"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
WONDER WOMAN #600. Gail Simone, Amanda Conner, Louise Simonson, Geoff Johns, and J. Michael Straczynski (writers). George Perez, Amanda Conner, Eduardo Pansica, Scott Kolins, Don Kramer (art). Scott Koblish, Bob Wiacek, and Michael Babinski (inks). Hi-Fi, Paul Mounts, Pete Pantazis, Michael Atiyeh, and Alex Sinclair (colors). Adam Hughes, Nicola Scott & Jason Wright, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Rod Reis, Gullem March, Greg Horn, Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato, Phil Jimenez & Hi-Fi, Jock, Shane Davis, Jamie Mendoza, Nei Ruffino (pin ups). Lynda Carter (introduction). DC. 56 pages. $4.99.
All right, let’s jut talk about the costume briefly and get it out of the way since we’ve kind of beat this horse dead already.
No, I don’t like the new costume. But it’s not just because I don’t like the look of it (though I don’t). It’s because it simply doesn’t feel like Wonder Woman. I don’t like the way it looks, but that’s fine, everyone has different tastes and we’re never ALL going to agree so it’s a fools errand anyway. Yes, I would prefer if the costume was more “fashion forward”, more modern and clean-lined rather than feeling like a fussy design throwback to 80’s fashion and 90’s comics. And while we’re here I’ll flat out say that I think this Jamie McKelvie design comes really close without even trying.
However, rather than pull the costume apart based on my personal tastes, I just think that in this reboot, a storyline in which Diana has apparently lost (or doesn’t have access to?) some of her powers; has lost most of her Amazonian heritage; and grew up in an urban environment rather than on an island – wouldn’t it be great if she still really looked like Wonder Woman? Wouldn’t it be great if despite a massive change to her history she still just OOZED Wonder Woman? Wouldn’t it be great if costume change, history change, and dead Amazons be damned, Diana still just OWNED the mantle of Wonder Woman without anyone…even she…knowing it? That’s what bothers me. Diana, whether in formal wear, sweats, or the famous strapless bathing suit should FEEL like Wonder Woman. And this costume and look doesn’t feel that way to me, so it disappoints me. It seems like a really great chance to solidify why Diana IS Wonder Woman, independent of all the miscellaneous facts, and to me, it fails.
If you want to read more about this…well, just look anywhere on the web and you’re sure to bump into it, but Sonia had a really interesting post about it on CSBG last week, and as always, the people I’d go to if I wanted to hear experts talk about why it works and why it doesn’t, Project: Rooftop, did a special review post about it. Additionally, Brian did a great feature for CBR’s front page illuminating Wonder Woman’s costume through the ages, and a special Wonder Woman focused Comic Book Legends Revealed that was excellent.
Okay, onto the actual issue.
I have to say; overall, considering the talent on this book, I was really disappointed.
The first story is a seven-page Gail Simone penned, George Perez penciled (and inspired) story called Valedictorian with inks by Scott Koblish and with Hi-Fi doing the colors. The story is essentially a giant battle of female DC superheroes against IVO’s “Cyber-Sirens” who it seems can only control men, thus leaving the day saving up to the ladies. It’s a pretty massive battle to have in four pages and that Simone and Perez manage it at all is impressive, but it’s the kind of short story – doing way too much with way too many characters in far too few pages – that really leaves me a bit cold. It was wonderful to see Perez’s always beautiful pencils and the piece had a few nice moments (The Question trying to work up the courage to ask for Diana’s autograph was priceless), but it was just too much to do in too little time.
The second part of the story (yes, in a seven-page story there’s a “second part”) is a more emotional almost epilogue piece about Diana and Vanessa Kapatelis. I think longtime fans might find this touching and appropriate, but again for me it was just too much jammed in there for me to really get anything resonant out of it.
