Wednesday, June 29, 2011

JLA #95 (Late May, 2004)

Superman was bitten on the neck by Crucifer, only to have his alien blood spat out in disgust. "He may look human, but the taste of him is unspeakable... Foul!" Crucifer instead ate one of his followers, before sending the Man of Thrall on a mission...

Wonder Woman delivered ancient Amazonian scrolls that revealed their crusade against a cult of vampires thousands of years ago in Greece. The warriors successfully exiled the bloodsuckers after a final, terrible battle. The recently deceased Queen Hippolyta had been the last living Amazon to engage the cult, whose x-symbol represented the tenth circle of Hell.

Superman delivered the unconscious and shabbily dressed Faith to Castle Crucifer before being dispatched to the moon. At the Watchtower, Wonder Woman was struggling with the allegorical manner her sisters had written their scrolls, unable to decipher the means by which the Amazons defeated the cult. "Gods forbid my ancient sisters write short, declarative sentences. Kal-El talked Diane into taking a break, and when she wasn't looking, ignited her scrolls with heat vision.

"The Enemy Within," part two of "The Tenth Circle," was by John Byrne with Chris Claremont and Jerry Ordway. It was nice when Crucifer talked up Faith and Wonder Woman as being Superman's near equals, but it doesn't hold water when the Man of Steel makes brutally short work of both heroines as the series progresses.

The Tenth Circle

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wonder Woman Annual #1: “Backstory” (2007)

At the Department of Metahuman Affairs in Washington D.C., Sarge Steel assigned agents Diana Prince and Tom Tresser to target Wonder Woman for observation. “According to her press conference today, she’s returning to active duty after a year-long absence… a self-imposed exile brought on by the death of the former chief of both the Justice League and Checkmate, Maxwell Lord… the man Wonder Woman murdered.” According to her testimony before the World Court, which dropped charges against Wonder Woman, this was done in self-defense. Regardless, the public still didn’t trust Wonder Woman, so neither did the department.

Sarge Steel didn’t trust anyone. He was originally Special Forces assigned to Army Intelligence overseas, until a terrorist’s grenade blew up in his hand. “Outfitted with a high-tech prosthetic made of solid steel, Sarge became a high ranking government agent… and proved himself particularly adept at working with superheroes.” These included Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade, Peacemaker, the Question, Judomaster, and a thinly disguised Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. The Central Bureau of Intelligence and Task Force X were under his supervision before he was transferred to his current assignment, where his paranoia kept him in the field and his own agents under surveillance. Only his assistant Bess Forbes was exempted, “the only person on the planet he’s afraid of.”

Wonder Woman’s post-Crisis origin was recounted, as was Wonder Girl’s most current one as a magical twin of Princess Diana of Themyscira created by the sorceress Magala as a playmate. An enemy of Diana’s mother called Dark Angel kidnapped the twin by mistake and kept her in suspended animation for years “…until fate intervened,” vaguely alluding to a rescue by Wonder Woman that recalled her early ‘80s origin. The twin returned to Paradise Island for more training under the Amazons and the Titans of Myth before joining the Teen Titans, and was now known simply as Donna Troy.

Cassandra Sandsmark “borrowed” Wonder Woman’s Gauntlet of Atlas and Sandals of Hermes to become a new Wonder Girl, and was granted permanent powers of her own by Zeus, who was later revealed to have secretly fathered her.

Agent Tresser knew all of this, and had recounted it to Agent Prince, as well as confiding that he believed Wonder Woman was justified in killing Maxwell Lord. A hydra attacking the Greek Embassy seemed a likely place for the Amazing Amazon to show up, so Tresser excused himself to observe the site alone. All three heroines discussed made the scene to do battle with a number of mythological threats. Afterward, Wonder Woman decided to approach the agent, to compare information.

