Friday, January 8, 2010

Review: Blackest Night Wonder Woman #2 (of 3)

Blackest Night Wonder Woman #2 (of 3)

Writer: Greg Rucka
Pencillers: Nicola Scott & Eduardo Pansica
Inkers: Jonathan Glapion & Eber Ferreira
Released: January 6, 2009

Art is an amazing thing. One can dislike something but enjoy it, seemingly simultaneously. One can see that something is manipulative, and yet feel fortunate to be of a mind to be manipulated by something so worthy. One can be played with, used, cajoled by a piece of writing, have buttons pushed, and then feel an overwhelming need to thank the creators for the pleasure. If Greg Rucka were my drill sergeant, I would be a grateful soldier today. Sir, thank you, Sir! May I have another! Huah!

Blackest Night Wonder Woman #2 is an absolute pleasure to read. It is a trashy piece of pulp titillation that is also a shockingly poetic piece of superhero romanticism. It's a Girl-Fight comic full of cleavage, buttocks, thighs, splattered with blood and draped with double-entendre, that also never loses focus on the true emotional plight of the combatants. It's a horror comic with heart-eating zombies ripping open chests with tacky one-liners, and it's a romance comic of two star-crossed heroes, and it's a fetish fantasy fit for a night out in Berlin. It's almost 70 years of 4-color pulpy goodness packed into 30 pages, and it's an event tie-in that actually TIES IN to the main book by adding depth to a plot point that is otherwise given only a few panels. All for only $2.99. That's the modern-day equivalent of 10¢, don't you know.

There will always be those readers who will find physical violence between women portrayed in the vivid-color fantasy world of comics to be inherently exploitative. The title-bout match here between Black Lantern Wonder Woman and Mera is explicit and brutal, and there is no denying that the costumes, especially the skin-tight green scaly unitard worn by Queen of the Sea Mera, are meant to accentuate the toned and heightened physical female form. These things, however, I do not deem to be inherently exploitative, not strictly on their own. Superhero comics have always been a medium that stressed the celebration of peak physical condition. Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster created SUPERman, after all. They didn't create REALISTICman or BODY-ACCEPTANCEman. They were two skinny kids who created their vision of an absolute perfect physical male specimen, dressed him in a costume that would show off every rippling muscle, and we have been running copies off their blueprint ever since. Art celebrates, it exaggerates, it pushes an agenda, and here, it gives us two incredibly hot babes brawling off a pier, falling into the water like Alexis and Krystal Carrington falling into the family pool. I choose to see nothing wrong with this, and instead, to revel in it's absolute joyous perfection.

This issue also gives us complete insight into the transformation of Wonder Woman from Black Lantern into a Star Sapphire, a transformation shown briefly in Blackest Night #6. In that issue, we learn that the violet ring of the Star Sapphires must be accepted by the person chosen, for it, like love, cannot force itself onto someone. We see our Princess Diana struggling to make that choice and cast off her ring of death. We see here what exactly is happening inside her mind as this struggle takes place. She has taken refuge inside a hallucination created for her by the goddess of love Aphrodite, who has stepped in to insure that Diana is not overtaken by darkness. In this illusory world, Wonder Woman acts out her Black Lantern bloodlust by killing her sisters. Then, as she stands over her own mother, unable to stop herself as she readies to strike the deathblow, she is saved from herself, saved from being completely possessed by this evil that has caused her to kill those she loves. She is saved by a bat.

What could be more fitting, really, than to be saved by the one man who, too, was saved by his greatest fear, who too had his entire life brought into focus one sad bloody evening when a wayward bat flew into his window? Now, Bruce Wayne, in full classic Batman regalia flies in to save a woman he obviously loves. Funny thing, though, Bruce is dead. So what Diana is seeing here is only a figment of her imagination. She and Bruce grasp each other around the neck in some form of violent waltz, literally holding each other at arm's length. As the Star Sapphire ring of violet love flies closer and closer to our heroine, she succumbs to her true feelings and these two scarred and sad superheroes share a passionate kiss. It's a kiss so powerful that it returns the color to Diana's skin, brings the golden luster back to her tiara and chest plate, brings back the stars that emblazon her suit. It is a kiss that makes her Wonder Woman.

What is beautiful about this is that it is not an example of a damsel in distress being rescued by a knight in black armor. Bruce is dead, he's not really here, this kiss is not really physically happening. This is all in Wonder Woman's mind. What is rescuing her is the power of pure true love, and when that power manifests itself into a seemingly tangible form, that form looks an awful lot like Bruce Wayne.

It is undeniable, too, that this moment is hot. It is a fantasy fetishists wet-dream, starring two of the more fetish-y heroes of the DCU. Batman dressed in black cape and cowl gripping Diana's arms tightly with his strong hands encased in black leather gloves, Wonder Woman in her golden armor with lasso hung at her hip, her mass of raven curls flowing around her. It's brazenly sexual and unapologetically so, and rightfully so on both counts. These are two characters who seemingly represent two opposites of the hero spectrum, coming together in a intimately physical way. This is the duality of sex and love manifested in capes and masks. It's also a hot guy and a hot gal dressed in bondage gear gettin' it on. Therapists could have a field day.

It would be a cynic who could argue that this issue is all just exploitative catfights and make-out sessions, written solely for the arousal of a base, and debased, readership. If it were only this, I would still heartily defend it, for there is nothing wrong with the base pleasures in life, and there is nothing wrong with a work of art fashioned to fulfill these said pleasures. Truth be told, a strong case could be made that this issue is just that, with some ham-fisted overwrought dialogue tacked on to give the proceedings an emotional weight it does not deserve. This argument, ultimately, carries no water, though. These characters are feeling this pain and this heartbreak and we are feeling it along with them; it is real and on the page, not just in the reader's mind as some moral rationalization. If the emotional core of this story is told with a hard visceral edge it's because Rucka understands that sometimes you have to break the skin to get all the medicine in. All's fair in love and war, never more true than when love is war.


  1. A perfect review! I love this issue! The storyline was very well thougth, the fight with Mera was breathtaking, everything was pretty intriguing. And the revelation that Wonder Woman's love for Batman allowed her to overcome the black ring influence is the best thing here. By far the most significant reveal in any BC tie-in, and who knows where the love connection between Diana and Bruce Wayne might lead in the future...Just wish this issue "happened."

  2. Great! I LOVE this review.

    I copied your review (acknowledging you Ramon) and the links at our new BatWondy website here:

    Come and visit us sometimes.