Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wonder Woman Annual #1 (2007)

So yeah, Wonder Woman killed a guy, but he needed killing, the World Court backed her up, and it was about time Princess Diana moved on and got back to the good fight. In fact, when you’re in Circe’s temple surrounded by an army of your enemies, whose powers have been enhanced through sorcery, it’s probably a little past due.

I have to applaud artist Terry Dodson for page four, where he overcame a logistical problem with Giganta by having time progress as a series or “stories” down the villainess’ body. For instance, Queen Clea and Gundra the Valkyrie were still trying to follow through with Circe’s plan to talk Diana into joining the collective against Man’s World. Diana took them both out, as well as The Mask, all while encircling Giganta and dodging the caption boxes with one-sentence biographies of each villain.

Kung, Cheetah, the Duke of Deception, Angle Man, Silver Swan, Doctor Cyber, Doctor Poison, Minister Blizzard, Doctor Psycho: an orgasm of Who’s Who information as each took their turn with Wonder Woman. A lesser artist would have folded as the writer tried to reintroduce decades of forgotten super-villains in the span of seven pages. Just when things started to get ridiculous, there was a two page spread of heroes led by Wonder Girl Donna Troy, come to save the day. Included were Green Arrow, Stargirl, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Robin (Tim Drake,) Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark, Supergirl, Starfire, Red Tornado, Black Canary, Power Girl, Zatanna, Nemesis, the Golden Age Flash & Wally West, Liberty Belle, Dr. Mid-Nite, Green Lantern (Alan Scott,) Wildcat, Hawkman, Superman and Batman. Someone (Robin?) made the connection between the vegetation discovered at the scene of Donna’s kidnapping and the moly used to defend against Circe’s magic.

There was lots of fighting, and lots of yapping amidst the melee. Donna confessed that she never felt comfortable as Wonder Woman, hence her regressed costume. Cassie made it clear that old suit or no, the “Wonder Girl” name was taken. Batman somehow wrangled Cheetah. Heat Vision took out Minister Blizzard’s gun. Angle Man < Robin’s Batarang. Meanwhile, Hercules was trying to kill Circe, but Wonder Woman made it clear “If anyone does any killing today… it’ll be me!” Hercules didn’t believe that it was in her nature, so she kicked him in the head. “If only that weren’t true. When I killed Medusa, no one batted an eye. That was my job-- slaying mythological monsters-- putting malevolent gods in their place-- and you’re both.” Um, then it is true that you are a lethal agent, but we’ll forgive the grammar. Hercules then tried to woo Diana, followed by threatening to take her by force, “the same way I took your mother.” Diana bit his lip, head-butted him, and held a sword to his throat. Circe didn’t have faith in Diana to do the deed, so she renewed her attack, although what stopped her for the past four pages eludes me. “For now I’ll bind him with chains stronger than those that bound Prometheus,” for reasons that also elude me. Even though Circe had just finished killing oodles of people as Wonder Woman, while simultaneously getting a lot more done in that role than Diana, the Princess let her go off with Hercules. In the least perceptive line regarding Wonder Woman since she claimed to not really like women back in the ‘70s, “…I’m not even a real person. I’m a golem. A clay statue brought to life. I have no idea who or what I am. All I know is, I’m alone.” Circe punctured Diana’s emo bubble, pointing out all of her buddies fighting for her outside, and offered her a bit of humanity as a present.

Nemesis was given all the credit for the arrests at the Department of Metahuman Affairs. Agent Prince was assigned to catalog all the weapons collected from the scene, and was shocked when she cut herself on Gundra’s sword. Of course, Diana could always bleed, but the writer was so fixated on his Wonder Woman Encyclopedia that he seemed to neglect reading any actual comics. Anyway, Wonder Woman could now really become Diana Prince, a normal human, who still looked exactly like Wonder Woman in glasses. DC supporting casts have 20/120 vision, I guess.

Donna and Cassie had a girl power session with Wonder Woman, pretending that their relationship was like that of Batman, Nightwing and Robin. Okay, so how come Wonder Woman only pays attention to either girl when they finally get developed in best-selling team books so that their guest appearances can help buoy her own sales? Batman offered a final pep talk with a smile (*shudder*) after already giving Wonder Woman her new human identity, a job as a secret agent, an “invisible” plane, and limited use of his teen sidekick. That had to be worth at least a handjob. Can’t this bitch do anything for herself?

Speaking of bitching, I gave an overview of my complaints long ago in a trade paperback review, with a fair amount of axes ground in the previous two issue synopses. To keep this brief, Allan Heinberg, Terry & Rachel Dodson’s answer to the titular question “Who is Wonder Woman?” was “an ingrate.” Beyond the straw man arguments around which the slight plot pivots, it boils down to Diana being incredibly powerful and broadly loved and still pitying herself. Three-quarters of a century in, you don’t decide to take your shot at being Alan Moore by redefining Wonder Woman through the Pinocchio/ “I want to be a real girl” trope. Not only is it hoary as hell, but it is quite simply not what anyone wants from Wonder Woman (especially if they suffered through seven seasons and four motion pictures of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

Writers, for Gaea’s sake, stop playing the clay card. Diana was a sculpture of a child brought to life by the gods so that she could be born completely outside the influence of man. It’s no different than the bible casting Adam out of earth. Wonder Woman grew up, sprouted tits, and bleeds ever twenty-eight days. What part of “woman” was unclear? It’s in her friggin’ name. What isn’t? “Golem,” a product of Jewish folklore regarding a misshapen manmade creature instilled with a terrifying caricature of life through magic (not unlike a zombie) whose name translates from Hebrew as “dumb/helpless.” You want to humanize Wonder Woman? Address the fact that she was raised as the only child on an island full of rape victims who is so traumatized that she remains a virgin well into adulthood and casts untouchable figures like Superman and Batman in her sexual fantasies. There’s your Alan Moore moment, you cowardly, unimaginative dorks. Alternately, write an inspirational super-heroine without resorting to literal feet of clay and storytelling devices from 1960s Stan Lee scripts that were only considered sophisticated in comparison to Mort Weisinger-edited Superman comics written at a second grade reading level.

Brave New World


Luke said...

The primary thing I remember about this issue is all the bad guys, and thinking "Wow, a lot of these guys have great looks and the one sentence summaries are great springboards." Unfortunately I don't think any of the more obscure ones have appeared again since.

When I read these stories, I liked the action quotient and the novelty -- novel to me, you see, because these were the first WW comics I had ever read. So Wonder Woman kicking ass and taking names was certainly something of a novelty for me.

That's a pretty shallow level for reading a comic but still a valid one. After all, aren't we told by snarky, seemingly superhero-hating comic book bloggers that superheroes are lame and can only be enjoyed on base levels? ;)

Still waiting for that 6 issue arc with Minister Blizzard...

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, I'm actually glad the book was crowded with well drawn villainous obscurities. The less indulgent and dubious context-as-dialogue, the better.