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: 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 Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine

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I am still reading, denizens. I don’t have nearly the same amount of time I used to have for one of my favorite pastimes, but I scrape together what time I can and make the most of it. I’ve also been working my way through a large series of novels, which I decided to review all together rather than separately. Sneak preview on that? It’s going to be a highly positive review.

Spoilers.

In the interim, however, I recently found myself spending a significant amount of time stationary. I love flying for many reasons, one of which is the fact that I literally have nothing more pressing to do with my time than read and cat nap. In between copious open-mouthed snoring sessions (yeah, I’m that passenger) I made my way through Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine.

I learned of Hanley’s book through an Amazon recommendation a few weeks after I purchased another recently released book on Wonder Woman’s history (a book sitting patiently next to my night stand). Amazon wanted to offer me the Kindle version of Hanley’s book for something like five bucks at the time. Who can pass up such an offer? Clearly not me.

I’m delighted that I couldn’t refuse this offer. Curious history, indeed! I already knew a great deal about how Wonder Woman came into existence. Even a passing knowledge makes for fascinating conversation. However, Hanley goes much deeper than cursory facts and provides a compelling examination of Wonder Woman’s debut and her evolution through the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age (the book released in 2014, so it’s a relatively holistic history, to be sure).

I honestly wish I had read the other Wonder Woman book first, to be able to answer the question of is this book worth reading if you’ve already read the larger recent publication. I can’t, unfortunately, answer that question. However, regardless of which provides the most information, I can state emphatically that this book is a marvelous resource for all things pertaining to Princess Diana of Paradise Island (she didn’t come from Themyscira until the late 1980s). Wonder Woman is quite the curious creation, her impact resonating with generations of women who grew to embrace the character as one of the penultimate feminist icons (even as her male writers tried to rein her back “under control” during the 70s when real women had the audacity to expect things like equal rights), while mainstream comic fandom never really latched on to her with the same tenacity that those “other” DC Comics legends enjoy. Whereas Superman and Batman are stalwarts within the superhero pantheon, their stories replayed again and again with mind-numbing frequency, Wonder Woman skirts the perimeter (perhaps she should step out of the invisible jet so more people notice her?), never really rooting herself into fandom mythology. We know of her, but we don’t know her.

Maybe this upcoming movie will change all that. Maybe it will finally bring Wonder Woman the populist acclaim that she more than deserves after 75 years of mainly merely being Wonder Woman, the first major superheroine. Maybe. Whatever it brings, be it pleasure or pain, at least it won’t have Batman or Superman in it. That’s always a bonus.

Final Verdict: Definitely saving this on my Kindle. It was a pleasure to read and definitely made me want to read that other book. Guess it’s time to move it closer to the top of my pile. Maybe it can even be next…after the series I’m reading at the moment.

BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood

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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.

BookBin2016: DC Bombshells Volume 1: Enlisted

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Not only am I on a bit of a graphic novel kick at the moment, but I’m also still focused on my own books rather than ones from the library. This one is the latest graphic novel I procured from Amazon: the first volume of collected comics for the DC Bombshells story line.

I love the “organic” way that this series came about (I use organic in quotes because I’m pretty sure that this was ultimately DC’s plan right from the start. Because jaded.). What began as a series of one-off variant comic covers depicting DC heroines and villainesses as WWII-era “bombshell” pinups has spun into this special edition series of stories detailing how these characters played a role in the global fight against the Nazis.

I suppose that one could state that this feels a little flippant. It trivializes the bravery of real people. However, when you keep in mind that several comic heroes rose from the turmoil of this particular piece of history, including Wonder Woman (who should remain linked with World War II…but I’ll have more to say about that later), it brings things into better context. Horrific events sometimes require a different lens through which to process truths that we oftentimes do not wish to contemplate. An even better example of a graphic novel that deals with this devastating stain upon humanity would be Art Spiegelman’s Maus. If you haven’t read that one yet, then I highly recommend it.

