Yep, it’s that time again – our weekly round-up of all the Wonder Woman comics out in the past week. I might also mention and review a certain movie. Or two. Or even three.
As Saturday was officially ‘Wonder Woman Day’, as well as this week’s release of two annuals featuring our Diana – Trinity Annual #1 and Wonder Woman (Rebirth) Annual #1 – issue #1 of Wonder Woman Rebirth got a free reissue to lure people into Greg Rucka’s ongoing reboot.
I couldn’t spot anything different, other than the currently standard interviews with members of the cast of a certain movie, but I might be wrong. The other releases I’ll talk about after the jump.
We’ve also had a couple of trailers released for forthcoming Wonder Woman-related movies. Due out on July 26, Lego Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain sees our miniature heroines losing their memories and having to retrace their steps to work out why:
Meanwhile, we have the real-life story of Wonder Woman’s creator(s), Professor Marston & The Wonder Women:
No release date yet, but that might change quite quickly…
Right. Got your Wonder Woman Cookies of Truth ready? Then let’s talk about a certain movie. Full review after the jump (and I do mean full), but first just a couple of news pieces.
- Lebanon has banned the movie because Gal Gadot was an Israeli soldier
- Gal Gadot and Chris Hemsworth are engineering their own DC/Marvel crossover, principally so that Wonder Woman can kick Thor’s backside
George Perez, who rebooted Wonder Woman back in the 80s for the start of Volume 2, has also been discussing not just that process but also what he thinks of Wonder Woman.
And a whole bunch of the great and the good in the comics world have been discussing what Wonder Woman means to them, too, including Perez, Phil Jiminez, Dan Didio and Shea Fontana:
But finally, the time has come. Let’s talk about Wonder Woman.
When WWI spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands in the sea near the hidden island of Themyscira, Amazon princess Diana (Gal Gadot) decides to return with him so she can live up to her heritage and kill Ares, the god of war, before he destroys the world.
Is it any good?
So before we go on, I’ll just say at this point that for obvious reasons, this is going to feature a huge amount of spoilers so you’ve got a choice:
- Watch the movie before you read any further, so you’ll be unspoiled going into the cinema
- Choose never to watch the movie and read the review because what does it matter if it’s spoiled for you?
- Decide to watch the movie whenevs and read the review, because spoilers is as spoilers does
Made your choice? Good because spoilers are now ahoy.
So for the most part, I really, really enjoyed Wonder Woman. I didn’t absolutely love it but then it’s not 100% aimed at me and I’ve also spent at least a year writing about the spoilers and clips we’ve been getting, so a lot of the potential surprises weren’t huge surprises. Plus, I’ve read practically every Wonder Woman ever, so it’s not like a relatively faithful origin story was ever going to surprise me anyway.
That said, now a little time has passed, a lot of the scenes that didn’t have a huge impact on me at the time are growing on me, so any caveats I’m about to throw out there are liable to disappear on second, third and later viewings.
Most of the things I didn’t like about Wonder Woman are forgiveable:
- The third act is a little slow as we trudge about London and the Western Front
- A lot of the CGI fight scenes felt like CGI fight scenes
- Gal Gadot might be largely perfect as Diana but having English as a second language didn’t help her with some of her lines
- The dialogue, fun though it was, didn’t sparkle in the way Joss Whedon’s dialogue sparkles, say
- The final lead up to the showdown with Ares is quite conventional
- When Diana does get her full complement of super-powers, they seem to come out of nowhere
- It’s not as feminist or genre-redefining as it could/should have been
- David Thewlis in a suit of armour with a moustache? Just no.
But it does honestly feel a bit churlish saying any of that, because Wonder Woman is a properly fun superhero movie that manages to be gritty and light, funny and sad, exciting and cerebral, and inspiring and edifying. It’s also the first live action Wonder Woman or indeed cartoon Wonder Woman I’ve seen that not only feels like it’s based on the comics but that actually gets Diana right. Yes, even the Lynda Carter TV series, all the various other TV pilots and even Justice League (Unlimited).
Much longer plot summary
After a somewhat unnecessary present day scene that follows on from Batman v Superman and precedes Justice League, we start watching young Diana growing up on Themyscira – it only gets the more familiar name of Paradise Island later in the movie, thanks to one Steve Trevor. Her mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Queen of the Amazons, reads a bedtime story to her that a long time ago, Zeus created humanity, but Ares took against them. He fought with the other gods and so Zeus created the Amazons to protect humanity and defeat Ares. The other gods gone and Ares temporarily defeated, Zeus with his dying breath creates ‘the godkiller’, a weapon that the Amazons can use to defeat Ares should he ever return and try to engulf the world in a terrible war to end all wars. Hippolyta shows her a sword that is the Godkiller.
