Sunday, June 23, 2024

Catching up with Wonder Woman gives a double-dose of trash

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As I’m sure you all noticed, I missed my regularly scheduled Wonder Woman review two weeks ago.  I know you must have been heartbroken at my absence — imagine going a full month between reading my dulcet essays — but at least I got the sweet, sweet relief of not being subjected to James Robinson’s writing for a few more days.  I tell you, that was a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end eventually, and that means that for this week’s update I had to read (TWO) of these godawful issues. Truly I am a tortured soul.

Closing out the “Amazons Attacked” arc and then starting the new “The Dark Gods” arc, issues #45 & 46 are somehow bad enough to lower my expectations even further.  I thought we were already at rock bottom, but they just started digging.

Recap Why do I even bother anymore?

We’re going to speed right through the recaps today, because I honestly just do not have it in me to give a complete blow-by-blow for two full issues of this heresy.

Issue #45, the close-out to “Amazons Attacked”, opens with Wonder Woman fighting the Amazon-Parademons that flew out of the portal at the end of the last issue after Grail traveled to Themyscira and began transforming the Amazons. As she fights, Steve Trevor narrates, and Jason dives through the portal to stop Grail (he can make it through when Diana can’t because he’s never been to Themyscira before). Darkseid tries to stop him, but Jason transforms into wind and the Omega beams just pass right through him without effect.

Dark god ruler of Apokolips, and now he’s stymied by “You can’t touch me”

On Themysicra, Jason is overjoyed to finally get to meet the Amazons, and especially his mother.  Hippolyta is likewise overjoyed to see him, and it is she who disables and subdues Grail (BTW this means that Jason is completely pointless in the issue, as he doesn’t contribute to Grail’s defeat at all).

Back to fighting Darkseid, Wonder Woman cannot seem to make headway against his powers and is beginning to despair of victory. Sensing her doubt, Steve Trevor tells her that he loves her. Realizing that her power is “love”, Wonder Woman decides that the way to defeat Darkseid isn’t to beat him up, but to instead use her love connection to the life energy that he stole from her father and all her half-siblings. She draws all that power out of Darkseid, having a last (And first) ghostly conversation with the shade of Zeus, and Darkseid vanishes.

Take this image in. We’re not given anything to help it make more sense.

The portal to Themyscira destabilizes, and Grail is stuck in the same prison as Ares, the god of war trapped beneath the island. Meanwhile, as everybody wonders what happened to Darkseid, a shadowy human figures appears “somewhere” on Earth and wonders who he is.

…If that description of the story seemed nonsensical and inexplicable, I beg your forgiveness, because it is nonsensical and inexplicable. Just idiotic, and I can only work with what I’m given.

Onward to issue #46, the first entry of “The Dark Gods”, which opens with a flashback to Wonder Woman thinking about the last time she fought the Cheetah, the transformed monstrosity of her good friend Barbara Minerva.  The comic then cuts to billionaire Veronica Cale being approached in her office by the holographic projection of Adrianna Anderson, the cybervillain Dr. Cyber.  Dr. Cyber helps Cale capture the Cheetah for the two of them to study and experiment upon.

The experiments go on for some time, until the Cheetah suddenly breaks out of her restraints and slaughters the staff en masse.  All the while she is screaming about “Urzkartaga”, the dark god whom created her powers and whom she worships, but who she wants to cut her ties from so she can fully delve into the new oncoming gods.  She tries to kill Cale, but Wonder Woman stops her before she makes her escape.

Do those “restraints” look like they even could have held a normal person?  What did they think the superpowered killing machine would do?

The comic cuts to a Kobra base in Montenegro where Jason is rescuing Glaucus, the man who raised him and disappeared many years ago, from captivity. Glaucus marvels at the new armor that Jason is wearing, which Jason cannot explain where it came from or how he got it. Glaucus recognizes that it grants Jason increased power, and then explains that he can sense the aura of the Greek gods coming from it: Not one or two gods, but all of them.

