We’re approaching the endgame supreme, lovelies. The players are all more or less in their places. All but a vital one, who has chosen to follow his heart and go to the Underworld for friendship’s sake. Sounds kind of Orpheus-like, doesn’t it?
“Beware the honest.”
The time spent below in the Underground last issue was draining. But although Persephone is free to mindlessly indulge in whatever she desires, the day isn’t over for Valhalla’s “R&D Department”. Woden, the Valkyries, and the non-Godly day workers have been busy preparing both the grand mysterious machine and Valhalla’s grounds for the upcoming gig.
Speaking of which, let’s do a quick recap of the specifics. Exactly 44,444 people in the grounds, ripe for Dionysus to pull his party hivemind thing, thus powering up the machine… and then see what happens. It’s a plan running entirely on uncertainty, both with regard to the gig actually containing the precise number of attendees and the outcome. A considerably more civil Woden assures Urdr the Valkyries can do crowd control if this event goes belly up.
But there is yet another concern on the preliminary side of things. Will Dionysus be around to do his thing? Urdr tells Woden Dio will make it. But this line straddles two possible senses: knowledge and desire. So, more uncertainty on our laps. Nothing quickens the pulse quite like uncertainty before some huge thing goes down, eh?
We find Dionysus sitting cross legged (a position conveying tranquil defiace) in the Underground. Right off the bat, we can say the scenario of waiting to be allowed to talk to Baphomet is something of a play in three acts. Obviously, each act will have Dio speak with Baphomet’s captor, the Morrigan, or rather each of her three personae. We begin Dionysus’ trials with The Morrigan’s more lucid side, her default goth queen personality. Despite her refusal to let Dio speak with Baph, she establishes some common grounds with the Wine God. They both want what’s best for those they care for. The Underworld Gods in this narrative have never actually been evil, not even Persephone. However, their fundamental difference from Dio is a matter of pure hubris.
Whereas Dionysus recognises that he doesn’t know what is best for everybody, the Morrigan thinks she does. Therefore, she declares that she will never allow Dionysus to speak with Baphomet. This doesn’t deter Dionysus from his attempt. In fact, a particular phrasing hints that his action doesn’t stem from a spontaneous decision, but an actual plan. The score so far: The Morrigan, 1; Dionysus, 0.
Meanwhile, at the Shard, Woden meets up with Baal, Minerva, and Amaterasu. What follows is something of an amusing means of ‘sweeping the rubbish under the carpet’ as Woden adds functionalities of tracking and recording to their gadgets. In truth, he does fuck all since he already did this ages ago. Woden’s dickishness has been considerably toned down since Persephone took him down to hell, but some of his entertaining features thankfully remain. At this time, he also remarks that he may have to create some pretty gadgets for the Goths if they show up. They’re basically the wild cards, the people who click maybe on a Facebook event, which can get annoying.
Back in the Underground, Dionysus continues to wait. The second trial of patience begins with a punt from The Morrigan’s second persona, the furious Badb Catha. She is not pleased at all that Dionysus would dare ‘disrespect her authority’ and judge her. In her infamous warlike fashion, Badb invites Dionysus to bring his crowd with him, for her to kill them all. His retort is a serene assertion of his efforts being only his own, which Badb takes offense to. So she has her birds claw and peck away, leaving him bloody. Once more, she leaves him declaring she won’t allow him to see Baphomet. Still, Dionysus waits. The score is now: The Morrigan, 2; Dionysus, 0. And his face probably hurts now.
We get an interlude of sorts in the story, courtesy of Instagram (or a legally-friendly stand in). On the one hand, we see the casual side of the Pantheon’s prominence in social media, despite the controversial recent events (as well as Amaterasu’s horrible taste in captions). On the other, we get the sense that Dionysus has been waiting in the Underground for a while. Soon enough, by the natural succession of threefold motifs and entities, we are now at Dionysus’ final trial. The Morrigan’s third persona, Gentle Annie has come to check up on him.
The relief in this scenario is palpable. Just check out Dio’s expression of a fond long-time-no-see. Some of this derives from the fact that Gentle Annie is, well, gentle; the security that she won’t harm Dionysus does play its part. But the main bulk of the sensation is Annie’s acknowledgement that she’s the part of Marian that doesn’t get to come out and play much anymore. That’s no surprise considering we’re this far into the Imperial Phase, where there appears to be little room for leniency and kindness. Nonetheless, Annie’s awareness of Badb and The Morrigan’s current states feels like a calling her full-self out on her latest actions. This truth about herself invites honesty towards Dio.
