Friday, December 14, 2007

Prince and Picoult: Wonder Women

Recently I was dining with my good friend and confidante Kirima, a member of an Eskimo tribe who migrated from Alaska long ago. We've shared a copacetic relationship; I buy her dinners, and she helps me with the opposite sex (I am a comic book reviewer, go figure). Upon the slightest mention of The Latest Issue Kirima immediately pointed her fork (along with a helping of tofu salad with basil and cashews) at me and declared: "Dammit, you still haven't reviewed any Wonder Woman on your page!"

Naturally, I reminded her that I spoke of Wonder Woman in my review of The Brave and the Bold 5 in the beginning of November, but she quickly shouted (so that all the patrons of the restaurant were peering over their teacups at us) "Not that guest-star crap, you need to review the actual Wonder Woman comic! That Jodi Picoult run just went trade, you should review that, you sexist prick!"

And so I did. Never mind the fact that this advice came from someone who actually owns Wonder Woman pajamas, I did need to review a DC title (lest the hordes that are my ally Steve breathe ever so much more down my neck) and I had to admit that the Jodi Picoult run on Wonder Woman had initially caught my attention, if only for the fact that it was a mainstream author who was coming in and writing one of the most prolific characters in comics. It's something that still doesn't happen often, for good reason or not; Many authors of Picoult's (My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes) stature don't often sully themselves by "stooping" to write comic books. In Picoult's own words, though, she thought it was "far too cool an opportunity to pass up", citing Brad Meltzer (Identity Crisis, an upcoming arc of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as someone she admired who often crossed the barrier from author to comic writer. She is also a self-proclaimed Wonder Woman fan, and seems to have a pretty good grasp on the character. But the nagging voice at the back of my mind as I'm picking up this title is screaming: "It's going to suck!! Did Jonathan Lethem teach you nothing??"

Wonder Woman: Love and Murder opens with a black-suit wearing Diana Prince (WW's secret identity) staring at herself in a lavatory mirror, attempting to distinguish between what makes her Wonder Woman and how to blend in with the human population she had been sent to protect. Upon exiting the restroom, we're introduced to Nemesis (Tom Tresser), a c-rate vigilante-turned-superhero shape-shifter and Diana's partner at the Department of Metahuman Affairs. The two have been assigned to work security at a superhero-themed fun park, protecting a reality-show winner who won the chance to be the new Maxi-Man. While working the tables, a roller coaster suddenly falls apart, chaos ensues, and Diana pulls a Clark Kent move and Wonder Woman arrives on the scene to save the day. Wanted fugitive Wonder Woman.

The two realize this when they get back to HQ (Nemesis doesn't know DP is WW) and are told by their commander, Sarge Steel, that the US government wants to question Wonder Woman for the circumstances surrounding her murdering Maxwell Lord one year ago. Fans will remember Wonder Woman murdered Lord because it was the only way to stop the psychic control he used on Superman to make him attack other heroes. The World Court had apparently dropped all charges, but leave it to the US government to take things into their own hands. Wonder Woman can't help but feel that things aren't what they seem, and it eventually leads up to the return of not one but two powerful villains, cloak and dagger plotting, and the eventual lead-in to the DC Amazons Attack storyline.

I actually liked Love and Murder. While it wasn't the greatest story I've ever read, I liked the idea Picoult ran with, conflicting Wonder Woman with the public hero she is and is confidant being, and the human side of her, underdeveloped, as much different from Clark Kent's human side as can be. It goes a little far at times (as Diana Prince, WW doesn't know how much gas costs at the pump... or how sed gas pump works) and turns silly, it's a good idea and is played well for the most part. Less impressive is the scene where Wonder Woman has surrendered herself to the government and is locked in what is deemed an "impervious" cell, I could accept the fact that she turned herself over willingly to avoid an international incident. But when the agent proceeds to apply electrical shocks because WW is unwilling to exchange Amazon technology for her freedom, she has superman-level strength and should have been able to escape any prison in which she was being wrongfully held.