The comic ends with Steve Trevor calling Wonder Woman to tell her that there’s been a worldwide religion crisis overnight as people all over the planet renounce their faiths in whatever gods they previously worshiped.  They are apparently switching over to the same new god that Cheetah was talking about, but the conversation is interrupted when Wonder Woman is suddenly attacked by Supergirl, who declares that Rao is dead and Wonder Woman is soon to follow.

I’m so sorry that they dragged you into this story. You don’t deserve this.

Review This doesn’t even make sense by its own standards

I honestly don’t know where to begin, because both of these issues are just atrocious.  And they’re each bad in their own uniquely horrible ways.

Whose story is this supposed to be again?

For the close of “Amazons Attacked”, there’s the sheer gall of the way that Steve @#$%ing Trevor is the one who is narrating and commenting on what’s happening. Not Diana, who has just had the opportunity to return home dangled in front of her before being torn away, only to then see her friends and loved ones on Themyscira transformed into monsters. This is a heart-wrenching, tragic moment in her life, and it’s not her insight that we get, it’s his. Steve is even given credit for her victory, since it’s his confession of love that makes Wonder Woman realize what she can do.

She’s faced off against gods to the death before, and this is what saves the day? THIS?!?!

It’s likewise insulting that Jason is the one who gets to visit Themyscira and speak with Hippolyta.  As was once the direct plot of this series, Jason’s resentment and anger and self-centered opinions about the Amazons is what caused these problems and Darkseid’s resurgence.  He hasn’t earned the acceptance of the Amazon’s or Hippolyta’s pride, and he damned sure doesn’t deserve the ‘reward’ of getting to see them before the portal closes. It is his direct and personal fault that they are under attack, and many of their number have been transformed into mindless killing machines. If they knew any of what he had done the Amazons would have knocked Jason over the head, trussed him up, and tossed him back.

For the perhaps greatest insult, there’s the way that Jason just laughs off Darkseid’s Omega beams. These are one of the greatest attacks of the DC Universe. They are dangerous to Superman and the New Gods, and even Wonder Woman herself.  For him to just say that his powers make him immune and float through is ridiculous. It’s a level of character shilling I simply can’t stand. Plus, he makes the pseudo-philosophical comment that you can’t attack the wind, except that the Omega beams have been shown that they can hit both people that are intangible, and also attack the environment, either of which should suffice to kill Jason in his wind form.

Does James James Robinson even remember what HE wrote?

From a story perspective, there’s the sheer incomprehensibility of Wonder Woman winning by connecting to the energy within Darkseid from when he ‘ate’ all of the children of Zeus (And Zeus himself).  First off, Diana didn’t know any of these people.  She didn’t even know of most of them.  They were complete strangers who she never spoke to or suspected were out there, and it has never been hinted — not even in this series which introduced the concept — that she felt some sort of connection to them because of their shared heritage.  She would have loved them had she known them, but as it is she doesn’t have any more emotional connection to them than she does to any other Darkseid victim.  To suddenly say that the strength of their connection is enough for her to triumph is bizarre and inexplicable.

I have access to the past issues and the internet for reference, and even I have no idea who the hell these people are supposed to be.

The condescending chat with Zeus was even worse.  As I have ranted over and over again in my previous critiques of this series, Diana has not grown up longing for a father figure.  She has no affection for Zeus at all, no secret desire for ‘daddy’, and even in this series she’s previously commented that he was a really shit deity and would have been a horrible father if he had been around.  So why does she now reach out to him and call out “Father!” as he appears?

