If you don't know anything about a comic, can you blame it for failing to live up to your expectations? In this case, I think so. The title, Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special, heavily implies we're getting a salute to the Amazing Amazon's remarkable comics history. The original logo had me expecting at least a nod to the Golden Age superheroine created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G Peter - the gung ho character for whom a bizarre adventure was just another day.
We do see a World War Two Diana courtesy of writer/penciler Renae de Liz and inker/colourist/letterer Ray Dillon as a precursor to their second Legend of Wonder Woman volume; and writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Marguerite Sauvage provide an addendum to their Bombshells work with a Wonder Woman 75 song. The first of these is a thoughtful, good-looking piece reminding us that Diana was all about turning her enemies away from evil. It features a scene which seems so weird it's likely based on history.
The latter is a gorgeous-looking double-page spread which nevertheless reminds me why I finally dropped Bombshells - 'sung' stories just aren't for me, especially when the scansion is off.
What we don't see is Diana in her original outfit, the nearest we get being a lovely Phil Jimenez pin-up showing Diana's profile a la Golden, Bronze and Modern Age. There are several other one-page pin-ups. Marcio Takara's, coloured by Marcelo Maiolo is my favourite, a glorious shot of Diana and her two Wonder Girls. The others are all fine.
There are more pin-ups, all well-done in their own way, showing Diana in her current outfit, the Xena, Warrior Princess look DC thinks appropriate for a 2016 Diana. Were this the Wonder Woman Four-Month DC Rebirth Anniversary special I'd have no cause to complain...
... well, except for the fact that current writer Greg Rucka's 'interview' of Diana by Lois Lane is one of the most tedious Wonder Woman stories I've ever read. Lois's questions are fawning, long-winded nonsense while Diana's replies make her seem the dullest woman on Earth. Rucka's intentions for Wonder Woman are so good that I really want to like his current work on her series, and I don't doubt that he loves his own idea of Wonder Woman - but boy, he takes all the spark out of her. The six-page Wonder Woman in Conversation is set during the current Lies storyline, after Diana's adventure with the Cheetah, and I struggled to make it to the end, even with some decent spot-illoes by current lead Wonder Woman artist Liam Sharp and colourist Romulo Fajardo Jr to break up the text.
Where's the nostalgia in this 80pp issue? To my surprise, it's in Eric Luke and Yanick Paquette's two-page spread calling back to their run of 1998-99 - I wasn't the biggest fan at the time but this has me itching to reintroduce myself to the likes of Oblivion, Devastation and the Wonderdome.
A look back at Brian Bolland's spectacular covers for the terrifically entertaining early part of writer Bill Loebs' Wonder Woman run - now there's a writer who understands the spirit of Diana - also had me smiling.
As did writer Hope Larson and artist Ramon Bachs' tale of today's Etta Candy taking Diana to an IKEA-alike store - it reads as cute as it looks - unlike the extract from/shameless plug for Jill Thompson's new Wonder Woman graphic novel, which causes me to reverse my previous intent to buy it.
Rafael Albuquerque draws, and with Rafael Scavone writes, another World War story with a version of Diana I've never seen - it's more of the Diana, Warrior Princess bit, well, at least so far as costuming goes. So far as humour is concerned in this France-set tale which equates Diana with Joan of Arc, forget it... which isn't to say it's bad, but it's more like a really pretty issue of the digital Sensation Comics than an anniversary number.
Riley Rossmo's art took me by surprise, as he draws a really rough Diana in Mairghread Scott's look at a fight with Giganta and its aftermath. It's an interesting meditation on 'justice' vs mercy, so right in Diana's ballpark, but again, it's suspiciously like an inventory leftover - and the way Diana represents HIppolyta is simply awful.
Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl write Diana as a superheroic Dr Dolittle, defending tigers from hunters. With Kerschl's illustrations and Michelle Assarasakorn's colours it looks fabulous - and finally, we get to see Diana in a recognisably classic version of the costume - but it's unremarkable fare, the sort of story we saw a time or two in the aforementioned Sensation Comics.
Liam Sharp writes as well as draws a vignette that lets us know Diana is missing her island home. It's five pretty panels over two pages and you can likely extrapolate from the title, Oh, Themyscira, how the script reads.
The Age of Wonders, written and illustrated by Fabio Moon, does say something about Diana, presenting her not as Joan of Arc but as patron saint of anyone who feels a little different, an inspiring symbol. It's a sweet three-pager and makes sense in this comic.
Editors Chris Conroy, Rebecca Taylor and Dave Wielgosz save the best for last, with longtime Wonder Woman writer Gail Simone teaming up with Colleen Doran for a pacey parable that begins with Superman fighting Titano the Super-Ape and ends with Diana mentoring a fun new superheroine whom, fingers crossed, Simone will return to sometime. Diana is heroic, smart, inspiring, funny and full of empathy for man and beast alike. And Doran, with colourist Hi-Fi, makes every panel a treat.
The alternate covers by current series artists Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott are attractive but again, not speaking in the least to Diana's anniversary. The main cover, by Jim Lee, isn't to my taste, but presumably DC thought having the co-publisher upfront would shift copies.
As a 'regular' Wonder Woman 80pp giant, this would be par for the course, with some good stuff, less-attractive fare and some great work. As a 75th anniversary celebration of comics' most famous super-heroine, this misses the mark big-time by ignoring the first 50 years of her history. Back-seat editors should be shot, so shoot me for pointing out that this comic should have a Golden Age homage - Trina Robbins did a great one in the Eighties and could do so again; something representing the bonkers Silver Age stories of Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito; a tale set during the Groovy Di Prince powerless years; Gerry Conway wrote Wonder Woman for several years in the Bronze Age and is back working in comics, he should be in here... and so on. Instead we get too many stories that are talented creators' takes on Diana which don't relate to her history, that don't remind us why she was massive for so many years. Even an essay by a Wonder Woman historian such as Andy Mangels would have helped.
I closed the book with a smile on my face, due to the Simone/Doran story and the Phil Jimenez pin-up that follows, but my abiding memory will be that this is a massive missed opportunity. Diana deserves better.