by Phil Malone, CMRO Editor
Written by Gail Simone, Art by Greg Adrian Syaf
Written by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, Art by J.H. Williams III
Wonder Woman #1
Written by Brian Azzarello, Art by Cliff Chiang
Batgirl #1, Batwoman #1, Wonder Woman #1. These books have been out for several weeks, at least, so I’m going to make merry with the spoilers. Forewarned is forearmed, ya’ll. That said, let’s begin.
Years ago, the Joker shot Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl in the spine and paralyzed her. She was still too handy to be capped, though, so she turned herself into Oracle and got big into computer hacking. I never read any of those stories, but she was apparently indispensable, making a lot of fans upset that DC is kind of whitewashing that Oracle period of the character’s history.
If it never happened, if she was just crippled, end of story, then that seems damaging to the character to me. Either way, she’s not crippled any more. How, you ask? Well, to paraphrase the comic: “It’s a miracle. Now let’s never speak of it again.” Thanks, comic, that’s satisfying.
I like that she’s still vulnerable and a little (if you’ll pardon me) gun shy. It humanizes her. The bad guy this issue is decent, clearly setting up a theme about facing your fears and not feeling bad about surviving bad situations. All well and good.
Where this issue really falls down is the ending. The bad guy breaks into a hospital to kill somebody who’s under guard by the cops. He kills a couple of cops, but Batgirl shows up to stop him before he can kill the target. Or at least, she would have, until he points a gun at her. She freezes, giving him time to finish the job.
What happens next? The one idiot cop who’s still alive points her gun at Batgirl and says “You let him kill that man… Murderer!”
Uh, moron, the actual killer is still standing right there. He hasn’t even left the panel! I swear, who gave this idiot a gun? It’s a cheap, falsely dramatic ending made worse by Batgirl blaming herself.
Batwoman, however, has none of these problems. It’s perfectly well written, though it feels less like a first issue than the start of a new storyline. It does a good job of explaining the character and her history, setting up her relationships with supporting characters, without feeling too expository.
If I have one complaint about the story, it’s that the villain seems completely random. There’s nothing about La Llorona that’s specific to Batwoman, making it a bit weird in the end when Batman shows up and she gets all touchy about jurisdiction.
But whatever. If you’re going to buy this book (and you should), buy it for the art. J.H. Williams III has been my favorite current artist since Promethea. His work is so gob smackingly beautiful it will make dumbstruck enough to use the phrase “gob smackingly”.
He even alters his style depending on what the scene calls for. All the sequences with Batwoman facing or hunting down the villain are drawn in this ethereal, delicate style, while the bits at the police station are drawn in a more thick lined, cartoony style. The pages with Batwoman training her sidekick are sleeker, while the pages with Agent Chase have a darker, more noir feel to them.
Williams also does these elaborate two page spreads with unusual design elements or panels drawn in strange shapes, showing flashbacks in the shape of lightning bolts, or making a dissipating ghost part of a panel border. I cannot begin to express how amazing this book looks. I’m starting to think there’s nothing this guy couldn’t draw.
Probably my favorite of the entire DC relaunch was Wonder Woman. Never read any of her comics before, so I really only know her from the Justice League cartoon.
That said, this book is nowhere near as friendly as those cartoons. There’s a real sense of vague menace that permeates the story. Hermes looks weird and inhuman, and I don’t know who the naked peacock woman is, but she is wonderfully creepy. I love the way she makes centaurs. Maybe she’s the apotheosis of Vito Corleone.
Azzarello seems to be taking one of the conventions of the Greek myths as his starting point, and running with it in a modern context. This seems like a good idea to me, since there’s probably tons of ideas that could be mined from that source material. In this case, it’s Zeus as philanderer. Guy never could keep it holstered.
I won’t say it’s a perfect comic, though. If anything, Wonder Woman feels almost like a guest star in her own book. She isn’t really driving the plot, so much as getting swept up in it. That said, it’s still a great story, and this is only the first issue. Besides, it’s not like she was prepared for the way things go down. Hopefully, Wonder Woman will get her feet under her and take charge of the plot before the storyline finishes.
Small children and delicate sensibilities, be warned. Despite the mythological creatures, the violence in this issue feels very down to earth, kind of real and scary. You know how the cover has Wonder Woman wielding a bloody sword? Yeah, that ain’t false advertising.
I’m really looking forward to the next issue of Wonder Woman. Maybe we’ll get more of peacock lady and her scythe.
To sum it all up, these are my recommendations. Wonder Woman is good. If you don’t like it, you have poor taste. Batgirl is bad. Skip it unless you just really like the character, I guess. And Batwomanis freakin’ gorgeous. Buy a physical copy, not a digital one, and gaze at it longingly, so that I’m not the only one who feels like a weirdo.