On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
Readers of this space may recall that I was super excited (or maybe wonder excited—nah, that’s dumb) about Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, the anthology series of various writers and artists telling Wonder Woman stories that don’t have to fit at all into current continuity. I wrote up the first four issues here, but it’s up to #7 by now. Whatever happened to that?
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #5, DC Comics, February 2015.
Well, what happened was that the next issue isn’t all that great. I mean, it’s okay, but not great. Unlike previous issues with a couple of shorter stories, issue 5 has one full-length story. In “Dig for Fire,” written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman with art by Hardman, Wonder Woman is sent by her mother to infiltrate the hell-planet Apokolips, to find out what Darkseid is plotting and what happened to the two Amazons previously sent to spy there.
Although clearly set before the current “New 52” reboot, judging from Wonder Woman’s costume and the depiction of her mother, “Dig for Fire” is the kind of grim and gritty story that would fit right in with DC’s usual fare nowadays. Part of that’s just because Apokolips is such a dark and hopeless place, and Hardman depicts it in unrelenting gloom.
On her journey, Wonder Woman keeps meeting downtrodden peasants who hate Darkseid but still inform on anyone who tries to help them because they know he’ll kill them if he finds out they helped her.
Of course she fights the Female Furies because (a) they’re female and (b) they’re way more badass than any of Darkseid’s male heavies. I mean, Kalibak? Mantis? Kanto? Please. (Actually, I kind of like Kanto, but still.) But it’s not much of a battle, cut short when Wondy is shot and hurled into an incinerator. Don’t worry, though; she’s survived much worse than that just fine.
There’s a weird little bit in which Darkseid has the nagging feeling he’s met Wonder Woman before but can’t remember. Is his forgetfulness a reference to something that I’ve, well, forgotten? I mean, they’ve met many times, and I’m not sure when this story is supposed to fit into all that. It’s clearly supposed to be a reference to something, but it’s unclear what that might be.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #6, DC Comics, March 2015.
Number six is also just an okay issue. This time there are two stories, a longish one and a shorter one. The main story, “Generations” by writer Michael Jelenic and artist Drew Johnson, is about Wonder Woman trying to retrieve the perfect birthday present for her mother—a very similar setup to 2012’s Wonder Woman #0, right down to the fact that the gift is a mythical creature’s egg high on a peak. This time it’s a phoenix egg.
The Cheetah has followed her there and attacks her, opening the battle by running her through with a spear. During their long battle we keep flashing back to Diana’s childhood, and all the sage advice her mother gave her. We also keep flashing over to the current birthday festivities, with some kind of pageant directed by Hippolyta’s trusted adviser Philippus—misspelled Phillipus throughout this story, as often happens.
The art’s a bit stiff and cheesecakey, so I’m a little apprehensive about Johnson being one of the illustrators of the upcoming Wonder Woman ’77 Special, based on the Lynda Carter series. (I’m also disappointed to learn that that seems to be a one-shot rather than a series like Batman ’66.)
It’s a long, long fight with Cheetah, who’s under the impression that the phoenix egg is a secret to immortality. The reason Diana picked this particular present is what this story’s leading up to, and it’s sort of cute. It’s actually kind of a fun story, but I found the art often a distraction.
The back-up story, “Not Included” by writer Adam P. Knave and artist Matthew Dow Smith, is a team-up of Wonder Woman and Big Barda, which all too seldom happens and is always a fun thing. (Barda used to lead the Female Furies on Apokolips before she joined the forces of good, so there’s a little thematic tie-in with the last issue). Although not technically an Amazon, Barda could be Wondy’s bigger, wilder cousin, so I enjoy watching them interact.
Knave has a lot of fun with Barda’s love of battle in this story, but he also makes her seem a bit childish, as in her gleeful insistence on calling gorillas monkeys. That running gag gets old pretty quick and just keeps on running, having ample opportunities because of both an army of robot gorillas and the beret-wearing gorilla Monsieur Mallah (an old Doom Patrol villain) and his boss/boyfriend the Brain. The whole story seems like a bit of a Gail Simone tribute, especially in the playful banter (she does like to talk about monkeys), and that’s not a bad thing. I don’t find the thick, heavy lines of Smith’s art particularly well suited for a Wonder Woman story, particularly not a lighthearted one, but maybe that’s just me.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #7, DC Comics, April 2015.
The first story in issue 7 is “Venus Rising” by writer Alex de Campi and artist Neil Googe. It starts off cutely, with Wonder Woman rushing in wearing a hijab variant of her costume (and muttering to herself that she’s having a bad hijab day, which is pretty adorable). She’s coming along as hired security on a space mission to Venus; the crabby mission leader made a sizable donation to the Justice League Foundation charity for her services. (Actually they asked for Superman. Typical.)
So of course Diana has to switch into a spacesuit version of her uniform. I love the idea of Wonder Woman having all these different variants of her costume for different purposes; it reminds me of the motorcycle and wetsuit variants she wore in the TV series.
There’s some amusing banter with the only female crew member about how nobody treats male superheroes the way they do female ones, as well as all the pervs Wondy has to deal with.
On Venus they’re developing Earth’s first permanent colony on another planet, intended to be a way station and stepping stone to other worlds. But the climate is downright hostile, with acid clouds and giant monsters. From a cute little humorous story, it quickly enters the genre of space horror, with crew members gradually succumbing to the whatsis outside. And of course there’s a twist at the end, which I wouldn’t want to spoil because it’s actually pretty charming.
The back-up story, “Rescue Angel” by Amy Chu and Bernard Chang, is all about Wonder Woman as an inspirational figure. It’s about Angel Santiago, a US army pilot on her first tour of duty in Afghanistan, who carries a tiny figure of Wonder Woman as a lucky charm.
This is really a straight-up war story that may or may not take place in a world where Wonder Woman even exists—the point is the heroine as a potent symbol of empowerment when it’s needed most. And on that level the story succeeds pretty well.
The series continues to be a real grab bag, with some really enjoyable stories, occasional duds, and a lot of creators that I haven’t heard of. But after a shaky issue or two, it seems to be on the upswing again, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming in future issues.