Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Wonder Woman #614 review

It's been the longest storyline in Wonder Woman history, and possibly the worst. Despite bright spots from writer Phil Hester, J Michael Straczynski's Odyssey has been a mess, trying to 'fix' the character not by focusing on what originally made her popular back in the Forties - a mix of  fantasy and reality, a dose of humour, nutty villains, a smattering of bondage - but by moving her further away from what she should be, making Diana a Xena without the wit.

Well, here's the final fling for the JMS run, as Diana faces the goddess Nemesis, driven mad by the burden of souls crying out for justice. It's a decent tussle, with Nemesis shifting form to prove a bigger threat to Diana. But having finally become whole last month, Diana's capable and confident, happy to be facing a familiar variety of menace rather than a confusing new reality. Nemesis forces Diana to kill her, and we're reminded that this isn't the Wonder Woman we met at the start of the Odyssey - this one regrets taking any life, even one that threatens everything she knows. The burden of Nemesis is mystically thrust onto Diana, changing her form, filling her with a lust for vengeance.

But having spent so long regaining the person she was, Diana chooses to shake off the spell. She's Diana, the one true Wonder Woman, and she is rewarded ... she's suddenly back on Paradise Island, her home. Sisters Philippus and Artemis are alive once more, as is her mother, Hippolyte. Diana is overwhelmed with love, and chooses to stay on Paradise Island awhile, despite a message from Batman that there's a Gorilla Grodd-shaped threat to be faced.

Why doesn't Wonder Woman leave to help? Because she knows that whatever the problem, it won't last. Change is coming. 'That glimpse into another possible world, it's made me aware that existence is fragile, always trembling under unseen pressures ... always ready to give way to a new reality. That's how I know it's about to happen again. I feel it.'

And yet, Diana isn't worried. She knows that whatever happens she'll remain her mother's daughter. An Amazon. Wonder Woman.

Whew, talk about 'it's always darkest ...' Hester has completed Straczynski's grim story, with a few flourishes of his own, and brought Diana back to the proverbial Happy Place. For the first time in an age she's at peace, with her sisters, by her mother's side. She's enjoying the downtime, before things shift and she has a new set of challenges to face.

A bit too meta-textual? Maybe, but it makes sense. The Wonder Woman of the Silver Age gave way, via the Crisis on Infinite Earths, to the George Perez version, who lived through such reality-blips as Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis. As a mystical creation, it's possible that she would become attuned to the signs. And as Wonder Woman, the most centred of superheroes, she would know that while she can't stop the changes, she certainly can deal with them. Bring it on.

The issue's opening battle, while important in the sense that it's Diana vs the power behind her recent trials, really isn't the thing this issue. It's what it represents - the end of the affair. Straczynski's infatuation with Wonder Woman proved brief, and damaging, but Nemesis defeated, Diana asserts herself and finds her way home. It's going to be shortlived, but for a few pages, Diana attains a kind of ecstasy.

And how I love the Diana/Hippolyte relationship here. There's none of the antagonism that too often defines their interaction, just love and understanding. Hippolyte teases her daughter about her latest uniform ('Themiscyran themes, but in a form the mortals would find appealing') and refers to Batman as 'your Bat-friend'. We also get to see Hippolyte overseeing the daily affairs of the Amazons, something I can't recall seeing in decades, and it's wonderful to see - not a mad queen, but a wise ruler.

Massive thanks to Phil Hester for closing out this run on a note of optimism. Credit, too, to pencillers Don Kramer and Lee Garbett for appealing scenes of war and peace alike, nicely inked by Drew Geraci, Robin Riggs and Trevor Scott. The scenes of Nemesis inflating - Kramer and Geraci, I think - just about put me off my lunch, but the pastoral joys of PI meant my sarnie got swallowed.

I'm not keen on Josh Middleton's cover - Diana's face looks very thin as she stands 50ft tall, but I expect many readers will like it.

So that's the end of a difficult year, and Wonder Woman Volume 3. Things can only get better.

Can't they?

6 comments:

  1. So... Is NuDiana's appearance in JL: Gen Lost retconned out the?

    (not that any of that matters after the reboot to Heroes: Reworn next month)

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  2. 'Heroes: Reworn' - like it!

    The JL: GL appearance isn't explained away, likewise Diana's Superman cameo. It's just part of the general nonsense of the Odyssey stunt.

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  3. hey, martin!

    i read WW today, and the end reminded me of your review for JLA: everyone's closing the doors and turning the keys on the old DCU and not in the most nuanced way possible. diana telling the readers that, no matter what, she'll always be our wonder woman seems like a terrible weight borne by a fragile promise. and like JLA, i would have preferred to see the universe just wink away on the last page. ah, well. it's all over now. thanks for nothing JMS!

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  4. Diana's appearances in JLA and Superman during Oddysey were explained [in a roundabout way, so typical of this awful run] by Clotho as an alternate reality sitting beside the real one; a separate story going on within the main story.
    Glad this sad, sick mess is finally over [at least I hope it is; wouldnt put it past DC to wring more issues out of it by claiming next months new look isnt happening yet]. NuDiana being stabbed SO many times...a sign of DCs attitude towards WW in general? Even the variant cover had to include a stabbing. Nemesis's great power involved bloating really big as if she were pregnant...and thats it. What a wimp...the REAL WW wouldnt have had any trouble dispatching this one, certainly wouldnt have taken her 14 issues; even the weak fight scene she did in 612 against her was badly written [like everything else]...art was piss-poor, the Amazons and the Queen looked ill in places, Di flittered between looking juvenile and an adult.
    The only good thing was Diana's "voice"...she finally sounded like the true WW we all know and love.
    But too little too late sadly.
    Oddysey has served one useful purpose for me, however; I usually hate reboots but this has made me ache in anticipation for the new-look WW book. Now THAT'S something!

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  5. I've only liked maybe 2 issues since Gail Simone left the book, and this was one of them. Part of it the relief that it's finally over, but it's a small part. Mostly, it's all the stuff you talked about, and finally reading the real Wonder Woman as opposed to the JMS version.

    Sadly, I don't think Phil Hester managed to get out from under JMS' shadow the way Roberson did with Superman until the very end.

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  6. 'Thanks for nothing JMS' pretty much sums it up, Foresightreviews. I'm not a big fan of lat page, pre-revamp fades, though - I get sad!

    Thanks for sorting out the Superman cameo, Karl. I really thought old Nemesis was going to have killer babies, but sadly she was simply chubby.

    I think you're right, Siskoid - the Hester issues read as if he's having to work from two whole sheets of JMS notes rather than the single page Roberson had.

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