Hey there, Dear Reader, before we get to this week’s reviews, we have a bit of housekeeping. Starting this week, Last Week’s Comics is going to get a little less topical. Each week, we will be reviewing comics we read the previous week. They won’t necessarily be comics that came out last week but they may be advance reviews, or something we bought two weeks ago but didn’t get to right away or they could be classic comics we re-read because we wanted to revisit old friends. We can’t be held to 20th Century publishing schedules, people!
Anyway, that’s enough from me. Enjoy the All (definitely not) New, All Different Last Week’s Comics!
The Wicked + The Divine # 31
(Image – Writer: Kieron Gillen, Artist: Jamie McKelvie)
This chapter is such a doozy I kind of can’t believe there are still two issues left in the arc. The bulk of the issue is focused on Woden, Cass, and Dio’s joint gig: a rave to end all raves wherein we’ll finally see Woden’s machine operating at full tilt. Gillen cleverly uses Dio’s exhaustion – he’s been keeping vigil down in the Underworld, remember, trying to get through to his old friend Baphomet – to have Woden and Cass give him a quick rundown of the plan.
Dio’s hiveminded party people will essentially power the machine, with Cass and the Norns tapping into the shared energy to see what they can divine. I may have forgotten what, if any, theories were being exchanged among the characters about what the machine actually does (feel free to school me, dear readers, grandma’s memory is not what it used to be), but I think the purported goal here is just to get the thing running and use the Norns to interpret.
Of course, in a magnificent illustration of Dr. Maya Angelou’s evergreen advice, “when people show you who they are, believe them,” Woden reveals he knew at least one thing the machine was capable of before the party got going, and uses it to physically control every person on the dance floor after summarily incapacitating (at the least) the Norns and Dio once the latter had everyone plugged into each other with his party powers.
Speaking of, the initial rave scenes are so dazzling that the characters (and we) are struck momentarily dumb. McKelvie and colorist Matt Wilson really outdo themselves here – at least until the next time they outdo themselves – creating a splash panel with people transformed into beings of pure energy, light, and color, dancing under a brain-like canopy with electrons shining like stars. What I’d do to get tix to a party like that.
Back to Woden: what a spectacular dick. I am so angry at myself for this twist being a genuine surprise. I honestly thought Ananke’s plan to kill a kid (Minerva) was really enough to reform this asshole. This walking pile of garbage who never shied away from an opportunity to tell us he was such turned out to be exactly that. What a complete and utter fool I am.
Not to be outdone by his own twisting, however, Gillen manages to inject yet another moment of shock and disbelief into the script, having it play out simultaneously with the scenes of Woden’s betrayal. I’m going to avoid specific spoilers even though the issue’s two weeks old, because I sadistically want to force everyone to experience it for themselves, but I will say this sequence reminded me strongly of a similar scene in The Godfather.
I can’t wait to see how the other gods react to the fallout of the action in this issue, particularly Laura. She’s showing signs of her apathy morphing into something like regret, and I have a feeling she’s going to want to have a serious talk with her latest paramour once she gets wind of everything that’s gone down. Add to that the strained relationships she’s got going with Baal and The Morrigan, and her connection to the Great Darkness, and we’ve got quite the crucible set up for the end of Imperial Phase II.
Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals
(DC—Writers: Len Wein, Greg Potter & George Pérez; Artist: George Pérez)
Recently the comic book world lost a legend. Len Wein had worked in the business for almost 50 years, and had a number of memorable runs on multiple books over the decades. He also wrote on beloved animated series like Batman: The Animated Series and the 90’s X-Men cartoon. He will be forever remembered for the major characters he co-created like Swamp Thing, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm to name a few. Beyond that Wein was involved in many key touchstones in comics. Among the things he had a hand in was re-introducing Wonder Woman post- Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1987. Along with a team that included writer Greg Potter and legendary artist and co-plotter George Pérez, this first arc would be called Gods and Mortals. It’s a story arc that I’d highly recommend as an entry point into the history of Wonder Woman, aka Diana of Themyscira.
A lot of attention has been given to Wonder Woman since her excellent blockbuster film debut this past summer. Where to jump in with her published adventures can be daunting, as they begin in 1941. This arc may be the best way, as it reintroduces the classic characters from over the years and infuses new concepts. This is the story of Wonder Woman with heavy involvement from the Greek Gods, and things kick off mythically and don’t let up. We’re also told of how Wonder Woman is a divine instrument against the forces of evil, similar to her discovery in the movie. She also butts heads against Ares, the big bad from the movie as well. Ares manipulates the world of men into constantly fighting one another, much like in the movie. After that the similarities to the movie ends.
For starters Diana receives a lot of help from the Greek Gods in this, especially the Goddesses. She also interacts heavily with the children of Ares. More time spent on her origin, a tale that goes back to the dawn of men and women. As the world is built up more and more it is delightful to see Pérez in full effect. The crisp linework and lush detailed backgrounds are a site to behold, especially in the Olympus scenes and the dark decrepit world of Ares. He also does a great job illustrating the destruction of Boston as Diana fights it out with Decay, an evil creation of Are’s son Phobos. Diana is also aided by an older Steve Trevor and a professor named Julia Kapatelis. A big change is that the time period is the 1980s, not WWII.
Wein came onboard in issue three after Greg Potter left DC. His ability to balance adventure and humor is on full display once Diana is running around Man’s World fighting the evil of Ares in the 1980s. It’s a fish out of water story that manages to ground Wonder Woman, while at the same time maintaining that she is a powerful godlike being. At first she can’t even speak English, and needs help from mortals just to get her bearings. With all of the obstacles she faces and monsters that she fights it’s also refreshing to see her handle these problems on her own. No other DC heroes appear during this seven- issue run. In fact, Wonder Woman is an unknown for most of it, and unselfish being of light who is essentially pushed into the spotlight after conquering evil. The world in 1987 was corrupted by warmongers influenced by Ares, and Wonder Woman wanted to stop them.
There are many great Wonder Woman story arcs to check out, with some of the best creative teams in the business like Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Phil Jiminez and Jill Thompson all making fantastic contributions. For a solid classic starting point you can’t go wrong with this arc. If you’d like to read the first few arcs by Pérez and Wein it’s not too hard to track down Wonder Woman By George Pérez Vol. 1. 76 years later it’s refreshing to see Diana of Themyscira thrust into the bigtime spotlight, where hopefully she will stay. 30 years after this arc was originally published we still need an inspirational beacon of light against the warmongers of the world. Thanks to folks like Len Wein for creating more inspiration for us all.