Does this series deal with WWII with the same level of success as something like Maus? Oh, no. But that’s why Maus is a Pulitzer prize-winning effort and this is…not. It’s just different. It’s sometimes serious but mostly with this first volume, it’s more about introducing us to the various Bombshell variants chosen for this series. I love the characters chosen so far. Of course, my favorite is Kate Kane. I’m still mourning the demise of her solo run at the hands of DC Comics ineptitude (and possible homophobia). Seeing her in this series made that disappointment a little less tender. Also, I love how writer Marguerite Bennett pretty much erased Batman from this particular timeline thanks to Batwoman. Given my increasing apathy toward the Dark Knight (more on that to come as well), I really enjoyed this particular timeline shift. Also, I’m not really giving away any spoilers since this happens on the first page of the graphic novel.

Interestingly, my last encounter with Bennett’s writing style left me feeling a strong sense of meh-laise (yes, I have created a new word; you’re welcome). She wrote some of the final Gail Simone run for Batgirl. This time around, Bennett was much stronger in storytelling. Her words also garnered accompaniment from some beautiful time period-inspired artwork. Heavy line work, appropriate palette, and gorgeous renderings of our lovely ladies of DC in the styles of the times made a great visual impact upon a solid opener to this series.

Final Verdict: Keeping this volume and patiently awaiting the release of the next one this June.

BookBin2013: Batwoman Volume 2: To Drown the World and Volume 3: World’s Finest

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I told you I’d be speaking of the Lady Kane very soon. I bought all three of these graphic novels at the same time, and while I enjoyed Batgirl’s collection immensely, it was really all about Batwoman for me. These two graphic novels, To Drown the World and World’s Finest, barely made it into the house before I was flipping through them, devouring the visuals, squeeing at the snippets that my brain was able to process on a first-blush review, and then champing at the bit in anticipation of the story that awaited me.

Admittedly, I might have enjoyed the second Batgirl collection a bit more if I wasn’t so looking forward to these two novels. Sorry, Batgirl.

Truthfully, though, I was a little bit…not necessarily disappointed by the second Batwoman collection…but definitely not as enamored of it as I was of her first go in the New 52 universe. One of the primary reasons is a pretty obvious one. J.H. Williams III didn’t do most of the artwork for this collection. He and W.H. Blackman were busy writing the story, so a lot of the interior art was done by Amy Reeder, Trevor McCarthy, and Pere Perez, with Guy Major doing the coloring. Not that this made the artwork terrible…but Williams is such a masterful artist that not seeing his work makes you painfully aware of how unlike Williams most other artists are.

Plus, there are a lot more “male gaze/crotch/butt/boob” illustrations of Batwoman in this novel than previously, which I found very distracting. These particular poses die down after a while, but the fact that they’re in there at all really annoys me. Batwoman isn’t here to titillate you with pendulous breasts and a latex-clad badonka-donk. She’s here either to save or kick your ass, depending on which side of the law you choose. Also, if you’re turning to comic books for that kind of titillation? Here’s a little bit of advice: Women, even the comic book variety, are on this planet for more than your ogling. Also? Batwoman is not interested in you.

Williams and colorist Dave Stewart return to the drawing table for the comics that make up the third volume, giving even more credence to the collection’s title, World’s Finest. Not to mention the fact that the third volume’s writing is that much stronger…and there’s the fact that another DC Comics heroine makes a guest appearance throughout this collection, making it that much more amazing.

But first, the second volume. Just as I stated in my review of Batgirl’s Knightfall Descends, I feel like this second collection is a bridge collection, with story arcs designed to get us from the amazing work in Hydrology to World’s Finest. It’s still a solid offering (probably more so that Knightfall Descends) and carries the plot forward in strong ways.

The payoff, however, is the third volume, which is brilliant from start to finish. Plus? Wonder Woman. Yeah, that’s right. Wonder Woman plays a major part in this collection as she agrees to team with Batwoman to help defeat the latest menace to threaten the residents of Gotham City.

[Loba Tangent: Why are there even still people who live in Gotham City? I’m sorry, but not even knowing that Batwoman had my back would make me want to…okay, never mind. I would totally stay in Gotham if Batwoman was there to protect me. Carry on.]

