Sunday, November 25, 2007

Loose Ends

And so here it is, at long last: the Wonder Woman Annual for 2007. I wish they hadn't hyped it with the words "First Issue" on the cover--it's not like there's going to be a second annual released for this year.

But it doesn't feel extra, as annuals in times past often did, like a bonus for the faithful reader. Here we get the final chapter of Allan Heinberg's epic re-launching story, "Who is Wonder Woman", which is reward in itself. And we get to enjoy some more of the Dodsons' fantastic depictions of not only Wonder Woman, but so many great heroes.

After the move, I'll have to dig into the long boxes and pull out the first four issues in Heinberg's brief run and then read all this at a clip. I have no doubt that it will play well as a whole...and this is a good conclusion to that storyline, if you can keep it seperate in your mind from the re-appearance of Circe in the "Amazons Attack" storyline that commenced while we waited for this final chapter.

When we last saw Diana, she had become Wonder Woman once more to battle the threat of Circe and the sudden reappearance of every villian she's ever faced. This was kind of cool...but we're left a little uncertain of a few things. Are these really all of Diana's rogues, or have they been conjured by Circe's magic? If they are real, then who's that as the Silver Swan...since Valerie gave it up years ago, and Vanessa was recently rehabilitated.

We don't really get time to think about that, though, as Diana manages to cycle through each of them at least once, before the Cavalry arrive...which is pretty much EVERYONE of note in the superhero community: JLA, JSA, the Titans (led by Robin, who we'd seen way back in the second issue of the run)...they've all come together to help Diana fight her enemies. As Batman says to Wonder Woman later, "They love you, Diana. They always have. Because that's what you inspire in anyone who's ever met you. That's what makes you more powerful than any of us."

Predictably, the heroes make short work of the assorted villians, from Angle Man to Osira, and Giganta and Minister Blizzard and great gods, all the others we've seen so much more frequently: Cheetah, Dr. Psycho, Doctor Cyber, the Duke of Deception. The list goes on. And finally, Diana can turn her attention to Circe...and they talk. And that's when things get interesting.

We see all of Diana's self-doubt and lack of confidence following the Max Lord incident: "I'm not even a real person. I'm a golem. A clay statue brought to life. I have no idea who I am. All I know is, I'm alone."

Circe poo-poos this, saying that's how most humans feel all the time. She motions outside, where the heroes are mopping up Diana's rogues gallery: "Look up there, Diana. You've never been less alone in your whole life...or more human."

And as she casts a bit of purple magic in Diana's direction, she disappears. Later, Diana discovers that, as Diana Prince, she is not invulnerable and can be hurt, but not after she has changed to Wonder Woman. "A gift" she says, from Circe.

As the story concludes, the heroes (including Batman, in a rare daytime appearance) join Diana at a press conference where she announces her return.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the storyline finished up. Heinberg has reintroduced the secret identity of Diana Prince, made her matter in a new way, established an interesting career for her, through which she may get to meet more new heroes as they appear and perhaps spread her influence and message further afield, and re-introduced all her grand and gloriously-diverse rogues for future conflict.

And just to shine it all up, Allan's done something that not every writer of Wonder Woman has been fond of doing--he's set her squarely at the heart of the DC Universe...or multiverse, or whatever. The heroes and heroines of this Earth are her friends and colleagues. One of the things I enjoyed best in this story was Diana's interactions with others: Robin, Batman, the Justice Society and Titans. And as Batman (BATMAN!) points out, she's doing it all with the Power Of Love.

Not a bad relaunch at all.

As a back-up that sort of continues on from the press conference, we get to see Diana at DoMA, where she and Nemesis review the origins of Diana, Donna Troy (she's firmly re-established here post Infinite Crisis as the magical twin of Diana, kidnapped and then restored to life as Diana's sidekick...which doesn't address any of the Harbinger parallel business we were hearing about during 52.), Nemesis and Sarge Steel, in a pretty entertaining framing sequence.

The art here, by Gary Frank, is serviceable, and in some places very nice...but there are moments when these women (the ones with the beauty of Aphrodite?) are downright homely.

I won't have as much to say about the next issue, Wonder Woman #12. I will say the cover, by Terry Dodson, is pretty swell.

This is a follow-up tale in the wake of "Amazons Attack" (I didn't follow the miniseries all the way through, but will grab the trade paperback when that's released.), but we don't see very much of Diana or Wonder Woman. Really, the book is mostly hijacked by Nemesis (making a miraculous recovery from the Stygian Killer Hornets) as he tracks down the shape-shifter, Everyman, who'd been impersonating Sarge Steel and causing events which led to the attack of the Amazons against the US.

