I’ve never really gotten Wonder Woman. Maybe it is because I am a man, but I think it has more to do with the fact that there isn’t really a part of the character to identify with. For example, take iconic Superman. Clark Kent is an established person, the real identity, and I get that. But Wonder Woman is the real identity, and that just reminds me of all the terrible interpretations of superheroes from the past.
But when DC relaunched Wonder Woman around the time of Infinite Crisis, I picked up the first few issues. They didn’t do a lot for me, and I quit buying individual issues about that time, so I had little idea what was happening with the character to this point. Just after I left the recruited bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult to do a five issue arc, and I picked it up over the weekend.
A warning: I am going to spoil this book. After the events of Infinite Crisis, somewhere around the point where WW kills Max Lord and video of the execution gets out, she takes on a role at the Metahuman Affairs Office working for the government. Her partner is Nemesis, a guy I sort of remember from some esoteric comic, but essentially he’s a guy who can change his appearance at will ala Iman in Star Trek VI. He also is an asshole in these comics, making jokes that aren’t so much chauvinistic as sophomoric.
Former villain Circe shows up and starts playing havoc with Wonder Woman, impersonating her in abducting Nemesis. This might have worked great, but I didn’t get any sense of who the hell Circe is in the greater WW mythos, so it didn’t work for me. I’m sure that all the ladies picking up this comic based on Picoult’s name would be a bit aggravated too.
Eventually Nemesis is rescued, and Circe goes back to Paradise Island and brings Wonder Woman’s mother Hippolyta back from the dead. Showing that her daughter is imprisoned by the feds, for the very crime Circe impersonated her to commit, Hippolyta declares war on humans and ends up wrecking a lot of Washington, DC. Superman, Batman, and for some reason Black Canary all show up to try and stave off the attack.
One place Picoult really does do a good job is in the light tone. The Amazonians destroy the Washington Monument because it is a symbol of male prowess; there is commentary about how someone really shouldn’t be able to both fight crime and stay inside a bustier. Bt her overall story arc is where the reader really suffers.
Fighting her mother for control, Wonder Woman finally comes out on top and has a dagger held up to her mother’s throat. She says that all she has to do to end the war is kill Hippolyta and then order the war to cease as the Amazonians new queen. Wonder Woman says that she is willing to die for the humans she protects, but that her mother has been asking the wrong question. It’s not about what Wonder Woman stands to lose, but whether or not her mother would kill her to win. She gives Hippolyta the dagger and holds it up to her own throat. End of book.
I don’t have to read the next issue to know what doesn’t happen. Are we supposed to believe that in the lauded relaunch of the series, DC was going to off her in issue 10? But it fails to work on a more fundamental level. Picoult’s name was always going to be used to heavily market the collection in bookstores, just as has been the case recently with a dozen prominent prose authors. While leaving a cliffhanger might work in a regular monthly issue, it irreparably harms Picoult’s collected work. To attract the readers DC was attempting with the big name, an effort to tell an accessible, complete story should have been imperative. Instead, it’s not really even considered.
I understand that Picoult has done some good work in prose, though I have yet to sample any of it. But skip this collection; a sub par effort makes for a sub par product.