Gentle Annie is very concerned about Dio’s willingness to endanger himself for the sake of others. And she feels a sense of finality approaching. Thus, she bids her farewell to Dionysus (and perhaps to the readers as well), after which she grants him his wish, much to the anger and spite of her other selves. This is possibly what Dionysus intended all along, to chat with the one part of Marian that he could still reason with. As he would, Baphomet is quick to tell Dio how bad he looks.
Meanwhile, the mood grows tense as the Gods’ task force to capture Sakhmet comes to action after a sighting of the Cat Goddess. Minerva plays the Oracle to Baal and Amaterasu’s birds of prey, as they close in on Sakhmet.
However, before they catch Minerva’s command to abort, Baal crashes through a wall, ready to take his chances against perhaps the deadliest of the Gods. This turns out to be a waste of time, though. It was merely a girl who styled her attire after Sakhmet for the sake of an autograph. Anti-climatic as fuck, but still a good simulacrum. Yet again, as per the conventions of a narrative, an actual attempt at capturing Sakhmet may not go as smoothly. And then, we may return to this moment as a rueful retrospective.
Back to the boys in the dark. Baphomet is back in his usual pun-gent mood. But it no longer feels as right as it used to, not after seeing how badly his relationship with The Morrigan has decayed. By now, his wise-cracking has become a flagrant masquerade to hide the damage. Furthermore, when touching on the matter of the fine line between co-dependence and abuse, Baphomet tells Dionysus of the moment after his ascension. It was cool and all, until Baph realized he was made a God like The Morrigan, bound to live only for two years since. Although one could say he went ahead and presumed something else, Marian didn’t bother to bridge this communication gap before the deed was finished.
Therefore, Baphomet sees this relationship as an inescapable situation for Marian and he, perhaps from the very beginning. This is somewhat mirrored by Dionysus’ own situation, as he reveals he has feelings for Urdr, whose sexual orientation and current relationship status with her fellow Norns make a relation between them impossible. Such is life.
At the end of this heart-to-heart, Dionysus leaves a device in Baph’s hands, a means of communication in case he needs help. Although he doesn’t seem to care much for help now that things are reaching rock bottom, he may as well use it sometime in the issues to come.
Finally, bringing this issue to an end, The Morrigan pays Persephone a visit. Baph has told her the way, it seems, and she has a few words for the Destroyer. After ridding herself of the part that would forgive her (a dreadful implication for Gentle Annie), she delivers a threat for Persephone to stay away from her and Baphomet. Her tone turns cautionary as she warns Persephone of the things some people would do just to feel honest and clean.
Thus, Marian walks away, unaware that, though she came with the threat, she was the one in peril. Sakhmet was waiting to strike and kill just out of sight. Unbeknownst to the Queen of the Underworld, the Destroyer has just saved her life.
When questioned by Sakhmet on why she allowed The Morrigan to talk like that, Persephone says they’re too close to their inevitable doom for displays of vengeance and pride to matter. Finally, they share a kiss. Little does Sakhmet know or care, a furtive tear streams down Persephone’s face.
There’s no better way to portray a doomed, depressing romance. The Morrigan’s words may well apply in this case, somehow. It takes no more than common sense to know that there is a large difference between Sakhmet and Persephone. At this point, even one sliver of a conscience counts aplenty. Casting this statement as a reflection back on The Morrigan, one can only hope she hasn’t taken permanent leave of hers.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #30 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Images courtesy of Image Comics
WicDiv’s Newest Special Is an Ode to Modernism
“Every ninety years twelve Gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. ” It is with these words that we gleefully plunge back into the bloody and charming world of The Wicked and The Divine. If you’re acquainted with my reviews of this comic, you’ll know I tend to inexhaustibly heap praise upon it. And there’s a good reason for that – this comic has it all: an engaging narrative, a beautiful style, great characters, and all the whimsical little graces manifested into plot twists, sex, and death.
But if you also have an eye for intertextuality, particularly of mythological type, you’ll inevitably find a real treasure in WicDiv. Moments that reward the knowing by retelling, deconstructing and subverting the narratives of the Gods. By now, you must be figuring out that I’m referring to the whole of the comic rather than a more specific approach on this special, which – by the title alone – we know to be the most immediate prequel to the main run. It’s not that I find little to say about it (quite the contrary), but the approach to this review will be quite different.