True, Wonder Woman shows up at the end and makes short work of Everyman...but its really a deus ex machina wrap-up to a Nemesis story. The art for this issue, by Paco Dias, is plenty decent and I hope we'll see his work again in the future.

The next issue, Wonder Woman #13, interested me more. What I wanted to know reading these issues was, "how did the whole Amazons Attack thing impact Diana...what changed for her...and so I got to see here some of the aftermath.

I didn't imagine this issue would be ground-breaking or earth-shattering or anything, not with Gail's debut coming so hot on its heels...but it was informative and enjoyable and we got to see Wonder Woman best yet another hydra and I really liked it.

The artwork, by Julian Lopez, is pretty great. He draws well, scenery, creatures,'s most often all quite lovely to look at and balances nicely between realistic art and cartoon (his Diana Prince covering "Clark Kent"-style as she dashes off to "a job for Wonder Woman" was classic funny stuff) and the story by J. Torres takes us on kind of a whirlwind of post-war stuff.

But I think that Julian fails in one huge and--to me--almost inexcusable, way: his depiction of the "Wonder Thong."

Now, look, I totally get that this kind of pandering to fanboy fantasies happens in comics. All the time. I've seen Power Girl's kryptonian knockers. And I'm not arguing that the Amazons are prudes about their bodies or anything like that. Far from it. And too, I realize that the thong is pretty popular, from a fashion standpoint.

And I don't think I'm a prude or anything (though my preference does lean toward the male form...give me a well-drawn man of steel any day...) but this seems an...
...choice for a super heroine and especially one as classy as Diana. I suppose I'm just old-fashioned enough to really like those shorts she rocked in New Frontier.

So, Wonder Woman goes to the Gateway City Museum, because Cassie (Wonder Girl)'s appearance at her mother's office has stirred up a near riot of protesters fearful in the wake of the Amazons' attack...and the crinkly curator guy says:

Relieved to see you, indeed, Amazon buttcheeks hangin' out like Daisy Duke. No wonder the public is rioting. After the whole Max Lord thing, it would seem an ill-thought fashion choice for someone who knows (and is reminded freshly later in the story)is a role model for women young and old. And really, what's a little more blue ink and a couple of stars, right?

Now with this whole puritanic rant I've got going on, you should be completely off guard when I say I laughed like hell when I caught the Golden-Age Flash peering down Diana's W when she stops by a construction site where he and Wildcat are rebuilding a hospital. I suppose any guy on New Earth would look if he had the angle. But is that the power of Love? In context of the starred thong, it makes Jay Garrick seem like more of an old perv.

Seriously, look at the "shorts". I mean, you can almost see stubble. Or don't you have to shave legs of clay? And do we want to have this conversation? Just a little more blue and another star or two, that's all I'm asking.

Anyway, it left me feeling just a little icky through the next scene, where fortunately Wonder Woman's drawn mostly from the waist up. She meets Vixen and Black Canary for a ribbon-cutting at a girls school re-opening in Georgetown. Nowhere does it say this is Halliday School for Girls...but that might be fun for a story or two down the road.

After the dedication, two girls pull Diana aside and introduce them to their friend who "hasn't said a word since her Mom died a few years ago, but she wrote an essay about you being this 'global maternal figure', whatever that means and won like $500 in a contest last year."

Diana introduces herself to the girl, who begins speaking with her right away and asks if she (Wonder Woman) will always be there to protect them, like she was during the war. Diana hugs her and reassures us all that, "yes" she will.

Then, almost a post-script (or a bit of foreshadowing, wot) we see Diana at the mystical barrier/bubble we learn that Hippolyta is using to keep Diana off of Paradise Island, while she sulks grumpily on her throne. Diana thinks perhaps her mother will speak when she has something to say, like the schoolgirl.

And we get a Big Finish speech from Wonder Woman as she flies off over the ocean: "I must follow the true ways of my people and lead by example. Yet I must remember that while I am daughter in my mother's house, I am mistress in my own [still no excuse for a thong]and in the world I have chosen to call Home I am a warrior who fights for what is right. I am a champion of peace. I am an Amazon. I am Wonder Woman."

Ah, just the sort of stirring interior monologue we might someday hope to hear in a Wonder Woman movie. Can't you just hear whatever theme John Williams would write for her building underneath? Hokey, sure. But come on, what's not to love?

The Wonder Thong, that's what.

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