BookBin2016: Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 1

See, denizens? I told you that, for my next reviewed book, it would be imperative that the artists made the character look like her Hollywood counterpart, didn’t I? Well, that they did…and I couldn’t be more delighted by the end result.

I admit that I was incredibly concerned when I first learned that DC Comics was going to do a comics series based on Lynda Carter’s television portrayal of Wonder Woman. Why? Because they’d assigned Marc Andreyko to pen the stories. Andreyko is the putz who destroyed Batwoman with a story line that turned disturbing in such a way that I didn’t even bother buying the final collection of her previous run. To be honest, if it weren’t for the fact that DC Comics has decided to give Batwoman a new go with her own Rebirth series, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this collection at all. I can hold a grudge like no one’s business.

Wonder Woman ’77 seems to be precisely what Andreyko needed to redeem himself (at least to me) and what he excels at creating. I was pleasantly surprised by how reminiscent the stories were to those Wonder Woman episodes that I loved so much when I was a kid (and still love, thank you very much). Not only were they reminiscent, but they were so respectful and reverential of that show. Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Princess Diana of Paradise Island was so important and influential to so many people that to do her any injustice would have been unforgivable to many fans. I’m delighted to report that, in my humble opinion, this collection paid her the respect and honor she deserves.

Also, the artwork was so impressive and such a pleasure to behold:

Artists Drew Johnson, Matt Haley, Richard Ortiz, Jason Badower, and Cat Staggs provided penciling and coloring that made Diana Prince and Wonder Woman shine in every single panel. And Steve Trevor be Steve Trevor, in all his Waggonerian glory. Plus, the celebration of all things 70s throughout the artwork and stories inspired quite a bit of uncontrollable smiling and laughter from me. That’s why they note in the collection’s title that this is Wonder Woman as she appeared in the 1977 season of her show. ABC dropped the show after one season, which they had set during World War II. When CBS then picked up the show for its second season, they decided to move it to modern times. I don’t know if DC Comics plans on doing anything in this series that might hearken back to Diana Prince’s time in the WAVES and the war, but I’m more than happy to get my paws on the next collection to find out.

Final Verdict: I’m pretty sure I just let that cat out of the bag. Again, not earth-shattering storytelling in any way, but so respectful and so fun to read and enjoy. Also, I do believe that DC Comics has done something similar for Adam West’s Batman ’66…I also believe that the next collection of Wonder Woman ’77 comics might even cross streams with that series. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the fact that they’ve just started another crossover with Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman in which she gets to team up with Lindsay Wagner’s Bionic Woman. Seriously, my heart might explode from all the love that I have for both these characters when I finally get my hands on that collection.

BookBin2016: Adventures of Supergirl

And so it begins.

This is it, denizens. This is my “head-over-heels, haven’t felt like this about a show since Voyager went off the air, OMG I can’t stop absorbing everything I can about it, I will drive you crazy if you let me because I also can’t stop thinking about it and if I’m not careful I’ll just start randomly talking about it like you know what the hell I was just thinking, absolutely don’t want to stop but trying really hard to contain myself so I don’t drive you away” crush.

Even now, I’m reeling back everything that I would love to write about the show itself, because I need to focus on just reviewing this graphic novel. I’m letting you know, though, that if you encounter me elsewhere? Don’t ask. Because I will tell. I will tell you everything I think about this show. EVERYTHING. And it just keeps coming. You have been warned.

Well then. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the point: Adventures of Supergirl is the first volume to collect all the comics based on the Supergirl television series. It’s important to make that clarification, because these comics have nothing to do with the regular DC Comics Supergirl run. They’re solely linked to the show. However, from what I’ve read recently, the Supergirl Rebirth story line that they’ve been doing for the comics does draw some elements from the show into Kara Zor-El’s new story (including going with the Supergirl costume from the show rather than that horrible costume they designed for the New 52 Supergirl, which honestly just gets a WTAF every single time I see it). It’s pretty much the primary reason that I’m finally interested in following the comics version of the character.

For these comics, though, you don’t need to know anything more than what you’ve seen on the first season of the show, and even that is mostly character-dependent. The story itself doesn’t really have anything to do with any of the show’s plots, although it does pull in some tangential elements (but nothing that would cause problems if you didn’t know the show). Writer Sterling Gates does well in giving us a story arc that respects the essence of the show, with ample parts bubbly and cute mixing with the darker (though not too dark) and more serious moments. It’s definitely the sorbet to my last reviewed graphic novel, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Interestingly, most of this collection’s artists chose not to make these characters look like their Hollywood counterparts. I know that a lot of times, the comics will make this choice as a way of distinguishing the character from the actor, allowing the character to exist in a manner that isn’t dependent on one person representing them (also, it might have something to do with needing to pay the actors for using their likenesses? I don’t know). I’ve seen them do it with the CSI comics and, to some degree, the Star Trek comics. I point it out in this instance, though, because of the next review I will be doing here at the lair. For that collection, it was critical that the artists drew that character according to how her Hollywood counterpart looked.

Ooh, whatever could be my next review?

