Thursday, 26 November 2009

Wonder Woman #38 review

Wonder Woman stares defiantly off Aaron Lopresti's cover, one eye plunged into darkness as light strikes the bar of her cell. You can see this isn't a heroine about to sit meekly in a cell.

I open the comic, anticipating Diana's righteous fury, sparked by her mother's imprisonment at the hands of Paradise Island usurpers Alkyone of The Circle and Achilles the Olympian. But who's the pathetic creature who won't accept the help of fellow Amazon Artemis to escape, because 'They have my mother. If I set one foot outside this door, she dies.'? Oi, Diana, gifted with the wisdom of Athena . . . the idea of escape is that you don't go up to your captors and announce you've left.

Diana doesn't get much better this month. Her name may be on the cover but the stars of the issue are Artemis, Donna Troy, Achilles and Alkyone, all of whom get big scenes. Donna, whom writer Gail Simone here takes to calling simply Troy (stop it!), confronts Alkyone, and whacks her about a bit, coming across as as the fierce heroine that's needed. She then lets Alkyone go, trusting she'll bend to her will rather than enforcing it, which seems odd until Donna reappears in the issue and the urgent reasons for her departure become evident - she had to go change her costume. Of course Donna should be tweaking her sexy superhero costume into a dowdy Amazonian number rather than searching for her mad mother and freeing her idiot sister!

Donna hooks up with Artemis who, ignoring Diana's protests earlier in the issue, isn't going to let Diana be executed by Alkyone. Achilles' men, the Gargareans, are similarly unhappy their new queen has ordered Diana's death, but their leader is too thrilled with his gift from Alkyone - a Wonder-corset and mini-skirt - to give them permission to interfere. Mind, the corset does give Achilles a spine, finally, and he frees Diana, clad in his lovely new frock. Isn't he FAB-U-LOUS? The very sight of him resplendent in what may very well be Diana's own granny pants, and his clunky statement that 'We have a war to kill', persuade Diana to join him in battling Alkyone and co.

Alkyone, meanwhile, has a surprise up her sleeve, and it's a shocking one I won't wreck here. Suffice to say, her plan to restore her preferred version of Paradise Island is more complex and crueller than we knew. Nice one. Other good moments this issue include the subplot involving Genocide's spirit being in a 'whittle baby' (a phrase I can never never not read as 'ickle bay-be') coming to a head, the Amazons and Gargareans fighting a battle neither wants, and the entrance of a new player on the final page.

This comic has a lot to recommend it - it's a great issue of Tales of the Amazons. It's just a shame that Wonder Woman is barely in the book, totally sidelined until the final few pages, when she has been persuaded into battle by a 'hero' so weak-minded he should be called the 'Oh-wimpy-one'. Remember, the incitement for Alkyone's plots is the fear that Diana's birth would mean the end of the Amazons (and there's a smart panel in which Alkyone quite reasonably catalogues the horrors inflicted on the Amazons since Diana's coming); yet the last few issues Diana has been no dragon. A hamster, at a push. The woman meant to embody the Amazons' fighting spirit has been content to place herself at the mercy of her enemies rather than use her immense gifts to at least try and restore order. This issue Donna gets a better showing than Diana. Artemis shows a passion to protect Paradise Island and her royal family. Even Achilles sees the light and turns against Alkyone.

But Diana sits in a jail cell with no plan of action, musing on the suitability of Artemis as a dinner party companion rather than joining her in kicking arse. She whines that she has no gods to trust despite recently having sworn fealty to Hawaiian fire deity Pele. She's allowed Alkyone to take her lasso, costume and tiara (and look darn crummy in it - where's the back of the thing?). She's simply waiting to be taken for execution. On this showing I'd have no reason to protest were the next storyline to see Diana condemned by the Amazons as unworthy of her role as Wonder Woman.

It's truly frustrating to see the level of intrigue, action and character Gail brings to this issue while sidelining the title character. Next issue is the finale of the Warkiller story arc and it should showcase Diana at her best - smart, spirited, focused and in absolute control of her abilities and weapons. Diana really needs a moment to remind us why we buy her book.

And hopefully we'll see Queen Hippolyte too - her total non-presence here is a little worrying.

Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan produce stellar work here. Scene after scene is moodily mounted, and filled with great-looking, powerful people. The anger of Donna, the madness of Alkyone, the fury of Diana's gorilla guard, the lovely hair of Achilles . . . all are wonderfully captured, and coloured by Hi-Fi. And while Diana is mostly a waste of space, there's no denying she looks fantastic.

7 comments:

  1. GAH!!

    I wasn't going to buy this issue! (see my last Wonder-blog in which I was very grumpy indeed) but I was thinking of doing something about male WW costumes, so I need to get this now. Gah! The curse of being a complete gimp!!

    Sounds a bit weird that WW doesn't do anything in this issue though.

    And Donna's got another horrific frock to add to her collection. Good grief!

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  2. He looks like David Cassidy in a built up chest plate in that drawing. David Cassidy. So long ago....

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  3. The climax of the issue confused me, as I can't tell the supporting characters apart well enough to recognize when they pulled the switch. I though Ph. had the pony-tail, so I was baffled by what happens at the end....

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  4. I think the switch was odd-panel, Pirate, as so much of the current story is.

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  5. Wait; you are not liking the total over-the-top-fanficky style Gail Simone has been employing in Wonder Woman for the past few months?
    I think my biggest problem with the latest issues of this comic are the ART!
    I do not know what Gail Simone is doing here, but it seems like she saves her serious 'Birds of Prey' level writing for SECRET SIX and just doing the best she can with Wonder Woman because it probably gets scrutinized more heavily, being a 'Trinity' character.

    If ONLY this were drawn like a manga from CLAMP (notorious for their fan in all their works) the writing ehre would play so much better. Can't you see Manga Achilles standing in an up-shot with his Wonder Warrior cape flapping around him, his long flowing golden tresses halo-ing his head, in a non-existent indoor wind with an inexplicable lens flare just slightly behind said haloed head as he declares "We have a war to Kill"?
    There are so many over the top drama moments like that in these last few issues that I now just blame editorial rather than the writer (doing her best) and the artist (wrong for the material).

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  6. Pardon my typos-- I hit 'publish' instead of 'preview'.
    "CLAMP notorious for their fan tendencies in all their works"it should have read.

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  7. How fascinating! I don't know manga at all - time for some research. I do think the writing would still bother me in places, though.

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