volume 2, during which he revamped the gods, brought in a whole roster of much-loved characters and did all kinds of top things… that were then completely erased in the transition to Volume 3. He also wrote one of the most iconic single stories in Wonder Woman’s history, The Hiketeia.

However, given Dan DiDio’s current plan to increase DC Comics’ revenues is basically to print twice as many comics, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Rucka is actually going to be doing two stories with the now bi-weekly Wonder Woman: the odd numbered issues will be a contemporary story called Wonder Woman: The Lies, drawn by Liam Sharp, in which Wonder Woman “discovers that some of the facts she’s taken as truth are… brittle under closer examination. She sets off to separate the lies from the truth.” In part, that’s going to stem from her Lasso of Truth no longer working for her (apparently).

Wonder Woman: The Lies

Meanwhile, even-numbered issues are going to be set ‘ten years ago’ (whatever that means in the DCYou), presumably when Wonder Woman was still back on Paradise Island. That’ll be illustrated by Nicola Scott.

Nicola Scott's Wonder Woman

At some point, the two storylines will intersect.

What it all means, we’ll have to see for sure, but as with Khaniger’s #105, in which the ‘true’ origin of Wonder Woman was revealed, I imagine that a fair old bit of retconning will go on. Whether it’ll all be about making the Amazons lovely and wise again, rather than man-raping, xenophobic murderers, I can’t say, but it seems likely. I think, given where the movie universe is going, it is unlikely that Wondy’s being daughter of Zeus will be dropped in favour of her being made of clay again, but you never know.

If you want to find out more, Rucka has given an interview to Word Balloon where he discusses everything (within the limits of his NDA).

Lastly, before we jump, we’ve also had our first glimpse of the Amazons in Wonder Woman, with Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and her two aunts General Antiope (Robin Wright) and Antiope’s lieutenant, Menalippe (Lisa Loven Kongsli). 

Wonder Woman and the Amazons

“Themyscira is influenced by the Greek but it’s clearly more then that,” producer Charles Roven tells the outlet. “It’s a place that has the ‘you’ve never been to’ kind of feel. But once you’re there you’re not so sure you really want to leave so fast.” ​

Batman vs Superman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePlot
A combination of The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of SupermanBatman v Superman is nevertheless a sequel to Man of Steel, starting from the slugfest between Zod and Clark at the end of that movie to show us what it looks like to the mortals of Metropolis – particularly one Bruce Wayne, who’s on a flying visit to the city from Gotham. Wayne realises that anyone with the god-like powers of Superman could potentially take over the world, or at least kill millions, so Wayne needs to take him down before he has a chance to do so. Fortunately, a certain Lex Luthor is working on using a green rock called Kryptonite to do just that. He might also have a few other projects on the boil at the same time…

Is it any good?I really wanted to like this but the movie suffers from pretty much the same problems as Man of Steel, and has a few of its own, too. In many ways, it’s less than the sum of its parts. Ben Affleck is a terrific Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne, an old, tired caped crusader who’s fed up after 20 years of beating up criminals and losing friends, and whose moral compass has gone correspondingly awry. His sole friend is Alfred (Jeremy Irons), his butler/bodyguard/engineer and almost the only source of fun in the entire movie. 

Batman is not the problem with the movie. It’s Superman. But not because of Henry Cavill, who’s demonstrated before that he can inject as much spark and fun as he’s allowed to into the part. Instead, it’s the Man of Steel issue all over again: everything is just always Very Very Important and everything to do with Superman is Very Very Important. Whether he’s (repeatedly) saving Lois Lane, proposing marriage to her or rescuing anyone else, neither Cavill nor Superman get to have any fun whatsoever, while director Zack Snyder insists on pressing his clumsy Jesus metaphors. What’s that? Supes has just saved a baby from a burning building? Can we have everyone dancing happily around him? Will they maybe offer him presents, some tequila, gifts, offers to name their first-borns after him? Is Cavill allowed to even crack a smile at everyone’s happiness? No, of course not. They’ll just try to touch the hem of his cape because HE’S LIKE GOD, ISN’T HE? ISN’T HE JUST LIKE GOD?

