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Subj: Wonder Woman #21 - Angelpie.
Posted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 at 01:14:56 pm EDT (Viewed 196 times)
Reply Subj: Wonder Woman #21...
Posted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 at 06:22:46 pm EDT (Viewed 262 times)
I've been broadly complimentary on the work of Greg Rucka, and yet I find I can't disagree at all with any criticisms on the now plodding pacing of this storyline and Greg Rucka's own now ebbing investment in the series.
On this basis and in terms of its actual substance It would be very easy for me to pass by this latest issue and not pass any comment, not that I disliked it as such, more the case that despite Liam Sharpe's ever changing art-style and layouts per issue what we are served with this issue isn't so much an actual story as a very thin set of notes from Rucka to get Diana and Steve from the streets of America to (and the how/why isn't explained at all) the remote spot on earth somewhere in Mediterranean Black Sea. A plot element that is entirely demonstrative of a book where scenes transition to another and with no narration or context to aid the reader in making any sense out of events, and this is a problem that afflicts virtually every scene this issue! A book that is little else but a series of cliffnotes jotted down by Rucka for Liam Sharpe to illustrate and get our heroes from A-to-B, and the now predictable "To Be Continued..."
Congratulations must therefore go to Greg Rucka for producing an issue that is effectively review-proof. Or at least difficult.
All of that sounds like I am damning the man, I don't want this criticism to be taken as any attack however as despite the books shortcomings I have enjoyed previous issues and this latest issue does contain a number of noteworthy elements that I both enjoyed and were well rendered by Liam Sharpe. Sharpe's strengths and weaknesses as an artist working in a sequential medium are in full evidence here, as despite many a finely rendered shot the overall effect is unmistakably of an artist more comfortable with illustrative work rather than sequential storytelling. Nevertheless this outing was by far a more polished and disciplined effort that his last issue, and I have to sincerely congratulate him on his work here as despite the weakness of the script he is handed Sharpe rises to not just meet it, but surpass it. Like the best comicbook artists out there his work ethic and eye for detail seen here manages the feat of lifting what is very slight material and actually adding considerable value to it. Several shots in particular impress and linger in the mind long after the book is put down, but along with Rucka praise must go to both creators for their work in re-establishing a new/old status-quo between the long dormant Diana/Steve Trevor relationship and in doing so representing a once famous pairing for a brand new generation. The strength and appeal this has brought to the character of Wonder Woman cannot be underestimated in my opinion.
So, a few brief thoughts rather than any 'review':
*Opening with a tight sequence of Diana and Steve under threat from a concealed sniper presents a suspenseful scenario for both the two involved and the reader watching on as a strangely static Diana stands her ground in the middle of the street. Two direct penetrating hits from said sniper and despite common sense and a pleading Steve Diana appears strangely more irritated than concerned - begging the question that if two penetrating strikes through the chest won't kill her, what will? How many bullets, conventional or otherwise, could she endure. And how does she even have any idea..?
Interesting as such thoughts are to consider the novelty of a top-flight superhero who isn't bulletproof in today's crowded market is a striking one in itself. By establishing Wonder Woman as potentially at lethal risk from a well placed bullet Rucka draws a brave line in the sand for future authors on the character and knowingly grounds Diana into a world where despite her godly abilities and physical prowess the potential for risk is ever present. Some might frown on the notion of a Woman who can lift a mountain and take hits from a Kryptonian being at potential threat from a mere bullet, but in this Rucka merely stays true to the always contradictory history of Wonder Woman's abilities.
*Hm, Where did Steve get that convenient gatling gun again?
*I've been rather critical of Liam Sharpe's struggle with sequential storytelling, but study these first four pages. Caught under siege by an unseen opponent, whose assaults are aimed at taking away Diana's ability to move, we see an example of Wonder Woman as calmly rational when under pressure and devising tactics on the spot. Steve will take the initiative and lay on a distracting ground-fire to the approaching forces on the ground while Diana will take the high ground and flush out the well hidden sniper. It isn't Greg Rucka that tells us all this, it is Liam Sharpe. And these four pages are a fine example of the comicbook artist as storyteller.
*On the other hand Veronica Cale and daughter... It may be me. So poorly established are these two that it is impossible to care one jot on the two. But in what is otherwise a forgettable one page scene Liam Sharpe adds value - note the background of the dull Cale head-shots and we can ignore those two and watch as The Cheetah roams about on the barren landscape behind them.
