Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

16 April 2008

Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals

Collects: Wonder Woman #1-7 (1987)

Released: February 2004 (DC)

Format: 192 pages / color / $19.99 / ISBN: 1401201970

When Carrier Library at James Madison University began adding trade paperbacks to their collection, I jumped at the first two collections that hit the shelves, both of which were Wonder Woman trades. I am not a Wonder Woman fan, but my interest in these books high, and driving up circulation statistics is never a bad thing.

Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals cover Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals reprints the first Wonder Woman issues after Crisis reset DC's continuity. George Perez was given the opportunity to both write and draw the title, essentially setting Wonder Woman's status quo (with writing help from Len Wein and Greg Potter). He makes long-time love Steve Trevor a dovish captain in the air force, and Etta Candy, her former sidekick, is a lieutenant in the Air Force and Trevor's aide. Diana is sent into Man's World from the Amazon paradise after Ares sends a bomber through a portal to nuke their island and is named Wonder Woman by the press.

The art is excellent; this is Perez at the height of his powers. His Diana is beautiful and powerful, and he tries his best to explain that ridiculous costume that he draws so well. Really, nothing more needs to be said about it.

The plot is simple in a Cold War way: Ares is manipulating the world into a huge war while his children give Wonder Woman some trouble. There's some fighting, some magical talismans ... really, the plot is not as important as establishing who Wonder Woman and her supporting cast are and showing Ares as a nemesis. That it does, although the exact plot isn't exactly remarkable.

There are a couple of choices that mar the book, however. Perhaps not seriously, but ... First, Perez chooses to fill most of the first issue with the story of the Amazons, from their creation by some of the Greek gods to Diana's winning of the Wonder Woman regalia. That's a lot to fit into one issue, and it also shoves Diana into a supporting character for the first issue of her new, relaunched title. That's sort of a weak start to the story, in my opinion, given that Perez tells the story strictly chronologically. Perez could have shown Wonder Woman as already a hero, but he chose to build up her bona fides. An interesting choice, but one that contributes to the forgetability of the plot; diehard fans of superheroes often get impatient with restatement of origin stories (see: any superhero movie).

It was a lot of inertia for me to overcome, reading about a bunch of characters who I knew wouldn't be all that important by the time the book was half over. Besides, none of the travails the Amazons are subjected to are particularly relevant for this book. (Perhaps they set up more down the line, but I don't need to know them.)

More serious is Perez's Greek gods. The gods of the Amazons — Artemis, Demeter, Aphrodite, Hermes, and Hestia — are passive. They see their vulnerabilities, and their only response is to create the Amazons. They don't oppose Ares, the villain of the piece, in any meaningful way; what does it say about the gods when they have mortals fighting their battles for them? It says it's time for new gods, that's what. Ares isn't all that bright of an opponent, given that he doesn't realize a nuclear apocalypse that kills all humans will wipe out all his worshipers; certainly Athena, goddess of wisdom, could have thought of a better plan to outsmart him.

Still, this has to be labeled a success. Gods and Mortals is never going to be compared to the great stories of the DC canon, but Perez crafted a recognizable, superheroic Wonder Woman and launched her supporting cast. Anything more could be accomplished going forward.

Rating: Wonder Woman symbol Wonder Woman symbol Wonder Woman symbol (3 of 5)

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