There are a few books I gave up on within an issue or two of their launch, not because they were bad books, but because there was an overabundance of books I was more interested in, and I just don’t have the money to support every single title I see. Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti’s Justice League International was one of those books, and with my nostalgia factor never higher (thanks, classic JLI hardcovers!), I thought I’d give their first trade, “The Signal Masters”, the shot I denied the title in single issues.
With part two of “Warkiller”, Simone continues to move her pieces in place. The Olypmian rules a Themyscira undergoing rapid, inexplicable change – women are spontaneously impregnating on an island now rocked by storms, while Hippolyta is prisoner to her former, mad guard Alkyone, now wife of Achilles and Queen of Themyscira. And while Ares’ physical form might have been destroyed by Diana, truly killing a god proves vastly more difficult than that, resulting in an uncomfortable visitation from the God of War.
“Warkiller” doesn’t have the snappy pacing of “Birds of Paradise”, nor the epic action of “Rise of the Olympian”, but it has nonetheless been been fairly satisfying. Simone continues to lay groundwork for a massive overarching story throughout her run here with the massive changes to Paradise Isle, and at times, that’s part of the problem: both this issue and the last have, by and large, felt like set-up. Simone has a deft hand for character-based drama and comedy while Bernard Chang continues to gain skill and confidence, so it was certainly entertaining set-up, but the pacing definitely feels off.
- Cal Cleary
After the slight, fun “Birds of Paradise” arc, the Wonder Woman master-plot is back, though the issue takes the longest route possible in getting there. After a brief confrontation, Wonder Woman and Giganta sit down for some major girl-talk. Simone manages to wrap up a number of the more troubling aspects of Diana’s relationship with Tom Tresser in this issue, and while I can’t imagine that we’ve seen the last of him, his arc is finally at a place that jives more fully with Diana’s character.
Of course, far more than that is going on. Giganta and Diana together face down the Olympian’s army, while the Olympian himself has made a few powerful bids for more total control of Paradise Island. While just about every aspect of the issue is well-handled, and Giganta is always welcome (especially as a not-entirely-bad-guy), it’s a rather loosely-strung-together segment to happen in such an important arc, and it takes up a great deal of the issue.
Lopresti continues to make Wonder Woman one of the best looking titles on the shelves. Whether it’s Wonder Woman and the Olympian throwing down on the field of battle or a Polynesian Goddess growing out of the sand, furious, Lopresti seems to have a clear handle on everything Simone is throwing down. While I still hold that he was not the best choice to illustrate the brawls with Genocide, the quicker, more civil fights with the Olympians and his army, as well as Diana’s scenes with Giganta and Nemesis, display his skill to far greater effect.
Wonder Woman #36 was a promising, if slow, start to the book’s latest big arc. Simone has become adept at zagging when we all expect a zig, so the brief scenes giving character to the Diana’s current enemy, the Olympian, are surprisingly tender and awkward, suggesting an essentially likable guy who is merely keeping the faith that she broke. The issue introduces a number of potential conflicts and trials, most of which are extremely promising, suggesting that, post-”Rise of the Olympian”, the book has no interest in slowing down. While many of Simone’s earlier arcs on the title were meandering and unfulfilling, she seems to have stepped up her game in the last year and made Wonder Woman one of DC’s most delightfully readable current books.
- Cal Cleary
With the events of “Rise of the Olympian” over, I can’t be the only person who expected very little of Wonder Woman #34, which should fall squarely into the ‘fall-out’ category of comic stories. Hell, after “Batman R.I.P.” we didn’t only have a fall-out issue – we had an entire fall-out mini series. Simone, however, smartly ditches the trend. Instead, we get the first part of “Birds of Paradise”, a seemingly slight story that manages to fulfill the most basic aspects of the fall-out arc while being, from start to finish, just downright fun.
This issue begins a team-up between Wonder Woman and Black Canary, a character who has, since Simone left Birds of Prey, been systematically treated with less and less respect by her writers. Though the dialogue is sometime a bit too exaggerated, especially when it comes to Black Canary, the issue is ultimately a joy to read. Black Canary and Wonder Woman infiltrate a caged, metahuman fighting match in an effort to hunt down Doctor Psycho, who currently has possession of Genocide.
Of course, there’s more happening than that. Nemesis is still reeling from the last arc, the Amazons are having trouble adjusting to their new situation, Genocide is still loose, and Diana is keenly feeling the loss of her gods. The aftermath of “Olympian” is present, and generally handled with a deft touch, but it isn’t the point. The issue doesn’t wallow.
Lopresti’s art is gorgeous as ever. I have to say, I really enjoyed his designs for the undercover fight club costumes of Wonder Woman and Black Canary, and his fights are top-notch as ever. Though his facial expressions aren’t quite as interesting as, say, Maguire’s (JLI), that’s largely because they’re more understated – but looking through the book, his expressions here are perfect, from Black Canary’s tongue just out the side of her mouth as she digs through her closet to the pained expression on Wonder Woman’s face as she fights Lira.
Whether or not you liked or even read “Rise of the Olympian” is unimportant here – “Birds of Paradise” looks to be a blast.
- Cal Cleary
Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman has been fairly uneven, but it must be said that, at the very least, her eight-part “Rise of the Olympian” arc has been exciting and action-packed without sacrificing the wit or character moments for which Simone is rightfully known. This issue is no exception. To wind down her most widely publicized arc yet, Simone gives us a fun, exciting, slightly flawed issue that nonetheless offers up a more-than-satisfying conclusion to her massive story.
The series has had a fair number of epic moments, and this issue is no exception. With Genocide finally handled – or was she? – by Wonder Woman last issue, it seemed like things were finally being toned down for the last issue… at least until it was revealed that there was another side in this fight. Long-time Wonder Woman villain Ares makes his appearance, a traitor is unmasked, and war breaks out.
Lopresti is better than ever. When asked to illustrate a fight that Simone’s dialogue made out to be Hurricane-like in its devastation to the surroundings, he seemed ill-suited to the task, but there’s something about this issue that suits his talents much better. Perhaps its that we’ve been trained to largely ignore the carnage of war, or perhaps its the larger-than-life nature of the participants, but Lopresti’s art was top-notch for this final issue, illustrating the monstrous sea-beasts as well as a variety of Amazons with skill and distinctive designs.
The issue also brought about, to my surprise, a rather immense change to the status quo, one which Simone has in some ways been building up to for the entirety of her run. I’m not sure how I feel about it – from a storytelling perspective, it provides a lot of interesting opportunities, but there are a few moments that I’m not quite sure the book earned, a few shortcuts seemingly taken to the book’s detriment. One in particular, at the climax of this issue.
Despite those, however, it can’t be denied that Simone did an excellent job subverting the expectations of her audience in a fun, exciting way, and if her new status quo has any sort of staying power in an era of retcons gone wild, she’ll be an influence on Wonder Woman writers for years to come.
- Cal Cleary