Nemesis is borderline useless. He's got a major crush on Wonder Woman, not realizing that his partner is WW incognito. He berates Diana constantly for her lack of basic human instincts, while lusting not-so-secretly after her superhero persona. He's also a wisecracker. He's a white, shape-shifting Chris Tucker, and it's only in the series' fourth issue that he comes into his own as a useful character, and it's done nicely, too. Also a wisecracker? Don't laugh, but some of the best lines are spoken by Batman during the fourth issue as well, and that is all wrong for that character. He speaks lines you expect from Guy Gardner, not Bruce Wayne. My final writing complaint comes with the way this book ends, as Wonder Woman is locked in mortal combat and Picoult drops a major cliffhanger at the very end... and then turns the reigns of Wonder Woman over to the next writer. I'd have loved to see what Picoult could have done with two more issues, and it seems like she just didn't have the time to help finish what could have been a better series.

The artwork surprisingly jumped around a lot between these five issues. The first two were drawn by Drew Johnson (Supergirl, 52) and Rodney Ramos (Countdown to Final Crisis) with some conflicting styles. Johnson's work is pretty good, the character art looks great, and the frustration that appears on Diana's face whenever she faces something she doesn't understand looks perfect. Ramos' art isn't bad, but it definitely pales compared to Johnson's. Issues 3 and 4 were drawn by Terry Dodson (Marvel Knights: Spider-Man), and are not really much of a step up from Johnson and Ramos. It's obvious Dodson doesn't love drawing backgrounds, as he gives as many panels as he can get away with no backgrounds, characters performing against a blank slate. Some people defend this style, but it's not one I agree with unless used well, and Dodson doesn't carry it well enough. Finally, Paco Diaz (Teen Titans, X-Men: Emperor Vulcan) rounds of the artist merry-go-round with what probably amounts to my favorite work in this book. The fight scenes are incredibly captured, and the character work is the best of all the issues. It helps Picoult end the title in style, even if the writing and dialogue were less than they could have been.

Obviously, Jodi Picoult's run on Wonder Woman has it's flaws. The suboptimal writing and dialogue, the artwork carousel, and Nemesis' sidekick status detract from what could have been a much better take of a high-profile relaunch like WW. Also, there are no special features in this trade, like limited covers or any special interviews (except for an introduction written by the author). Still, despite the cracks in the facade, I liked this title enough to recommend it to Wonder Woman fans or those who might harbor interest in the most powerful female character ever in comics. I think Kirima would approve.

52 comments:

elmo said...

Gail Simone's run is going to make us forget our names and buy us omelettes in the morning.
(Griffin, that's a zit- stop it!)

Kevin Caron said...

So, you get your dating advice from a comic book reading, Wonder Woman pajama wearing Eskimo?

Still single, huh?

elmo said...

Uh, if that comment was for me, you can see my girlfriend Maggie in a little upcoming feature called "Dark Night."

Kevin Caron said...

Duh - I'm talking about Gianni.

Tell Ms. Gyllenhaal I said 'hi'.

steve said...

I thought I exterminated all of Kirima's noisome tribe. Looks like I'll have to dust off my proton-scythe and thermaplate body armor ...

Kevin Caron said...

"I thought I exterminated all of Kirima's noisome tribe."

Only Steve can say that and come off as funny.

brian said...

I really liked Ms. Gyllenhaal in 'Sherrybaby'. She was a hopped up M.I.L.F. in that one.

Oh, and Lynda Carter is the only REAL Wonder Woman.

elmo said...

Sherrybaby was a terrifying procedure. I still twitch at the thought of it.

Gianni said...

Just for the record: We at The Latest Issue do not condone the extermination of native Eskimo tribes by futuristic-laden super soldiers (or at the very least, our friends at Stevereads) but we DO condone the sexualization of Maggie Gyllenhaal in any movie she's ever been in.

We also recognize the claim that Lynda Carter is the only REAL Wonder Woman, at least until the new movie gets made (and we all know it will).

Megmo said...

In response to Kevin....comic book reading, Wonder Woman pj wearing eskimos like me, eh I mean Kirima, get lots of ass and can give great dating advice...just a few of the many talents that Kirima possesses :)

And yes, Lynda Carter IS the only real Wonder Woman.

Megmo Eskimo said...

Bring it on Steve!

steve said...

I can't BELIEVE I'm about to agree with such a motley collection of Eskimo-huggers, but nevertheless: Lynda Carter is the one, the only Wonder Woman.

steve said...

Which raises an interesting question: what other actors created THE definitive portrait of their characters? It need hardly be said that I myself would nominate the George Reeves Superman, but what other candidates?

And if ANY of you squadjes says Michael Keaton's Batman ...

brian said...