As opposed to my usual reviews, I cannot bring myself to comment in great detail on the events themselves. Really, if you’ve ever read anything by the Master-of-Suspense, Agatha Christie, or played Clue, you got this story right there. Plain and simple; a murder-mystery that we’re to solve. And by now, we already know Gods are supposed to die, mostly by Ananke’s doing. So what can we actually say on this special? What is it that turns this take on the second-to-most-recent Recurrence, a work of genius?
The answer: everything else. Especially if you’re an English major… which I am, by the way. Imagine a gravelly squee on my part, and let’s dig in.
“This will have to be my Masterpiece”
The first thing to note here is the actual form of the comic. And even the word comic feels pretty weird in my tongue when talking about this special. In fact, I would rather talk about 1923AD as an illustrated novella. Think Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, illustrated by Charles Vess: a work consisting of descriptive prose with pictures as interludes. This delivery alone means the narrative leans more on the writer’s shoulders, rather than the usual collaborative equilibrium between Kieron and Jamie. For this reason, 1923AD exhibits the finest of Kieron Gillen’s writing, which should say aplenty on its own.
Not only does he colour his descriptive prose with the appropriate style, but he also applies some high-brow wit to pour a little humour and subversion into an otherwise pretty bleak story.
But what about the graphical portion? As always, Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson have the cover… eh, covered. The image is that of an ominous-looking lighthouse with a most peculiar light in the nightly sky above. Simple, yet powerful. But as for the rest of the issue, it’s Aud Koch who graces the illustrations with her pencils, famously rich in erotism and semiotics, though applied slightly more conservatively here, still far from austere – must be said. Her palette is mostly just three hues; the whites and blacks that allow for impactful contrasts and light management, and of course, the reds that inextricably seal the tone.
All in all, her role in this issue is to portray the immediate aftermath of each murder, as well as the tastier, fleshier bits of drama between the Gods. And if we’ve learned anything so far – there is a lot of drama to be had. Lovely.
Of course, the black and white ambiance also functions to set the story in a timeframe, that of the twenties, a decade we all know by pop-culture-osmosis with very distinctive aesthetics. We usually think jazz, flappers, some dapper debauchery. But we’re not talking about that kind of twenties, at least not dominantly. Sure, the style is alluring, but the creative zeitgeist going alongside the partying is a whole world of its own – and we know it as Modernism. I’ll try to keep my fanboy-ism about this artistic period on a leash here.
And then, there were twelve…
This is where art started to reject the cold, unfeeling paradigm of the Enlightenment and old narratives were given new life through new perspectives and towards new orientations. Hence, characters that were without a voice now boomed out loud, and the Classic aesthetics looked a tad less idyllic. One could say that WicDiv, as a retelling and challenging of the old conventions surrounding the Gods’ stories is a strongly modernist exercise. The relation between creative impulse and divinity certainly imbued the so-called “Lost Generation” with a mystique purely of their own.
So it should be no surprise that this Pantheon, much as the one from 1831, takes heavy inspiration from contemporary artists. Herein lies another bit of genius, or research (or both) on Kieron’s part. It takes solid knowledge of these real-life personages’ work, reputation, demeanour, even political stance to properly ‘reincarnate’ them into Gods. And though there is some room to question or to propose a better fit, I personally found it flawless. Cue another squee at realising that the author or my favourite poem (not necessarily my favourite poet), The Waste Land, made the cut.
The casting to this mystery is as follows: T.S. Eliot as Baal. F. Scott Fitzgerald as Lucifer (as if there possibly any better fit than this). James Joyce as The Morrigan. Ernest Hemingway as Neptune. A trio of H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell as The Norns. Virginia Woolf as Set. Joseph Goebbels as Woden (token shithead for a God). Pablo Picasso as Dionysus. Clara Bow as Amaterasu. Buster Keaton as Susanoo. Langston Hughes as Amon Ra. And Shirley Temple as Minerva. The last four we already know from the very beginning of WicDiv’s first issue. And we may as well include Agatha Christie herself as Ananke, being the one who constructs the scenario for her God-killing ways.
