Sunday, June 16, 2024

Don’t worry, James Robinson’s Wonder Woman is still horrible

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Every time I start a new Wonder Woman issue, I briefly wonder if maybe I haven’t been too hard on what’s already come.  After all, James Robinson isn’t an unequivocally bad author (He’s even won a few awards) so it’s possible that I just haven’t gotten what he’s trying to do.  Maybe I’m going to read the next issue and smack myself in the head because of all the unnecessary vitriol and frustration I’ve lobbed at him over the past few months.

But then I actually get around to reading the issue and my worries are soothingly washed away.  Yes, the series really is that bad, and it deserves all the bile and invective I can throw.  Issue #43, part three of “Amazons Attacked”, is insulting, derogatory, and just plain bad.

Recap We descend into an untold pit

We open with the comic’s functional main character — Jason — engaged in aerial combat over A.R.G.U.S. HQ as Steve Trevor observes and comments to himself in the narration.  This isn’t a real battle, just some sort of training exercise, and Steve’s internal monologue lambasts Jason’s lack of discipline and ability to follow instructions even as he marvels at his raw power.

With an opening like this it’s easy to see why the comic is titled “Jason’s Adventures”…oh wait

After Jason finishes and lands, Steve progresses to lambasting Jason directly.  He points out that he doesn’t trust Jason and isn’t ready to accept that he has so completely switched sides from Darkseid to Diana, especially his claim that he was just naive and didn’t realize how bad Darkseid and Grail were.  Steve eventually progresses to out-and-out threats by pointing out that he has previously led special government teams specifically intended to counter superheroes — including Wonder Woman — and the still-inexperienced kid brother of one of them wouldn’t pose much of a challenge.  He is only helping Jason train now because Diana asked him to, and he can’t refuse his Angel, although he does concede that she is also Jason’s Angel as well given that they’re siblings.

We transfer to Diana, who is interrogating Lashina and Mad Harriet, the two Female Furies that Steve Trevor and the Oddfellows captured in Istanbul.  She threatens the use of the Lasso of Truth, but offers them a chance first: She releases them from their restraints, gives them back their weapons, and lets them challenge her.  As they fight, she demands to know what Darkseid’s plan is.

When you think about, the looming threat of a New God is obviously the best time to work out your own sparring issues

The comic cuts over to Darkseid to offer the viewer some of the answers that Diana is looking for.  Pushing his underlings to finish their work, Darkseid explains to Grail why they do not just launch a normal attack on A.R.G.U.S.: If they stage a public attack, they will attract the attention of the superheroes of Earth, and maybe also Orion and the other New Gods.  By using the relics they have been collecting to bring A.R.G.U.S. to them, they can act unopposed.

We transfer back to A.R.G.U.S. where Wonder Woman is still sparring with the Furies, but without getting much information out of them.  In the room where A.R.G.U.S. is storing the relics that Darkseid was trying to collect, Steve introduces Jason to the Oddfellows and invites him to stand guard with them to help prove his trustworthiness.

Then Darkseid’s upgraded Boom Tube activates, and the building itself — or part of it — is transported to the Amazon jungle where Darkseid is waiting.  He and Wonder Woman square off for what he says will be the final time, and Wonder Woman agrees “No quarter asked for.  None given”.

I’m just going to point out that Darkseid didn’t mention “quarter” at all. This is Wonder Woman — the hero — saying that she won’t spare his life apropos of absolutely nothing

Review And so our suffering continues on

In my review of the last issue I said that I had reached a pseudo-zen attitude as I realized that this festering mudbucket of a series just wasn’t worth getting angry about.  I’m standing by that — that the series isn’t worth it — but it seems like I just can’t help myself: I’m angry again.  Good golly gee am I angry.

Let’s start right at the beginning: It takes seven pages before Wonder Woman appears in the comic (I’m not counting the first page itself since that’s functionally a second cover, being an isolated cutout that doesn’t even fit completely into later developments).  There’s only nineteen pages in this issue, that means that we’re more than 1/3 of the way through the comic before the title character even shows up.  In fact, she only appears on-panel in nine pages total, less than half of the issue.

Instead the issue opens with a double-page spread of Jason in battle as Steve Trevor narrates, followed by Jason and Steve talking about Diana.  And this is some of the creepiest, most possessive dialogue I have ever seen.  Forgive the detour, but I’m going to jump to some other media for a bit to emphasize just how godawful this is.