Adam West as Batman
John Wesley Shipp as The Flash
Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher
Christopher Reeves as Superman
Burgess Meredith as The Penguin
um....who else???
oh, Ben Affleck as Daredevil
Matt Salinger as Captain America
and....

Patrick Warburtun as The Tick.

How did I do?

brian said...

Oh, and by the way, West narrowly edges out Clooney for the definitive Batman portrayal, in my opinion.

steve said...

Oh! Patrick Warburton as the Tick! Perfect! I'd forgotten about that one, but it's perfect!

All your others - actually, astonishingly, ALL your others - suck like sump-pumps.

steve said...

Oh, and as for 'bring it on' ... listen, Igloo-chick, I could totally take you! I'd go GLOBAL WARMING on yer ass!

brian said...

What?? WHAT???? But...but....Steve! Have you even seen Superman IV: The Quest for Peace???

brian said...

I'd like to retract one of my choices, as well. Dawson's father (I forget his name) is the definitive Flash.

steve said...

Don't get me wrong, Christopher Reeve is very interesting as Superman (although not even I, the world's biggest Superman-fan, have anything at all positive to say about 'The Quest for Peace') - and certainly objectively he was yards and yards a better actor than George Reeves ... but Reeves had HEFT, had that feel of a tolerant beet-cop, that's essential to Superman. If you wander away from that - if you give him long hair or mushy-sensitivity or whatnot - you wander away from the heart of the character. That's why I'm so ambivalent about 'Superman Returns' ... on the one hand, special effects can finally do the character justice, but on the other hand ... Sufferin' Sappho, what a gay Superman! I kept expecting gigantic, growly-voiced Frank Langella to slap him across that oh-so-pretty face, spread him on top of the editor-in-chief's desk, and give him an, um, special edition.

If there's a second Routh movie, I REALLY hope they give him an acting coach who can give him lots of pointers on how to act more 'manly' - maybe Sophia Loren is free for the job ...

brian said...

Steve, thanks for helping me to shoot milk out of my nose.

You're right about 'Supe Returns'. I liked much about it, especially hearing echoes of John Williams' score (which sent chills down my spine).

What say you about Bale's Batman? The most recent 'Dark Knight' trailer has me in a tizzy.

In all honesty though, Lundgren's Punisher pretty much skull fucked that other Punisher. I hear they are making another sequel, sans Thomas Jane. Maybe that one will get it right.

brian said...

One more question. Did you see 'Hollywoodland'? I thought Affleck was terrific as George Reeves. The rest of the picture? Not so much.

Gianni said...

I'm surprised Steve didn't agree with your choice of Ben Affleck as Daredevil, Brian.

But I think you forgot someone...

Lou Ferigno as the Hulk?? I don't think they've ever done Hulk better. Even the upcoming Edward Norton as Bruce Banner probably won't outdo Lou, and I just KNOW Steve is gonna disagree with me on this...

elmo said...

Wow, this blog flew down the shitter right quick. How about Leah Thompson as the broad from Howard the Duck?

brian said...

Elmo, it's my job to send blogs down the shitter. For evidence, check out my own.

I will never forget the time I was labeled a dork when I chose to watch 'Howard the Duck' while all my other friends viewed 'Top Gun'. Leah Thompson is scrumptious.

What about Keanu Reeves as Constantine?

Nicholas Cage as Ghost Rider?

Sly Stallone as Judge Dredd? Perhaps one of the great all time adaptations!

I'll just end this once and for all with the all time great portrayal of Man-Thing by the CGI created by some shitty Sci-fi employee. 'Nuff said.

brian said...

Oh, and Gianni? You're 100% correct. Fergino OWNS the Hulk. God I miss that show. When is it out on DVD?

elmo said...

Yeah, Thompson's clueless, punk/dork princess thing is ON!

Gianni said...

Speaking of George Lucas movies, it'd be criminal not to recognize Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker or Harrison Ford as Han Solo AND Indiana Jones. Hell, even in the Star Wars comic books, those two are the models for the character artwork.

Megmo Eskimo said...

I cannot believe I am going to agree with Steve but I think most of Brian’s choices are sucky…sorry Bri. I would have to agree with Gianni’s picks for definitive roles with Harrison Ford and Mark Hammil. I have to add the fabulous portrayal of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He fuses Wolverine’s tough badass self with his tortured past so well. To branch out away from the superhero foray for a moment, I would have to say Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, Yul Brenner in the King and I, John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, Michael Kenneth Williams as Omar Little on the HBO show The Wire, Morgan Freeman as Red in Shawshank Redemption.

