Thursday, 30 September 2010

Wonder Woman #603 review

Wonder Woman and her Amazon sisters are still in the Turkish desert, fleeing from bad guys. The Keres, creatures of myth, appear and send Diana to Tartarus. It's hot down there, the Keres show up again, but some of the natives are friendly and soon she's back in the real world. There, the bad guys' boss, who killed Diana's mother, challenges her to meet him alone. The Amazons bugger off, which is no great loss as they're about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Seriously, the Holliday Girls could slaughter this bunch without batting an eyelid.

So there you have it, part three of Odyssey, the story refitting Wonder Woman for today. A very dull day, apparently. Not much to it, really - most of the issue is the old trip to hell bit, in which we meet the usual suspects. Seemingly, the biggest torment there is banal dialogue (click to enlarge):
It's a side trip which I can't see moving the main story along, but it was interesting to see that this version of Diana is cheerier in Hell than on Earth (the first panel of the story sees her as the picture of pessimism and she doesn't much improve). Her final words to one of the Amazons is 'I'll see you on the other side', which seems to mean they'll be reunited over the water, but likely mean she reckons they'll all be dead soon. Bless.

As for feats of wonder, she shoots a gun at the ugly winged ladies, and does a bit of Third Grade tumbling.

There are one or two decent lines here from writer J Michael Straczynski, but a few decent lines don't a great read make. The Hell trip is far too familiar and reads like filler, while the 'real world' sequences continue to show us a miserable, clueless Diana. I get that we're on a (yawn) Hero's Journey but shouldn't that allow for reasons to cheer along the way?

Don Kramer pencils some of this issue. Eduardo Pansica and Allan Goldman handle the rest. There are inkers too, a colourist, a letterer ... it's all very professional but the book never soars.

As it is, I'm almost hoping this comic succumbs to the curse of lateness that somehow or other always seems to afflict Straczynski-scripted books (see Superman, The Brave and the Bold, The Twelve ...). Even if we don't get a cheery fill-in, I could go a month without despairing over Diana. Yes, of course I should just pack the book in for awhile, but I'm a cockeyed optimist. I can't believe that a confident, good-humoured Wonder Woman isn't going to pop up soon. A Wonder Woman who uses her unique weapons and skills - maybe even her brain - rather than a sword and gun. I'd hate to miss that.

11 comments:

  1. Actually I like the issue. JMS always seems to advance the story very slowly and only the main character shines. In my opinion, this storyline is far more interested in the convoluted and incoherent story lines of the previous run. JMS's stories are succinct and to the point. Expect to get answers in a few issues though. this is his style and if you had read Thor or Squadron Supreme: Supreme Power, you would know that the story does advance very slowly.

    Right now, I am not interested in any background character, I mean, what do they really do? Did the White apes really do anything other than take up space? I am glad that the Amazons are nameless, because right now, they would clutter the story.

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  2. Thanks, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your views.

    I did read both Thor and Squadron Supreme, but gave them up after a few issues - too slow for me. Where I feel JMS truly shines are the one-issue Brave and Bold tales - little gems, month after month.

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  3. I haven't read it yet. Straczynski is usually pretty good on dialogue (better with dialogue than pacing lately!); is it really that bad?

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  4. Well, it didn't impress me much, Joe!

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  5. Martin, once again I totally agree with your reviuew. This is the book that caused be to drop Wonder Woman. I will no longer buy this book. I started a thread over at Comic Book Resources stating my reasons, but (as usual) you've said it better than I can.

    I am gonig to keep checking the Internet month after month, hoping this gets better. I would love for the book to really shine and make me look forward to the end of the month and the next issue. I just don't feel that right now and can't justify spending 30 bucks on a book that I hate.

    One more comment: several fans have stated when this run is over, the Diana we know and love will return. If that is so, then what is the point of this story? And JMS has stated several times that these events will profoundly affect Diana. He has also stated he thinks she is a "tragic" character. So what is going to change? Not her powers or her back story. Only two things that I can see: her costume and her character. I think we'd better get used to the darker, edgier Diana because as long as JMS is writing her, she's here to stay. I hope I'm wrong about this last paragraph, but to me that seems to be where we're going. And that's why I dislike the book enough to drop it.

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  6. This is the issue I dropped the book, I'm afraid.

    I was excited to see Straczynski writing Wonder Woman - loved what he brought to Spider-Man in his first three years, and the massive WW shake-up looked promising. I even like the new outfit. But, two-and-a-half chapters in it was pretty clear the story is not going anywhere.

    The world has changed beyond comprehension and Diana is the only one who can save things - that was established in the prologue. But instead of building on that, each issue simply restates the premise amid another bland fight scene, there's no momentum or story progression. By the end of chapter one (#601) we really needed to get a sense of a bad guy, some threat beyond the vague "things are different now".

    I feel that there's a larger problem here too. The story's execution is neither shocking enough to be gripping as a "the rules have REALLY changed" Wonder Woman story - by "shocking" I'm thinking here of the way Grant Morrison would "Elseworld" the JLA and it felt thrilling and full of wow factor - nor does it stand up as a premise in its own right. This doesn't feel like there's any meat to the idea, it reads like a premise rather than a story. And as you've pointed out, Mart, it doesn't feel especially like Diana in the lead role, she lacks the unconquerable nobility I associate with Wonder Woman.

    Couple all that with a disappearing regular penciller (I don't mean to pick on Mr Kramer, as obviously I don't know the story behind the frequent fill-in pages), and this really isn't working for me.

    But, for what it's worth, my guess is that Diana's new world is a Dr Psycho-generated hallucination.

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  7. I'm considering dropping the book as well. How exactly is this an all-new Wonder Woman, given that she's been to hell more times than Satan? Well, I guess she's all-new in that she bears no resemblance to Wonder Woman, but beyond that...

    "Seemingly, the biggest torment there is banal dialogue." Perfect.

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  8. Ah Krusty, I do like the Dr Psycho idea.

    I know JMS said Diana's current story would be in a bubble away from the real DCU, but it seems to be in a bubble on the Earth she's living on too. It doesn't seem to allow for anyone who isn't directly involved with her, which makes for an uninvolving world indeed. I want to know who the other heroes are, how the world is different for the absence of the Diana we know, what her regular supporting cast are up to, and so on.

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  9. Thanks for the response, Patricio. I certainly would like to see this Diana's Get Out of Hell Free pass rescinded.

    Preferably while she's in there.

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  10. Not a good issue Im afraid...3 issues in and were progressing at a snails pace. Diana still scowls with a face like a bag of spanners and the new Amazons seem to have reverted to their Silver Age versions;ie. just to make up the background numbers. It looked like 3 different artists/colourists were at work on this book, reflecting the schizo appeal this story so often now promises and fails to deliver ...no nearer a decent villain or explanantion as to the new reality, and the new WW has none of the warmth and compassionate dejunes she needs to keep us involved. We dont even get a chance to unburden ourselves from the ennui as nothing of particular importance actually happens; doubtless when the racist, homophobic bigots that infest the WW forum on Comic Book Resources get to air their [offensive] reviews theyll fall prey to the "JMS will reveal everything in time" line....but does this book have that time? This tale could have been indeed the making of WW after the Simone debacle but it seems likely it will be the breaking of this once-iconic character. What an unfortunate missed opportunity...and only 9 more issues to go!

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  11. I do hope the subject of the new WW comes up at this weekend's New York comics convention, Karl - it'd be interesting to hear DC's reactions to fan reactions - pro and con.

    While there were elements of Gail Simone's WW run which didn't work for me, some of the time it did - I think things were getting a lot better by the end. Now it feels like Diana's not being published.

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