On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
A couple of weeks ago, two important Wonder Woman comics came out. One was the first issue of Wonder Woman by its much-dreaded new creative team of beefcake/cheesecake artist David Finch and his wife, untested writer Meredith Finch. And to judge the book by the cover, things didn’t look too promising. Oh, the baby-doll face! Oh, the awkward T&A pose!
Still, I picked it up out of curiosity, largely because, like all DC comics coming out that month, there was an alternate Lego variant cover available, which is pretty adorable:
Wonder Woman #36, DC Comics, January 2015.
So how’s the actual comic? Well, it’s not good.
I still haven’t finished reading Brian Azzarello’s run that preceded this one, because I wait for the trade collections and the last one’s not out yet, but when this one opens, that status quo appears to be this: The Amazons are back, and Wonder Woman is now their leader. Her mom, Queen Hippolyta, is still a statue. The Amazons’ brothers, the male children that they abandoned or sent to work in Hephaestus’s forge, have returned to Paradise Island to live among them, and the Amazons aren’t happy about it.
Weirdly, we never actually see these male Amazons in this issue, but never mind, they’re around. And guess who’s not around? Any members of Wonder Woman’s supporting cast from Azzarello’s run. They’re all gone except for the baby that all the fuss was about, the last-born child of Zeus, whom Diana is apparently looking after on Paradise Island.
Anyway, we start off with a lot of rhapsodizing about water. There’s apparently some big storm that’s caused deadly flooding and a lot of villages mysteriously washed away, and the Justice League believe that it’s not a natural occurrence but some kind of attack. It’s also an excuse for a gratuitous Wonder Woman shower scene.
But let’s get right into my major problems with this comic. First is the way Finch draws Wonder Woman, like a blank-eyed Playboy bunny with a baby-doll face. He’s not so good with faces in general, actually, because when he shows the Justice League his Superman, Aquaman and Cyborg all look basically like the same guy.
This Wonder Woman is pretty rash, too. Checking out the scene of one of the vanished villages, she finds Swamp Thing there. And even though she knows who he is and that he’s basically a good guy, she attacks him because clearly he must be behind whatever’s going on. But I shouldn’t complain too much, because that gives the excuse for what’s far and away the coolest image in the comic, Wonder Woman kicking Swamp Thing in the face.
Mostly, though, this Wonder Woman whinges a lot. She complains about how she can’t handle all the responsibility of being queen of the Amazons and a Justice League member and god of war at the same time, and she does this—seriously—while clutching a teddy bear. Okay, sure, it’s a teddy bear she found in the ruins of one of the vanished villages, and she’s awfully fixated on “what about the children?!” all of a sudden, but still. This is a Wonder Woman who pouts and whines while holding a teddy bear. I’m just saying.
Oh, and remember when Hera turned Hippolyta to stone a while back? Well, the Finches have decided that it was actually clay all along—maybe to parallel the whole thing of sculpting Diana out of clay, which never actually happened in the new continuity—and she’s melted in the rain! Someone left the queen out in the rain—oh noooooo!
Fortunately, that wasn’t the only Wonder Woman comic to come out that week, and the other one was much more satisfying.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #4, DC Comics, January 2015.
Sensation Comics continues to be delightful, with various Wonder Woman stories by various creative teams that aren’t tied down by any particular continuity.
The last issue cut off in the middle of a particularly fun story written and illustrated by Love and Rockets’ Gilbert Hernandez, and this issue takes up right where it left off. In fact, because the title comes at the end and there’s no splash page to speak of, it starts as if you’d flipped to the middle of the comic accidentally. Wonder Woman has fallen under the control of the old Justice League villain Kanjar Ro, and Supergirl has to fight her.
Here as before, Hernandez’s cartoony style combines beautifully with the light-hearted Silver Age style of the story. The characters are all portrayed very much as they were in the early 1960s. But I love how powerfully brawny Beto’s Wonder Woman is. That part is pretty much unique to his version.
And in the middle of the two superheroines’ fight, Kanjar Ro brings yet a third classic heroine over from a neighboring dimension to join the fray: Mary Marvel. This version of Mary has never been to Earth-1 before or met any of its heroes, so she just assumes they’re evil robots sent by one of her archenemies. That leads to an adorable sequence of Mary and Wonder Woman just throwing Supergirl at each other.
I love how rough-and-tumble and all business Wonder Woman is in this story, though she clearly has a fun-loving side as well. At one point she reflects, “So I’m the most powerful Earth-born human on the planet? Never thought about it. Never had to.” Wonder Woman just gets things done.
The second story, “Attack of the 500-Foot Wonder Woman,” lives up to the title. Written by Rob Williams (2000 AD, Ghost Rider, Robocop) and drawn by Tom Lyle (the 1980s Starman, Spider-Man, The Comet), it features a skyscraper-size Wonder Woman striding through Gateway City, which was her home in the John Byrne issues of her comic in the mid-1990s.
Here, though, she’s dressed in the eagle-breasted costume that she stopped wearing in 1982, and hanging out with her old Justice League teammates the Atom, Hawkman and Hawkwoman. The latter only changed her name from Hawkgirl in late 1981, three months before Wonder Woman changed out of this costume for good, leaving only a narrow window in which this story could be set. Then again, she calls her home Themyscira, which Paradise Island wouldn’t be renamed until the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot a few years later. But again, the point of this series is not to get too bogged down by continuity.
Anyway, they’re all fighting Byth, a shape-changing villain from Hawkman and Hawkwoman’s home planet of Thanagar, who’s currently rampaging through the city in the form of a giant space dinosaur.
Gateway City was always loosely based on San Francisco, so of course it has bridges, and giant-size Wonder Woman somehow manages to use the bridge cables as a magic lasso. This is the first time I’ve ever seen her able to turn just any old thing into her lasso of truth rather than using the one true object, but again, these stories are intended to be free-for-all fun, free of that kind of nitpicky detail.
There’s an unexpectedly touchy-feely ending about Byth’s true motivations that’s a little silly but also heartwarming, so sure, why not? I’m game.
But wait, there’s more! In yet a third story, this one by Neil Kleid (Ninety Candles, Brownsville) and Dean Haspiel (American Splendor), Wonder Woman teams up with Deadman against Ra’s al Ghul! If that sounds pretty random, well, it is, because Ra’s is a Batman villain and everybody’s favorite body-possessing dead circus acrobat isn’t somebody she’s really spent any time with, though they costarred in Adventure Comics in the late 1970s.
They met recently in the “Trinity War” storyline in all the New 52’s Justice League titles.
But this story is set wayyyy before that, back in the days when Etta Candy was a fat and spunky redhead, not a svelte African-American woman. Ever obsessed with immortality, Ra’s has stolen the Amazons’ purple healing ray to create an army of immortal assassins. You’d think he’d just use his own Lazarus Pits for that, but here again, let’s not be picky.
Deadman steps in by possessing Etta’s body, and Diana refuses to believe that it’s not just her friend messing around. Despite knowing her share of gods, monsters and space aliens, it seems this particular version of Wonder Woman doesn’t believe in ghosts.
Still, Deadman finally convinces her that he’s real, and together they foil Ra’s’ fiendish plan, with the villain coming on to Wonder Woman pretty much the whole time. He’s a master assassin…and pick-up artist! It’s gotta be the cape.
All in all, it’s yet another adorable installment in what’s easily my favorite Wonder Woman series out there—at least until Wonder Woman ’77 comes along.