Tom and his brother Craig had been government agents, until Craig was brainwashed into assassinating their mentor. To avenge the death, Tom used his inventive skills to become Nemesis, a master of disguise and key agent of Task Force X. Wonder Woman also knew Tresser had relationship troubles, including a stalled stint with the heroine Nightshade. Their conversation was interrupted by a sphinx with a message from Olympus, but Tresser mistook its approach for an attack, and shot it out of the sky. It wasn’t a major faux pas, because the gods wanted Wonder Woman dead these days. Both she and Nemesis had already been dead a few times, because neither was good about doing what they were told. Wonder Woman flew off, then used teleportation technology wielded by the department to appear as Agent Prince immediately afterward, helping to put Tresser off her scent.

“Backstory” was by Allan Heinberg, Gary Frank and Jon Sibal. The tale did a nice job of serving as a primer for the ongoing series, so of course it was released around the same time as its thirteenth issue due to delays caused by the writer. I miss the gentler, prettier Frank of old, but this was still a good looking story, and it’s always nice to see Donna back in her only great costume, the red & yellow number.

Brave New World

Friday, June 24, 2011

2010 Wonder Woman: Golden Lasso T-Shirt

Secret Amazonian rope-handling techniques are exhibited on the new Wonder Woman Golden Lasso T-Shirt. Features the art of Adam Hughes screenprinted in full-color on a deep red 100% cotton shirt. The legendary rope tricks of Amazon Island are now revealed!
MSRP: $17.95 (M-XL) $20.95 (XXL)

Nice art by Adam Hughes from his cover illustration for the general market edition of The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

JLA #94 (Early May, 2004)

Manitou Raven, a shaman displaced three thousand years in time, cast telling stones in the Badlands. On the ground were traced circles with "x"s in them, and their effect was ominous. A flood of bat shadows enshrouded Raven, and carried him off.

In Metropolis, Superman spotted a robed cult filing into a van. When he tried to ask questions, he was attacked by a massive member that only grunted. Once the thug was down, a girl stood between him and the fist of Steel. Her words allowed her to take mental control of Superman.

At the JLA Watchtower on the moon, the Dark Knight gathered Wonder Woman, the Atom, the Martian Manhunter, and the Flash to consider clues. The Caped Crusader had managed to find out that there were a slew of missing kids possessed of a metagene, and Princess Diana thought that x-symbol looked familiar. The group split up to pursue angles.

Wonder Woman wanted to speak with Manitou Raven about the x-symbol, but he wasn't answering any pages. She rustled up the Martian Manhunter for a search of his last whereabouts in the Badlands, and found the point where Manitou had been taken. The Amazing Amazon saw the marks on the ground and signs of struggle. She intended to query the Amazons Archives on Themyscira about the symbol, and told the Alien Atlas to inform Batman of their findings. She hoped a telepathic link to Raven could be established. "Can you not sense it, J'Onn? This is ancient work. And unspeakable evil!

The cultists' van pulled up to a creepy mansion a couple of hours outside Metropolis. The girl led Superman out on a psychic leash, and introduced him to Crucifer, a rather dandy vampire. The girl didn't want to see Superman hurt, but Crucifer had his own influence working. The vampire expected to find the Kryptonian delicious as he sank his fangs in. The girl ran off, and was followed down into her cellar of self-pity by a blue-skinned boy in a skull cap.

Faith, black-ops telekinetic, wandered the streets of San Francisco in a tie top shirt like Daisy Duke. She was abducted by the mentally manipulated Superman. At least she only spoke in Spanish when talking to a fellow Latino, but it still smelled like 1976 in there.

"Suffer the Little Children," part one of "The Tenth Circle," was by the famous X-Men creative team of John Byrne and Chris Claremont, joined by the heavy inks of Jerry Ordway.

