Thursday, 23 December 2010
Wonder Woman #605 review
For five issues we've followed a new Diana, one wandering the world with a scowl on her face, anger in her heart and nothing beyond a tiara on the brain.
A smile finally appeared at the end of last month's instalment and, wonders never cease, it's firmly in place as we rejoin Diana. More surprising yet, our girl's back in New York ... I'd gained the impression that the Odyssey arc was going to have her globetrotting, gathering her traditional weapons, discovering her full powers and tracking down the Amazons' oppressors.
But no, 'Runaway Fate' opens with Diana entering a New York mansion inhabited by the Amazons. We're introduced to several of her sisters, including a new take on military leader Phillipus and a priestess transformed into a talking cat (the masonry is also chatty).
We meet triple war goddess the Morrigan, flash back to Diana's childhood, see her pawn Amazon treasure to help an abused woman begin a new life, watch as men become monsters and join Phillipus as she leads an investigation into an urban temple that's reminiscent of her people's architecture.
May I just say, phew. All that incident, yet none of the scenes feel short changed. And room is found for characterisation - as well as Diana's winding-down routine, we see her attitude towards education, and a compassion rooted in childhood that informs the older Diana's activities. The pawn shop moment, though, shows that despite the more likeable young woman we've met this issue, new Wonder Woman is very much a work in progress. For her handling of the pawn transaction places Diana firmly in the role of bully, brutalising her way to the best 'deal'. Diana must learn that when a man says 'no', he means 'no' and good intentions don't excuse trampling on weaker folk.
Answering a common criticism of previous Straczynski issues, the Amazons are not only named, they're differentiated, with quirks of personality and belief. They're not hiding underground, they're engaged with Man's World while remembering their warrior ways, giving them oodles of potential as supporting characters.
Also oozing promise is the Morrigan. Comprised of Celtic, Roman and Greek goddesses, they reek of evil, and I look forward to seeing what happens when Diana meets them.
Good Lord, I said 'look forward' - optimism breaks out. I don't know what proportion of #605's story is built on Straczynski's notes, but it's fair to say Hester brings a refreshing energy to the Odyssey storyline. Despite dark drama, there's a brightness to the narrative. I was hoping to see Straczynski's story wrapped up sharpish, but on the basis of this script, I'm happy to see Hester take his partner-predecessor's notebook and run with it.
The art's rather nice too. Seven artists this time - three pencillers, four inkers, and somehow the book looks good. Always decent, occasionally excellent. I think I know which pages are by meant-to-be-regular layout man Don Kramer, but DC doesn't deign to separate pages out in the credits. Anyway, the other chaps pushing lead are Eduardo Pansica and Daniel HDR (eh?), well done fellas.
Oh, there is one more artist this issue, a little lad who gets Diana's head spinning with his crayon drawing of a traditional Wonder Woman. His first name is Harry, his surname may be Peter, with a G separating the two. There's another tribute to old friends of Diana in the name of the pawn shop, George and Phil's. I do enjoy a good, not-too-showy nod.
All in all, this is a huge improvement on the last few issues. Diana feels like the star of her own book, and it seems that the book is going somewhere. Phil Hester, I give you the Amazon Salute.