Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Caring For Your Wonder Woman Garden

I'm going to say flat out, this isn't a bad costume. It's not an exceptional costume, but it's not bad. I really do wish they'd at least kept with red and blue as the color scheme. There's no reason to do anything but give her blue, starless pants and the same top. Still, I'm not adverse to leather jackets like many fans seem to be, and I like that the bracelets match the crown, belt and lasso now. I don't like color mismatch. I'll be pretending those pants are dark blue from now on, though. I don't think this is staying, the whole matter has a Superman Blue vibe to it, but as a variant costume Jim Lee did a decent job here. Much better than Deodato did back during the 90s. And the New York Times article promises a movie in return for some messing with the costume, so I think it's a small price to pay. But then, I took the white suit era as a way to prove she was as badass as Batman, so what do I know?

(Disclaimer: I won't be able to read Wonder Woman #600 for a week or two due to shipping, so it may turn out to be the most awesome thing on the face of awesome. If such is the case, these complaints still apply (because it won't make Superman #700 good) but I retract my trepidation.)

I'm still leery of this new writer. I have fond memories of Rising Stars and Midnight Nation. I met a boy in the day room the month after I left basic who had the whole run of both up until that point and spent a pleasant evening reading comics. I kept with both until they ended. I liked his Thor okay, too. I was a bit irked that Sif was sidelined, but he had some decent intrigue and some good exchanges on in there. But his Spider-man was more full of bad ideas than good ("One More Day", for example, was a fucking horrible idea, but not as horrible an idea as the Spider-Totem), and the preview of Superman #700?

The preview for Superman #700 and the stated story idea for the next 13 issues is utterly horrifying. Superman's confronted by a woman for not saving her husband, so he responds by shutting down and moping and therefore not having anyone get saved? How many people died while Superman leaned his ass against that fucking tree waiting for the Flash? Who the fuck is this useless asshole? Where is Superman? Where is the guy who responds to failure by going into Samaritan mode and overworking himself? Where's the guy who fixes this by getting a fucking time machine, going back to help the man, and accidentally screwing up the space time continuum so he can save a life? I mean, we could be dealing with the fallout from using a fucking time machine for the next 13 issues rather than walking across country. All right, that's a little Silver Age (but aren't we in a period of Silver Age Nostalgia, DC, huh? Can you tell us some Silver Age STORIES rather than just killing off all the Asian people for it?), but my point is Superman doesn't react to feeling helpless by doing less, he reacts by doing more. The lessen he has to be reminded of time and time again is that he can't do everything. Superman's danger is supposed to be doing too much, not too little, you dumbasses. Get off your asses and get us a time machine story, you lazy fucks.

If JMS can't get the idea down that Superman is an active character, I don't know how I can expect him to make Wonder Woman an active character, and there are some items in his plan that worry me.

1) Hippolyta is dead, and that is never good.

2) The plot doesn't sound terribly innovative.
She doesn't really remember any of it, because in this timeline, it never happened, so there's nothing to remember. However, she does keep getting brief flashes of images that we will recognize as being from the Wonder Woman timeline that we know.

In a way, the person she's become is searching for the person she was ... and maybe she'll find that person, maybe she won't, and maybe they'll meet somewhere in-between.

As it stands now, Diana was taken from Paradise Island 18 years ago, when she was a child. The island was under a massive assault, and Hippolyta wanted to be sure that her daughter survived. The queen led the final defense of Paradise Island, but in the end was defeated. She and most of the other Amazons were killed, with some taken prisoner while the rest escaped to the four winds.

So Diana's task now is to a) find out where, how and why the timeline was changed, b) who did it, c) if it can be undone, and d) stay ahead of the forces trying to kill her while e) helping as many of the surviving Amazons stay alive as possible, since they too are still being hunted.

She knows her background, having been told about it over the years, but remembers very little of it herself. She knows that they're all relying on her to put it all back the way it was, that one day the Princess will return to restore Paradise Island to its former greatness, and that's a huge responsibility for her. Sometimes she chafes against it.

Also, by virtue of being raised off the Island, and other factors involving the timeline shift, she doesn't have her full range of powers. She's nearly but not entirely invulnerable, can't fly (yet), and the lasso was taken from her mother after her death defending Paradise Island. So one by one, she has to pick up these skills or powers, allowing us to examine them more closely, and give them proper weight, rather than taking them for granted.

The basic story of Diana not knowing who she is, and saving the Pantheon and her world and rediscovering herself along the way so that she can be perceived as more relatable to readers sounds an awful lot like Walt Simonson's story (Wonder Woman Vol 2 #189-194). Walt Simonson is best know for writing a much better run of Thor than JMS did, and actually making use of the kickass warrior woman love interest Sif rather than trapping her in a dying body for most of his run. The difference being that Simonson's story was temporary, and was not a complete reboot of the character which brings me to the last problem:

3. That fucking weed-whacker.
Finally, there's the problem of her being overwhelmed by her mythology and her supporting characters. When writers don't know what to do with a character, they build up the supporting cast and universe to kind of hide that fact. After a while, you can no longer see the character for the underbrush. When that happens, you need to bring out the weed-whacker to clear some of that away so you can focus on the main character.
Yeah, this would be a great point... were it not applied to Wonder Woman.

