Today (7/22/15) sees the release of two new Wonder Woman comics. We have Wonder Woman 42, written by Meredith Finch and drawn by David Finch, and Sensation Comics, the monthly series that showcases various writers and artists. As a fan of Wonder Woman (she’s right up there with Superman for me) this day should be a highlight. It features one of the most powerful and, possibly, the most iconic superheroes in two books; I carry around a F.A.B. Starpoint notebook of the Amazon Princess, so why is today not a brighter day? As I mentioned before in my review of issue 41, “To Balance Wonder”, my concern with the Finch’s run was around the balance they sought in creating a modern era hero and keeping her true to her roots. While Sensation Comics remains an impressive series, the Wonder Woman solo title does not.
Issue 42 of Wonder Woman has its heart in the right place. In reading this issue, I don’t believe that Meredith Finch means to portray Diana/Wonder Woman in a negative way, but too much of the story is a great disservice to the hero. The issue opens up to a club named Deuce in London. We see a line of people forming outside the nightclub, presumably waiting around until they gain entry while the elite party inside. We see Diana dancing inside with Hessia and it’s inferred that they’ve been there for a while. She tells her “this was just what I needed” and that after one more song, they’ll leave. Unfortunately, the fun night for the women are soon ruined when a group of three men spot them. “Hot chicks–twelve o’clock”, the main one says as he heads over to Diana. “Why don’t you shake that sweet booty over here and let me show you what a man can do for you.” Billy, the one showing Diana his moves, then squeezes her inappropriately, without permission, and is met with a sudden wham on the floor.
The opening scene and writing is so on the nose that it’s almost groan inducing. Again, I believe Meredith Finch has her heart in the right place, but is trying too hard. The idea that we could find Wonder Woman partying at a nightclub, at least to me, does not feel true to the character in the slightest. The reality behind even seeing her inside the club, while others wait online outside, while not meant to be dissected, just has too many implications. It’s an example of Finch showing us a modern woman who enjoys herself, but has to deal with a common threat, albeit one that she says “I’d like to say he was harmless…but that kind of thing always hurts someone.” It’s a harmless enough scene and does serve as a reflection of a real concern that women do have to contend with, but seems too contrived in the pages of this comic. And the idea that Wonder Woman needs to be modern so we have to present her partying is essentially backhanded. I’m not making less of the club scene nor of those that enjoy it, but imagining a woman with the responsibilities Diana has, seems irresponsible. Wonder Woman should be relatable to the modern-day woman, of course she should, but what kind of woman do The Finch’s want her to appeal to? Charles Soule’s She-Hulk was presented as a professional attorney and super-hero, one who juggled the responsibilities of both. Does Jenn Walters like to party? Sure, it’s a part of who she is and always will be, but there’s a time and place. Wonder Woman, Queen of the Amazons, God of War, and a founding member of the Justice League needs to be seen as an attorney, a teacher, a doctor, an athlete, a mother, or any kind of independent and professional woman who we all know. The partying Wonder Woman doesn’t have a place within this story, at least not in the way Meredith Finch presents, and it sets up issue #42 with a weak opener.
While she’s leaving the club, Diana and Hessia come upon a homeless man. He asks for change, but Diana instead offers food and shelter. “I’m Diana. What’s your name, my friend?” It’s the first real moment within the issue that returns us to the heart of Wonder Woman. She is a caregiver, a figure of peace, of love, and seeing her compassionate to her fellow man/woman is exactly what sets her apart from Batman and Superman. While their heroics are largely more political, Wonder Woman is very much a ground based hero, serving the people. And yet there’s more. She not only helps those around her, but she also engages in global matters. It’s a beautiful aspect, that if explored, could easily present her as an even stronger figure than her Justice League compatriots.
A figure from the roof across takes a shot at her, in the middle of a busy street, and she flies over to catch the shooter. It’s revealed to be the young man, from the previous issue, who tricked her into believing he was just a boy who wanted to meet her. At the end of issue #41, he beats her as she is unsuspecting of his cruel intent, and we’re reminded of this yet again. “I was thinking about how good it felt the first time I kicked your ass…” It’s another reminder of the on-the-nose dialogue and is such a poor choice of words that is comes across distasteful. While we don’t know much about the mysterious figure, we are supposed to regard him as a phantom menace to Wonder Woman. The last appearance, when they did fight, while drawn subtly by David Finch, was a stomach churning series of panels as we see him beat her like an abusive spouse. It’s all told in shadows and silhouettes, and comes across as a Frank Miller Sin City-ish fight, but definitely churns your stomach. Yes, we hate him, but would we ever see this happen in Batman? Or Superman? Not quite, and even if we saw them beaten, Snyder and Yang would never write about “how good it felt the first time I kicked your ass.” It’s an example of Meredith Finch’s writing and approach to creating a voice for the book that the reader is meant to recognize. We are familiar with it, but do we necessarily hear it? Are we comfortable with it?