The Tenth Circle

Monday, June 20, 2011

Comicpalooza 2011 Wonder Woman & Superman Cosplayers

If I recall correctly, there were three Amazonian cosplayers. There was a Wonder Woman variation with a skirt bottom I only ever saw in passing. There was a Wonder Girl Donna Troy who was in the dimly lit costume contest, but I never got a good enough look to differentiate whether it was the Cardy or Perez version of the red one piece, much less snap a shot. Finally, I ran into this classic Wonder Woman and Superman later on the con floor, and asked them for a shot under better lighting. Thighs like that make me glad the TV show didn't get picked up and promote the pants look. I neglected to get the Man of Steel's opinion on the red overpants controversy, which I personally find to be one of the few improvements in the upcoming reboot.

Dragon*Con 2011 CosPlay

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sensational Comics for September, 2011

Wonder Woman
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS
1:25 Variant cover by DAVID FINCH
RETROSOLICITED • On sale AUGUST 31 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US RATED T • Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.

Comics superstars Geoff Johns and Jim Lee make history! In a universe where super heroes are strange and new, Batman has discovered a dark evil that requires him to unite the World Greatest Heroes!

This spectacular debut issue is also offered as a special combo pack edition, polybagged with a redemption code for a digital download of the issue.
Ugh! Batman, the controlling a-hole that always makes a big show of creating tension/quitting the JLA, of which he's only kinda-sorta a founder, is now the guy creating the team? Screw this-- I'll go read Stormwatch instead...

Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Gods walk among us. To them, our lives are playthings. Only one woman would dare to protect humanity from the wrath of such strange and powerful forces. But is she one of us – or one of them?
Another #1? Anyway, not a bad premise.

Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The witch known as The Enchantress has gone mad, unleashing forces that not even the combined powers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg can stop. And if those heroes can’t handle the job, who will stand against this mystical madness?

Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna and John Constantine may be our only hope – but how can we put our trust in beings whose very presence makes ordinary people break out in a cold sweat?
I smell guest cameos...

In this collection of issues #81-93, the JLA and their Earth-2 counterparts, the Justice Society, must save the Red Tornado. Plus: Solomon Grundy and the timely threats of world hunger and pollution.
$59.99 US
FYI, this edition is pretty thin on Wonder Woman appearances.

Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark)
Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Tim Drake, Batman’s former sidekick, is back in action when an international organization seeks to capture, kill or co-opt super-powered teenagers.

As Red Robin, he’s going to have to team up with the mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl and the hyperactive speedster calling himself Kid Flash to stand any chance at all against a living, breathing weapon with roots in another world! They – along with a few other tortured teen heroes – will be the Teen Titans in this new series from writer Scott Lobdell (WILDC.A.T.S, Uncanny X-Men) and artist Brett Booth (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!

Witness the formation of a new team of Teen Titans and their initial battle against an old, familiar foe, Deathstroke, in this hardcover collecting the first fifteen issues of the series from writer Geoff Johns! The reasons behind Deathstroke’s actions prove shocking to the team, and before the teen heroes can get their feet on the ground, they must battle the cult of Brother Blood.

Then, Raven returns with a new body and a new master: the latest Brother Blood! Plus, Deathstroke’s daughter, Rose Wilson, assumes the identity of the Ravager and switches from Titans ally to Titans threat.

Now Deathstroke and Rose hunt for the Titans. Could things get any more explosive? They do, when Kid Flash learns to drive!

This mammoth collection also features TEEN TITANS #1/2, TITANS SECRET FILES #2, TEEN TITANS/OUTSIDERS SECRET FILES 2003, LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE 80-PAGE GIANT #2 and the four-issue BEAST BOY miniseries!
On sale NOVEMBER 30 • 560 pg, 7.25” x 10.75”, FC, $75.00 US
A solid batch of issues and a serious developmental period for Cassie. No innuendo intended.

Wonder Girl (Donna Troy)
It’s the issue of doom! Join the Tiny Titans as they – walk to school! Beast Boy takes a wrong turn when confronted by the crossing guards he calls The Doom Patrol. Plus, witness Beast Boy’s first encounter with the Crossing Patrol Boys of Doom! Crossing the street has never been so tough!
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

Since the character presumed to be Donna Troy has disappeared from the JLI cover solicit, I figure I should finally acknowledge her appearing in this book a bunch more than Cassie.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2010 Wonder Woman Twin Pocket Folder Style #1490DC

Maybe you folks are lucky enough to have the summer off, but I started my latest semester this week, which will probably be a doozy. That means school supplies, and this time, I did some of my shopping at Target. They had a dynamic selection of Wonder Woman folders I hadn't seen before, even if they were twice Wall*Mart's price (a whole dollar each!)

