Friday, 27 August 2010

Wonder Woman #602 review


Lord, that's one scowly superheroine on Dan Kramer and Michael Babinski's cover. I really didn't feel like reading this book, it looks so bloomin' unfriendly. While I'm used to a determined, warrior Diana, this image shows a woman with no heart, no soul ... not someone I want to know.

Inside, Diana is more like the woman I know, at least for a while. She's the fierce defender of the dispossessed - in this case her rediscovered Amazon sisters - and a compassionate friend. Sadly, she's also ready to slaughter their oppressors without compunction.

And she's really badly dressed.

Just as we're getting used to the drab-at-best new look, Diana takes off her jacket and reveals the monstrosity below. It's done over the course of a few panels, so I suspect we're meant to gasp in awe. Awful, more like - I know some Wonder Woman fans have often suggested the traditional bustier gain a couple of straps, but this is ridiculous. It looks as Diana's lost a fight with those ballet shoes she wore in the 1950s.

By the end of the issue she's also gained a sword and shield, all the better to kill you with, my dear. Maybe we're meant to find her impressive and admirable on the final splash, as she poses with her new bits of battle gear, but I'm hoping not - certainly she's drawn with a sadness in her eyes. Or perhaps she's simply dead inside.

If I can cling onto the hope that Diana sees killing as a last resort, and this issue's slaughter is an aberration, I'll likely be back next month; if it seems we'll be getting deadly Diana until the new order emerges for this comic - when the current alternate reality arc wraps - I'll stay away. Better to rejoin Diana when her journey is complete than to get travel sick due to too many unpleasant twists and turns.

Things I liked this month were the depiction of Aphrodite as a mysterious being rather than the goddess next door, and Diana letting rip at her deity's typically useless and frustrating messages. Plus, the Amazons of Turkey come across as brave, good people, so I'm glad at least a few survived the battle against their unknown assailants this time out.

Two full issues into his run and I'm not sure what writer J Michael Straczynski is up to. I know he can present a modern, fun Wonder Woman - he did it in Brave and Bold - so I can't see why we must endure a quest to get her where he wants her. Just write her however, now. So far I'm blowing hot and cold on this often angry Diana, and there's a chill more often than not. Next issue could be the decider.
The artwork is less impressive this issue than previously, as penciller Don Kramer and inker Michael Babinski share the pages with penciller Eduardo Pansica and inkers Ruy Jose and Jay Leisten. It's still decent work, but inconsistent in texture. An early montage doesn't work, with multiple Dianas seeming rather aimless, and I'm already tired of the default battle pose of Diana pushing her chest out as she stretches her arms back. But everyone gets Diana's scowl off pat, that's the main thing. Grrrrrrr.

Alex Sinclair, as usual, turns in a fine colour job, with the eyes of characters standing out particularly - there's some very intelligent work here. And Travis Lanham letters with verve,

I wouldn't say this was a terrible issue of Wonder Woman. As far as Straczynski and Kramer's Wonder Woman goes, it may well be perfect - but the title character feels too distant from any 'My Diana' I've known for me to be comfortable with her. I hope that changes soon.


16 comments:

  1. the title is selling out recently - so these changes might continue for awhile

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  2. Ugh, I can just imagine how horrible those straps must feel, digging in every time she flexes an arm or, if they're some loose material, slipping about. They're neither practical nor sexy, what's the point?

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  3. Sales only went up to where they were early on in Gail Simone's run (prior to the unpopular Rise of the Olympian storyline). So DC might decide the changes still are not drastic enough.

    Get ready for Electric Blue Wonder Woman. In an armor.

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  4. I understand your reading, but I don't agree with it.

    This take on Wonder Woman feels like a modern revisit to her original WWII character: a princess, yes, but not supernaturally endowed. A warrior from a race of warriors whose skill is the result of Amazon training, not magic. Who opts to head out into the world to confront a massing evil and fight it.

    Reading this "Odyssey" as a new origin where she learns about her abilities and the heart needed to use them wisely and responsibly, this one is really paying off for me... costume aside.

    And while I'm the first to say ditch the jacket, the undergarb works for me in the same way WWII Wondy's outfit did: it's modeled on athletic apparel, nothing more. Something a gymnastically trained woman might wear during a workout... albeit heavily armored. The straps, etc. are just that: a call out to little Greek flourishes from throughout her visual history. Without jacket, it works for me.

    I've said it before, everything LACKING from JMS' take on Superman is being delivered in spades by his Wonder Woman.

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  5. every time someone does a "the gods want to BLESS you, diana", it's time to duck and cover because the gods have proven themselves to be insufficient to the task of "blessing". wasn't zeus' last "reward" to diana his penis?

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  6. Thanks for the info Jang-chub ... darn!

    Andrea, when I see you next we can experiment with whatever belt we have to hand.

    Pip, that's a frightening image, it was bad enough last time we had a blue Wonder Woman, in DC One Million or wherever.

    Chris, fair point about Diana currently appearing to be back at Golden and Silver Age power levels. I'm all for that, I'm a big fan of the inspirational Amazon training bit. So far, though, this take lacks the huge harm and nuttiness of the Marston/Peter days.