Anyway, the artwork for these comics is very light, very G (slightly PG here and there, I suppose), very flowy and…dare I say it?…girly. Supergirl more often than not looks waify with large eyes and pink cheeks and a blindingly bright smile (which, to be fair, does sound very similar to her television representation, but ultimately comes across as lacking when compared to Melissa Benoist’s go as the Girl of Steel). Oh, and pink nail polish. Because girly:

(Seriously, I have a huge problem with Supergirl wearing anything like nail polish or even earrings. You’re supposed to be trying to keep Supergirl your secret identity, so wearing anything that could link you back to Kara Danvers? Just seems a little dangerous to me.)

Clearly, the marketing is on-point for the younger female audience who watches the show. It’s admittedly a little disappointing to someone who is used to bigger, bolder, stronger artwork, but even I can concede that it works for its focus.

One of the delights that I took from this collection, however, comes in the appearance of one character in particular: Alex Danvers. Created specifically for the television show, Agent Danvers appears in this collection for the first time in comics form:

(P.S., I really like how this artist handled the artwork for this section; I believe it was Emanuela Lupacchino, who is working on the Rebirth Supergirl.)

I’ve read that Alex might even end up becoming part of actual comics canon, if the Rebirth creators decide to add her to Supergirl’s world. Since they’ve already brought in the DEO, National City, and Cat Grant to the Rebirth world, it might be possible, but I don’t know. One can only hope, I suppose.

Another high point from this collection is one of the stories that shows Supergirl in a dream world in which at one point she is riding an armor-plated cat (cannot make up this shit, denizens; also, there’s a fanfic-inspired Freudian slip if I ever saw one) and at another point cycles through several different iterations of herself, including this one:

I love the way the costume morphs from the show version to the Bombshell version designed for Kara Starikov (although there does seem to be an imminent structural issue about to happen with that bustier).

Final Verdict: It’s cute and quick and provided a lovely few hours’ respite from reality. Also, I’m all about supporting this show, so I will happily keep this volume and check out any other volumes that might come along in the future.

BookBin2016: Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year One

I’ve been on a comics bender lately. It’s kind of a combination of reasons, really. I’m having technical difficulties with one aspect of reality at the moment. My response to such problems has always been to pull away, to sequester myself away from whatever it is that’s bringing me down, usually within the safety of one of my many geeky obsessions. Healthy? No, probably not. Enjoyable? More so than what’s bringing me down. Also, when I do finally reconnect myself to reality, I feel a little better and a little more clear-headed.

Other reasons? Well, I’m sure I’ll write about it later (read: in my next book review), but I’m totally crushing on a new geek obsession. Crushing hard, denizens. Like Star Trek-level crushing. Like “probably (definitely) driving people who know me in other realms on teh Interwebz crazy” crushing. And it’s connected me back to one of my earliest geek obsessions: comics. Believe it or not, I used to be quite the comics nerd (no, Loba, we could never imagine you being EVEN NERDIER THAN YOU ALREADY ARE!). Not like Comic Book Guy-level, but I started down a comics obsession path around the same time as my Star Trek obsession started. Turns out, though, that I only had enough focus for one critical-level obsession at a time. Star Trek won. Comics simmered on the back burner.

Until the past few years. I have several friends who are hard-core comics fans. Their knowledge drew me back out of curiosity. Reading what they were writing elsewhere about certain comics piqued my interest and showed me pathways that I hadn’t known existed previously. Pathways that greatly appealed to me. Plus, there have been some…interesting changes to some characters (coughcough Batwoman coughcough) that lured me deeper into the darkness.

Darkness has always drawn me in. But then there is Darkness.

Injustice: Gods Among Us? That’s some serious darkness, my friends. Surprisingly dark, to be honest, from what I expected to be a fun but empty introduction to a video game. That’s what this is: a graphic novel written as a companion piece to a similarly named video game. I don’t even remember how I ended up learning about it, but when I read the description, it sounded like something I would enjoy for its welcome escapism.

I did enjoy it, but for much deeper reasons than I ever anticipated. This is one of those alternate universe stories in which recognizable and (overly) familiar characters take paths that skew far afield from what we know them to take in “reality.” For this, the primary AU character is Superman. I’ve spoken at length about my feelings about where they’ve gone in recent years with Superman: making him emo and (IMHO) whingy about being all-powerful. Oh, and funky dark. I don’t like funky dark. However, for this novel, they take Superman down a dark and twisted path that…honestly? It works. It works shockingly, brutally well. You have no doubt that the catalyst they use would absolutely work the way it did to cause Superman’s…change. Which actually isn’t a change of personality but instead a change of approach.

As you can tell, though, I don’t want to give away a whole lot about the story. It’s full of enough surprises and twists that I would hate to ruin this for anyone. I will say that it was great to see so many DC Comics heroes used throughout this first volume. Some I know a lot about. Some I know a little about. Some? Some I’m getting to know better right now, so it’s interesting to see this take on them in comparison to who they are where I’m seeing them elsewhere.