Writer David Goyer and Snyder, who’s never been that great with people in any of his movies, try clumsily to rectify this problem, using yet more Very Important Moments, but it always seems to go wrong. For example, when they want to show how driven by love Superman is, how much he cares about Lois, (spoiler alerts for the rest of this review) in the middle of a big battle with the deadliest creature on the face of the Earth, Superman just flies off to rescue Lois and then chat for a bit, leaving the underpowered Batman and a woman he’s never met (more on her later…) to deal with it. That’s not touching: that self-centred dickery. It doesn’t even make any sense, in the context of the movie, given what happens next, since literally anyone would have been a better choice to get the potentially Doomsday-destroying, kryptonite-powered weapon that Supes goes to fetch while rescuing Lois.

About that woman then… Now we get onto what has already been acknowledged to be what 99% of the audience regards as the highlight of Batman v Superman: Wonder Woman. She’s in it for 7 minutes of the 2h30 runtime (yes, someone did time her appearances) and like a woman in a red dress at a party full of men in black dinner jackets, brings some much needed colour and variety to the whole event.

Like a lot of the script, her presence doesn’t make much sense. She’s on a supposed quest for a photograph from 1918 that features her (and Steve Trevor), but which has been stored digitally on Lex Luthor’s home server. But does she simply want a copy? Does she want to know what Lex knows (doesn’t she have a Lasso of Truth for that)? It’s not clear.

Either way, this elicits a sub-Ocean’s 11 style flirtation and heist between her and Bruce Wayne that does at least put a different spin on a somewhat samey machismofest, and gives us the strange sight of Batman emailing Wonder Woman some videos he’s found. Did they swap email addresses? Has Diana been around so long she’s still on AOL? It’s not clear.

Those videos contain not just her, but various members of the future Justice League and spin-off movies, including Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash. That – combined with a dream sequence that could be a message sent by the Flash from the future to warn of an impending Injustice: Gods Among Us style destiny for the Earth with Superman and Darkseid running everything – are among the movie’s only other highlights.

But back to Wondy. After a bit of dithering in which Diana decides to fly home with Turkish Airlines (presumably with her armour in checked baggage or perhaps in an apartment somewhere), she eventually decides that her 1918 decision to abandon Man’s World needs to be temporarily suspended, and in doing so, saves the movie.

Pretty much everyone cinema around the world cheers when she turns up, complete with her own theme, and rescues Batman…

She then proceeds to kick Doomsday around a lot (her line “I’ve dealt with creatures from another world before” promises much for Wonder Woman). For those wanting a rundown of what powers she ends up using (supposedly just a taster of what will be on display in her solo movie):

  • Indestructible bracelets that can stop even Kryptonian heat vision
  • Bracelets that can emit lightning, as per Gail Simone’s run in Volume 3
  • Indestructible shield
  • Indestructible sword that can cut off Doomsday’s limbs
  • Extensible, indestructible lasso that can entrap and restrain even Doomsday
  • Super speed
  • Super strength
  • Super leaping

The scene owes a lot to the nu52 confrontation between Diana and Darkseid, albeit without much dialogue. But more importantly, as well as giving us pretty much the sole female character who isn’t either evil or in dire need of being rescued by a superhero, it also gives us the only moment when any of these superheroes is actually having fun – Doomsday thwacks Diana and when she recovers, she smirks. 

Wonder Woman smirk

And again, it’s notable that wasn’t in the script – it was improvised by Gadot

“I remember after we did that take, Zack came to me and he said, ‘Did you just have a smirk?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ And he asked, ‘Why? I think I like it, but why?'” she continued, offering an awesome explanation.

