New Releases: Wonder Woman #36
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
On the basis that you might not know the status quo of Wonder Woman in the New 52 DC universe, it’s worth noting that Brian Azzarello’s generally well regarded run made a few significant changes from the traditional origin. Instead of being formed from clay by the goddesses of the Greek pantheon, New 52's Diana is a demi-god; a child of Zeus whose powers come from her divine parentage. By the end of that run she had also taken on the mantle of God of War.
I’m telling you this so you understand the context the new team had to build on as they assumed creative control of Wonder Woman.
It might have been helpful if someone had done the same for them, since writer Meredith Finch and her husband artist David barely acknowledge the work done over the last 35 issues and instead opt to tell a story of Wonder Woman palling around with the Justice League. Excuse me, a fatuous story of Wonder Woman palling around with the Justice League.
I’m among those who questioned Azzarello’s decision to do away with one of the few truly unique super-hero origin stories in favour of the tired demi-god backstory; swapping the (literal) story of female empowerment for yet another woman who basically gets her powers from a man. But compared to the Diana that the Finches provide, that version was a paragon of feminist power.
I want you to understand I’m describing the exact events of this comic when I tell you that Wonder Woman; Wonder Woman, FFS; is introduced in this comic by means of a shower scene, and that she spends a journey in the Justice League’s jet snuggling a teddy bear while talking to Aquaman. It’s while snuggling the teddy bear (does she have a cuddly toy locker on the jet?) that she also indulges in the most grotesque bit of info-dump exposition I’ve seen in a comic in years. And that whole info-dump is presented as 'justification' for the previous scene in which she attacked Swamp Thing for literally no reason other than that he happens to be standing near the scene of an ill-defined unnatural disaster.
In case I haven't been clear enough I’m just going to come out and say that the writing of this comic is nothing short of terrible. From the ham-fisted opening discussion of all the magical facets of water (that segues into the shower scene) to the shockingly bad dialogue of the Amazons on Paradise Island (“She sacrificed us to the son of her misogynist father”) to the nonsensical plot which never explains the exact nature of the threat and moves from the League, including Diana, being in the middle of investigating whatever-it-is back to her arriving on Paradise Island apparently having given up mid-task, it’s all just rubbish.
The other Finch on duty here does no better. It would be nice to think that someone in editorial at DC might have said to David Finch “You know all those formerly strong, powerful looking women that you’ve tended to convert into doe-eyed china dolls with waists that don’t allow room for their internal organs? Well on this of all comics, could you maybe try something different?” If that conversation ever happened there’s no evidence of it. Wonder Woman looks like Wonder Girl here - not the classic Donna Troy version; nor even the original Cassie Sandsmark; I’m talking about the version currently showing off her teenage boob-job in the pages and covers of Teen Titans. In fact, no one looks good in this comic - the two-page spread of Diana on the jet with the League is notable for using the exact same face on Superman, Aquaman and Cyborg. The best I can say of David Finch’s art is that during the fight with Swamp Thing he manages to make Diana look every bit as petulant as Meredith Finch writes her.
In the interests of full disclosure, I went into this with low expectations - from the horrible initial press around the announcement of the new creative team, to their (in)famous unwillingness to call Wonder Woman a feminist, to my general antipathy towards Finch’s art - but I committed to judging it on its merits.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry; it doesn’t have any.