By Molly Jane Kremer. In two years—the same year DC Entertainment’s upcoming Batman V Superman sees release—we will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s debut. (Superman and Batman have both just passed this milestone, last year and this year respectively.) She’s one of the longest continually-published characters in comics, but while Batman and Superman have both enjoyed at least two solo ongoing comics for decades, the new Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman is the first time Diana of Themyscira has had a second solo ongoing comic in 63 years.
Sensation Comics is in the same anthology format as the current Legends Of The Dark Knight and Adventures Of Superman digital-first comics: different creative teams working on standalone short stories featuring the titular character in 10-page increments, available for download online before they’re collected in floppies. These stories are out-of-continuity, unfettered by the current canon (being what it is) of the New52 universe. (Which I realize – for a secondary ongoing comic – is not exactly the equivalent of a Detective Comics or a Superman, but… it’s something. Baby steps here.)
The first two thirds of the issue are written by Gail Simone, who had a previous run on Wonder Woman from 2008-2010 that garnered mixed reviews. I personally very much appreciate DC’s attempt to put female creators on this book, well-known or not, but Simone is a big enough name (with a big enough fan base) to help bring it some extra attention. On art is Ethan Van Sciver, a personal favorite of mine. His work on Green Lantern: Rebirth – detailed, precise, expressive (and often scary as hell) – pushed that book into my all-time-top-10 upon first reading. While Van Sciver has drawn her in many a team setting, this is his first solo Wonder Woman outing. The two recently worked together, both teamed up on the writing side, on the New52’s Firestorm title. Even before then, the duo teased a Wonder Woman project many moons ago that sadly never saw the light of day.
This story takes place entirely in Gotham City. Batman (and seemingly the entire Bat-Family) are taken out of commission by a dream team of Batman’s rogues, leaving Oracle to decide who to call for help; considering the other JLA mainstays, Barbara Gordon dismisses them as “too kind-hearted… too cosmic… too noble” and decides on Diana. “This is war. It’s all-out war,” Oracle says, which reminded me of a great quote from Ms. Simone: “When you need to stop an asteroid, you get Superman. When you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But when you need to end a war, you get Wonder Woman.”
While I do love that quote, I’m sad to say I didn’t love this story. Maybe my expectations were too high? I tend to hold Wonder Woman close to my heart, as I think many a female comics reader is wont to do, and this story just didn’t quite satisfy.
Initially I was taken aback that the whole story takes place in Gotham. All the characters featured in Simone’s half of Sensation Comics – aside from Wonder Woman and a few nameless, lineless Amazons – were Gothamites. She fights only Batman foes, and while I’ll never complain at seeing Van Sciver’s creepy, Bolland-esque Joker, it left me a bit crestfallen. This is the first story contained in Wonder Woman’s first secondary solo book in decades, and there’s no Hippolyta or even Steve Trevor; no Artemis, Circe, Ares, or Cheetah; no Paradise Island; no invisible jet sitting around, waiting to not be seen.
And I can understand why they did it. Batman’s villains are the most well-known (I’d even say beloved) comics villains in the world, thanks to fifty years of television shows and films showcasing dozens of them. And Gotham and its denizens are more than within Simone and Van Sciver’s wheelhouse; for both of them it’s their bread-and-butter. I just found it disheartening to see how little faith was had in Wonder Woman’s regular cast and sceneries, that they had to completely uproot her and throw her into another hero’s habitat. A small addition I did enjoy, however, was Diana throwing “W” shaped Batarangs. (I fervently hope they catch on, because they could be called Wangs, and my inner twelve-year-old could giggle on into eternity over that.)
I certainly can’t complain about getting to see all these characters in their pre-New52 costumes though. Just seeing Barbara as Oracle… ooh boy did that make me happy. And Diana in her red boots! Not to mention Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy back to their old, lovely costumes. The Joker with his face still attached?? I got all kinds of nostalgic. Unfortunately, the art was not up to Van Sciver’s usual high standards. The art in the first half was very enjoyable, while parts of the second half—which included a random page by artist Marcelo di Chiara—were nearly unrecognizable as Van Sciver’s. I found it surprising to say the least, coming from an artist whose work I enjoy as much as his. Strangely, Diana’s costume switches back and forth between the classic bathing-suit bottom, and the original bike-shorts throughout the story. (Which one could always put down to uncooperative spandex riding up.)
The second story, Defender Of Truth, by Amanda Deibert and Cat Staggs, I found much more easily palatable. While I didn’t have the momentary joys of seeing everyone in their pre-Flashpoint attire (this story has her in her new costume…those silly blue boots), we at least get a story much more grounded in Wonder Woman’s own mythos. Circe attacks Washington DC, and Diana has to defend the city from gargoyles brought to life, centaurs, and of course, the witch herself. It’s basic, but enjoyable, and ends with Wonder Woman giving a group of boys a small (but rather adorable) lesson in gender equality and how “liking girl stuff” is ok. I enjoyed that it shows a better balance between Wonder Woman’s badass warrior side and her more peaceful diplomatic side, which hasn’t been seen in a while.
With the added attention of Gal Godot cast as Diana in the upcoming Batman V Superman, there are more eyes (and hopes) on Wonder Woman now than ever before. While I doubt she’ll get the same amount of “75th Anniversary” fanfare given to the other two members of DC’s illustrious trinity, it is encouraging to me that this book even exists. I remain hopeful that DC will continue to stress to its readers—and viewers—the importance, and magnificence, of Wonder Woman.
Written by Gail Simone and Amanda Deibert.
Art by Ethan Van Sciver and Cat Staggs.
Colored by Brian Miller.
6 out of 10