Despite Hippolyta’s wishes, Diana begs her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), to train her as she would any other Amazon, which Antiope does. Eventually, when Diana is grown up, Hippolyta finds out and so changes her mind: now Diana must be trained harder than any other Amazon but must never be told what she really is.
Things then proceed as you might expect. Steve arrives on Paradise Island and explains about the First World War. Diana decides Ares must be behind the war so steals various Amazon weapons, including the Lasso of Truth and the Godkiller, takes Steve back to the outside world and then heads off to the front line to find Ares and deal with him and ‘Doctor Poison’, the German chemist who has secret poison gas weapon that could destroy the Allies, just as the Armistice to end the war is about to be signed. Ultimately, she finds Ares but discovers that the Godkiller isn’t her sword – it’s her. Only gods can kill gods and Diana is the daughter of both Hippolyta and Zeus – a goddess in her own right. Now aware of her own divinity and inspired by Steve’s sacrifice, Diana uses her new godly powers to defeat Ares.
The story ended, we’re back in the present day again, with Diana vowing to protect the world just as she once did. Cue Justice League.
As Wondy fans can tell from all of that, the plot is something of a mash-up of Brian Azzarello’s run in the nu52, George Perez’s run, Justice League (Unlimited) and the original William Marston story. Most of the usual origin story features are in there although the shift to WW1 from WW2 is new and we don’t get ‘The Contest’, which is fair enough – that probably would have slowed things down – so instead we have Diana stealing all the Amazons’ treasures to arm herself, which is a lift from the Justice League (Unlimited) version of the origin story. Even though the sword itself turns out to be a dud, the idea of the Godkiller sword is, of course, Tony Daniel’s invention from his run on Deathstroke, although Geoff Johns did something similar with Daniel on Justice League.
While the original ‘made by Hippolyta from clay and brought to life by a god’ origin gets a namecheck, Azzarello’s ‘daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta’ is the eventual origin, which happens to tie into an overall theme – the shift from pantheism to an almost Christian monotheism. Although Diana says at one point, “There are many gods,” all but two are dead by the time story begins (Diana being one of them) and the only two gods that get a name check the entire movie are Zeus and Ares (both male, of course). The creator of the Amazons is not Aphrodite as per Marston and it’s not a group of gods and goddesses as per Perez and Rucka – it’s Zeus, who now sends his only
sondaughter to fight his upstart favourite angelson and protect mankind.
Yep, if the standard DC analogy with Christianity and ‘superhero as Christ’ (cf Man of Steel) weren’t obvious enough, as well as Man’s fall from Paradise echoing our fall from Eden, Hippolyta’s story to Diana is told onscreen in a style that imitates Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and towards the end, Ares tempts Diana to join him with visions of a utopia, in a nod towards Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the desert. It’s all a little disappointing, robbing the Wonder Woman stories of much of their richness and alternative theology of the comics. However, we can at least reassure ourselves that since the demise of the gods and the origins of the Amazons are recounted by Hippolyta in a story that’s explicitly just that and which is later proved to be wrong in some details, the gods could all be off-screen, trapped under Themyscira, waiting for Wonder Woman 2.
There’s also more than a hint of Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger in Wonder Woman. As well as acquiring her own band of diverse heroes (including a demi-god Native American) to match the Cap’s Howling Commandos, in contrast to the usual DC bleakness and angst and despite the horrors of the First World War that it never shirks from showing, Wonder Woman is a rather joyful movie that frequently focuses on little, human details rather than epic fights (although there are many of those). It perfectly captures Diana’s need to explore the world, to help others and to show love, giving us a superheroine who actually wants to be a superheroine because it’s what needs to be done for the sake of others. And she enjoys it!
More than that, rather than focusing purely on her ability to hit people, the movie loves to show both her bravery and her intelligence – several scenes revolve about her ability to speak multiple languages, for example. And her love and compassion, of course – even once her initial naivety wears off and she learns from her new compatriots about racism and the genocide of the Native Americans by ‘Steve’s people’, she continues to fight for them. Ares’ temptation isn’t power, but the offer of a peaceful and beautiful world, albeit one brought about by the extinction of the Zeus’ evil creation of mankind. The most obvious scene is where Diana goes into ‘No Man’s Land’ (you can see what they did there) for the first time in her armour and wearing Antiope’s tiara in honour of her previous sacrifice and simply takes fire from machine guns so that the Allied Forces can save a nearby village. It’s proper heroism, that.