Additionally, while it was really fun in a way to see so many female supes gathered together, in the end there were so many “guest stars” in these pages that Wonder Woman herself was all but lost. Though Simone’s writing is always solid there wasn’t much time in the pages to experience the Wonder Woman that I have so come to love under her pen. I’m glad she got the chance to tell a story here, to say a little goodbye of sorts, but I found myself wishing for a smaller story that showed me the Diana that I fell in love with. There was no room in these pages for the sense of humor and creativity that Simone actually brought to Wonder Woman.
All that said, you know I loved your Wonder Woman, Gail. I am going to miss you and your book immensely, and thank you for finally giving me an opportunity to fall in love with Diana.
The second story, an Amanda Conner piece called Fuzzy Logic with colors by Paul Mounts is the best story in this entire book by a country mile. Fuzzy Logic is a five-page Wonder Woman/Power Girl team up story that manages to be clever, funny, and adorable all at once. Conner nails these five pages. And she nails them because beyond being one of the best cartoonists working today, she is well aware of what can and can’t be done in five pages. So she shows us the final hurrah of a battle, tells a few jokes, and then plays out a short story about Wonder Woman, Power Girl, and Power Girl’s cat. It’s hilarious. It also plays on a power of Diana’s that would be hella useful, but which we rarely see utilized, in that she can talk to animals. The results are so fun. So fun I can’t stand it. It makes me desperate not only to have Amanda Conner’s Power Girl back, but also to have some kind of crazy Wonder Woman/Power Girl monthly ongoing. In some strange way, they’re the perfect foils for each other…at least as written and illustrated by Conner – Diana with her strange kind of stilted seriousness and childlike curiosity and Kara with her modern savvy and light sarcasm. God, what a team they could be. It would just be like rolling in fun…constantly.
For additional over the top cool points, Conner uses Cassandra Cain (aka Batgirl) as a guest star in a handful of precious panels. CASSANDRA CAIN. Whoop! She doesn’t get to do much, but man it was good to see her back in comic pages…and in her rightful badass batgirl costume…and drawn by Amanda Conner no less. Such a treat.
The third story, a Louise Simonson penned, Eduardo Pansica penciled piece called Firepower, inked by Bob Wiacek and colored by Pete Pantazis, suffered similarly to Simone’s piece, trying to do way too much in way too little space. The story, about Superman and Wonder Woman rescuing people from a crashed plane and then jaunting off to stop a blackmailer (Aegeus) that crashed the plane and threatens to do more damage if not paid off, is pretty much a throwaway. It’s a ho-hum story any way you slice it, and though I generally like Simonson’s writing I found the dialogue pretty stilted…maybe even dated “The Excela high speed train’s coming! There’s no way we can stop–!” Lines like that just made me wince. More importantly however, like Simone’s piece this one falters by giving Superman nearly equal face time with Diana…making it seem less like a Diana story and more like a JLA short. I guess if it was exceptionally well done (as the Conner piece was) I wouldn’t really mind the team up here…but it just doesn’t say anything interesting…I learn nothing about Diana, or Superman, or the villain. It feels like a placeholder. Short stories really have to be exceptional in order to stay with you and not feel like a waste of time and money, it’s why anthologies are always such a mixed bag – not everyone can do the short story exceptionally, and I think this piece here is an example of that failing, which is not to say Simonson is not capable of it – just that this one isn’t successful. The plot seemed a bit contrived and cliché – we’ve definitely seen some version of this many times before. And because J. Michael Straczynski’s piece – the launch into this major Wonder Woman reboot – is only 10 pages…TEN PAGES!…the real problem is that for anything that seems like a waste of space in the issue you can’t help thinking – “I wish I’d gotten six more pages of JMS to see where he’s going with this, rather than a throwaway story that means nothing”. Very frustrating.
Ironically, the fourth piece, a six-page story called The Sensational Wonder Woman by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins operates somewhat as an introduction to Straczysnki’s piece and does almost nothing with its luxurious six pages – including two massive splash pages (one that I initially mistook for a pin up because it only has three words on it). There’s really no plot to speak of for me to download to you…it’s just kind of cryptic narration and images. So you’ve got Simonson and Simone trying to pack in story arcs and massive guest stars and then you’ve got Johns just kind of ambling along with a little pseudo introduction to JMS’ relaunch piece that goes nowhere…and it makes a reader feel like this book should have been much better coordinated. They could have cut down John’s piece by two, maybe three pages and given the space where it was needed elsewhere and he still could have told the same story. It’s very disappointing to see a book with so much talent and potential be a bit wasted.