The accuracy of selection is one thing. But a character is more than their name – a character is also their deeds and delivery. So the link between artist and God also outlines their role in this fashion. Therefore one can dare a guess at what each will do based on what we know of the personage and the God. It only makes sense that the futurist folks would play the fates who behold the truth and the future. It feels natural that there be a divide between the God-Artists leading the vanguard in medium and style, and the more conservative, academia-oriented folks. And above all, it makes perfect sense that of all the characters, The Morrigan’s speech bubbles are DELIGHTFUL.
I channel my inner Broken/Woken Matt Hardy every time I use caps, you know.
Your times are ending
Feels great to rejoice over the usage and selection of characters. But that’s not all there is to the special. The plot itself is rewarding by its tone and content. As I previously said, the plot is succinct enough. It’s an Agatha Christie novel, And then there were none, to be specific: a private feast for the Gods in an island on their final days. But there are some certainties we have as soon as we open the first page. First, judging by WicDiv‘s very first page, the readers know that the last remaining Gods in this Recurrence are Minerva, Susanoo, Amaterasu and Amon Ra. They all agree to commit suicide at Ananke’s (we know now dubious) advise. And the fact that all the rest are alive and well at the start of 1923AD means they will be killed off, one by one.
As a gesture of love and respect to Agatha, and faithfulness to the genre, I won’t go into details about who dies when and how (the ‘how’ being the most fascinating thing up the author’s literary sleeve). I also won’t spoil the inevitable inner drama unfolding amidst the Gods. But I will indeed observe how 1923AD fits alongside 1831 and 455 AD in one very special regard: the revealing of vital knowledge irretrievable to the current 21’st Century Pantheon. Well, sort of – we still don’t know what’s up with Minerva-Ananke. But I digress.
This time, we get a hint on the origin of the Great Darkness, the implications of which are highly disturbing. Since it is only a hint, we can only cast conjectures; but each one inevitably affects the whole of the narrative as we put the pieces together. But although we have the methodical knowledge of how the chain of murders unfolded, the special shatters the ambiance by taking us to the present by preserving one mystery still: Ananke’s long-term goal. What is she trying to accomplish through her deceptive, bloody means? And again, what’s up with them talking heads at the end of the last issue?
And with that uncertainty, we’ll be more than aching to get our hands on next issue – the next arc. Stay tuned, lovelies – and above all, get your hands on this beauty.
The Wicked + The Divine 1923AD Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Aud Koch
Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Images courtesy of Image Comics
X-Men Red Soars Above the Ashes of the Phoenix Resurrection
Sometimes enough is enough isn’t it? Every few years Marvel decides to subsequently kill off Jean Grey due to something having to do with the Phoenix Force and then somehow bring her back from the dead only to repeat the process over. It has basically become a running gag by this point and people are always on the fence when Marvel decides it’s time again to revive Jean; each time we’re left wondering to ourselves, will this be the one that sticks? Or are we doomed to revel in yet another typical “people don’t stay dead because comics” comic trope in which writers won’t let us have nice things? Or rather I should say nothing is really sacred? Either way that time has come that we were forced to live through yet another Phoenix Resurrection.
Now I won’t lie, the premise seemed genuinely well thought through this time. For one it was evidently well planned ever since the the reintroduction to the mutant world in Marvel’s ResurreXion event. Beginning, of course, with the very well received Jean Grey mini series where we see a time-displaced Jean work to not only prepare herself for the eventuality of being possessed by the Phoenix Force but to also find a away to avoid it. This sort of conflict is also heavily prevalent in X-Men Blue as she struggles to forge her own identity far removed from the Jean Grey that world already knows and is terrified of. A great example of this, predating the current Marvel settings, would be 2014’s crossover The Trial of Jean Grey between the All New X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. It seemed that between all this build up towards the eventuality of Jean Grey realizing her destiny and confronting her fear of the Phoenix that she would be an extremely major part of the resurrection. Nope, and all because Marvel won’t let us have nice things.
While towards the end of the Jean Grey mini series we are witness to the mass disappearance of former Phoenix hosts, all that really was seen in the final issue of the series was a cameo of the original Jean Grey herself — of course, this was meant to crossover with the final issue of the Phoenix Resurrection, yet to call it that is a very liberal stretch of the word. Still though, the Jean Grey series will definitely stay as a great series to me in retrospect.