Diana is Diana, of course. I say, of course, but there are actually very few adaptations of the comics that get her right. In animation, she typically becomes a shouty, lecturing warrior woman, whether that’s in Justice League: War, Justice League (Unlimited) or the animated Wonder Woman with Keri Russell. The less said about the Cathy Lee Crosby and Adrianne Palicki versions, the better, of course, but even Lynda Carter’s Diana was different – while from a time when Diana herself was different (Volume 1), she was arguably more passive and again lecturing than the comic book version. Ditto the Amazons, of course, who’ve never had much luck.
However, this is very clearly and for the first time the comic book Diana, albeit a younger, not yet fully formed Diana – her Batman v Superman persona was explicitly more mature and worldy wise, having had nearly 100 years to come to terms with Man’s World and its numerous greys. Having Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg on the writing team has obviously helped here, although it does mean we have to have Johns’ recycling his ‘Diana loves ice cream’ trope for the third time, right down to the “you should be very proud” line that Diana always gives ice cream vendors. Fan service? Maybe. Or maybe just a love of his own writing.
This Diana is interesting, too. Not the virginal goddess of some writers; not unrelatably perfect either, as she makes mistakes and is impulsive when she wants to help. She gets to have sex, she gets to make jokes, she gets to comment on society’s mistreatment of others but without hectoring. While one of the character’s biggest problems over the years has been the necessity to be all things to all women, with so few superheroines around, she is a suitable super-everywoman.
Steve Trevor is far more Chris Pine than Steve Trevor, a source of constant humour and action, too, but a spy and a pilot rather than a soldier or a Navy SEAL in his current comic book persona. In the context of the movie, this actually works quite well: while Steve can help out with the fighting, Diana would obviously make a mere soldier redundant to the narrative, whereas a spy is something she clearly isn’t; Steve’s morality is ambivalent, too, making him a perfect representative of both the pluses and the minuses of Man’s World.
Both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are excellent casting. Gadot is as much Wonder Woman as Christopher Reeve was Superman (there are more than a few nods to Superman here, ranging from a revolving door scene through ‘Diana Prince’s glasses to her blocking bullets to save Steve in an alley). She’s not necessarily the best actress in the world, but she’s still perfect for the role, conveying Diana’s physicality, intelligence, sense of fun and compassion equally well. There’s also considerable humour in the movie, thanks in part to the sadly underused Lucy Davies’ Etta Candy, but most due to Gadot and Pine’s interactions, which director Patty Jenkins films very much with a female, rather than male gaze. Gadot is the straight woman to most of the jokes, setting them up for Pine to deliver the pay off, but she does get a few nice lines, particularly in one scene about the nature of sex and reproduction. In part, that’s the nature of the characters, but Pine is largely there to explain Diana’s world to the audience and the nature of Man’s world to Diana. He obviously can’t compete in the big fights, but the script gives him plenty to do all the same, including a beautiful final scene of self-sacrifice that even manages to give a depth of meaning to the photo MacGuffin of Batman v Superman. It’s the most major shift from the comics, of course, to have Steve die, but in a movie, it works and is the key to Diana becoming Wonder Woman at last.
On said subject, as with Brian Azzarello’s run, it’s a little unclear what Diana is actually capable of doing by the end. That’s an in-story issue as well, with even Ares (who is less god of war, more tempting snake here) wondering what Diana might be capable of as a goddess, once she learns of her heritage. But we see doesn’t seem to fit hugely with Diana as we’ve seen her in other media. Early in the story, she’s seen to heal quickly; she also has some kind of ability to send out an energy wave for defence from her crossed bracelets, but it’s not clear what that energy is – it’s not lightning, as in Batman v Superman. Later on, once her divinity dawns on her, she acquires superspeed and the ability to fly; she can also absorb Ares’ lightning, store it up and send it back to him, but how and whether she can produce it herself is less clear; and those the energy waves are almost a forcefield by the end of her fight with Ares. The Lasso of Truth, however, is the Lasso of Truth. That much is constant (sorry, Adrianne Palicki).
First-rate, bar the dodgy lightweight CGI that I thought the industry had moved past. Plenty of large-scale fight scenes, as well as close quarter combat that are lovely and fluid. Character scenes are beautifully executed, filled with close-ups when necessary, if occasionally edited a little too quickly for things to sink in, although I might just be slowing up in my dotage. Well done Patty Jenkins!
It’s not perfect – what blockbuster, one we’ve been waiting for for so, so long at that – could ever be and while I have some caveats, it’s pretty god-damn good, full of heart, fun, thrills and even a little bit of education.
Obviously, Wonder Woman has done well – brilliantly well, in fact, grossing $200m worldwide and $100m in the US, making it the highest ever grossing movie directed by a woman, the highest grossing movie about a superheroine and putting it ahead of both Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the first two Iron Man and Captain America movies. Let all talk of how solo action movies with female leads never do well at the box office be forever dismissed.