Because after Crisis on Infinite Earths Wonder Woman was the only one of the major characters who had her pre-crisis mythos leveled by her writer. Her secret identity was thrown away, her weakness was thrown away, her powers were changed, her WWII ties were incinerated. The peaceful, loving, shy Amazons who trained to physical perfection and followed Aphrodite's path of love were done away with and replaced with the reincarnated victims of male violence, who followed five goddesses but primarily the virgin goddess Artemis (later emphasis has moved to the virgin goddess Athena), and left the world of men for Themiscyra are being traumatized by the mass rape of the entire nation by Hercules and his men. Diana was born a mere 19 years before she left for Man's World, and is thus the only one who was never hurt by a man. (Yes, that's right, every Amazon except for Diana herself has rape in her backstory, and is a reincarnated murder victim. Now THAT'S the background we all want for a Symbol of a Female Power.) Diana's love interest, the original reason for her coming to man's world, was aged and turned into a father figure. (Her real father figure Hermes, the only male deity who granted her powers at birth now that Hercules has been turned into a rapist villian, propositioned her later in this run because that's precisely what we want in a story about Men Accepting Women as More Than Just Sex Objects.) He got married off to the comic relief while Diana developed a crush on the unattainable Superman, because he's the Football Captain to her Head Cheerleader status. Rather than leaving the homeland because she fell in love, she put in for Hippolyta's diplomatic mission on Athena's orders--defying her mother's wishes at the time. The love story at the core of her origin was replaced with a muddled mixture of rebellion and obediance to maternal figures. Oh, and her bright and energetic deities (Aphrodite/Venus pre-Crisis had a wickedly naughty sense of humor that came out in Diana's weaknesses, that were of course wiped away because a curse where you can't allow yourself to be bound by a man or to view a man in your super-secret island clubhouse is more harmfully sexist than raping all the Amazons) are replaced by the stiffest, most wooden creations in all of DC Comics. The script just sucked the life out of them, figuratively and literally in the case of poor Hermes (a deity who was allowed to remain dead until Rucka's run, which is fucking irritating because he's supposed to be the most fun and closest to humans of the Big Twelve/Thirteen If You Count Hestia At The Fire Which I Do). By the time they were finished with the machete and the plow, Wonder Woman had traded in the childish, subtle misogynistic themes in favor of new, improved, violent, Not For Kids Anymore misogynistic themes!

Needless to say, I have a lot of problems with the Perez run. But it was a run, it had an origin story, and it sure as hell cleared a lot of brush away and built a new world around Diana.

Which William Messner-Loeb decided to take a weed-whacker to in the 90s, by introducing a new supporting cast and retconing some of what I told you into worse shit (Hippolyta was domestically abused by Hercules and betrayed the rest of the Amazon Nation to him. Oh, and she stripped Diana of her WW title so that she could set some other girl up to die in her place because THAT is how we like our Symbols of Motherly Love).

And then John Byrne decided to take weed-whacker and a FUCKING CHAINSAW to THAT by moving her to a new city, with an all-new supporting cast...

...that was quickly discarded when Eric Luke choose to take a weed-whacker to Wonder Woman again.

Phil Jiminez built on what was there before and tried to reconcile the supporting casts, as did Greg Rucka, but by the time Rucka's really gotten going wouldn't you know it's time to trim the hedges again with Infinite Crisis and Heinberg's Lawnmaster 5000Pro weed-whacker Plus! Next door, Superman has a flourishing patch of grass and Batman's vegetable garden is winning prizes but Wonder Woman's property is a dirt lot with a few patches of green but still... they took the weed-whacker to it. And when Heinberg, who actually planted a few flowers, ran out gas they brought in the Amazons Attack Landscaping Team to get that last patch of green.

And now, after Gail Simone's leaving the garden with more green than she found in it, we hear CHUCHU-CHAAAAAUUUG-CHUGCHUGCHUGCHUG as J Michael Straczynski makes his way to the poor, beleaguered lawn. (Meanwhile, the poisonous tree of Amazon violence and victimhood twists upward in the center of the yard, without having lost so much as a pine needle.)

I appreciate the need for proper lawn care, and there is a lot about Wonder Woman's origin that I would dearly love to see retconned away (the rape backstory to each and every single Amazon, the loss of her central love interest, anything WML did to Hippolyta), but dammit DC, Wonder Woman has seen enough of the fucking weed-whacker already.

I give every Wonder Woman writer a chance and again, there are some things I dearly wish would be retconned out. I'll give JMS a chance here, and I may even like it. But his attitude doesn't really give me hope here. Still, if he brings back Steve or gets rid of the Hercules rape or the reincarnated victims of violence idea, it will be worth another destructive run.