Monday, May 10, 2010

Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman? TPB

It seems like a good idea on paper: Return most of the iconic elements from classic Wonder Woman stories excised by George Perez in his 1987 revision of the character and relaunch her book for a new audience. Three simultaneous generations of Wonder Women, extensive rogues gallery, blind diminutive Asian mentor I-Ching, the Diana Prince secret identity, spinning transformations, invisible jet, and even some powerless globe-trotting adventures in white leather. You've got a well-liked television writer who'd successfully transitioned into comics at Marvel, and an artist whose popular work took cues from a fan favorite Wonder Woman cover artist. What could go wrong?

For starters, a five issue story taking a year and a half to tell, requiring other talents to continue the series, while the conclusion was served in an extant annual. Terry and Rachael Dodson's art was attractive, but for a book that very badly wanted to emulate Jim Lee's popular story arc "Batman: Hush," it was not quite enough to put it over when the story proved weaker than Jeph Loeb's on "Batman: Hush." A good deal of the first issue was spent explaining that Princess Diana had become a wanted murderess who had fled from her duties and people. This is how you want to introduce new readers to the most famous super-heroine of all, and worse, mention it as an afterthought, without offering resolution nor redemption?

Donna Troy, the former Wonder Girl, had appointed herself the new Wonder Woman in Diana's absence. Never mind what a train wreck Donna's back story is, or how she's never had much of a connection to Wonder Woman beyond her name and powers. It takes Troy's defeat and capture to bring the real Wonder Woman out of hiding, which only reinforces Troy's b-list status, while making Diana Prince look no less the shiftless sort. There's even one of those vaguely misogynistic moments where a phallic object impales the heroine, for a bit of metaphoric rape. The whole legacy angle fairly reeks of other heroes' books, leftovers from the Superman or Batman Families foisted on Wonder Woman without regard for the ill fit.

Steve Trevor, little used since the late '80s and far from relevant, makes a cameo appearance as a hostage. The Diana Prince identity is actually created by Batman and gifted to Wonder Woman, making her new origin dependent on the Dark Knight, and undercutting any drive or resourcefulness on her part. Nemesis, star of a back-up series from 1970s Batman comics, is transformed into Diana Prince's new partner and love interest. So again, what was Steve Trevor doing here, other than to remind readers that we're meant to find Batman's cast-offs more interesting than anything from Wonder Woman's cannon? By the way, Diana Prince's new boss is Sarge Steel, an old Charlton Comics character that never amounted to much, but now gets to lord it over an Amazon Princess.

Villains Cheetah and Giganta are given redesigned costumes so similar and bland that they could be confused with one another. Circe's new look is terribly generic, her only memorable visual manifesting when she changes into a lavender variation on the Wonder Woman costume. Dr. Poison, Silver Swan, and more appear as punching bags for a few panels here and there. The resolution involves an army of heroes coming to the Amazing Amazon's aid, insuring both victory and no additional credit being extended to our very needy heroine.

There's much seeming ado about "Who is Wonder Woman," but upon closer inspection, it all amounts to nothing. The plot meanders near endlessly, before fumbling toward a stopping point, but considerably less than an ending. Writer Allan Heinberg wastes Wonder Woman, his artists, and his opportunity. If he hasn't already, be sure not to let him waste your time, as well.


Luke said...

There was a whole lot of promise here that never really came to fruition. The delays not withstanding, if this had come out on time it still would have been a disappointment. I am not sure why it is not possible for a lot of writers to put Wonder Woman over the way they can put Superman or (more commonly) Batman over -- for a guy with belt and a car and no powers he sure beats up a lot of people, doesn't he?

Things I did like: bringing back a lot of the old baddies. The sequence where she runs through all of the old foes and we get little notes about them and their powers was a nice way to set the stage to use them later -- only I don't think any of them have been used. The art was generally pretty nice. I liked Cheetah being human-looking again and having the big cats with her. I liked the Diana Prince identity and costime, even though your criticism about it's origin is valid. But that's about it.

Diabolu Frank said...

Luke, I was still asking "Who Is Wonder Woman" at the end, so how could anyone put her over on those terms. Hell, what did that title even mean? Every time it was applied to Donna Troy, it involved massive amounts of new information that would be fundamental to the character's stories for years. Here, it was like, literal, and by extension obvious. Wonder Woman is definitely not Donna or Circe, but who the hell is the chick who is? For better or worse, I know exactly who Donna and Circe are. Diana, not so much.

We pretty much liked the same things, otherwise.

Luke said...

Any story which reintroduces Minster Blizzard has some merit, I think. ;)

E. Peterman said...

I'm digging this blog, Frank. And I have to agree about the "Who Is Wonder Woman?" arc, which convinced me that neither the writer nor the editors knew the answer to their own question. As for Donna Troy, she has to be one of the most misused and/or vague characters on the DC roster. The art was pretty, but that's about it.

Diabolu Frank said...

Thanks E.P.! Say, I've been meaning to ask which handle you prefer, because I don't want to be improper, but Ms. Peterman involves a lot of typing. Is E.P. good? This is why I assumed an alias. It cuts down on the ceremony.

Anyway, just so you know, Huntress will be a co-feature around here just as soon as I can get some writing time. If I focused solely on Wonder Woman, I think the blog might turn into a Debbie Downer. I can generally remain positive about Huntress comics, and when I bring out the knives on Gail Simone's WW run, I'll still have BoP accolades to balance it out.

E. Peterman said...

E.P. is just fine with me. I have a long pre-marriage surname, too, which is why I don't bother hyphenating. Huntress is definitely worthy of a separate blog, but when will you find time to sleep?

Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to your Gail/WW counterpoints. I like hearing different points of view, so sharpen those knives. All's fair in comics.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'd follow a blog devoted to the Huntress, but I wouldn't write one. I'd have to read too many damned Batman Family titles. There are more bad Wonder Woman comics than good, but at least she's the star.

I read two lousy Simone trades that I never got around to ripping into via a ...nurgh... review, so I'll be glad to have the opportunity to dissect them issue by issue here.