I haven’t watched Law & Order: SVU for a few years, I think it’s that in my dotage I have less of a stomach for the graphic and disturbing natures of the stories they portray, but for a while in the late 00s I caught most of the series.  One particular episode stuck with me, and I’m bringing it up because the parallels with how Steve and Jason talk about Diana is just disturbing.  It was a gruesome crime, and the perpetrator kept denying that he did it by insisting that loved his wife and son.  He was very insistent about that, that he loved his wife and his son, and that’s what the team psychiatrist picked up on: The possessive language.  They weren’t people to him, they were things.  He only ever referred to them in relation to himself, and it reflected that he didn’t love them for themselves, how he only loved the things that belonged to him.  Well, that’s how Steve and Jason talk about Diana here.  Steve refers to Diana as “my angel” (Emphasis present in the comic) and Jason corrects him to “our angel” (Emphasis again present in the comic).  Steve concedes the point and allows Jason to use “our angel” as if it is his permission that allows Jason to have a relationship with Diana.

They speak to each other about Jason’s relationship with Diana as though it’s the two of them who will resolve it, and not her own damn business.  It’s not even Jason’s business, because they’re not even talking about his perspective, they’re solely talking about Diana’s feelings and intentions and trust.  This is literally how the sex-crime perps on SVU talk.

I wasn’t joking when I said the emphasis on “my” and “our” was actually in the comic

Now let’s get to the way Steve Trevor is threatening Jason’s life and practically boasting about the times he was committing war crimes for paranoid government conspiracies.  Because yeah, suddenly that’s the kind of person Steve Trevor is.  We’re going to go to bullet points now:

  • In this continuity, Steve Trevor has never lead a special organization responsible for countering Supers.  The continuity where this occurred has been explicitly and definitively retconned.  For this character it never happened.  Now, if James Robinson wanted to bring that continuity back that would be one thing (A stupid thing, but still a thing), but he’s not doing that.  We’re not in the Post Crisis universe, we’re not in the New 52, this series is set in the Rebirth continuity.  If he doesn’t want to write a Rebirth storyline then he should get the hell out of the universe (And he should get the hell out of Wonder Woman), not try and pretend that he isn’t.
  • Those organizations which planned to counteract the Supers were evil.  They always wound up going rogue or being co-opted by supervillains and needing to be stopped themselves.  They have never — not once — served their supposed official function.  For Steve to brag about this is akin to a superhero bragging about that time they were turned evil and killed a bunch of people.  Or even worse, using that as an active threat.
  • Even if those organizations weren’t evil, they also failed.  Over and over again.  They caused a lot of collateral damage, killed a lot of innocent civilians, and probably killed some low-power C-list heroes that the DC editorial wanted to get rid of, but they barely so much as inconvenienced the powerful heroes like Wonder Woman.  So, as much of a schmuck as Jason is, Steve’s threat is akin to the twerp online telling you that he’s a former Navy SEAL who is going to come after you.  Not only is it not credible, it’s laughable.

We’re only five damn pages into this comic.  Ugh.

One of our heroes everybody: “I used to plot to betray the woman I loved and all of her friends, and that’s why I’m trustworthy”

Let’s keep going to page seven, where Diana finally appears in the story and tries to get information out of the captured Female Furies, and wow is this scene horrible.  She has the Lasso of Truth in her hand.  A magical device which is both painless and effective at information extraction.  It is present and acknowledged on-panel and in-story.  However, instead of using this literal magic device to find a way to thwart the omnicidal, murderous New God out to destroy the world, Wonder Woman instead decides to beat it out of the Furies.

Damn you James Robinson.  Damn.  You.

I could go on and on (and on) over how this doesn’t make sense, but do I really need to?  Do I honestly have to spell out why having the supposed main character of the series decide to beat information out of two prisoners in lieu of an effective questioning session is an offensive, insulting, atrocious concept?  What the everloving hell was he thinking with this scene?

How in the name of all that is holy is the humane, painless, effective option the one she avoids “if I can help it”?

It doesn’t even make sense as presented.  Why are the Furies still in their costumes?  They’ve been prisoners for days, why haven’t they been disrobed to be searched and secured?  Diana makes a point of returning Lashina’s weapons to her, but Mad Harriet is apparently still wearing her claws and hadn’t been disarmed even when still detained.  I pointed out this next bit in every preceding issue of this series, but they were captured in the first place by the Oddfellows, who are normal people with normal weapons, so how are we supposed to take them as a credible threat to Wonder Woman now if they couldn’t even defeat normal humans?

We’re not even halfway through the issue and I am in physical pain over this.  I spent two hours sitting at the Genius Bar in an Apple Store today (Kernel Panic on a MacMini during software update) and that was less painful than this issue is.  Hand-to-god, that was preferable.  Have you ever been stuck at a Genius Bar?  I would gladly go back to that rather than continue suffering through this.

But let’s continue and…you know what?  No.  No, I won’t continue.  I’m done.  I’m out.  I can’t go on.

This comic sucks.  This series sucks.  It’s insulting, sexist, creepy, misogynist, dumb, and just plain bad.  Screw it, I’m going home.

Images from Wonder Woman #43 Courtesy of DC Comics

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