This particular folder is unique when compared to every other one I've seen in this series. First off, the original cover image is pretty much completely unaltered. The UPC code and the artist's signature have been removed, but this is otherwise an exact reproduction, including the forty-cent cover price! Those were the days an entire comic cost less than half the price of a stinkin' folder! On the other hand, I doubt this image has ever been printed so well, on high gloss heavy stock paper. I usually hate the Amazing Amazon with a sword, but this sort of thing was novel back then, and I dig the Plain Jane scabbard. You can tell this was something lying around that she just grabbed in a hurry, as opposed to the overly stylized, downright fetishistic weapons she's been known to have forged in recent years. I love how the background color hold tells a story unto itself, with the promise that inside you'll learn about "Incredible!! The Battle with the Body Snatcher from Space!" This image was by Jose Delbo and Dick Giordano, and was published in 1979's Wonder Woman #253

Again, not only does this folder have a non-cropped front cover reproduction, but the backside got the same treatment related to an entirely different comic book issue. This time though, the cover is reduced greatly, and rendered black and white. As you can see, both sides feature a drab dark purple backdrop, I suppose to try to carry on from the color hold on the first cover. Anyway, the second piece is from José Luis García-López, once again inked by Dick Giordano. Like the front cover, the version of Wonder Woman #306 published in 1983 featured a full color foreground with a color hold behind it, that time in red. All of the other folders I discussed here previously that were released in 2010 had the DC Comics 75th Anniversary logo on the back, so featuring this art in any form marks quite the deviation.

The inside flaps feature cropped stock art of Princess Diana working a lasso. You can tell that they're blown up a bit too large for their own good, and that background color is not winning, but they're still cute.

I bought a whole batch of Wonder Woman folders, but couldn't find any matching notebooks in stock. I'm pretty sure this specific folder was found under a box somewhere, because it was the only one of its kind, dated a year prior to the rest, and in rough shape. Still, this is my Wonder Woman, so I'm happy to have one more of these ginchy goodies.

Folders & Fodder

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Next Degeneration of Teen Just Ass

"Tim Drake is forced to step out from behind his keyboard when an international organization seeks to capture or kill super-powered teenagers. As Red Robin, he must team up with the mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl and a hyperactive speedster calling himself Kid Flash in TEEN TITANS #1, by Scott Lobdell and artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund."

Throughout the weekend, Bleeding Cool pointed to a dissemination by Brett Booth of an illustration of rocky terrain with his and other artists' signatures. Even with Rich Johnston's assurance that it was related to a Teen Titans project, I thought that was entirely too pretentiously vague to bother fellow humans with.

Then, on seeing the full art, I wished somehow by the grace of God Almighty to unsee it, or to have it revealed that this was a photoshopped decade old Homage Studios piece that was snickered over alongside Y2K. I would rather read the adventures of Iggie, Sed-8, and Metamorphic, the Rock Type Titans.

I'm too old to have been hit in that sweet spot required for me to give a damn about Tim Drake, Connor Kent, Bart Allen or Cassie Sandsmark. That said, on reading the line "the mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl," I knew those poor kids were being fed the same turd sandwiches as the original Teen Titans. "You're too old for our ephebophilic audience now, so would you be so kind as to try some smack and die your way out of interfering with DC: The New Class? If you're cool about it, maybe we'll dig up a mentor role for you..."

