Monday, June 12, 2006

Wonder Woman #1

When I was a teenager, I loved New Wave movies because they featured crazy camera shots and exciting quick cuts. As I got older, though, my favorite filmakers turned out to be pre-New Wave directors like Jean Renoir, because they really focused on the actors, and what the acting itself communicated to the audience... . — Austin English, in a "Bullets" review of Vanessa Davis' Spaniel Rage, in The Comics Journal #176, pp. 56-7.
(Spoilers follow in abundance.)

Wonder Woman #1 looks marvelous. Terry Dodson's assured pencilling is perfectly complemented by Rachel Dodson's inking and Rob Leigh's masterful coloring. The comic now has a visual depth and complexity that it lacked under previous teams, with individual panels and pages offering multiple points of focus and and perspective.

For example, these two panels, showing nothing more than acting Wonder Woman Donna Troy's entry into the Museum of Natural History, (which has an exhibit on Themyscira, The Lost Civilization of the Amazons), carefully bring together light effects, shading, background detail, and perspective to make things visually interesting.

And the following two panels are quite nicely juxtaposed, especially since the departing Diana serves as a centering focus on the left, while Donna takes that position in the right panel. (And the visual cliché of the windswept leaves works in the first one, since they frame the image and reinforce the vertiginous perspective.)

Though it delivers visually, the issue doesn't quite keep pace with respect to story-telling, since the action primarily serves as a prologue, introducing the current Wonder Woman, her enemies, and the title's supporting players (one of whom, going by the name of Diana Prince, is dramatically revealed on the book's final page).

As I read the issue, I was reminded of the experience of seeing Star Wars when it was re-released in theaters a few years ago; the audience heartily applauded when each character made their first screen appearance, and full-page spreads here serve to elicit a similar response, getting us to cheer (or hiss) when important figures first take the stage.

In short, I was left wanting more when I finished issue #1, and felt that the seeds of an interesting story-line with strong characterization have been planted and await future development.

Surprisingly, it seems possible that we might get a story-arc that's as much about Donna Troy as it is about Diana of Themyscira. For, although Donna's encounter with a cabal of formidable adversaries does not go exactly swimmingly, I can't imagine that Allan Heinberg intends to allow a villain's one-liner to encapsulate his own characterization of Donna Troy. (To Donna's You-- you're not Wonder Woman, the villain replies: With all due respect ... neither are you.)

At this point, I have to admit that I'm actually less interested in who Wonder Woman is, than I am in learning why Diana felt the need to take a 52 week vacation, and how her absence has affected her relationships with Donna Troy, Cassandra Sandsmark, and other individuals in the DCU.

To extend the film metaphor: when it comes to Wonder Woman, I prefer a character-based director's film to a less-nuanced action blockbuster.

I read this on the comicbloc forum:

Diana, I'll miss you.

I understand that lots of people wanted the tv show, Silver Age Diana Prince back. And now, they have their wish.

I, on the other hand, have been driven away from the title after just one issue. My favorite character. My favorite title. Gone. Done. Finished.

Diana would not make her whole life a lie. I simply don't believe it. And she certainly wouldn't work to forward the agenda of a particular government. There's something horribly, horribly wrong, in my view, with a Diana who is an agent in the US Government. Diana carries a gun now, and takes orders from men. If that isn't fundamentally wrong, I don't know what is. And she lies, every minute she "pretends" to be Diana Prince. She's a liar.

And what was with Donna? When did she become a total incompetent? When did she become the sort of heroine who would hand over her lasso? This is the woman who has lived multiple lives and fought supervillains since forever? Really?

I can't believe that the first issue of WONDER WOMAN, a relaunch, would be dedicated to throwing out everything since George Perez. It amazes me that this was considered a good idea. On the other hand, people seem to really like it, so it goes to show what I (don't) know. I understand that comics are a business, and that appealing to the largest possible audience is very important. But it breaks my heart that Diana is no longer Diana. She's something else now, and I can't reconcile her situation with what I know about her.


This assessment of the changes in #1 really hit home. I'm really not sure how long I can read this title. Sure, it might turn into a well written and drawn book. But, to so fundamentally change the character? Dunno - I'll give it a few issues, but this much of a change might not be something I'll want to read.
Thanks for your comment, Nida.

While several reviewers have questioned the re-numbering of ther series, asking "what's so different?", I'd agree that the opposite is the case: there've already been some pretty big changes made.
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