Sunday, July 4, 2010

Review: Wonder Woman #600 (+ some closing thoughts on the other two anniversary isues)


So with all the media fanfare and blogosphere kerfuffle this past week about Wonder Woman's costume redesign and origins overhaul, I feel like there's nothing left for me to say about this anniversary issue that hasn't already been said a hundred times. But I'm going to try anyway.

by Gail Simone and George Perez.

By far the highlight of the issue, the first story is a veritable tour-de-force. The sheer number of panels is enough to give you an idea of how jam-packed with awesome this story is: Excluding the opening splash page, I counted a total of 65 panels on 6 pages!

The story starts with an epic battle featuring about 20 female super-heroes against an army of cyber-sirens who have the power to turn men into slobbering idiots. The art is simply flabbergasting. Every page is bursting with detailed action. Amidst all this chaos, Simone manages to showcase several qualities that have made Wonder Woman an icon: she's a leader, a fierce warrior, and an inspiration to her peers, which is reflected in the different ways the other characters respond to her.

The story ends with a more intimate moment between Diana and Vanessa. Unfortunately, with my limited exposure to Wonder Woman stories up to now, I don't think that final scene resonated with me to the extent that it was supposed to, but for anyone familiar with the back story, I'm sure it packs a much stronger emotional punch.

"Fuzzy Logic"
by Amanda Conner.

The next story is a team-up with Power Girl and Batgirl. It's a lot lighter in tone, and features jokes about tentacle porn and several awesome shots of Power Girl's cat. I enjoyed it.

by Louise Simonson and Eduardo Pansica.

Next is a team up with Superman against some guy called Nikos Aegeus, a "terrorist organization of one, driven by green, not ideology." I have no idea where this character came from, but he doesn't really make sense to me. I just don't get why someone powerful enough to steal lightning bolts from Zeus would then waste his power shooting airplanes out of the sky and asking the U.S. government for a hundred million dollars. Why does this guy need money?

I felt pretty indifferent about this story, but there's one thing about it that really surprised the hell out of me. Check it out:

A thought balloon! I spotted at least three of them! I thought those were extinct, at least from mainstream super-hero comics, as this somewhat recent piece by Joe McCulloch at Comic Comics pointed out.

I guess DC can make an exception for Louise Simonson, because she's old school.

The last two stories + extras
by Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins, JMS, Don Kramer, and a bunch of other people

The last two stories kind of bleed into one another, ushering in J. Michael Straczynski's re-imagining of the character and featuring Jim Lee's ugly-ass retro 1990s costume redesign. I don't really have anything to say except: thumbs down.

In addition to these five stories, there's a cool introduction by Linda Carter and a bunch of pin-ups by various artists, most of which are pretty cool and generally better than the collection of rejected covers thrown together for Batman #700. One pin-up stands out as a total head-scratcher. Apparently I'm the only person on the internet who has absolutely no clue what the hell is going on in this image by Guillem March:


A few closing words about the three big anniversary issues that DC released last month… In my opinion, all three were kind of underwhelming. I enjoyed each of them to various degrees, but they didn't seem all that special to me the way I would expect an anniversary issue to be.

Batman #700 was probably the most epic and "significant" as far as the story goes, in the sense that it not only stands on its own quite well, but also fits into Morrison's greater arc, which we are smack in the middle of right now. However, the thrown-together feel of the art was a disappointment, especially with Frank Quitely unable to finish his section and the jarring shift to another artist in the middle of it, ruining the whole one-artist-per-time-period thing they were going for. Could they not have given him more time to finish his part? It's not like they didn't see it coming.

In contrast, both Superman and Wonder Woman relied on shorter stories by different writers. Lots of cameos, some tying up of loose ends and some foreshadowing of new stories to come. On the surface, they seemed designed to appeal to anybody interested in the characters, from older fans to curious new readers. But the way they were used to launch new arcs by super-star writer JMS made them feel more like promotional material than celebrations of iconic characters.

I felt that the 5$ cover price wasn't really justified for either of them. Yeah, I get that there was a larger page count (either because of pinup galleries or actual story pages), but so what? Part of the celebration of such landmark issues should be to give a little something back to the fans who have supported the characters and their books for all these years. Would it have killed DC to throw us a bone without jacking up the price for it? I've already said this several times, but it bears repeating: You can't really call it "bonus" material if you're charging extra for it.


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