The heart of Injustice is the DC Triumvirate: Superman, Batman, and (to a lesser degree) Wonder Woman. I have mixed feelings about Wonder Woman’s role in the story. I’m hoping that her role will shift with time. Batman, however, is surprisingly…sane. And while still intrinsically grave and untrusting, he’s also likeable (in his own way). Likeable, too, is the relationship built between Superman and Batman in this story. It’s far more complex than I was anticipating from this novel. Obviously, I greatly underestimated writer Tom Taylor. Also? The artwork is exquisite throughout. Jheremy Raapack and Mike S. Miller provided artwork that could rival Williams, Perez, Ross. Fantastic.

Final Verdict: Definitely keeping. Definitely checking out Year Two. Apparently, they’re all the way up to Year Five now? I don’t know if I will stick it out through the whole series, but this hooked me tightly enough that I’m antsy to see where it will go next. If you are a DC Comics fan, then I would highly recommend you give Injustice a proper go. I have a feeling you, too, will be pleasantly surprised.

BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood

ww_blood

I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t regularly read Wonder Woman. I love Wonder Woman. For some reason, however, I have never dedicated myself to following her comics run the way I did with characters like Batwoman or Batgirl. A little while ago, I decided I needed to rectify this, so I took the first step and purchased Blood, the first volume of her New 52 run. I already had misgivings about this choice, however, given the creative team assigned to restart her series. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang received the assignment to revamp Diana of Themyscira for the New 52 reboot. I’ve already voiced my disdain for Azzarello’s handling of Joker in his eponymous graphic novel, and I’m not really a fan of Chiang’s blocky art style that he too often uses for comics. I know he can do solid art. I’ve featured it here before at the den. However, for this run, he chose to go with this unimpressive, somewhat unfinished, rather juvenile art style, which is wholly unfitting for Greek royalty.

However, it’s the changes that Azzarello made to Wonder Woman’s origin story that ultimately twigged me off completely. There are certain things that are fundamental to Wonder Woman’s existence. Not physical things, like her invisible jet or lasso of truth or bullet-deflecting arm bracers. No, more elemental than that. More important. More significant.

One of the most significant points of Wonder Woman’s origin story was that she was never born of man. At all. Period. She was the purest form of woman to exist, formed by her mother’s hands from the clay of Themyscira and granted life and her powers by the gods themselves. No man played a role in her birth or upbringing. No man interfered in her existence until the unanticipated and jarring arrival of Steve Trevor to the island of the Amazons.

Clearly, this is not something that’s a big deal to Azzarello, but it’s a huge deal to the character. Yeah, the “man” in question is a god, but this change matters. You’ve taken away Wonder Woman’s uniqueness and basically made her the unanticipated end result of a one-night-stand. That’s a big deal. Just like changing her “weapons” are a big deal (for all her strength, Wonder Woman was always a pacifist; yeah, she could do damage to you if she really wanted to, but rarely did she ever want to harm). Just like changing her association with WWII is a big deal.

Okay, this is a total tangent, but humor me for a moment here. World War II was a huge turning point for women, both in the military and in the general workforce. It was finally women’s chance to move into professional roles traditionally reserved for men and show our viability as workers as well as (or, for some, instead of) wives and mothers. Women played an incredibly significant role during the second World War, across all the military branches. My grandmother served during this time, in the U.S. Navy WAVES. Just like Diana Prince, when she came to “man’s world” to help defeat the evil that was raining fire and horror down upon Europe.

Wonder Woman is so intrinsically linked with World War II that changing this part of her origin story would be as sacrilegious as saying that Superman’s world didn’t explode or Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t murdered when he was a boy. In fact, I would argue that it’s even worse, because the representation embedded in Wonder Woman’s WWII connection is based in reality (sorry, Krypton and Mr. and Mrs. Wayne, but you simply are not real). Her role in WWII was emblematic of the real roles of all the women who served, who similarly stepped out of the familiarity of their previous lives to serve a greater purpose, even while facing opposition from the very men they were trying to help…and in so doing, learned more about the depths of their own strength. This wasn’t the case with WWI. It makes no sense to now change Wonder Woman’s storyline for this new movie. The only reason that I can assume why they really made the change? Because Captain America is associated with WWII. Well, so what? Just because everyone dragged their feet on greenlighting a Wonder Woman movie until after Captain Übermensch hit the big screen, that doesn’t mean that you have to rewrite one of the most important aspects of Wonder Woman’s introduction to the human race.

Changing Wonder Woman’s association with the war that helped women open doors that previously showed no signs of budging and changing her birth origin are moves made by people who fail to see the importance these elements have to feminism itself. There was a reason she was on the cover of the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine, FFS.

Then again, I guess feminism doesn’t sell movie tickets. Or comic books.

I can see from the reviews I’ve read of Azzarello and Chiang’s first novel that most people loved it. Most were happy that Azzarello had finally brought some action to Wonder Woman’s world. I’m not most people. All this collection did was make me sad that Wonder Woman was altered so un-impressively. Same feeling I have about the screenwriters altering her history for the movie.

Final Verdict: I will hold on to this volume, but I don’t really see myself buying any further collections. I’m sorry, Wonder Woman, but I need someone else to take over your story before I can give you another go.