When DC Comics announced The New 52, Wonder Woman was one of the first super heroes I knew I was going to start reading. Along with Batman, Superman, The Flash, and Green Lantern (sorry Aquaman), I remained devoted since issue 1. Though some time down the line (and too many multiple story spanning arcs) I eventually dropped Green Lantern and followed suit with The Flash after the change in creators. However, even with a change of creators for Wonder Woman, I could not drop her series. She’s too big for me to drop. But how long into a run does it become more of a matter of reading for the sake of reading or reading out of actual enjoyment of the title? This is the very problem posed with the current run on Wonder Woman, in particular with the Meredith and David Finch run. Issue 41 is out today and here are my thoughts on one of my favorite icons!
Issue 41 features the start of a brand new story line – “Balance.” Meredith Finch has told a remarkably reverent first story arc in Wonder Woman that featured the debut of Donna Troy. It was steeped in action, grace, and a decidedly darker tone than Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s run. The Finch’s run also felt more in line with the rest of the DC titles, whereas Azzarello and Chiang’s run felt more like its own thing. I loved the complexity and longevity of Azzarello’s heavily influenced by Greek mythology take on the character. Wonder Woman became everything that I had wanted out of the comic book character that I longed to read for so long. She was an action hero yet she was compassionate, filled with heart, and even more Superman-like than Superman in his own series. Cliff Chiang gave us an excellent vision of her world and possibly gave DC their strongest looking book, right up there with Francis Manapul’s The Flash. Chiang’s artistic style demanded Wonder Woman to be picked up and if you ever find any of the earlier issues in a dollar box – buy them all because that’s a steal! Their work gave a certain balance of mythic yet grounded proportions to one of the essential members of “The Trinity” as DC refers to them – Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman and a run to fondly keep stored in one of your long boxes. With The Finch’s run, their take was to showcase the story of a modern woman dealing with the pressure of being a super hero, a god, and a girlfriend to whom many consider a demi-god – Superman. Yet each issue gave us a moodier, angrier, and significantly tougher character that felt more like the Ellen Ripley of Alien Resurrection than of the iconic version in Aliens. Finch’s characterization worked for the themes she was dealing with, but presented a book that was met with mixed emotions.
An issue with The Finch’s work on Wonder Woman is that while it was supposed to return DC’s Amazon to the forefront of being a modern icon and hero for modern women, their story comes across as a largely antiquated reflection that does a greater disservice to the character than what it should be doing. Take Brenden Fletcher’s Batgirl or this week’s Black Canary issue #1 and you’ll notice a difference in style. Those are two super heroes that could be universally celebrated for their strength and heroics, while Wonder Woman in her solo series seems to be headed down a different stylistic path of storytelling. It’s unfortunate as Peter J. Tomasi’s version of the same character works amazingly well in Superman Wonder Woman.
“Balance” begins with Wonder Woman visiting Donna Troy, then heading off to see Zola and Zeke, from Azzarello’s run. “I’m never too busy to make time for the people I love,” she says and the line rings with a sincerity that many of the other JLA members don’t have. Diana is presented as a woman who just so happens to be “a god, a queen, [and]a hero.” Meredith Finch has said some time ago, prior to issue #36, that she wanted the reader to feel as if Wonder Woman could be someone your friends with by the time the first arc finished. She’s captured a voice in Wonder Woman that feels unique to her own style. The interactions she has in the book feel real enough and not forced, nor do they feel misogynistic in a way that many criticized The Finch’s earlier stories. Ironically, it would appear as if the title story “Balance” also serves in a way as a reference towards what Meredith and David are seeking to accomplish with their second arc. The artistic depiction of Wonder Woman no longer seems as sexualized as critics have pointed out before. Issue 41 features the debut of her new costume and it captures the spirit of who Wonder Woman is right now – a superhero, queen of the Amazons and the God of War. There’s also more of a practicality to her armor, complete with a well reasoned explanation than a simple costume change. The story and art all serve a greater purpose of improving upon the mistakes made during their first run together. However, the balance achieved within issue 41 seems just a little too late.
During the current run on The Flash by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Bret Booth, the story seemed to lose the momentum and traction it had from Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul’s magnificent story arcs together. Eventually, I made the personal choice to give up reading one of my favorite characters. Wonder Woman is facing a problem much similar to the one I had with The Flash. The story and art simply does not engage my idea on heroics and what heroes should be as they used to. This new story arc, post-Convergence, has promise and with it being Wonder Woman, I will stick around, but for the better series, please see Sensation Comics feat. Wonder Woman and Superman Wonder Woman.
There is a moment, more of an idea, in issue 41 that does work very well. Wonder Woman responds to a call she gets from Cyborg. There’s a young kid threatening to “blow himself up unless he gets to meet Wonder Woman.” The idea that in the world of heroes and villains in the DCU, someone would want to meet Wonder Woman works amazingly well. The story plays out to a far unexpected degree, one that services the overall story being told, but ultimately undermines the suggestion of Wonder Woman being accessible and loved. However, Wonder Woman should be a bright, powerful, and inspiring iconic figure. The idea that on a very bad day, be it for a young child or adult of any sex, that they’d hope for Wonder Woman to show up is beautiful. The thought that a young boy could be bullied for wanting to play as Wonder Woman more so than Batman, only to have Diana show up, say a few words to the bullies, and turn the situation around is exceptional. That’s who Wonder Woman is and should be. As a fan, I’d like to see more of that. Something to hope for during The Finch’s run on the series. An idea of “wonder.”
Wonder Woman issue 41 gets three stars.
Wonder Woman (2011-) #41
Writer: Finch, Meredith
Artist: Finch, David
Cover Artist: Finch, David
Format: FC, 32pg., COMIC
On Sale: June 17, 2015
Publisher: DC Comics
Diamond Id: APR150244