Sunday, June 23, 2024

James Robinson has given up on his Wonder Woman story making sense

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It’s no secret that I have absolutely hated James Robinson’s run on Wonder Woman, it has been unmitigated garbage from the very beginning.  I’ve criticized the basic story concept, I’ve criticized the story execution, I’ve criticized the themes and subtext, and I’ve criticized the story’s place within the larger DCU.  To nobody’s surprise, nothing has changed on those fronts and I will make the exact same criticisms for this issue as well.  What has changed is that issue #41, part one of “Amazons Attacked”, seems to mark where even James Robinson himself no longer cares about making the series work.

He can’t even bring himself to deal with his own incomprehensible story.

Recap A Return to Suffering

I’m going to try and breeze through my recap as fast as I can, because I have a lot of rage bubbling over this issue and I need to let it out.

We open with some vague, pseudo-philosophical caption boxes over wildlife in the Amazon jungle who are quiet because they sense “the darkness” returning. The comic jumps back to “yesterday” at the temple of the New Gods that Darkseid is inhabiting, and he is now lambasting the Female Furies for their failure in Istanbul (With two of their number captured in the fight against the Oddfellows).  The Furies try and defend themselves by saying that Oddfellows were very good fighters, but Darkseid isn’t having it and threatens to kill them, only to hold off on carrying through by saying that without access to his full forces on Apokolips he cannot waste their lives.

He will give them one more chance, and turns away from them and the other workers scurrying about the temple to tell Grail that he is not interested in the Earth anymore since Themyscira is no longer on Earth.

We jump forward to “today” where Diana and Steve Trevor are reuniting at A.R.G.U.S. headquarters in Virginia.  They both recap their adventures over the past week, with Steve defeating the Furies in Istanbul and also tracking down and securing various New God artifacts around the world that Darkseid is looking for.  Wonder Woman in turn describes how there was a bizarre sequence of multiple supervillain attacks on Washington, D.C. just earlier that day.  Wonder Woman deduces that the super villains — reinterpretations of the classic Wonder Woman villains Zara, the Blue Snowman, and Angle Man (Now a successor villain named ‘Anglette’) — were created by Veronica Cale and sicced upon the city in a business scheme to have the US Government hire her company to create defenses against such future attacks.  When Wonder Woman confronts her, Cale fully admits this to her, and states that it is also revenge against Wonder Woman for the way her daughter was ‘stolen’ by the Amazons.

The issue closes with with Diana wondering what happened to Jason, who vanished in the last issue after the fight with the Silver Swan, only for him to show up right at that moment in a new armor costume.

Review How do I hate thee…

Oh, let me count the ways.

Let’s start with just the meta aspects of this issue, the way it shoots itself in the foot right off the bat: This new arc is titled “Amazons Attacked”, a name which references the 2007 “Amazons Attack” series which is so infamously bad that later Wonder Woman writers often deliberately avoided mentioning what had actually happened in it (You can check out the reviews by comic-reviewer superstar Linkara at Atop the Fourth Wall for the proper severing that it deserves).  With a series that was so atrocious that some readers actually mailed copies of their comics back to DC, and a reveal at the end of that series that Apokolips was behind the whole thing to make a connection to this series and its ongoing Apokoliptian plots, I can’t fathom any reason why they chose this title.

There’s also the the issue subtitle from the cover, “For the life of STEVE TREVOR”.  Apart from the fact that it’s simply inaccurate — Steve Trevor’s life is never in any danger throughout this issue and he isn’t even attacked or needing to be protected — it continues yet again this comic’s problem of thinking that Steve is the main character of the series.  It’s trying to put the focus on him, making it about him, so Diana’s presence is simply as an adjunct to whatever he’s dealing with.  I’ve waffled back-and-forth on saying this flat-out, but it’s long past time I made a direct declaration: This treatment of Diana’s character is horribly sexist, and has been for all of James Robinson’s tenure on the series, through the elevation of male characters (her boyfriend, her brother, her father) to priority over her story and agency.

Even though Wonder Woman is literally front-and-center, they’re still talking about Steve

But this isn’t even into the comic yet…

The very first scene

When I was reading this issue in preparation for this review, I didn’t even get past the second page before I threw up my hands in anger.  Just one page into the issue is where it gets bad as Darkseid looms over the Female Furies and lambasts them for their failure in Istanbul.


Just NO.

I ranted about this two issues ago, and I ranted about it again last issue, but I’m going to rant about it still further: The Oddfellows cannot have defeated (And captured!) the Female Furies.  It simply doesn’t work.  The Oddfellows are six normal human beings armed with regular guns, they have no technological or magical abilities or superpowers.  The Female Furies do have superpowers and technological abilities: strength enough to stagger Superman, weapons sharp enough to kill an Amazon, durability tough enough to literally forget that they’ve been shot.  It doesn’t matter how skilled they are in combat, the Oddfellows simply don’t have the means to defeat the Furies.

Even the one single panel of the fight that we do see shows the Furies kicking their asses

To use the old comic comparison standby, when people talk about Batman defeating Superman they don’t try and say that Batman can somehow punch Superman unconscious with his bare hands, they say that he uses technology and equipment (Plus a lot of kryptonite) to neutralize Superman’s natural advantages.  If you take away these resources, take away the BatCave and his WayneTech gadgets and his exo-suit and also any time for research or advance preparation, then not even the most devoted Batman fanboy can say that he’d still win in a one-on-one fight.  They operate on a different physical scale, just like the Furies and the Oddfellows.

