Friday, December 4, 2009

Review: Blackest Night Wonder Woman #1 (of 3)

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1 (of 3)

Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Nicola Scott
Inker(s): Prentis Rollins, Jonathan Glapion, Walden Wong, Drew Geraci
Released: December 3, 2009

I didn't hate this issue, nor did I particularly like it, and for my money, that's a pretty fitting set of criteria with which to use to conclude that something is inconsequential. As with most of the Blackest Night tie-ins, the idea is better than the execution, which is no fault to the creative teams involved, necessarily, but more to the fact that it's difficult to play a symphony with just one note. The song being attempted here? The Ballad of Max and Diana.

Now, Wonder Woman is an amazon warrior, first and foremost before being a superhero of the DCU, and as such, she has killed on the battlefield. However, her dispatch of the villainous Maxwell Lord stands out for its essentially being a public execution, witnessed by the world and used against her as a tool of propaganda, sending her into self-imposed exile, for 52 weeks, if I remember correctly. There was a trip to Nanda Parbat and some re-invention of herself as a government agent somewhere in there, as well. It's all a bit dodgy, really, and points to the ever-present problem of Princess Diana. Who is she? What is she? Stoic warrior? Ambassador of peace and love? Servant of God, or perhaps puppet of God, even? Killer or soldier willing to do what is necessary in war? Her killing of Maxwell Lord seemed to answer this last question. She was a soldier faced with only one solution, and she took it, because the greater good would be served by her doing so. Superman and Batman could mire themselves in ethical debate and attempt to shame her for what they perceived as a lapse in judgement, but the fact remained that Wonder Woman looked stronger for her act, not weaker. Let Batman throw Joker into Arkham for the ba-zillionth time, Wonder Woman was going to put a nail in a coffin, so to speak.

DC seemed ambivalent about how to deal with fallout. Should Wonder Woman feel guilty, be ashamed, or stand defiant? There immediate reaction was to have her wallow in guilt and pout with Renee Montoya in a secluded monastery, and then to renounce her ways so that she may relaunch her book, err, I mean, her life. This not a popular choice by all, as can be seen by writer Greg Rucka's comments about it in the trade collection of the weekly series 52. He is on record as believing this course of action to be a mistake. He was out-voted.

So, now, the one note samba of Blackest Night comes around to play it's tune for the Amazon princess and her Dancing with the Stars partner, Max Lord, and who should be bandleader on this, but the one and only, the inimitable Mr. Rucka. Yes, the talented Mr. Rucka, who is in charge at the moment of the best book coming out of DC, that being Detective Comics, has the unenviable task of trying to breathe life into an undead idea. By now, we know the shtick. The dead have risen and are coming after your emotion-infested heart, so try not to feel anything. (Lest it seem as though I am not a fan of Blackest Night, I should state, unequivocally, that I have thoroughly enjoyed the main book, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, and have been continually surprised with each issue at how they have managed to up the ante. As events go, it's no Final Crisis, but that's good, and bad...more on that some other time.) So, great concept and great writer, working with a great artist in Nicola Scott, what is my problem, huh? Why am I so down on this? Well, as I stated earlier, it's not the creative teams fault, entirely, but the one-noteness of the concept at play with ALL the tie-in books. Whereas the main book gets to lead the charge and has the entire DCU at its disposal, the tie-ins are forced into a corner: Take one hero, add undead villain who has a history with said hero, add bitter/crass/sarcastic banter, through in a few splash pages of zombie dismemberment, and call it an issue. This is Blackest Night: Batman, Blackest Night: Superman, Blackest Night: Titans, and now, unfortunately Blackest Night: Wonder Woman, to a T.

The hero? Wonder Woman. The undead villain with history? Max Lord. The crass and/or sarcastic dialogue? "All aboard the Ted Kord express, destination: brains." "Your skin's so soft! Do you loofa?"; all these lines uttered by the walking corpse of one Mr. Lord. Splash pages of dismemberment? How about a decapitation for the kids at home? So, all the bases are covered, which makes this issue a formulaic bore. What, then, rescues it from being complete drivel? Well, the fact that Mr. Rucka takes this opportunity to give us the defiant Wonder Woman, the Wonder Woman who feels no regret over the killing of Max, only over death being a necessity of war. She is a soldier who draws a ready distinction between murder exacted in cold-blood, and slaughter committed in the name of peace. How right-wing of her, because any good leftist knows that war in and of itself is a crime, right? It's all a very lovely and beautiful contradiction that is dealt with so sparingly in superhero comics. Honor, duty, the need for a strong military force in order to maintain peaceful order; these are the political struggles of humanity and should be the greater struggles of Gods, of whom, our immaculate Diana is one. So, here she is, here is that Wonder Woman...partially.

If the issue had dealt with this more directly, delved into the greater philosophical questions brought to fore by the original killing of Maxwell Lord, then perhaps this issue could have really transcended the formula. As it stands, it's really just one elongated fight scene, scattered with bits of dialogue that allude to greater ideas left unfortunately unexplored. What does it truly mean to be a warrior for peace? If Wonder Woman can so readily rationalize the killing of a tyrannical leader who is bent on world destruction, as she does with her killing of Lord, then what keeps her from busting into North Korea or Darfur? Clearly, the same rationale could be used in those situations, too, could it not? I don't know, but it sure sounds like the kind of fodder a writer could really sink their teeth into. Too bad there was a different band playing at this party, a band who only knows one song.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN!

    Rucka's run of Wonder Woman was BY FAR my favorite. I re-read it often. Matter of fact, just this past Sunday I revisited her killing Max, and of course wanted to kick Bruce in the shins for being so self-righteous.

    But I was truly pissed with what they did with Diana after that. She never should have had to have been ashamed, and Rucka was right (he has a knack for writing powerful women).

    I do think BN: WW had a chance for redemption, but it seems Rucka was reigned in...or slipped in his defiant Diana where he could.

    You make an excellent point though, how fitting would it be for Diana to enact world change on the actual plane of Earth? Guess she's too busy fighting other gods and mythical warriors...oh and trying to mate with random human men (Nemesis, barf).