Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman #19 slows things down a bit to give us a character-driven issue that nevertheless manages to show why this is DC’s best book.
This week in comics, we… oh, it’s a fifth Wednesday, so basically nothing happened at all. Superman and Wonder Woman made out. That was big news for some reason.
This week in comics, Saga #5 finally exists just in time for Saga #6 to come out, I completely forget to pick up Avengers Vs. X-Men, and Rorschach gets the impossibly bland mini-series you always hoped he’d have.
This week in comics, Saga and Justice League are sold out at my shop so I don’t get to read them, Carol Danvers returns to the spotlight in Captain Marvel #1, and Mark Waid completely rocks.
A year-and-a-half ago I stopped reading comic books. I was in the middle of landing a new job in a new city. Reading comics fell by the way side. When, finally, I was comfortably situated in my new surroundings I dropped by my local comic book store only to discover that pretty much everything I used to read was either canceled or renumbered. They were also all refashioned with this queer “New 52” logo. I get the attention of one of the employees so I can ask what the f happened.
Flashpoint. Geoff Johns. Co-Publisher Dan Didio.
Being a DC Man, and Vertigo practically a husk of its former self, I dejectedly left the store empty-handed, cursing under my breath the dastardly shadow G-off Johns once again casted on my life.
Flash forward a year or so in the future. Its my day off and all of my favorite television shows have had their season wrap-ups. Sure I could work on all those writing/design project I keep meaning to finish but why the hell would I want to do that. On a whim I decide to head back to the comic book store. Once there I decide that I am going to buy the corporate spin and see this as an opportunity to start reading books that I would otherwise never read due to sprawling cumbersome mythology.
Wonder Woman. Check.
I rated the last four comics I read this week all 4 or over … which was a relief because before that, only one issue had attracted as much as a 4. So it was a hard slog through the start of this batch, with a strong finish at the end.
As most of you will be aware, I’m going to wrap-up my One Sentence Review series with next week’s last batch of #8s. I’m currently a full week behind and the leaderboard concept kind of flies out the window with the first round of cancellations and new titles coming online.
I expect to be blogging/reviewing less, at least for a little while, as I’ll be starting a new job this month and want to focus some energy on creative writing projects. I’ve written the first two scripts for a comic book and want to write at least six issues, and I have a long-neglected novel in the works that I must reacquaint myself with.
I’ll post read/RANT articles when and if the bug bites me, though.
Anyway, as usual, each comic is scored out of five.
Warning, there could be spoilers ahead, although I try to avoid them.
This week in comics, Wonder Woman #8 takes us to the underworld, the Avengers and the X-Men hit each other some more, and
Here’s the next batch of reviews, better late than never. A big part of reason for my tardiness, I think, is that it was a pretty sorry bunch and getting through a few of them was a real slog.
As usual, each comic is scored out of five. From here on out, I’m only going to update the leaderboard once a month – at the end (next week for the #7s) – to show which are consistently excellent, which are on the rise, and which are circling the drain (excluding reviewed one-shots and mini-series).
Warning, there could be spoilers ahead, although I try to avoid them.
Wonder Woman is too many things to too many people. Inevitably, any attempt to do a bold declaration of “This is what Wonder Woman stands for” turns out to be fairly divisive. She is an ambassador of peace, but she is also a great warrior and military strategist. She is chosen by the goddess of love, but no love interest will ever be worthy of her in the eyes of her fans. The contradictions continue, and help explain (I believe) why there is no one definitive Wonder Woman story for her fans. Perhaps my favorite part about Brian Azzarello’s current run on Wonder Woman is that he doesn’t delve deep into Diana’s character and lose himself in that particular hall of mirrors. No, under Azzarello’s pen, Wonder Woman is a supremely confident action heroine fighting massive, horrific enemies who see humans more as ants than people, a superhero trying to beat back the tide of a horror film. It probably shouldn’t work. It so does.
By this point, it’s almost become trite to point out how difficult writing Wonder Woman is. The Amazon hero is one of the world’s most recognizable fictional creations, but DC has had a hard time capitalizing on that fact these past few years. From the disastrous Amazons Attack through the ill-conceived ‘relaunch’ marred by delays and poor storytelling choices into the final months of JMS’s haphazard alternate universe Wonder Woman story, Diana has not fared well these past few months. Which is why I’m so happy to say that, after a rock-solid debut by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, Wonder Woman #2 continues to stand-out as one of the creative successes of the New 52.
By now you should know the drill … I provide one sentence reviews of each of the New 52 titles. Each is scored out of five and at the end I’m going to have a cumulative leader board (averaging the scores of each title) to show which are consistently excellent, which are on the rise, and which are circling the drain.
In Part 3, I take a look at the batch of DC comics that became available on 21 September.
There could be spoilers ahead (although I try to avoid them).
I’m a fan of the Teen Titans, especially the latest incarnation that went from 2003-2011 and as this relaunch makes it seem their entire history may be erased, I wanted to give them a farewell starting with issues 1-7 (also collected in trade form as “A Kid’s Game” or the soon to be released Teen Titans Omnibus 1). Like usual, beware of spoilers.
I read 25 comics this month, and these were the best.
While Simone’s run on Wonder Woman has been slightly flawed, it’s also been a consistently fun, creative book during a time when DC seems more dedicated to aping Marvel than anything else. Simone’s run, which fulfilled the difficult creative task in comics of maintaining its momentum throughout, will most certainly be missed in these parts.
