Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special
Alex Lu: Those of you who’ve been reading Greg Rucka’s, Liam Sharp’s, and Nicola Scott’s current run on Wonder Woman will know that Diana Prince has played many roles over her 75 years of life. Princess. Warrior. Taco restaurant employee. Her identity and background have changed so many times in so many disparate ways that it’s often difficult to reconcile her identity in the archetypical ways our culture breaks down her Trinity compatriots Batman and Superman. How then, should we celebrate her 75th anniversary? Well, why not embrace and honor every facet of her persona?
Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special is a special gem that offers something for each of her fans no matter which identity they claim to best represent her. The anthology title features contributions from many of DC’s best creators including Rafael Albuquerque, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Fabio Moon, Marquerite Sauvage, and Renae De Liz, to name a few. The stories are divided by pinup art from illustrators such as Jenny Frison, Sebastian Fiumara, Nathan Fairbairn, Phil Jimenez, and Romulo Fajardo Jr.. This wealth of creative diversity produces some truly unique and uniformly inspirational takes on what it means to be and live in a world where Wonder Woman exists to inspire and, of course, save the day.
For those interested in Diana as a warrior, “Gives Us Strength” by Rafael Scavone and Rafael Albuquerque is the story for you. Albuquerque’s moody painted style lends the story, set in Nazi occupied France, a tense and dramatic feel. The story, where Diana saves a group of French rebels from a platoon of Axis soldiers who’ve surrounded them, shows Diana at her most physically imposing. Albuquerque takes pains to highlight the intensity of her musculature and powerful stature as she takes down the soldiers single handedly and ultimately slices through a tank.
In Mairghread Scott’s and Riley Rossmo’s “One Side,” Diana’s physical strength is again highlighted as she takes down Goliath. However, in this story, the confrontation between two giants is used as the gateway to a complex moral tale that highlights Diana’s role as a diplomat and philosopher. She muses on the many shades that the word “justice” can take across cultures, times, and circumstances. Seeing how quickly justice can morph into bloody vengeance, she concludes that perhaps it is not enough to be just. Perhaps it is even more important to be merciful.
These philosophical musings lead into what I see as the highlight of Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special: a text interview between Lois Lane and Wonder Woman, written by Greg Rucka with illustrations by Liam Sharp. Here we see Diana and Lois discuss the difference “between artifice and mendacity,” or the line that separates a lie meant to manipulate a foe versus one that breaks the implicit trust in a friendship. It’s easy to say that Wonder Woman is honest, but she isn’t, really, as Rucka points out. She’ll feign in a fight to gain an advantage. Even the act of asking her asking Lois for coffee is “manipulative” in a way that is not necessarily “pejorative…we seek the results we want.” In this way, Rucka points out the moral greys in Wonder Woman’s thought process and in doing so, points out our own. We as a species have a tendency to blur out the complexities in the individual until they fall completely into the dark or rise into the sun. Until they are Batman or Superman. Perhaps then, Rucka says, it’s important that we have Wonder Woman between the two. Perhaps her multifaceted past is not a weakness, but a source of strength– and we haven’t even gotten into the parts about Wonder Woman’s gods or her flirtation with depression. This segment is ultimately a beautiful conversation that highlights Rucka’s intimacy with the character in a concise and moving way. It’s worth buying the special for it alone.
Perhaps this is all too serious for you, though. Perhaps you’re looking to have some fun with your comics. Luckily, this book has you covered there, too. Fabio Moon’s “The Age of Wonder” shows us what it means for Wonder Woman to be a source of inspiration. It’s always a treat to see Moon render a classic character with his distinctive brush. He gives us a short but beautiful look into the lives of three Wonder Woman fans who model their outfits after her and stumble upon the encounter of their lives as they witness Diana herself take a hydra down in the middle of a city street. As we move from the perspective of the first fan meeting the second to the two of them happening on the third, the narration concludes that Diana “reminds us that we’re not alone…stranded on an island. Because of her, we dream. Because of her, we wonder.” Wonder Woman not only inspires us to be better as individuals, but to dream big and unite to accomplish greater things together.
Is this still too sappy for you? Okay, well then Hope Larson’s and Ramon Bachs’ “Democratic Design” may sell you yet. This story features Diana and Etta Candy taking a trip to Idea, the DC Universe’s off-brand Ikea furniture store. They’re shopping for Wonder Woman’s new apartment when Human Tank bursts through a wall and Diana is forced to chase him down as he rampages through the store. The action is all rendered in a fun, bright cartoony style that exaggerates the characters’ facial features and lends the proceedings a lighthearted air. Larson imbues the conflict and the very nature of being in not-Ikea with a sense of hilarious existential weight not seen since 500 Days of Summer. If you want to laugh, this is the story for you.
Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special is a book as powerful and diverse as Wonder Woman herself is. The book features contributions from many more illustrious creators than the ones I’ve discussed above, including Colleen Doran, Brendan Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, and Jill Thompson. All these stories serve to highlight Diana’s strengths as a fighter, a diplomat, a thinker, and an inspiration for our time. She reminds us that we are more than archetypes. We are, all of us, strong enough to make our own choices each day. We can choose to be better. To be stronger, smarter, and friendlier to one another. We can choose to unite and together, be wonderful as well.