The boy turns out to be a descendant of Theseus, who Henry Cavill ironically played in Immortals. His name is Aegeus, he’s 21, and a majorly spoiled brat. “You promised you would make me a god!” he shouts at *SPOILER* Strife. His personal conflict and story, similar to that of Magog, is engaging and well done. He’s a suitable villain that brings to mind the epic story Brian Azzarrello and Cliff Chiang delivered on their run. He’d work better if the rest of the story wasn’t so weak. And issue 42 isn’t necessarily that poor of an issue. A further setup involving Wonder Woman and Donna Troi is exactly what The Finch’s should focus on. We get to see just how much of a heart Wonder Woman has through her ability to forgive and her desire to reach out to Donna. It’s a sincere moment of strength that should be the focus of the series, not moments of Wonder Woman at a nightclub, partying, getting groped, or beaten. The scene between them is only two pages, but is a saving grace of sorts. David Finch also beautifully renders the heavy heart of Donna along with her anguish over past sins.
Wonder Woman issue 42 primarily hangs on an edge of balancing between writing that serves a purpose and writing that does greater damage to the character, one who should break the barriers of sexism and be an icon for both men and women. ““I love the idea that it’s a woman writing a woman,” David said in an interview with USA Today, “because we’re trying to appeal to more female readers now.” I understand the desire for a comic to appeal to a broader audience and the hope that Wonder Woman will be at the forefront of comics for women. But the story Meredith Finch is telling in her second run, seems at odds with the very kind of woman who The God of War and Queen of the Amazons would appeal to. The kind of woman that Meredith Finch has written is massively at odds with herself and it’s almost disheartening to read.
Right now, it would prove more relevant for Wonder Woman’s series to address the idea of feminine power and bodyimage. No, we don’t need a heavy handed and eye-rolling take on the current topic in which the Justice League questions if Diana is on steroids, but a story arc that presents the grace, beauty, and everything empowering of having a female such as Wonder Woman champion the cause of good. She’s the only female member of the Justice League and is, in many ways, like the very same women that rise in the field of predominantly male led (and driven) forces. How about a story that exemplifies and promotes this, instead of a title that attempts to promote women, but then stages scenes almost meant to tear them down? A major conversation existing in real-world issues,right now, is the topic of body-shaming and the modern image of what makes beauty. Serena Williams, widely considered to be the greatest of all time in tennis, recently winning the sixth Wimbledon title and 21st major,has been criticized to an overwhelming degree over her physique. New York Times columnist Ben Rothenberg commented recently that “[Williams] has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to.” (NYT – Tennis’s Top Women Balance Body Image With Ambition The article attempts to address the ideas of femininity in sports and, rather shamefully, well, shames Serena Williams for having a more muscular frame than her competitors. It’s rather astounding that Williams, a terrific player, could be spoken of more for her build than her actual talent. The far from nuanced take on the female body has come under fire with many in vocal support of the player.
The ideas on female beauty and “manliness” also extends to heavy criticisms that female athlete Dana Linn Bailey has faced on multiple occasions. Dana Linn Bailey, or DLB for short, is easily one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. Who is she, in case you don’t already know… She’s the first ever to win the Womens Physique Division at the Olympia and has a large fan base (946K on Instagram, 1.6 million on Facebook, and 306,113 subscribers to her YouTube channel). She’s easily become the Arnold for the face of women’s bodybuilding and athletics, in general.
“The more I got into the industry and the more backlash I got from friend, family, and social media. So now, not only did I have people in my life telling me I didn’t look right…NOW I have total strangers (keyboard warriors) telling me I don’t look right…I’m not feminine…I’m ugly or gross…I look like a dude…I have no boobs. You would think this type of behavior would end in middle school, but now you have people of all ages writing extremely inappropriate comments for the world to see. As much as I loved the way I looked and gaining muscle, I was back to not feel comfortable with my body again. It was hard to find clothes that fit now and Iwas confused how to dress myself. On top of not feeling comfortable, I am now surrounding myself with fitness girls with perfect bodies walking around in tiny shorts and sport bras. I definitely did not look the same wearing shorts and a sport bra like the other fitness girls. I wasn’t sexy and I sure wasn’t confident. At one point, there was a time where I had actually considered the possibility of getting surgery, so I would look more feminine or appealing to everyone. There are so many shapes and sizes to people, and that is what is so beautiful! Youcan be and you can look however you want. As long as you are happy with who you are and you are confident with who you are…there is nothing sexier than confidence. There is no size limit to confidence. There is no weight limit to confidence. There is no dress code to confidence. And once you have that confidence no one can take that away from you, unless you let them. So be proud of who are, accept and embrace the parts of you that cannot be changed,be confident in what you stand for and SHOW THE WORLD WHO THEFXCK YOU ARE!!” (DLB x CONFIDENCE | VIDEO August 27, 2014)
It’s astounding to think of how many aren’t accepted based on what people have conceived as beautiful, acceptable, and right. There’s a horrifying amount of hate out there and these are very real issues that many, including so many women, face in this day and age. The modern day, 21st century, independent and strong woman breaks down these pre-conceived notions on a daily basis. So why can’t Meredith and David Finch’s Wonder Woman do this on a monthly basis? I feel that their run, while it has certain merits, does more harm than good and should be more focused on creating a figure that others could be inspired by. Just another reason to pick up Sensation Comics instead. I’d like to thank Nancy Joyce, co-founder of On Wednesdays, for bringing up this topic earlier in the week, and for her fandom of Wonder Woman. She is a staff writer at What’cha Reading, as well, and a Wonder Woman in her own right.
Wonder Woman issue 42 is out now. I give it it two out of five stars.
STORY BY Meredith Finch
ART BY David Finch, Jonathan Glapion
COVER(s) BY David Finch, Jonathan Glapion, Ben Caldwell
PUBLISHER DC Comics
COVER PRICE: $3.99