“Well if [Doomsday’s] gonna mess with her, then she’s gonna mess with him. And she knows she’s gonna win,” Gadot said.

I was a bit worried about Gadot going into the movie, given her relative lack of experience and the fact she was a graduate of the Fast and The Furious franchise, but that story’s both probably all you need to know about Zack Snyder as a director (and understander) of human beings and reassuring about Gadot. Gadot’s not in the movie much so it’s a little hard to judge her Wonder Woman, but she manages to tone down her Tel Aviv accent so that if you squint mentally, it sounds a bit Greek, and she’s a strong presence in the scenes she’s in. She’s certainly more like Wonder Woman, albeit the nu52 version, than either Adrianne Palicki or Cathy Lee Crosby. 

It’s not that Batman v Superman is a bad film, although Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a Marmite performance if ever there was one and there’s a singular lack of plot logic at quite crucial times. Zack Snyder is a very impressive visual director and visually, Batman v Superman is excellent. 

What both he and David Goyer to a lesser extent suffer from is an inability to realise that it’s the small things that make us like characters. Sure superheroes can chime with themes to do with religion and power and more, and can be used as metaphors for such.

But look at the Marvel movies. Sure, DC is trying to do something darker – just as Marvel is doing with its TV shows – but we don’t love Tony Stark because of his Very Very Important problems with his heart. We don’t love Captain America because he’s a man out of time who’s lost everyone he’s ever loved. We don’t love Black Widow because of her bleak Russian past as a child trained to kill even her own friends. And it’s not because they have a nice line in quips. Sure that’s all there and it gives depth to the characters. But it’s because they’re fun people to be with, with charm, who you’d actually want to hang around, who seem to have lives and interests of their own.

While Synder is very good at making superheroics look impressive and even ‘realistic’, it’s just the unrelenting lack of moments for the characters to breathe and enjoy themselves that makes Batman v Superman no better than a medium-difficulty level of ‘Arkham Asylum’. People just aren’t like that, not even superheroes (if there were any, of course). It’s Zack Snyder’s people who aren’t realistic – no one but no one stops a fight to the death because his opponent’s mum has the same name as his. That’s just not how people work.

Still, even DC have realised this and have promised that Justice League, Wonder Woman et al are going to be a lot more fun. With Wonder Woman being a prequel, it’ll be Justice League that continues the story, with Batman and Wonder Woman heading to put together a team like Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven, presumably to unite against Darkseid when he comes. That’s more promising and I’m looking forward to the prospect of that.

When I came out the cinema, I asked everyone I was with what they thought. “It was all right,” seemed to be the general response. “Would you see it again?” “Maybe when it comes out on iTunes.”

Not a superhero classic then, but not something that’ll kill the franchise and put people off watching future ones. Let’s hope everyone goes to see Wonder Woman

Rating: 3/7

DC Comics: Bombshells #36

DC Comics: Bombshells #36-37
Plot
Stargirl sacrifices herself to destroy the Titan. Everyone’s very sad. Wonder Woman names a constellation after her. Wonder Woman’s face gets used to sell war bonds.

Stargirl sacrifices herself

Stargirl's dead. Everyone's sad

A new constellation

The heroine

Wonder War Bonds

Is it any good?
Overall, a less than auspicious first story for DC Comics: Bombshells, alternating between exploitative and daft, with artwork never achieving any great heights. Nice to see the alternative universe of superheroines and some interesting villains and villainesses, but the story itself was clumsily told and distinctly lacking in thrills.

Rating: 3/7 (artwork: 3/7)

Justice League of America #8

Justice League of America #8Plot
Superman fights Rao, while trying his very hardest not to kill everyone connected to Rao. Fortunately, the Justice League have a plan for that. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman and Aquaman don’t know about it and come in, all weapons of the gods blazing. However, the goodies prevail, Rao is stopped… but Superman dies.