So what was so bad about about the Phoenix Resurrection? For one I think it’s pretty safe to say that if only the first and last issues are quality reads, then you have a problem. The premise was decent in hindsight, all of the mutants who are stars of their own respective titles team up to help Kitty Pryde investigate into why former hosts of the Phoenix have suddenly disappeared. The answer of course lies in the Jean Grey but the rest of the mutants don’t know that. Meanwhile, the X-Men are forced to deal with the challenges that the Phoenix itself is throwing at them, including horrors such as dead enemies brought back from the grave and a quite insane Magneto. While all this fun is going on, the real present day Jean Grey is very much alive and in a brainwashed state thanks to the giant cosmic fire bird itself in which she thinks she’s living an ordinary life as a well loved waitress in a small town and married to her own perfect version of Scott Summers.
Once the team finally discovers the truth about Jean, she has begun to doubt her sanity as former mutant comrades and enemies begin to invade her fantasy, including a mechanic Wolverine who seems to be the actual original and missing for a few years now Wolverine. But that is a wide topic for another day. Also included is a weirdly normal suburban Magneto. Either way, the fragile illusion that she’s living in finally decides to break apart when Old Man Logan enters the dream. By the end she remembers who she is and the Phoenix tries one last time to overpower her by using the real and less than savory, dead, Scott Summers to sway her back into its influence. She accepts who she is and realizes her time being a part of the Phoenix is over and she simply says goodbye and everyone lives happily ever after. No but really that was the ending.
Now on the surface it may seem that the story is solid enough but as I said it’s only really in the first and final issue that any sort of enjoyment is seen. The rest of the series is too little story for the length and ends up stretching out a lot of its events needlessly. Not only that but it is incredibly bland to read. The various artists managed to portray some beauty in the comic but ultimately it was largely forgettable due to its boring dialogue and overused themes such as the reanimation of the dead; honestly the Mojoworld cross over between X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold did a far better job of bringing back classic stories of the X-Men and everyone should read it, for the nostalgia. Honestly the only two moments that really stuck out in my mind from this series were Cable’s failed attempt to access Cerebro and Jean Grey’s totally bad ass new costume. Other than that this simply was a typical resurrection done over again and Marvel really needs to end the joke.
However, all hope is not lost. For out of the ashes of this mediocre book we got another color title for the X-Men universe. X-Men Red, as opposed to the resurrection managed to out do the short series in entertainment value, story line, and general love of all the characters than the former and in only one issue! The first thing that really got me excited for this series was the team itself. While Namor did make a brief appearance in Jean Grey he’s often pretty unseen and as a standard of Golden Age comics it’s only fitting that they bring him back in such a great book. Laura Kinney and Honey Badger also make an appearance, which is nice considering their recent popularity with the well loved All New Wolverine series. Fan favorite Nightcrawler also makes his way into the book even though he is also in the Gold series, but we can overlook that because hey, it’s Nightcrawler.
The premise follows the basic anti-mutant plot that we’ve seen often in X-Men comics. It starts with the team already assembled and sees their main objectives as saving undocumented mutants who don’t understand their powers from the masses of mutant hating extremists. It seems Jean wants nothing more than to help the misunderstood and those not yet able to fully control their powers, in essence she’s taking on her interpretation of Charles Xavier’s dream. Of course the public lashes out when an incident occurs and the anti mutant people just come out of the woodwork demanding genetic testing for the mutant gene in utero. In response Jean calls out to all members of various non-normal human nations and assembles a council at United Nations declaring that whether mutant kind has formed their own country or lived alone they have always been targeted. She calls for acceptance and is recognized by Wakanda and Namor of Atlantis as a member of a mutant nation. Of course, this victory is ruined by the ambassador’s head exploding in front of the UN by Cassandra Nova and all of Jean’s hard work being undone by implication.
While not the most original of plots, it kept things simple and to the point. The book didn’t bother to create an overcomplicated story with tons of promises it couldn’t fulfill and it ended with a pretty decent twist. Yet the most important part of this comic is that this is the Jean Grey we wanted to see in the Phoenix Resurrection. Granted she did have to come back in the first place, but I would have much rather seen the love and quality not only seen in X-Men Red but in all the titles across the mutant generation of comics. Sadly it just wasn’t there for Jean Grey’s return… again. Red does stand on its own for its debut issue and joins in the accolades of storytelling and I’m very excited to see what twists and turns we’ll see in the coming weeks; hopefully its success doesn’t provoke Marvel into killing Jean again, otherwise I might just have to flip a table.