Then there’s the fact it has never been established — not once — that the souls of the children of Zeus (Or ‘essence’ or ‘katra’ or whatever you want to call it) are still present within Darkseid.  He absorbed their power, but there was nothing in the series about getting their personality or minds along with it.  This wasn’t even implied, and there are countless ways that they could have done so.  They could have had Darkseid talk to somebody that Grail can’t see, hinting that their minds are present within him.  They could have given him certain character tics after each kill, indicating that he’s absorbing their personalities on a subconscious level.  They could have had Diana or Jason say they feel drawn to Darkseid after he killed Zeus, as though there’s a connection of some sort.  Anything.

But there’s nothing.

Did James Robinson even READ Greg Rucka’s run?

From a purely technical perspective issue #46 is probably superior to #45, but oh-oh-OH does it piss me off ever greater, because now it’s a deliberate insult to the readership and prior creative team.  The events of this issue are either directly contradictory to the earlier issues of Rucka’s run, or completely invert their point.  At this stage it seems deliberate, as though James Robinson has a personal axe to grind and is trying to purposefully alter everything that had been established about these characters and the Rebirth series.

Let’s start with just the direct contradictions:

The issue opens with Diana thinking back to “the last time” she fought the Cheetah, which based on the visual seems to be their conflict at the Mysterious Evil Tree as Veronica Cale tries to retrieve her daughter and Deimos & Phobos try to release their father Ares from his prison (Issue #21).  However their actual last confrontation was three issues later, after everybody returned home and Cheetah tried for revenge against Veronica Cale (Issue #24).

Then there’s the fact that the Cheetah is once again a worshiper/servant of the forest god Urzkartaga, whereas the entire introductory arc of the Cheetah in this series lead up to the reveal that Urzkartaga was a prisoner and the Cheetah was part of the system that held him captive.  It was only through a corruption of his mythology and his own lies that lead the Cheetah to think that he was the source of her power and that she owed him reverence or fealty.  That deception was all broken when the Cheetah was turned back into Barbara Ann Minerva, and was never reinstated even after she was turned back into the Cheetah.  She knows that she doesn’t worship him.

The narration boxes are just flat-out wrong. I can’t make this any clearer. This scene is from issue #21, the arc continued for several more issues and they came to blows again afterwards.

We also have the relationship between Veronica Cale and Dr. Cyber.  Here they’re adversarial, maybe even enemies.  Cyber has to break through the cybersecurity that Cale has set up in order to speak with her, and Cale remarks that she thought they were done after their prior relationship was finished.  Cyber, however, is an A.I. imprint of Veronica Cale’s best friend who died trying to help Cale get her daughter back.  They were close even after that tragedy, and they only separated after Veronica — in her grief — lashed out at her in a ‘you’re not real’ burst of anger and Cyber decided to leave her to grieve in her misery.  This came with an explicit reminder that Cyber would again be there to help once Cale had recovered from her emotional loss.

Again, this was all in issue #24, so now I’m wondering if maybe James Robinson just stopped reading halfway through the “Godwatch” arc (Which considering how much better “Godwatch” is than the pure sewage he is turning out, might explain some of what James Robinson is doing).

Adrianna was literally loyal to Cale even beyond death, and Cale was so torn up by her death that she tried to get revenge on literal gods. From that we somehow get this detached coldness…

Now let’s get to the thematic contradictions: Jason…again (Can they do one thing right with this character?).  Here Glaucus reveals that Jason’s armor shows the aura of all the Greek gods, which flies in the face of Diana herself receiving the blessings of the Patrons back at the start of Rucka’s run.  Not only did Diana have to earn those powers with displays of her skill and her good intent, but she only received blessings from the Patrons of Themyscira.  The one’s who watched over her people — her family — and so had that personal and spiritual connection.  To say that all of the Greek gods got together and just decided to grant Jason advanced powers, when he has done nothing but severely screw up everybody else’s life through his self-centered, short-sighted attempts at revenge and murder, is horribly degrading towards Wonder Woman as a character and to the readers who have been reading a series about a woman who was granted special abilities because she proved that she was worthy of them.

How could a series so consistently get so much wrong?

Images from Wonder Woman #45 & 46 courtesy of DC Comics

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