Seriously, denizens, the third volume of the Batwoman story is ace all the way. Williams and Blackman are so on-point throughout, and Williams’s artwork shines as always. He makes the graphic novel experience such an immense joy, even when depicting some of the darkest, most gruesome moments. And believe me when I say that Batwoman’s world is incredibly dark and incredibly gruesome.

To be honest, this third volume made me believe that Batwoman could totally convey to a movie experience. This is definitely in part to Williams being such a masterful artist…his vision of Batwoman’s world is absolutely cinematic. Plus, the fantastical villains and epic battles would look amazing on a big screen. It definitely helps that the writing is so great as well. I know I said before that I didn’t think Williams was as strong a writer as he is an artist, but I do believe that the combo team of Williams and Blackman nail this story in such amazing ways. They both have hit such a stride, not only with the large-scale story arcs but also with the smaller, more intimate character developments. They also do a fantastic job on inner monologues, something that Gail Simone does with equal (and at times greater) mastery with her Batgirl writing. Plus, using this particular storyline would also bring Wonder Woman to the big screen, which is something that I fear might never actually happen unless she rides in on someone else’s coattails…or cape. All the better if she came in, lariat blazing, with another bad-ass comic heroine!

Of course, my high praise and adoration for the third Batwoman graphic novel makes the recent shakedown at DC Comics all the more disappointing and upsetting. Williams and Blackman have walked away from Batwoman because of DC Comics brass interfering in story lines that they had already greenlit. Story lines that should be allowed to be completed. I was willing to be a little less decisive about this until I read these latest offerings, but now that I have? I so very much would love to see the continuation of this story that Williams and Blackman wanted to tell. There’s a fourth collection that will contain what I think are the last of Williams and Blackman’s contributions to Batwoman…so at least there’s that. Still, I can’t even begin to express my disappointment that they have left…and have taken an amazing story with them.

Final Verdict: Not only am I keeping these (der), I’m also going to finally pick up Wonder Woman’s New 52 novels. Her story is currently being told by Brian Azzarello. I’m not that fond of his writing style, as I previously indicated in my review of his Joker graphic novel. Also, Cliff Chiang is in charge of the artwork. I’m not really all that crazy about his style either. Unless, of course, he’s drawing Wonder Woman as Joan Jett. Otherwise, meh.

Obviously, not really liking the writer or the artist are two major reasons to stay away from Wonder Woman. However, I kind of feel a bit schmucky that I’m not supporting Wonder Woman. I’ll at least give the first novel a go. We’ll see where it goes from there…

Marketing Wonder

This is something that’s been driving me crazy for a while now because I think that someone in some PR department somewhere is really dropping the ball on this one.

So the Washington Capitals have this “new” logo. I use quote marks because I’m not really sure how new it is…all I know is that I just started noticing it about a year ago. It’s actually a great logo:

Whoever designed this did a fantastic job of integrating all the major elements into one attractive design. You’ve got the team’s patriotic color scheme (on an eagle, of course, because what could be more patriotic than an eagle?), with the blue on the wings delineating the outline of a “W” for Washington while also forming the baseline for the eagle’s neck ruff and wings, with nice bolts of red for the wing tips. Then there’s the cut-out of the Capitol dome to both form the bottom part of the W and to represent the team’s name, Capitals.

I love this logo. Mainly, though, I love this logo because I think it would make an awesome Wonder Woman logo. Don’t you think?

Here, this is the Caps logo and the current Wonder Woman logo, together:

Not exactly the same, but pretty complimentary. Or how about this? This is the Wonder Woman logo designed for the recent “Flashpoint” series:

That’s more like it! Look at how similar these designs are!!

So what’s the missed marketing opportunity? Well, Lynda Carter lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Who wouldn’t want to see her don the old red, white, and blue one more time for the just American cause of…selling hockey tickets?

Anyone? Just me? Fine. Be that way. You’re all just jealous because you didn’t think of it first…