All images courtesy of Marvel Comics
How many different ways can I say this Wonder Woman story is awful?
James Robinson’s turn on Wonder Woman is grinding me down. With every issue it’s a new exploration of shoddy writing, horrible characterization, and bizarre self-contradictory story decisions. Due to a scheduling mix-up I thought that there would be a new issue last week, and when I arrived at my comic shop and saw that there wasn’t a new issue on the wall the sense of euphoria I felt was almost narcotic.
This series is such a trainwreck that simply not being forced to experience it gives me active pleasure.
Unfortunately, despite my reprieve last week I knew it would eventually return, and issue #40 (The conclusion to “Swan’s Song”) is exactly the kind of mess I expected it to be.
We pick up immediately after issue #39 left off, with Wonder Woman picking herself up after she, Jason, and Silver Swan all fell to ground at the conclusion of their flying battle. Wonder Woman is looking for Jason, whose throat had been cut during the fight, and she is relieved to find him likewise up and mobile, complaining more about the fact that fell into trash in an alley than he is about the potentially mortal wound. The cut is healing itself quickly, with the scar already almost faded, and Jason wonders if his and Wonder Woman’s advanced healing abilities are part of their legacy from Zeus. Since they are both now returned to fighting form they fly off to look for Silver Swan, but she is nowhere to be seen so they need to track her down. Wonder Woman laments that Steve Trevor isn’t here since she isn’t a planner like he is.
With that connection, the comic jumps to Steve Trevor and the Oddfellows fighting the Female Furies in Turkey. The Oddfellows are having a similar exchange, asking Steve if he was wishing Wonder Woman was there to help them out. At first he is evasive, but when Lashina leaps atop him he finally admits that yes, it would be better if Wonder Woman were there to lend a hand.
The comic cuts back to Wonder Woman and Jason, who are now at the hospital where Vanessa Kapatelis was being treated before she transformed into Silver Swan. The hospital is now a slaughter scene, as Vanessa had killed everybody — staff and patients alike — before leaving and going after Wonder Woman. Also before leaving she had cut herself and bled on the computer system, and the nanites in her blood allowed her to access computer systems all over the world and remove all information on the nanites that were used to treat her paralysis and which have now given her superpowers.
Realizing that nothing at the hospital is going to give them a clue where to find Vanessa next, Diana sends Jason home to shower and change clothes after his earlier fall into a pile of garbage. While at Diana’s beachfront home, he is attacked by the Silver Swan who is still trying to hurt Diana, and she realized that killing her brother would hurt her even more than physical pain. Wonder Woman, however, had expected this plan and arrives to attack Swan in turn. They fight, and Wonder Woman goads Swan into unleashing her sonic attack again, rationalizing that despite the nanite enhancements she is still basically human, and therefore still needs to breathe. When Swan’s sonic attack exhausts all the air in her lungs, Wonder Woman tackles her and drags her underwater before she can inhale again.
With the Swan smothered unconscious, Wonder Woman drags Vanessa out of the ocean and brings her to A.R.G.U.S. HQ for care. The doctors assure her that she is in no immediate life-threatening danger, but they will need to keep her there to treat her when she eventually wakes up, and also to study the nanites which cured her paralysis and turned her into the swan. Since she had deleted all the research on them earlier there is no longer any information on how they work, and if they are properly understood they would be remarkable cures for all sorts of disabilities. At the end of the scene Dr. Edward Carne is shown reflected in the glass of her stasis tube, and the reflected image appears to be recurring Wonder Woman foe Dr. Psycho.
The comic closes once again at Diana’s beach house, where Jason is writing her a farewell letter. Recognizing that he is not yet ready to be a superhero or worthy to be Diana’s brother, he is planning to leave and find his own way. However, before he can actually leave he is hit by some sort of cloudy, colorful energy effect and disappears. Diana returns home and finds his letter, but outside sees only a little bit of smoking dust where he had been.
Where do I even begin?
Leaving aside my ongoing complaints about how this series just doesn’t get Wonder Woman’s character, from a purely technical storycrafting perspective the opening completely undoes the cliffhanger of the previous issue. There’s no drama or fear in this issue as they deal with Jason’s deadly injury, they literally say it has been healed by magic and move on to the next pursuit of Silver Swan. Even though we-the-audience know this won’t be how Jason dies, since James Robinson’s run on the series opened with future events with Jason that still have not come to pass, they completely brush aside any fallout from the event or dealing with the psychological issues that might come from such a grievous wound.