One of the reasons that this is so terrible is probably that all of the creators are my age or older. Scott Lobdell was born the year before the original Teen Titans were created. Brett Booth made his debut as a professional artist around the same time as the Kon-El/Conner Kent Superboy was created nearly twenty years ago. There is no one and nothing fresh here, but at the very least get some creators young enough to have been introduced to these characters when they were both new to this world, and aim for some synergy with the airing Young Justice cartoon show. After twenty-two years, you've going to retroactively unmake Tim Drake as a Robin, and turn him into the kind of loser who would come out as Red Robin, a costume and concept that took years of bad decisions to develop into a cancer in the character's testicles? I'm looking at Kid Flash, and I'm seeing the red-headed Wally West. If true, that demotes Wally after decades of being The Flash, and wipes Bart out of existence entirely. I understand they're shooting for racial diversity, but is that a woman of Latin origin looking like a cockroach as she scurries across the floor, because I'm thinking that's not the kind of inclusion to shoot for. Keeping that in mind, there is a figure seemingly made of tar in the background. Oh, my.

This is such offensively bad decision making, such a full steam ahead into the iceburg, the only way you could put a cherry on top would be to include Rob Liefeld in some way. Oh, my.

This is a thing for to be screwing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Post-Pointal Discussion: Wonder Woman and the Justice League

Looking at DC's return to the JLA Magnificent Seven Six + Cyborg, the first thing I'm reminded of is Jim Lee's prior co-founding of Image Comics when, as Gerard Jones put it, "...Marvel had lost its five hottest artists, and Jim Valentino." This of course led me to gripe about the exclusion of only one founding member of the team, the Martian Manhunter, but also got me to thinking about the nature of the team and Wonder Woman's place in it. You see, there has never been a single member of the Justice League as erratic as Wonder Woman.

Beginning with Justice League of America #40, Wonder Woman missed between 1/3 and 1/2 of every ten issues published. Black Canary replaced her full time as of #74, by which point Princess Diana had renounced her throne and powers to become Diana Prince, international adventurer. Wonder Woman returned at around the same time as the launch of her TV show, with a major plot point in her solo series being the performance of a series of tasks to justify returning to the League. A defining trait of the returned Amazing Amazon was that she was kind of bitchy, spouting feminist platitudes and demonstrating her equality by slapping fellow heroes when it suited her. She was also still in the habit of taking off several issues a year, but she wasn't nearly as truant as in the late '60s, and the practice was more prevalent among other heroes by that point. However, she took a four month summer in 1983, plus November off. In 1984, she was one of a group of major Leaguers whose absence during a Martian invasion led to Aquaman disbanding the team, which reformed without any of them. Outside of a flashback guest spot in 1985, Wonder Woman never appeared in the first series again.

In 1987, Wonder Woman's entire history was jettisoned, and she was retroactively removed from any form of Justice League membership. In the new continuity, Black Canary once again replaced Wonder Woman, this time from the very beginning of the team. The Amazing Amazon deigned to join a spin-off team in 1989, Justice League Europe, but quit without notice after just one issue. She finally officially joined Justice League America for the long haul in 1993, replacing the "deceased" Superman as team leader. Her return marked the beginning of one of the worst runs in the team's history, both creatively and in terms of the quality of group members, which involved record high turnover rates. Under her term, the Justice League fractured into three competing groups, all of which saw their books canceled in 1996.

JLA was heralded as a return to greatness for the Justice League, so of course Diana was the first member of the "Magnificent Seven" to drop out of the book, when her solo series "death" saw her mother Hippolyta replace the heroine. Diana was back fairly soon, but friction between the two books' creative teams saw Wonder Woman somewhat sidelined in adventures. She was given more to do by Mark Waid and Joe Kelly, and made the leap from JLA to 2006's Justice League of America relaunch that shook Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Flash Wally West and Aquaman loose for the entire run. Of the four, only Aquaman will join Wonder Woman at the launch of the 2011 volume, although it must be noted that the entire "Magnificent Seven" line-up abandoned the book in its final years (unless you count their former sidekicks/proxies.)