Wonder Woman arrives with the spear of Zeus

There's a plan

Drawing power from the Lasso of Truth

Superman's dead

Is it any good?As always, some excellent, smart scripting that takes in big themes, action and small character moments, combined with some beautiful artwork. Diana’s still drawn a little bit wrong, but she’s particularly kick ass and godly in this issue.

Is Superman dead? Maybe, actually, given Rebirth, but let’s wait and see – particularly since the location of the story in continuity is a bit nebulous.

Rating: 7/7 (Artwork: 6/7)

Teen Titans #18

Teen Titans #18Plot
Despite the cover, when hearing what’s been happening, Wonder Woman instantly allies herself with the Teen Titans to go hunting for Cassy and her aunt Cassandra (yes, Cassy is named after Cassandra, it turns out). They’ve gone to Delphi to find Asclepius’ rod.

Delphi in Greece

Cassy wins the day, but is almost killed – but Wonder Woman saves her. Finally, Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl meet.

Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl meet

Cassandra explains that she’s trying to help Wonder Girl. The Lasso of Truth reveals she’s speaking the truth. And soon, both of Wonder Girl’s aunts are working together to help her.

Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman united

Is it any good?
It’s actually quite good fun, albeit for the younger reader, using both Greek and nu52 myth to good effect. Not being a reader of Teen Titans generally, I’m not quite sure why it was a huge surprise to Cassy that Wonder Woman is her aunt (if she knew Lennox was her dad, knew Lennox was the son of Zeus and that Wonder Woman is the daughter of Zeus, it should have been something she’d already known about, but one of those facts might have been MIA), but it’s a nice moment at the end for both Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl. 

Making Cassandra good is an unusual choice, although explained in the story, although given the only thing we know for sure is that “I came to bring back her father” is true, it’s possible she’s using Lennox for some other purpose. I’m sure we’ll find out soon, though…

Rating: 4/7 (artwork: 5/7)

The Legend of Wonder Woman #20

The Legend of Wonder Woman #20-21Plot
Wonder Woman takes on the Duke of Deception at the Parthenon and gets a pasting.

Wonder Woman is beaten

But the gods intercede. Explaining the entire history of the Earth in a lengthy plot dump, they reveal that Diana is their champion. They then give her the option of being their champion – except if she does, all life will eventually be removed to be replaced by some god-lovers living in eternal peace.

Zeus rejected

Rejected, the gods take away Wonder Woman’s powers and allow her to live a mortal life.

Wonder Woman is mortal

Is it any good?On its own terms, the story and artwork is all a bit Ulysses 31, rather than Greek myth.

Given the way it all plays out, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, either, and since it says, “to be continued” and clearly Wondy’s not giving up the day job, I’m assuming this is a dream sequence, some kind of test for Wondy by the gods or an illusion by the Duke of Deception. Let’s see what happens next, though.

Artwork-wise, everything looks lovely, although the Parthenon looks considerably smaller than it is in real life.

World War 2 Acropolis?

Rating: 5/7 (Artwork: 7/7)

Wonder Woman '77 #20

Wonder Woman ’77 #20Plot
Steve, Diana and the others escape. Charybdis creates a giant whirlpool that Diana defeats using her swimming outfit.

Wonder Woman's swimming outfit returns

Diana rides Charybdis

Then Diana and Steve sail off into the sunset together. 

Wonder Woman sails off into the sunset

Is it any good?Overall, a story that didn’t make much sense and was largely for nothing, except to remind everyone that the Panama Canal Treaty was signed in 1977. There was at least a reason to have Charybdis, rather than Scylla, in the story – to get the old Wondy swim suit out – but that’s about it. Even the end pun about Paradise Island is a bit weak, given that Steve knows all about Paradise Island, so it’s not exactly a secret.

Artwork is pretty poor and is actually so bad, it makes me think it’s supposed to be reminiscent of the sorts of comics you got free in cornflake packets in the 70s. But I might be imagining that.