Wonder Woman 2 has already been greenlit, with both Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot already signed on. In all likelihood, it’ll be set in the US in the modern day, maybe even with her invisible jet. Before that, there’s Justice League, in which our Diana and Batman team up to unite the world’s superheroes to defend us from the New Gods. With Joss Whedon currently finishing it off for Zac Snyder (yes, he’s watched Wonder Woman and he loved it), there’s the hope that our Diana won’t be totally eclipsed by the Bat, the return of Superman and the need to introduce all the new heroes in the League. But as Wonder Woman is now the only real hit of the DC Extended Universe, it’s likely DC know that Wonder Woman can’t be sidelined, anyway. And as we’ve had the line ‘only gods can only kill other gods’ and the bad guys are the New Gods, you do the math as to who might need to figure quite prominently at the end at least.
By the time we finish Justice League, we’ll have the DC Trinity together properly. Brian Azzarello’s Trinity, at that: the alien, the human and the goddess. I think the whole world might actually be looking forward to that combo, at last.
Now for some comics…
Trinity Annual #1
Lex Luthor doesn’t want to join the evil Trinity, so leaves Circe and Ra’s al Ghul. But then Jason Blood turns up and after getting dipped in the Pandora Pit, gets split off from the demon Etrigan, forcing the real Trinity to have to deal with rampaging demons.
What does Diana do?
Have a meal with Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent.
Try to identify a magic image.
Protect people from a bunch of demons.
Offer her life to ensure Etrigan is reunited with Jason Blood.
A bit of Diana-light issue this one, largely being an excuse for writer Rob Williams to play around with the demon Etrigan. But a couple of point so note: despite this being the Rebirth universe, where Diana’s divinity is in doubt (even she doubts it), she’s twice referred to as ‘goddess’ (once as ‘goddess of peace’).
At the end, another evil Trinity turns up to ally itself with Circe, this one including Amazon (and Volume 2 occasional Wonder Woman) Artemis:
Do you think someone’s taking the name of his comic a bit too literally?
Wonder Woman (Rebirth) Annual #1
Rather than one long story in the style of Trinity Annual #1, Wonder Woman (Rebirth) Annual #1 is a collection of several short stories by different writers. The first is by current Wonder Woman writer, Greg Rucka, who’s architected her Rebirth reboot, so his obviously the most important, particularly since it shows how Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman meet in the Rebirth universe.
Now, we’ve obviously seen their first meeting in the nu52 Universe, which should have been the same as the Rebirth meeting because Rebirth is absolutely definitely not a reboot. Oh no. Yet, clearly everything’s different here.
Superman and Lois Lane see Diana and Steve’s mall antics on the news, so Superman goes looking for this strange new arrival. Batman seems the same news report so does the same. Eventually they track Diana to Nevada.
Batman points out that Wonder Woman isn’t an alien, since her armour (yes, we have confirmation that Diana’s outfit isn’t a bathing suit) combines ‘a Greco-Slavic-North African influence, but the symbology actively references the United States’. Interesting stuff, Bats, since that suggests that the learned Mr Rucka is hinting at a whole bunch of Amazon (and DC Amazon) myths in one go.
However, Diana spots them and to show she means no harm, gets them to touch her rope and suddenly they can all understand one another – and reveal each other’s true identities.
Peace established, Diana leaves to enjoy her newly acquired powers of flight.
I’m not 100% sure what that last line means.
Obviously, lots of interesting stuff, as Rucka’s influence now extends out into the past continuity of Justice League, not just Wonder Woman. The question is, given the recent ‘merging of the time lines’ in Action Comics, which Superman is this? He’s hanging around with Lois at the beginning, but he’s got the blue underpants of nu52 Superman. However, he doesn’t have the blue collar of nu52 Superman, yet he also thinks that Diana is ‘very pretty’…
But a nice little story that fits neatly into the Rebirth storyline and gives us in just a few lines some fun badinage between an obviously still largely unacquainted Superman-Batman – showing us how well Rucka knows all three characters.
The other stories are a little more lightweight, but have their own merits:
- In Defense of Truth and Justice (Vita Ayala): Diana defends King Shark from an execution, believing in his ability to be good
- The Curse and the Honor (Michael Moreci): Diana has to fight an old friend who has become cursed by an evil spirit
- The Last Kaiju (Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing): Diana encounters one of Godzilla’s friends
Worth it for the Rucka story, but the others are a nice bonus.
Disclaimer: Owing to the small fortune it would take to buy every single DC comic each week, this is not a guaranteed rundown of all the comics that feature Wonder Woman. If you know of any I’ve missed, email me or leave a comment below and I’ll cover them the following week