On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
Wonder Woman fans have had a tough time lately. First we get the news that Wonder Woman would finally make her live action movie debut… but only as one of many characters in the Batman vs. Superman movie (you know, the one with Ben Affleck as Batman), along with Aquaman and Cyborg. The word is that a Wonder Woman solo movie is somewhere in the queue of the DC Cinematic Universe movies that DC is building off of Man of Steel, sometime after the Justice League movie. (Couldn’t they hold off on their mammoth let’s-copy-Marvel master plan until they’d gotten one movie right, maybe?) Who knows, maybe they’ll make Aquaman and Cyborg movies first. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman actually made her feature film debut earlier this year. Where? In The Lego Movie. Seriously, after 73 years, that was her first time on the silver screen.
Then we find out that after Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang finish up their current run of Wonder Woman, artist David Finch and his wife will be taking over the title. Meredith Finch, who’ll be writing the comic, is pretty much an unknown quantity, having written only a couple comics such as the Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Swimsuit Special. On the one hand, it’s ridiculous that Wonder Woman has had so few female writers over the years, so that part seems like a good thing on principle. On the other hand, her work so far has just been for Zenescope’s cheesecake comics, which seems a little less hopeful.
David Finch, on the other hand, is a popular artist well known for his considerable liberties with anatomy, such as the tree-trunk arms and legs on his Batman. And his women are notoriously cheesecakey. In fact, his earlier attempt at drawing Wonder Woman on a variant cover for Justice League #1 was so laughable…
…that it created an internet meme of drawing male superheroes in the silly swayback pose.
And I’m already on the record as saying that the Superman/Wonder Woman romance and the comic of the same name are just kind of sad.
But amid all this troubling news, there was one piece of really, really good Wonder Woman news. No, not Grant Morrison’s eternally in progress graphic novel; Morrison already demonstrated in Final Crisis that he has no affinity for the character, and it’s like he’s taking her on as a dare.
No, it’s that Wondy finally has a second series all of her own. Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman lets various artistic teams tell their Wonder Woman stories, irrespective of the current continuity and status quo. They’re seemingly just as welcome to tell stories about the pre-New 52 version, the pre-Crisis version, or even the Golden Age version as ones about the current iteration of Wonder Woman. Now, both Batman and Superman have had comics just like this for a while, Adventures of Superman and Legends of the Dark Night, but it’s about time they let the world’s most prominent superheroine play.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1, DC Comics, October 2014.
The first issue came out today, and I rushed out this morning to pick it up. I was especially excited to see that one of my favorite writers, Gail Simone, returning to the character for a one-shot story. Simone was the one who brought me back to reading Wonder Woman after a gap of several decades, so without her run on the series I obviously wouldn’t be writing regularly about WW today.
With some fetching art by Ethan Van Sciver, her collaborator on Fury of Firestorm (which sadly was not a good series), this tale is clearly set in the old universe before the New 52, but not necessarily long before. Barbara Gordon, who regained the use of her legs and became Batgirl again in the New 52, is back to being the wheelchair-bound computer genius Oracle in this story, aptly titled “Gothamazon.” One night when Batman’s out of action and all the classic villains of Gotham City have banded together to run amok, Oracle calls in a replacement. After considering and rejecting some of the heavy hitters like Green Lantern and Superman as lacking the proper temperament to handle the problem, she summons Wonder Woman to clean up Gotham. And clean it up she does.
It’s fun to see her in hard-boiled mode, flinging sharp Wonderangs instead of Batarangs. Who knew she even had those? I’ve seen her use the tiara like that, but not these in particular.
It’s fun to see how relatively easy it is for her to take down the Joker, Two-Face, the Penguin, Man-Bat, the Riddler, Mister Freeze and Poison Ivy all at once. They might misdirect her for a moment or so, but none of them’s anywhere near her level in a fight. It’s made a little bit easier, mind you, by the fact that the Joker’s a little more constrained than usual today for reasons that are explained later. Oh, and she brought her Amazon sisters with her, so it’s really no fight at all.
On the other hand, I do like that Wondy concedes, “Oh, Bruce. But you do have the most excellent nemeses.” It seems a little counterintuitive when she’s mopping up the floor with them so readily, but it’s certainly true that his villains are and always have been a lot more memorable than hers. And that’s before wild cards Catwoman and Harley Quinn wander into the picture.
It’s a fun story with a lot of amusing dialogue, but it’s also a kind of love letter to Wonder Woman and what makes her so formidable, and how very different that is from what makes Batman effective. When she beats the Gotham villains, she does it in a distinctly Wonder Woman way that’s very, very different from how these bad guys are used to being beaten. It’s good to read a story that really gets that.
The second story, by writer Amanda Deibert and artist Cat Staggs, is somewhat clunkier. Staggs’s art is a big part of the problem for me. I don’t know what her method is, but it looks to me like stiff videogame screenshots, and it just feels really rough. Maybe that’s just her style and it’s not at all to my taste, but it really came between me and the story.
And the story itself—it’s basically just a fight between Wonder Woman (in the New 52 costume with the blue boots) and Circe. I believe this is actually the first time we’ve seen Wonder Woman’s old nemesis since the reboot, and I wonder if this appearance will “count” when next we see her, or whether it’s neither here nor there as far as continuity is concerned. There’s a little innuendo about being tied up that’s kind of cute, but for me the really interesting part comes at the end, when it abruptly turns into a sort of manifesto on how boys can like Wonder Woman too. I can certainly get behind that!
I’m not sure I can get behind a minor detail of that scene, though, where Wonder Woman breaks off a little piece of her lasso. You know, her unbreakable magic lasso. But the way they keep changing her character every couple of years, who knows if that’s still even true?
I don’t know what’s in store for the second issue next month, with stories by writers Jason Bischoff and Ivan Cohen and artists David Williams and Marcus To, but I know I’ll be eager to check it out. I’m much more excited about issue 3 in October, though, in which Gilbert Hernandez of Love and Rockets fame gets to try his hand at the character. Just keep this series coming, DC, and I’ll keep gobbling it up.