The reason why I said that James Robinson no longer even cares about making the story work is because he doesn’t even try to justify this absurdity.

Last issue these two groups were still going at it hammer-and-tong, but in this issue the fight is long over and the Furies are reporting their failure.  We don’t see how it ended or how the Oddfellows did whatever they did, and neither here nor later in the issue do we get any sort of after-action report or description to explain it.  Not even a lip service handwave to say that Steve unveiled the previously-unmentioned Super Mega Anti-God Canon and that was how they won.  It’s just left as “they won” and that’s it.  It can’t be explained, and rather than try James Robinson just has the Furies shill Steve Trevor by saying how skilled the Oddfellows were to defeat them.

This was where I checked out while reading the issue, but it just gets worse as it goes along.

The Flashback which Covers Half the Issue

The reunion between Diana and Steve makes no sense, because not only are they weirdly hostile to each other (Part and parcel of James Robinson’s inability to keep their characterization straight from issue to issue), but this is apparently the first they’ve seen of each other since we saw them separate in the “Swan’s Song” arc.  We know this because they each bring the other up to speed on what they’ve missed, except why have they been separated all along?  Specifically, why was Wonder Woman kept away from the Oddfellows operation tracking down these artifacts?

It was bad enough in “Swan’s Song” when Steve left for the mission apparently without even consulting her, but you could at least make the rationalization that he thought it would just be a heist sequence and not something to require superpowers.  But now that the Oddfellows have already run into — and fought — the Female Furies (Again, alien beings with superpowers from Apokolips) why didn’t they try to bring her in then?  When she’s got more experience fighting the New Gods in general, and Darkseid + the Furies in particular, and when she is already personally involved and part of the situation, why wasn’t she lead on these operations?  This is just more of the same James Robinson arc where he doesn’t want her to be the driving force of the series, and is actively writing her as ‘Steve Trevor’s girlfriend’ who is butting into his operations.

And then let’s get to the ‘reimagined’ classic Wonder Woman villains.  Normally I am all for bringing in classic villains, each one has their own unique history and rivalry with Wonder Woman’s character and often represent different aspects of the era which created them, but this was just a hash.  James Robinson already showed with the ‘Silver Swan’ that he has no aptitude for adapting a beloved character for the modern age, and he continues the same pattern here.  None of them had any dialogue — not one line — and because this is told in flashback they are all introduced and defeated in a matter of panels without any sort of characterization or byplay.  They’re functionally off-screen characters trying to cash in on name recognition, and lazy cash-ins at that.

Blue Snowman…
And Anglette…that’s pretty much it for all of them.







Veronica Cale….oh dear lord, Veronica Cale.  For almost the first time since he took over the series James Robinson has made direct, unequivocal references to Greg Rucka’s run in the series, and that makes what he’s doing with Veronica Cale even worse.  He’s essentially saying “I know what Greg Rucka did with the character and I am deliberately ignoring that characterization”.  That’s just insulting.

Veronica Cale is not Lex Luthor, she doesn’t run a business manufacturing arms for the US Military and she doesn’t arrange for terrorist attacks to spark up profits.  Her ventures were clearly established to be focused in the area of computer technology and cybernetics, and while it’s true that a billionaire can decide to do pretty much whatever they want if they decide to change industries, the complete industrial shift to becoming a weapons manufacturer and getting contracts with the army doesn’t happen overnight (Or even over year). Plus, even if she were a weapons manufacturer, this personality is completely at odds with her previous behavior. She hated and resented Wonder Woman and the Amazons for what had happened to her daughter, but it was mixed in with a lot of self-loathing. She felt extreme guilt about the fact that she did blame Wonder Woman, because intellectually she knew that it wasn’t Diana’s fault but regardless couldn’t stop herself.  The entire series of events ended with her almost as a shell, so consumed by what she’d done that there was almost nothing left inside.  This spiteful supervillain doesn’t even bare a passing resemblance.

And then we get to Jason. Poor dumb, pointless, atrocious Jason.

Who do I have to Pay to Get him Killed Already?

He is returning in the very next issue after his mysterious disappearance. Apart from the fact that I was personally hoping that he would stay gone, because this is literally the next installment of the comic there’s no story consequences from either his disappearance or his reappearance. This is another part of what I meant when I said that James Robinson isn’t even trying anymore: He set up an ongoing mystery and storyline in the series, then resolved it in the very next entry. He didn’t even give us a single sequence of Diana searching for her brother, nor even a mention of such a sequence happening off-panel. She wondered about him, but it was an afterthought at the end her conversation with Steve with no build-up or follow-up.

It’s only been a week since he disappeared. I’ve gone longer without some friends responding to a text message because they just forgot that they hadn’t texted me back. James Robinson can’t let the story unfold though, he just has to rush forward and give Jason’s ‘dramatic’ return because he bother to lay the story out any further.

I’ve got nothing positive for this issue. Nothing to give, nothing to recommend, nothing to even genially tolerate.


Images from Wonder Woman #41 Courtesy of DC Comics

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