Monday, July 5, 2010

Ramblings on Wonder Woman and a Review: JMS' Wonder Woman #600

There are certain characters who I love so much that I will collect their comic no matter how god-awful it is. I need to follow each and every issue just to see what is happening. Supergirl is a prime example.

And then there are characters who I really love but I don't feel compelled to buy unless the story is good. I can pinpoint those characters by looking at my collection. Do I have a smattering of issues of an ongoing title ... as though I have picked it up and dropped it a bunch of times? Then that means I want to follow the character but need the right creative team to keep me there.

I can rattle a number of those characters off without thinking too hard ... the Doom Patrol, the Flash, the Teen Titans ... all interest me enough to keep looking.

Wonder Woman is also one of these characters. If you look at my collection, you can tell. I have some early Perez. I have all the Messner-Loeb/Deodato run (please don't laugh), no Byrne, some Jimenez, all of Rucka ... then a drop off, some Picoult ... all of Simone.

I want to read Wonder Woman ... I do.

All this preamble is to say ... I don't know what is going to happen with J. Michael Straczynski's run. Am I going to read it?

One of my big problems with it (as it is with many readers) is the re-writing of DCU history completely as JMS spins this new timeline. If this new Wonder Woman is an unknown, how do I reconcile every story she has been in prior?

Now I know what you are thinking ...

"Suck it up Anj ... this has all happened before and you dealt with it."

And it's true. I have been an avid comic reader and have lived through a couple of WW reboots, both hard and soft.

Like way back in 1986 when she 'first appeared' in Legends #6. This was after she had been de-evolved at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

That's right, this was a hard reboot of continuity. It opened the door for Perez' Greek mythology heavy and well-loved run. It also meant Guy Gardner was a 'veteran' compared to Diana.

This one was the hardest to wrap my head around from a continuity point of view. What about all the prior JLA missions, her role in several major storylines, her own adventures. In many ways it was a revolutionary time at DC. I was just done dealing with Superman's Byrne ret-con in my mind, the single universe was still settling post-Crisis, so why not throw Diana into the mix.

And then there is the relatively soft reboot during Messner-Loeb and Deodato's run. In that storyline, Diana is stripped of the Wonder Woman title and puts together a black leather outfit complete with jacket.

Of course, that was relatively short lived and Diana was soon back in her original outfit.

But it seems like there are many many runs of Wonder Woman where her history or mythos is tweaked a bit.

In Greg Rucka's underappreciated run, Diana's role as ambassador is really played up. Rucka wanted her to be a world-wide voice not only in super-heroics but in human rights.

Rucka also rebooted to Greek gods to a more modern look. Here Ares sports a black outfit and scars. Aphrodite is a sunbathing vamp. Eros was a slacker dude. Athena carried a laptop.

Even Picoult had Diana Prince as the white jumpsuit secret agent while Donna used the Wonder Woman title.

It all seems to suggest that there is no definitive Wonder Woman; minor reboots and rethinking happen so often.

So why should this one irk me so much before I even read it?

I think it is because for the last several years DC really seemed to put Diana in a place of prominence within the continuity. She was one of the Trinity. She was well respected by the heroes around her; feared by the villains just as much. And while the Violet Lantern uniform was awful, Diana had more than a passing role in Blackest Night.

So to scale her back by retconning her history just doesn't sit right.

But, as always, a good story is a good story. So I went into the story with an open mind.

The prologue starts with Diana running down a dark alley.

She says up front she has little idea of who she is or where she comes from.

So suddenly we go from the giddy heights of the prior stories in this issue to the gritty urban landscape of the city.

It sounds as if Diana hasn't revealed herself to the world at large.

She is chased by a bunch of well dressed button men looking to kill her. She easily parries their attacks and physically trounces them. The men seem shocked at the power she possesses.

Again, just earlier in the issue, in the Simone story, we see Wonder Woman toss a tank around. That is the Wonder Woman I want to see. Now maybe this one has that power. But Diana as an urban fighter doesn't seem right.

With the men dispatched, Diana hurries back to her lair, an area of the cities sewers. There, she bemoans the fact that she has remained hidden in her life. She thinks she needs to get out in the open and be whoever it is she is supposed to be.

The sewer is flanked by veil wearing female warriors, presumably the Amazons, who advise her that it may be too early for Diana to go out in the open. Perturbed by their response, Diana demands to see the oracle.

The oracle's temple is underneath a bridge. I suppose the contrast of such sites (sewers, bridges vs Paradise Island) is the riff Straczynski is going for here. Something is horribly wrong.

The oracle doesn't seem to be able to tell Diana exactly who they are or where they come from. She also looks a bit too much like Delirium from Sandman.

But she can tell Diana that something has gone wrong in the world. That a man has seized the power that used to be the Amazons and is using it for evil. This is who Diana needs to stop.

So far, albeit in just a few pages, nothing here seemed magnetic enough to draw me in, powerful enough to erase that all that went before.

And then a glimmer of hope. The oracle tells Diana that she needs to show her what she is 'fighting to restore'.

So maybe this 'new timeline' is temporary. Maybe there is a built in reset button that when Diana defeats this new villain, the original timeline remanifests.

I will have an easier time thinking of this as a one year Elseworlds as opposed to dogma.

And so Diana sees Paradise Island for the first time.

I don't think this story cannot be graded. It is a prologue.

I hope that what we have is a year long story in which Diana somehow rediscovers who she is and rewrites the history back to the way it was. Furthermore, if that is true and the plan is to reinstitute the old timeline than I hope that DC does the smart thing and leaves this WW in this book alone. If you have this Diana interacting with the DCU then it will open up an even bigger can of worms than this retcon has.

You may have noticed that I haven't commented on the new uniform that much. Frankly, I think the new uniform minor in comparison to the need to re-write Diana's entire history. The costume isn't keeping readers away. That is a symptom, not the disease. What we need are great stories in Wonder Woman. An outfit never sold books ... the stories sell the books. The sad thing is I think much of Gail Simone's run was very good regardless of the poor sales numbers. So maybe some mega-publicity (such as this book has got) will help the character in the end.
My guess is even if the current timeline is brought back, that Diana will continue to wear the new uniform. She'll probably say she wears it to 'honor those who fought with her in that other world'.

I am in for the moment. But I also know that there is a chance that there may only be a few JMS issues in my collection at some point; like so many before them, it will be another failed attempt for a Wonder Woman creative team to grab me.

1 comment:

Diabolu Frank said...

Sorry for the delayed response, but I was waiting to get my (delayed) copy of #600 before reading/replying.

I love that you preferred Messner-Loebs over most everyone else's run. It's my favorite, and I'm unappologetic about that. I don't share your affection for Rucka's run, but the updating of the gods was a good call. That bunch were always such stuffy killjoys beforehand.

For years I treated the Crisis as the beginning of my DC Universe. Only in the past decade did I come to realize how hobbled so many DC characters were by their Post-Crisis identities. Wonder Woman was hit especially hard, but she was still at heart the same character, and typically was regarded by others as if she had her old track record. She's still needed as true "fix," but so did Superman, so there's worse company.

As for the rest, particularly JMS, I enjoyed hearing your opinions. I won't drone on here, but I think the new direction is terrible, and will vent elsewhere at length as time permits...