The fifth story, the main event as it were, was a big let down for me, if only because I expected much more than ten pages of story from J. Michael Straczysnki’s much anticipated re-launch. I think I learned more in the interviews and articles I’ve read about the reboot than I did in these ten pages and the end result is I can’t really tell you what I think about it one way or another. These pages aren’t bad or poorly written in fact I’d say they’re well drawn and well written, but there’s just not enough here to make a call about anything.
I’ve been hesitant all along about a reboot for Diana, because A) I really liked the character, book, and direction under Simone’s pen and B) The way this has been described is largely as a temporary reboot – i.e. someone (gods) have messed with the time line and it will be up to Diana to “fix it” and get us back to business as usual in a year (or whatever) – and I don’t know about you guys, but that whole thing is getting really old. I mean I’m reading nearly that exact thing (done quite well by Morrison) in The Return of Bruce Wayne…so I’m feeling pretty burnt on the concept. Is it possible that JMS can tell a mind-blowing story over the course of the next year that will make me glad that he took me on this journey? Sure, it’s possible, and I’m trying to keep my mind open and have a little faith, but the reality is that it’s most likely that we’ll be back to the status quo in a year. Hopefully it will have meant a year of great stories and adventures before we reset back to the same old thing, but I don’t know…I’m tired of being jerked around I guess. I get that it’s hard to tell a compelling superhero story that hasn’t been seen before, and to do that you sometimes have to step outside the box, sometimes way outside the box, and I’m okay with that in theory…but I guess I’m just feeling a little weary.
It doesn’t help I suppose that I’m not wild about some of these changes (as far as I can tell), and based on these ten pages haven’t learned much to push me in either direction. I don’t like that Diana is suddenly 21 (or 23 depending on what you’re reading?). I mean, I know in comics we play fast and loose with age (and I talked about this on my Heralds post as well in regard to Emma Frost’s age) but does Diana really feel that young to you guys? To me she feels early 30’s…but I could maybe believe 28…if I really push myself. So if she’s 21 now…am I just and have I always been delusional about her age? Are we back in time? I just don’t know. All questions that will be answered? Maybe, hopefully, but almost nothing was answered here – it’s ten pages full of “I don’t know who I am” and cryptic Oracle messages – so that’s not a great start.
The rest of the book is pin ups and a Lynda Carter introduction. The Carter introduction was fairly inspiring and I enjoyed it, more than I usually do with these kind of celebrity tie-ins. She seemed to have a real affection for Diana and while I can’t imagine she’s been reading the comics all these years, it almost felt like she has, like she cares that much. Maybe I just retain faint positive memories of Lynda Carter spinning around and me mimicking her in my Wondy underoos in my living room and am thus incapable of thinking bad thoughts about her? Hard to tell.
The pin ups, which are something I used to like as a teen, but which I realize I have less and less appreciation for as an adult especially when some of those stories really could have used the extra page or two, were a bit underwhelming. Certainly Phil Jimenez’s double page spread is historic and impressive and to those that were big fans of his Wonder Woman, a welcome addition. But other than that, only Adam Hughes, who always does a powerful and inspiring Diana, impressed me. Even Nicola Scott’s Diana, which is almost always a slam-dunk, seemed a little off. And Jock, whose work I generally love, turned in a pretty terrible Diana, one that has a very strange, almost creepy porno look to it. Odd. And a shame.
Overall, especially because of the price, I can’t in good conscience recommend this book; as it’s much more miss than hit. However, Diana getting her 600th issue is significant and something I want to support, and if, like me, you’re planning to give JMS’ run a try anyway, you should pick this up and check it out. Plus you’ll have Conner’s excellent story to help get you through.
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