    The Odyssey business you note could pay off, there's plenty of time. A big injection of Homer-style wonderment would help - a few monsters and witches.
    Regarding Diana needing to learn a few things, I expect it'll come, but I'm not a great fan of the idea of sending a character back to square one so they can learn to be the more realised characters they already were prior to a new creative team's Big Idea.

    The costume ... it's still looking dull and fun-free compared to the original(s). The black pants, especially, are terribly dull.

    Great post Chris! I need to hear this stuff.

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  7. The gods are rubbish, aren't they, Foresightreviews?

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  8. Gone is any of the positive philosophy and especially empowerment (everyone looks to Diana for saving power) that Wonder Woman stands for. She's shallow, but then she comes from what seems to be a shallow culture, a culture that can't even name its citizens. Only Alera and Diana have names. Why is that? At least this bunch of Amazons weren't shown standing at perpetual statue-like attention in burqas.

    I thought the art fairly awful, especially considering the marvelous stuff we've had on the book of late. Page 4 has a little Diana punching herself in the crotch. Didn't anyone think that odd? Or were they looking at the strange anatomy of the larger figure, crotch and all?

    This version lacks any feel of Wonder. If I didn't pick up an issue every month come what may, I'd have dropped this title last month. I can't believe it has JMS' name attached to it.

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  9. Thanks Carol, you said it better than I could. Gotta say, when I saw the straps, I thought of you. Yeesh.

    When I think of Wonder Woman the associations include peace, hope, compassion, brightness, yet here she is, a moody mare who doesn't plan, she just fights, resorting to lethal force where someone with her powers need not. She's been reduced to a rip-off of her own rip-off, but without the saving grace of Xena's humour.

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  10. Oo-er mister!

    By the way, have you read this article by Austin Grossman (I've just read his book, very good)?
    http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/07/04/woman-womans-new-costume-superhero-fail/

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  11. Martin, may I say how much I enjoy your reviews. They strike me as generally spot on!(Possibly because I so often agree with them.) I just wanted to agree with what you and Carol have written. I bought Wonder WomaN #1 when Perez, Potter, and Wein revamped her in the mid-80s. She has become my favorite character. I have stuck with her through some bad writing and some even worse art. I've never considered dropping the book until now. But I can't stand what JMS has done to her. All of her compassion, kindness, and empathy (as Carol said) appear to be gone, replaced by another generic, violent, angst-ridden superheroine. To top it all off, she wears the butt-ugliest costume I've seen since Morrison's X-men. (Since there's no other appeal to the thing, we've got to see breasts bigger than Power Girl's!) I've already dropped Superman, and I would hate to drop this book as well. But I can't stand seeing one of the sunniest, best characters in the DC Universe turned into a biker girl.

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  12. Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful comments, WWfan.I'm just about at the stage of accepting that as she's younger, in a world that's not the DCU with only her story changed and she lacks Diana's innate sense of respect for human life, I can drop the book. For me it's not so much a new take on an existing character as a new take on the name only. 

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  13. Sheldon L. TalbotMonday, 30 August, 2010

    I know what you mean. By the way, I'm wwfan88. I couldn't get my yahoo account to work properly! I'm afraid it's hard to get old dogs like me to learn new tricks.

    As I've read the boards at both DC and CBR, a lot of new readers are puzzled as to why we oldtimers dislike the new WW so much. JMS they say (and this seems to be confirmed by interviews) is doing something similar to what the writers are doing in the TV show "Smallville". He's trying to show what she's like to new readers by showing her becoming WW. After the "Odyssey" storyline, the WW we know and love will be back (probably with new costume. As one put it, "I don't understand why you can't just sit back and enjoy the ride."

    I can't speak for everyone, but for me the analogy is badly flawed. In "Smallville", Clark is learning about his powers and origin, but not his basic moral character. He's still Superman that way.

    In this run, Diana is different morally. By that I don't mean that she's wrong in killing to defend her sisters. I think she's justified in doing that. It's the way she does it. She flies off into what I can only describe as a beserker rage. Perhaps the artists are at fault here, but that's how I interpret the perpetual scowl she has on her face.

    You could say that she has to learn how to control this rage. But that has never been a part of her personality -- until now. And there's always the chance that she will have a hard time controlling it and will become as dark as the villains she fights. In my opinion, that would make her much more like Frank Miller's Batman than like Wonder Woman.

    I'm afraid that the real people who are being educated are the readers. And what we're learning is that WW isn't the wuss that everyone thinks she is. If that is so (and I devoutly hope I'm wrong), then that would be the most disturbing thing of all.

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  14. Thanks Sheldon, I really appreciate you taking the time to post this. The refutation of the Smallville analogy makes sense.

    It's ridiculous that there is this idea that Wonder Woman, if she's not quick to slay, is a wuss.

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  15. I totally understand the concept of Diana killing [especially in this dark new world, where she knows no better at this stage] but oh, this Diana is so scowly, so sullen. Yes, granted she has a lot to be sullen about..but this feels like Red Sonja trapped in WWs body. Its her attitude I dont like [maybe Ive been spoilt from reading WW for 39 years and missing the old Di]. She was right to give that God [the disembodied voice] a dressing down but I find her pouty and uncommonly aggressive.

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  16. Oh, now you have me thinking about how I miss Diana Prince, Karl - having a laugh with the gay neighbours, being pushed under a tube train ... will we ever see her again, as a real alternative identity rather than simply the occasional cover identity or a super-agent?

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