*In a brief if clumsy interlude to Themiscyra we are duly reminded of the all-consuming quest between the various parties seen in this storyline to 'find' something. With its air of a Shakespearean play underpinning the mythical there is something of the work of John Milton's Paradise Lost at work here, as we are in the overseers position, and thus able to watch the growing anxiety on the lost and hidden paradise Island match the growing ambitions of the immoral Veronica Cale to find that lost island, while elsewhere the innocent virtue of its Princess is tested by Man and God alike. And at the end of it is a trip to Hell itself.
As yet it is too early to draw any conclusions from as to where the eventual endpoint to this storyline will be. But as a redemptive play the value of Rucka's tale may yet make up for the otherwise meandering direction of it thus far. Paradise has been lost yes, but with Paradise yearning for its Princess and the Princess yearning for Paradise and home a great and satisfactory denouement is perfectly possible. Peace at last for all involved. And after years of struggle and toil no finer example of Diana's strength of will and compassion for all could the writer behind for the next.
*A spectacular shot of Wonder Woman holding Steve as they arrive in the Mediterranean and the location of the black tree that has manifested. But what does any of it mean?
Answers will surely/hopefully come certainly, but as a reading experience the narrative offers very little by way of illumination here, to anyone picking this book up for the first time this issue (and this isn't the first time I have noted this) is going to be a baffling thing to follow - Why is any of this happening? There are no clues on offer here to the reader merely passing through. But then even to the reader who has stayed the course there are few or no clues as to the why's and how's, what we get instead is an ever-lengthening tease and the hope that it will all prove worth the while...
*Barbara-Ann Minerva's plight is a familar motif to any Werewolf fable, the struggle between human rationality and the uglier base instincts we all have suppressed, and yet in spite of the superficial efforts by Greg Rucka to make her a sympathetic character to the audience Doctor Minerva made little convincing effort to avoid or resist Veronica Cale's offer to restore the Cheetah curse to her and no effort at all to resist joining her campaign of terror. Her very short time as human was too brief to fully develop her in any credible sympathetic light, and her behaviour her fails to convince at all of a humane repentant figure who is repelled by her reversion to bloodthirsty Werewolf. So where lies the purpose of Barbara Minerva's story this last year...?
*As the Black Tree gateway established between Themiscyra and the island in The Black Sea opens the readers is left on their own to interpret events. Diana, Vernica Cale, and her faceless daughter, find themselves transported to something that might be the Underworld, where presumably there might be some midway ground between this and events on Themiscyra. But in the face of hostile circumstances and a mother who Diana realises will do anything to heal her daughter we see the parallels between Cale and Hippolyta's frustrated hopes of a reunion with her own long absent daughter.
It might be that this common thread between the two, daughter and Mother, might develop into something that redeems the till now ruthless Veronica Cale, a shared experience after all can force even the most desperate or wicked to reevaluate their points of view on the world and their fellow man, but as events force Cale into accepting the unexpected help of the Woman she has till now relentlessly hunted a further element is injected into the situation as we meet the inhabitant of this underground cavernous place and he is none other than Ares. An imprisoned God of War.
But should we be surprised? Intrigued... Why not bored? After all, next to The Cheetah and Circe Ares is hardly Wonder Woman's most unseen and unexpected foe, certainly if it had been the more obscure figure of The Duke of Deception or perhaps Anarchist and 'sister' Strife who was seen sat in this strange contrast of opulence and oppressive gloom then intrigued the reader may well be. But Ares? Always Ares.
As I reflect on Wonder Woman #21 the positive aspects, the enjoyable lines from Rucka including Steve's "Angel" decoration, the pleasant and hard working Liam Sharpe, the warmth and strength of the Diana/Steve couple, are all the more welcome and fondly thought of. The negative aspects though lie in the woeful marketing of an origin story with a presentday conflict, a glacial pacing of events, obscure plotting of said events, and the news of another shift in the creative team just recently announced. As despite his flaws seen in these last several months I am still not at all objecting to the presence of Greg Rucka on this series. Rather it is the commercial decision making underpinning the series and a lack of consideration for what their audience actually needs and what it deserves. All of these are things that can be addressed and remedied. The shame at this point is that Rucka's tenure on the title has been so relatively short, and therefore the focus correspondingly narrow.
So we haven't seen the best of what he could offer.
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