On this same note, Wonder Woman doesn’t spend any time worrying that she might have accidentally killed Vanessa when she cut her wing and caused an explosion, or that there might be injured bystanders. She realizes immediately that the Swan must be okay and have fled, so she and Jason fly off right away. The last issue closed with a very dramatic, full-page set of panels showing the three characters plummeting to the ground, and in this issue the event is literally just brushed away as Jason knocks some trash off his clothing.
Now let’s get back to my complaints about how James Robinson doesn’t get Wonder Woman’s character: How dare he — how DARE he — have Wonder Woman say that she’s a brute-force fighter who needs Steve Trevor to help her figure out what to do? That is insulting, and frankly more than a little bit sexist as well. The idea that despite being a trained warrior and superhero and leader and activist and ambassador Diana actually needs Steve Trevor to tell her what to do is ridiculous. Especially when this is such a basic villain who Wonder Woman does easily outsmart later in the issue.
I love Steve Trevor, he is a great character who well belongs in Wonder Woman’s life and in her story, but you do not get to say that he is the brain behind what she accomplishes.
Speaking of Steve Trevor, let’s go over him and Oddfellows fighting the Female Furies, because that just doesn’t work. At all.
I went over this heavily in my review of the last issue where the fight began, but I’m going to hammer it again: The Female Furies have fought and defeated Superman. When Wonder Woman and Big Barda were working together it was still a fight-to-the-knife struggle to triumph over the Furies. The thought that six normal humans with normal guns — no superpowers or cyborg enhancements or laser weapons among them — could last even ten seconds in this fight is ridiculous. Let alone long enough for the Oddfellows to have witty banter amongst themselves.
Later in the issue, we get a full night/day switch after Wonder Woman defeats Silver Swan and brings her to A.R.G.U.S., but there’s no mention — none at all — of the Oddfellows and their fight with the Female Furies. Is that fight still going on, raging for hours without any sort of contact with A.R.G.U.S? Without any news reports coming out of Turkey about a guns vs. aliens battle in the middle of a museum? The Topkapı Palace is a major historic and tourism facility in Istanbul, hasn’t there been contact from the Turkish government about the American SpecOps team running around their territory? The literal radio silence makes no sense.
Moving beyond Steve Trevor, there’s the ever-more-bizarre story of Vanessa’s nanite medical treatment. They still haven’t explained how Vanessa completely recuperated and apparently mastered her shapeshifting abilities in the span of a few days, and now they’re adding on the also-unexplained technopath abilities that come from just connecting her nanites to a computer. It was explicitly stated that this treatment was based on the technology of the superhero Cyborg, but even he doesn’t have this kind of technological interface.
Speaking of Cyborg, several characters talk about how Vanessa deleted all research and information on her treatment and this means that nobody has any idea at all how any of it worked. Except Cyborg is still around, so they can just get the information from him. Logically speaking, it follows that the Justice League, Teen Titans, and several other superhero organizations that Cyborg has worked with would also have information on his technology. They should also have on-site backups and techno defenses that wouldn’t be affected by Vanessa hacking medical databases.
Getting back to the way this story just doesn’t fit in with Wonder Woman’s history, why does Diana turn Vanessa over to A.R.G.U.S. after she is defeated instead of to the Picket? The Picket is the government organization that Wonder Woman is actually working with currently, she’s only been cooperating with A.R.G.U.S. for the recent arc because they were dealing with Apokoliptian situations and that was A.R.G.U.S.’s bailiwick. Since Vanessa has nothing to do with Darkseid and the New Gods in any way, there’s no reason Diana would involve A.R.G.U.S. at all.
It’s been clear since James Robinson took over that he wants to make A.R.G.U.S the primary government agency involved in the story, just as he clearly hasn’t been wanting to write a Wonder Woman story at all, but now he’s not even offering a lip-service excuse. They’re just involved because…because.
I can’t even bring myself to continue discussing the end of the issue. The reveal that Dr. Psycho is somehow involved, and the kidnapping of Jason, are so abrupt and disconnected that they leave me feeling empty. Even the promise that we might be returning to classic Wonder Woman villains and removing of Jason from the story, which I’ve been begging for ever since James Robinson took over, aren’t able to compensate for the constant shoddy workmanship this comic gives us.