“Eskimo-chick”, Steve?? Wow…if that is not a slap in the face to my feminist ways…I do not know what is! Although if I wanted to be truly PC, I would not be going by the moniker of “Eskimo” in the first place but rather Innuit…yet that just does not roll off the tongue. Regardless, my ninja Eskimo ways will freeze your ass right off!

Gianni said...

I just want to take this time to point out someone I thinks belongs in this discussion: Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, the Alien series. Nobody more recognizable in Sci-fi horror.

steve said...

'John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn' ... you just bought yourself another day of life, missy! Excellent pick!

Megmo Eskimo said...

Wow...how did I overlook Sigourney Weaver as Ripley?! Fantastic pick, Gianni! That also brings to mind Linda Hamilton in Terminator I & II, particularly II.

As for you, Steve-O...thanks!

Megmo Eskimo said...

I have to add that getting kudos from Steve is like getting a hummer from a hooker...it's very dirty and maybe unsanitary...but you gotta give props to a pro!

steve said...

Why thank you, I - wait a minute! Was I just compared to a hooker? I assure you, those days are over!

steve said...

And to our list I should add Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes ...

steve said...

Although, I should point out (to those of you who're on the Cafe staff and still hopeful ... and ye know who ye are!), I've been known to make an exception when the circumstances warranted ...

Gianni said...

Wow, Steve, I can't believe I thought of this before you...

William Shatner as James T. Kirk?

Leonard Nimoy as Spock??

Deforest Kelly as Doctor McCoy???

How did we go this long without mentioning them???? I mean... even the nerds didn't think of it first!!

Gianni said...

Do I actually get Cafe staff people to read this thing? If I do, I wish they'd comment more...

I'll have the next post up in a day or so, but I don't want to stop anyone from adding to this run! Keep it up!

brian said...

Um, ok, I didn't realize we were playing the game this way. John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn? Sigourney Weaver as Ripley? Hugh Jackman as Wolverine? I had assumed we were choosing characters that had been played by more than one actor. If not, definitive kind of loses its meaning.

So, in lieu of the change in rules. I will now choose the following:

Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell

steve said...

um, I hate to break this to you, Gianni, but 'even the nerds' is EXTREMELY redundant when it comes to this particular blog ...

brian said...

Oh, oh, oh, here's another "definitive" portrayal! Robert Deniro as Travis Bickle!

Also, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. He was much better than that little kid that played him in a couple scenes.

Gianni said...

I think SOMEONE is upset that everyone keeps shooting down his picks...

Gianni said...

Seriously, though, is there a DEFINITIVE Flash? A DEFINITIVE Punisher? A DEFINITIVE Captain America? Of course there isn't, at least not any that I know. Some characters simply don't HAVE a definitive performance in their resumes, whether they're the only actor or NOT.

I even have to somewhat disagree with Megmo's pick of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Was Jackman good? Hells yeah, but DEFINITIVE? I don't know. I certainly don't think Tobey Maguire is the definitive Spider-Man, even though he's better known than Christopher Daniel Barnes. Definitive isn't just about being the better depiction of a particular character, it's taking that character and making it the greatest thing you can.

Ans THAT'S why everyone keeps shooting down your picks. :)

elmo said...

...my face hurts...

brian said...

How about this?

Ron Perlman is the definitive Hellboy.

Just like George C. Scott who is THE definitive Patton. Dare I say, more definitive than Patton himself?

Gianni said...

I like Perlman as Hellboy, but still not sure about whether he's definitive. I gotta say I'm on the line with that one.

I'd love to see original footage of Patton. If he's anything like he was portrayed in The Rising Tide by Shaara, it'd be tough for Scott to overshadow him.

Kevin Caron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Caron said...

You guys are such dorks.







...Patrick Stewart as Professor X.

brian said...

Hmmm, I wrote that wrong. Perlman isn't the definitive Hellboy. He IS Hellboy.

Gianni said...

It IS hard to imagine anyone besides captain baldy as the professor...

brian said...

I've never had 50 comments on my crummy blog. sigh.

Megmo Eskimo said...

To me...Christopher Daniel Barnes will always be THE definitive Spiderman. And I am sticking to my guns that Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine will be the best thing he ever does.

And Brian...if you reviewed classic movies such as Blood Monkey or Deer Woman...I alone would post 50 comments on your blog.