Kyle Pinion: I’m keeping this fairly short as I’m on a three day work-trip to America’s southwest and am utterly exhausted. Still, I made just a tad bit of time for this book and can share a few meagre thoughts.
It’s hard to not feel a little trepidatious around anniversary issues. They tend to be back-patting affairs that bring back a bunch of previous creators with a history on a character to pump out a few quick stories that have probably occupied the bottom of their shelf for years. Where this Wonder Woman iteration of that type of book succeeds is where it avoids those type of trappings. For example, the war-torn “Gives us Strength” that opens the issue is not only some of Albuquerque’s best work this year, but it also kicks off a set of stories that uniquely define every aspect of the character, in a story by story basis, as you note. The Fletcher-Kerschl collaboration has a similar energy, but is radically different in what element of Diana’s persona it seeks to zero in on, and both stories are buoyed by the fact that these are two creative teams that haven’t touched the character in the past. There’s no twinge of nostalgia here that often cripples these affairs, it’s a line-up of talents finally getting a chance to unleash some energy on perhaps DC’s most unique hero.
I actually don’t think it starts to flag to me until we hit the Rucka-Sharp “Lois and Diana” interview. I’m usually a sucker for that kind of meta playfulness and I can remember as far back as the “Death of Superman” Newsday magazine being a particularly memorable highpoint in the “in-world periodical is sold in the real world” effort. So I should have really glommed onto this like a fly to honey, but I struggled to wrap my head around what Rucka was aiming for here. I think Rucka has a keen understanding of Diana’s psyche and the pairing of these two never fails to be an intriguing combo (the headstrong and brash Lois set in conjunction with the serene and all-loving Diana). But perhaps it’s just my very tired eyes, but what really interests me (the revelations around Diana’s origins) he tap-danced around – as I guess you would in an interview like this – and I had trouble really working up much care about what she thinks about monotheistic entities and how she treats her friends, and I’m not sure if that’s Rucka’s approach to Diana’s sort-of info dump discussion style or my own brain fog. Perhaps I’ll feel better about it after a good night’s sleep, but much like the mostly-text issue Rucka produced of Lazarus, this left me a little colder than I’d like.
And from there, the book ranges from enjoyable (the Larson/IKEA story) to draggy but cute (Gail Simone’s return to the character) to a bit shameless in its page-filling (the excerpt from Thompson’s recently released Wonder Woman: The True Amazon). The most effective part of the book was surely the Renae De Liz short, which reminded me how much I need to get on board with The Legend of Wonder Woman collection when that hits stores in December. This one short alone contained just enough to sell me on De Liz’s take from the weird Nazi villains like Red Panzer, to the mention of the Holliday Girls, to a keen understanding of Diana as a character that isn’t just a sword-slinging Red Sonja type or a “female version of Superman”. On that note, I am very happy to see that *almost* every creative team veered away from the sword-slinging version of the character, and pared her down to just the two weapons that she really needs – her lasso and her bracelets. She’s a character rooted in love, submission, and defense, not DC’s version of Xena.
Anyhow, some nice pinups (especially the Frisson one) aside, it’s hard for me to imagine seeing this as an essential pick-up, particularly for the price. There’s nice little bits and pieces, but I’d rather you spend that money on the current Wonder Woman run – also with a new issue out today, where Rucka is shining, or throwing that support behind De Liz whole-heartedly. Or better yet, do both, and at least keep your curiosity at browse level for this one.
Final Verdict: Alex recommends a buy, Kyle recommends a browse
While all eyes are on rightfully on Wonder Woman this week, there are number of other titles out this week that are worth picking up. My recommendations include:
- Wonder Woman #9
- Teen Titans #1
- Deathstroke #5
- Detective Comics #943
- Batgirl #4
Not the best week, but I sure dug Action Comics #966, which brings Lois and Clark face to face with the new Superwoman and knits all those already closely hewed together titles even closer. And yes, I also had a nice time with this week’s Detective Comics #943. It’s rare that both Detective and Action, DC’s two flagships are both enjoyable at the same time in recent history (the former having basically struggled since 2011 especially). While neither book is quite to the level of the “main” titles in their line, they provide really good support and fill gaps that Batman and Superman leave in their own sizable wakes – in this case, both of these comics give attention to the Gotham and Metropolis supporting casts. And with this issue, it’s worth noting that the complete elimination of New 52 Lois is more or less complete…for better or worse. I have mixed feelings about this, but I knew the older Superman and Lois integration would always be an ungraceful one.
The Flash #9 was also great fun, giving us the first meeting of Barry and Wally, and some serious reflection time from Wally on the previous Reverse Flash/Daniel West. This is definitely Williamson’s best effort with that character in particular. And of course, Wonder Woman and Deathstroke continue to be my favorite reads of the entire line.