The Wonder Woman series has been struggling to keep its head above water since James Robinson took over, and last issue it sunk straight down by spending the entire story on an unnecessary flashback for a character who wasn’t Wonder Woman. Combined with the poor way it had handled the story earlier in the arc, that was enough to get me to take the series off of my personal pull list. For a comic book to cross that line is a big deal, and not a hopeful sign for things to come.
To the credit of this new issue, we do at least get the return of Wonder Woman as a main character. That’s a pretty low bar to set for a series titled Wonder Woman, but since this arc has struggled to even keep her in the comic, let’s take our victories where we can. Picking up where we left off two issues ago in in issue #32, issue #34 gives us Part Three of “Children of the Gods.”
The issue opens with something that I’m actually happy to see: a jump back to the Amazons on Themyscira. This is soon after the birth of Diana and Jason, and Philippus is smuggling the baby boy off the island to be raised by Glaucus, one of the Argonauts who had sailed with Hercules and the original Jason. Philippus meets him right at the barrier between Themyscira and the outside world, and Glaucus agrees to care and raise the infant, but he specifically does not agree to withhold information about his birth and heritage. He says that he will tell Jason what he feels is appropriate when the time is right.
There is a jump forward to the present-day story and we catch up to Diana and Jason, also introducing Diana to the starstruck crew of the fishing boat that Jason apparently captains. Jason reveals that Glaucus had told him of his heritage, so he has known that he was Wonder Woman’s brother since she first revealed herself to the world, and he has superpowers of his own. Telling his crew to call it a day and take their ship into dock, Jason and Diana fly off to a more private locale where they can talk.
After a poignant moment in the ruins of an island that has suffered from the wars which covered the region for centuries, Jason and Diana discuss their personal histories and ponder why things unfolded as they did. They theorize that Jason was sent away from Themyscira because of Hera’s infamous hatred for all of Zeus’s bastard children, and it would have been impossible to hide him on the island of the Amazons. He says he is content with the life he leads as a fisherman and has used his powers to help solve superhuman problems in Greece, but always from the shadows and never as a public figure.
Things seem to be going well between them, with an apparently true connection that means family and not just biological connection, until it comes to sundown and Diana says it is time to go. Once that point comes, Jason abruptly reveals that he has actually only been stalling for time and distracting/luring Diana with all this friendly talk. He says that he and Diana share nothing but blood, which means nothing compared to the connections that come from intent and desire. Grail arrives via a Boom Tube, and the two of them together attack Wonder Woman. Jason’s powers are weaker than Wonder Woman’s in some ways (He is explicitly not as physically strong as she is) but he has some powers that she doesn’t have at all, and he manages to render her defeated by summoning a tsunami to wash over the island.
With Wonder Woman at their mercy, Diana asks Jason if he is really willing to let Grail kill his only sister. Jason and Grail explain that they are not going to to kill her just yet—they still need her alive—but that when the time comes, Jason will kill her himself.
Let’s Get to the Good Stuff
Thankfully, after the problems of the past few issues we’ve got enough good stuff for me to actually have a “good stuff” section.
The opening with Philippus was nice for two reasons. First off, I am happy for any appearance by Philippus. Secondly, even though I really hate the story re-write that makes Zeus Diana’s father and gave her a twin brother, at least this portrayal is in-character for what the Amazons are supposed to be as a culture. The New 52 story-line which first introduced the parentage issue cast the Amazons as horrendous monsters who would kill their male babies or give them up to forced labor. This was not only a disturbing story decision for characters who were supposed to be kind and caring, but also made no internal sense since Diana was supposedly raised by these murderers but was apparently completely ignorant of any of it. While the comic is still sticking with the Zeus parentage plot, at least the Amazons are sending Jason away because they fear for his safety on Themyscira, not because they’re hateful monsters who want to get rid of him for being male.
I also like the inclusion of Glaucus as Jason’s nurturer. One of the characteristics of the mythological figure was the way he came to the aid of sailors and fishermen in storms and other trouble, so it’s not out of character to cast him as a fisherman in the modern world who is willing to take in and raise Jason. They didn’t delve too deeply into the intricacies of his mythology in the comic, but the references they did make to his adventures and how he gains immortality all panned out. For what it was, I’ll take this and be happy.
They also finally let Diana be a main character again. She’s in almost every scene and she speaks to other characters. She’s a participant in the story. It’s sad that this is a point that I have to praise, but frankly I went into this issue expecting her to barely feature at all.
Now Let’s Get to the Bad Stuff
Even though we finally get Wonder Woman back as the main character, we are still stuck in somebody else’s story. Despite this arc theoretically being about Diana finding her brother, this issue is all about her brother finding her. Obviously we as the audience need to get some of his history in order to understand the context, but all we get is his history. We learn how he feels, not how she feels. We learn what he wants, not what she wants. This issue is Jason’s story as witnessed by Diana, and that’s not what it should have been.
Even the cover tried to bill the issue as “At Last– -Jason!”. Not to mention the “next issue” caption in the back which literally promised how we’re now going to get “The Story of Jason”.
This issue (and the arc as a whole) doesn’t seem to realize that we don’t know Jason, and because we don’t know him, we don’t care about him. And I don’t mean that dismissively in the sense of “Jason sucks and I don’t care,” I mean that this issue is functionally his very first appearance, with his first dialogue and multi-panel presence. Having him “betray” Wonder Woman when we just met him carries no emotional impact. Remember, Diana’s quest to find Jason hasn’t been an ongoing story that we have followed for an epic adventure. We haven’t seen what enemies she has triumphed over to reach this point, or appreciated what she had to sacrifice. We haven’t seen her late-night talks with loved ones as she grappled with not knowing what has become of him. Two issues ago she was told that she had a brother, at the end of that issue she flew to Greece and met him, and that’s it. No effort, no time, and not even any reference to how much this might mean to her or how it connects to her history as the only child on Themyscira.
This weekend I’m going to visit a friend to celebrate his daughter’s first birthday, and the planning and effort I’m putting into this event (I’ve got about a six-hour drive) is making it a more challenging escapade than Diana’s quest to find Jason.
Because of that, Jason’s betrayal carries no impact. The moment of his reveal isn’t when a close confidant or trusted comrade-in-arms shows his true colors, he’s just some guy who apparently hates Wonder Woman. And given all the people she’s fought over the years, why should we care about some guy?
More Mythology Nitpicks
Beyond the story perspective, I can’t believe the way Jason wins the fight by unleashing a tsunami because…really? A tsunami? Of all the powers you decided to give him, you choose the one ability Zeus has never manifested? Poseidon was the God of the Sea and known as the Lord of the Earthquake, of all the Olympian pantheon this is squarely in his realm. Trying to justify it by saying that Zeus was the god of air just doesn’t make sense because a) Zeus might have had air in his domain, but not wind, and the Greeks were very clear about the difference, and b) air pressure doesn’t cause tsunamis. Since we’re on the subject of air you might say that Jason doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that he’s really generating a wind wave, but then why include three speech bubbles specifically explaining how he’s using his Zeus powers to create a tsunami?
Zeus being Diana’s—and Jason’s—father never made any sense, but now it just crumbling apart the seams. The more they try to do with the concept, the more it falls apart because they apparently have no idea who or what Zeus actually was.