Rating: 2/7 (Artwork: 1/7)

Wonder Woman #50

Wonder Woman #55
Plot
Wonder Woman learns the Cyclopes are goodies and that Hephaestus has been oppressing them.

Oppressed Cyclopes

She gives Hekate Hera’s stolen scrying balls, which turn out to be the Cyclopes eyes. Diana then bumps into Ares, and they have a fight. However, since she’s now goddess of war, she wins.

Diana defeats Ares

She then flies off on the back of Typhoeus (who’s apparently a wyvern these days) to Olympus.

Diana and a wyvern

Meanwhile, back in Rye, Sussex, England, UK, Earth Prime, DC Universe, DC Multiverse, Donna Troy is riding around on a horse. She rescues a boy, whom she first sees in a vision.

Donna Troy saves a boy

Should she have done? Well, soon he’s robbing a bank to pay his mum’s medical bills and shoots a bank teller. “Oh no, what have I done?” wonders Donna. Except in turns out the bank teller had some women trapped in his basement.

Women in a basement

Is it any good?
It’s pretty dreadful to be honest. We continue to have Diana being a complete steaming idiot when it comes to Hekate. We have yet another “Diana makes a discovery about the gods” story, with Hephaestus’ maltreatment of the Cyclopes basically just a retread of the #7 “maltreatment of the male Amazons” storyline, except bizarrely featuring the liberating, loved Hephaestus as the oppressive overlord of the piece this time. The rest of it feels like a combination of Azzarello-lite writing, coupled with some scant research of Greek myth.

What surprises me about Finch when she does this is she constantly appropriates from Greek myth yet never once gives Diana access to the same knowledge the whole of the world has. It’s not even that the DC Universe has very different myths or knowledge – it’s clear the myths are told by the Amazons, given Diana’s story arc in Batwoman, and it’s clear the Amazons have a very real and current duty to manage all manner of beasties, too But here, the fact the Hekatonkheires are to be found in Tartarus is regarded as a revelation, despite the fact the Amazons guard Tartarus!

Meanwhile, in the Donna Troy b-story, which messes up completely the point of the Fates (they’re the ones who set it), we have a crushing lack of research. We have a story set in Rye, a sleepy small town in the real world. There is a police station, manned by Sussex police, but it’s open Monday to Friday from 10am until 2pm – that’s how little crime there. Yet in the DC Universe, not only is there the American-styled “Rye PD”, they’re all armed and ready to shoot, even the ‘bobbies on the beat’:

Shooting at a bank

This is despite the fact that in the UK, there were precisely three fatal shootings by the police in 2015, two of those in London. Where the kid got the gun from, given his dire financial situation and the fact a handgun costs at least £200 on the black market, I don’t know. He says it was just lying around and he thought it was a toy, but that seems a tad unlikely – even if his dad had one illegally from the army, he wouldn’t have told his son it was a toy.

And about that financial situation in which the family can’t pay their medical bills? Allow me to present this “What if Breaking Bad was set anywhere except the US?” cartoon to explain how the NHS works to US readers (and writers).

Breaking Bad outside the US

Couple all of that with the fact that there’s such a thing as a ‘bank teller’ at the ‘Your Bank’, rather than a ‘cashier’; the TV reporter works for ‘DTV’ which is presumably an affiliate of ‘BBC News’ (livery: red text on a blue background), rather than BBC Sussex; and there’s such a thing as a ‘groceries’ shop, rather than convenience store, newsagent, greengrocer’s et al; and one can only presume either

  1. Meredith Finch has literally done no research whatsoever, not even a Google search, about the UK
  2. In the DC Universe, the UK is a US state where everything is identical to the US, except everyone just happens to drive on the left.

What strange science-fiction choices, but kudos if it’s the second one. It certainly makes the whole DC Universe feel a lot more alien to me.

Rating: 2/7 (Artwork: 5/7)