I think the 1990s proved that Wonder Woman alone can't "make" a Justice League team, the way only Superman or Batman really can. Still, it's hard not to see the League as a lesser entity without the presence of the Amazing Amazon. Unlike the World's Finest duo, Wonder Woman is the only hero to transition from full membership in the first super-hero team, the Justice Society of America, to DC Comics' premier collective, which Diana co-founded (while the boys made token appearances.) Wonder Woman doesn't just represent icons or women on a given team, but the continuity from the original super-group to the latest flavor. That said, she remains the super-heroine-- the one everybody knows, and makes her fairly irreplaceable as the greatest female who could possibly serve on any super-team.

Further, Wonder Woman doesn't "talk down" to her teammates. Since she started out with Golden Age heroes that fell by the wayside to Silver Age replacements, and at a separate company from Superman & Batman for much of the 1940s, she's much more "of the super-people" than functioning above them. There was a time in the '90s when the Justice League was basically Superman & his Underwhelming Hangers-On, while Batman was seen as carrying a disproportionate amount of the sales/firepower weight in other incarnations. Wonder Woman may not "make" a team, but she also doesn't haughtily walk ahead of them, either.

For this reason, I sometimes wish Wonder Woman would be allowed to work on an entirely separate team from Superman & Batman, to give her more room to stand out and develop beyond being "the best of the girls." Diana has never really had much of a relationship with Martian Manhunter or any of the Flashes or Green Lanterns, aside from being one of the few people who could make Guy Gardner reasonable. There was a nice flirtation once with Aquaman, which I can stomach a lot better than her sexual tensions with Superman and Batman, but all three place her as the object of desire in a mostly male unit. In this latest group, there's also Cyborg, who has spent thirty years working fairly regularly with Donna Troy. Considering the disparity between the lip service given to Diana and Donna's closeness versus how little time they've actually spent in the same comic stories over the past sixty years, it would be kind of shameful if Diana ended up spending more time with Victor Stone than the former Wonder Girl.

Anyway, another reboot for another decade with another Justice League. I'm glad Wonder Woman has gone from lengthy abandonment to essential status, and hope she sees more action this time than the insides of Superman's newly single mouth, as rumors threaten.

...and the Justice League

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Bad New Era Dawns for Wonder Woman?

It's been a very bad year to be a Wonder Woman fan. First, Joseph Michael Straczynski decided to completely jack with her continuity, making her a a mid-90s "bad girl" fifteen years late. Then Straczynski got bored and distracted less than halfway through, requiring writer Phil Hester to continue a poorly received revision hamstrung by "story notes" and a shifting schedule. The full story was accompanied by a widely panned costume by historically awful designer Jim Lee. This suit went on to inspire the failed David E. Kelly television pilot, which either had its questionable potential crushed or will deliver Montezuma's Convention Bootleg Revenge for generations. Given the disparity in reviews, I'm pretty sure one of those guys followed Smallville religiously. Apparently, TV Diana would back Cheney on waterboarding, but he didn't go far enough for her liking.

Now, we're getting a new Justice League, in a newish continuity... with a slightly worse variation on the Jim Lee redesign. We get exceptional artist Cliff Chiang stuck drawing the thing in a new ongoing series. That series will be written by Brian Azzarello, responsible for the ponderous Superman arc "For Tomorrow" that is best known for being "No 'Hush,'" and a lot of hardboiled Vertigo stuff that would indicate more Xenafied Amazon hard ass bitchiness. Joy.

As an added bonus, it looks like Donna Troy will be joining Justice League International in possibly her least imaginative costume yet. I'm hoping that it's either a placeholder for something better, or that it maybe isn't Donna at all. I mean, it makes me sad to think Donna went from one of the iconic Teen Titans of the '60s-'90s, only to become a bit player on a second string Justice League team as an adult. What's next, a midlife spread in Playboy?

Finally, there's no firm word yet on Cassie Sandsmark, but it looks like Brett Booth is involved with a new Teen Titans. That strikes me as a good combination, so it's a shame Fabian Nicieza has been confirmed as not being involved. More griping as the opportunity presents itself...