Her last issue is coming up soon: #44, the issue before the title reverts to its original numbering. And while its sad to note that Simone won’t continue shepherding the book into the future, she did, all in all, a simply wonderful job.
The full story, along with information about Simone’s upcoming Birds of Prey relaunch, can be found at DC’s home blog, The Source.
– Cal Cleary
Wonder Woman #40
Simone and Lopresti start their new arc, “The Crows”, with #40. Featuring the Amazonian children fathered by Ares, Simone does a fine job setting up a new and fascinating conflict for Diana. Much like all the best issues of Rucka’s run, Simone presents the heroine with a new kind of challenge: public relations. Of course, there it was because Wonder Woman released a particularly incendiary book, while here, it’s the Crows’ supernatural influence to spread the seeds of war, but the fundamentals remain the same.
Lopresti remains an impressive talent, and he’s given the Crows a suitably creepy feel. For a character so dedicated to spreading hope, love and tolerance as Wonder Woman, the Crows are a natural enemy, and one I hope Simone does not abandon lightly. Coming fresh of the heels of a few excellent arcs, however, I think it’s safe to say that she’s earned our trust on the book. The set-up here is more exciting than some of her recent arcs on the book, and it combines Simone’s excellent characterization with a quicker pace and some fun new enemies. Definitely a winner.
Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 (of 3)
Ah, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman. You started so strong, a stellar display of a fine heroine confronting her past in a sensible, exciting manner. But the more ties you had to the main Blackest Night mini… well, here you end. Blackest Night: Wonder Woman is less a story than a series of three largely unconnected one-shots intended to fill in the questions the main mini never touched on. If you very, very desperately need to know what Wonder Woman is doing between the panels of Blackest Night (the answer: fighting Black Lanterns), the mini is for you. Otherwise, however, it largely squanders a pair of great talents on a middling-at-best issue with no real reason to exist.
Scott still turns in exciting, gorgeous work, though even she has trouble making Wonder Woman’s Star Sapphire costume look right. Despite Scott’s work and Rucka’s talent, however, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 remains a mundane, unnecessary tie-in, too bound by continuity to explore anything particularly fascinating but not nearly important enough to matter to the main narrative.
– Cal Cleary
With its third issue, Simone kicks “Warkiller” into high gear with one of the book’s strongest issues. Trapped in an impossible situation by the whims of the gods, Themyscira is on the verge of all-out war. Alkyone, now Queen of Themyscira, is fomenting war with her every move. The Bana-Mighdall are threatening rebellion, the apes have been betrayed, and Diana is scheduled to be executed in a matter of days. And that’s far from the worst.
As with the best issues of her run on Wonder Woman, Simone deftly combines exciting action beats with notable character moments that add to the issue’s flow, rather than detracting from it. Much of the set-up of the previous two issues comes to fruition as the climax strikes, though part of the excitement is derailed by two strange twists that almost detract from the thrill of seeing everything fall apart – the return of Genocide’s spirit, and a monstrous entity living on Paradise Isle. Though the book loses a little bit of momentum with those moments, there’s still an issue left to see how they play out.
With Lopresti and Ryan continuing to do stellar work on art, Wonder Woman #38 is certainly a success. Simone’s run has been uneven, but between the action-packed “Rise of the Olympian”, the fun-but-slight “Birds of Paradise” and the impressively condensed “Warkiller”, an argument could be made that Simone has finally found the book’s sweet spot. Few books get second chances with today’s audience. Wonder Woman deserves one.
– Cal Cleary
Wonder Woman #37
Wonder Woman #36
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
And the Summer’s over! Really? That…went fast. I had fun, though. Hope you all did, too. Back to school, kiddies! I read 20 comics in August, and these were the best.
5. Invincible Iron Man #16
Matt Fraction’s writing is absolutely top-notch. Yes, this story will read better as a whole, but our connection to Tony, Pepper, and Maria is so strong, it hardly matters. The only thing that brings this issue, and the entire series, down, is Salvador Larroca’s Greg Land-esque art.
4. Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Speaking of Summer, you like those blockbusters that accompany the season, right? Well then, this is the comic for you! Just some awesome-kickass, supercool fun! Mark Millar gives it to ya, and Carlos Pacheco makes it look pretty. This opening salvo features a bombastic helicopter fight and a terrifying new villain.
3. Secret Six #12
Like my previous selection, this too is filled with action and good times, only with more twisted villainy. But this comic also has character and soul, and that counts for a lot. This is Jeannette’s issue to shine, and I think she blinded me. Carlos Pacheco’s beautiful interiors certainly contribute to UCA’s placement, but you know what? I’d put Nicola Scott up against Carlos Pacheco any day. Yeah, you read that right.
2. Batman and Robin #3
Holy hell, Batman! This series just gets better and better! The first and second issue topped my list in their respective months, and it’s only by some Marvel miracle that this one didn’t. Since I don’t have a proper review of this issue, I want to go over a few things:
Professor Pyg’s “sexy disco hot.” Who else had this song in their head?
Any guesses on who was watching Alfred? Could it be the same person who spied on Bruce & Jezebel all those issues ago?
Awhile ago, DC said, “Scarlet isn’t who you think she is.” That was a damn lie, and I’m pretty sure Red Hood is who you think he is too.
1. Daredevil #500
A phenomenal conclusion to what turned out to be a great run. Brubaker did DD proud, and definitely cast away Bendis’ shadow. On top of that, you get a great short story and a reprint of possibly the best Daredevil comic ever! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t just the best comic in August, it’s the best Marvel comic of the year.
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