And thus we get back to the grind, with the first Week In Ink of a new (ordinal) decade. Quite an occasion!
Yes, comics are back, and that means it’s another Thursday night of the Internet’s Most Time-Wasting Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I picked up on the fifth anniversary of my blog yesterday…
…and here’s what I thought of ’em!
Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2: This Wonder Woman stuff. Boy, I don’t know.
I haven’t exactly been quiet about my opinions on Wonder Woman as a character, but for those of you who missed it the first time, here’s the short version: I’m not a fan. I’m in the minority on this, I know, but despite the insistence of her status as an “icon,” the fact–for me anyway–is that in her entire history, she’s only actually been good two, maybe three times. She’s iconic because she’s a surviving Golden Age character, and in comics, once something’s old enough, you can never get rid of it.
Still, even with that opinion and the bristling at DC’s constant assurance that she’s part of some “Trinity” with Batman and Superman, I understand that there’s a value to the character that, if nothing else, is symbolic. For better or worse, she’s the most recognizable female character in comics, and while there’s an overwhelming mediocrity to her history, the two or three good times prove that you can do something great with her. Somewhere in there, there’s a strong character.
And that character is being thoroughly undermined by Blackest Night.
This is not the fault of Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott by any means: Scott is a phenomenal artist, and Rucka’s one of the few creators to do a good–a great run on Wonder Woman to begin with, and I’d love to see them do more with the character. But this book’s very nature as a Blackest Night tie-in means they’re at the mercy of the larger story, which, unfortunately, is a story that sends the message that Wonder Woman is incapable of doing things herself.
In the latest issue of Blackest Night–spoiler warning for anyone who still cares–Wonder Woman and a handful of characters are given a bunch of the Rainbow Lantern rings, and while a super-hero getting another super-hero’s toys is every twelve year-old’s idea of awesome, the message is that she can’t contribute to the plot without getting help from another source. The message is that she needs something outside herself, and you know what? Wonder Woman doesn’t need other super-powers. She has super-powers. She’s fucking Wonder Woman. She’s the one who stepped up in Final Crisis and used the powers she already had to save everyone on the planet Earth from slavery, “and no one was hurt.” But according to Johns & Co., she can’t fight zombies without someone else giving her a hand. Superman–who, remember, is Wonder Woman’s male equivalent according to DC and their have-it-both-ways Trinity nonsense–didn’t need help. But Wonder Woman does. And symbolism and feminism aside, from a pure storytelling standpoint that comes from a desire to make a strong character, that is bullshit.
Even so, I’d be willing to just roll my eyes and deal with it–like I said, Hero-Gets-a-Power-Ring is every kid’s #2 desire to see in comics, right after Batman-Throws-Auto-Parts, and at least they’re showing that Wonder Woman’s every bit as good as Aquaman’s Wife or the Scarecrow–except for the fact that Wonder Woman doesn’t get Compassion (which would fit pretty well) or Hope (reflecting her status as an aspiration symbol designed to appeal to young girls), or especially Willpower (which, again, is not an emotion but is one of her defining traits, but it already belongs to someone else, so whatever). No, she’s a girl, so she gets Love. And at this point, sure, that’ll work, and Rucka’s portrayal in #1 of Wonder Woman being entirely motivated by a universal love for everything, even her enemies was something I could certainly get behind, even if we have a word for that kind of love already: Compassion. Which also has a ring. Which is apparently defined more by the Atom than Wonder Woman. The Atom. Who four months ago was–in a fit of Compassion, I’m sure–torturing people on Hal Jordan’s orders. But whatever, “Love” at least allows for a depth that “Compassion” might not, so sure, it works.
Except that in the DC Universe, “Love” means this:
The other characters who get rings just get color-coded versions of their costumes, but because “Love” means “Desire” in the DC Universe, Wonder Woman gets this. Even more than the bondage jokes about Marston, the “Wonder Woman dresses like a hooker” jokes are the stalest, easiest criticisms of the character, so when she’s put into prominence in a major company storyline, they of course put her in an outfit even more revealing, with thigh-high boots and a Vampirella collar. It’s 2010 and this is what comics’ view of love and strong women is. It’s 2010 and the most prominent female character in comics can’t fight evil without being dressed like Witchblade. It’s a fucking embarrassment.
And again, that’s not on Rucka and Scott. They’re incredibly talented people and do the best they can with what they’re given–and Scott’s version of the Star Sapphire costume is way better than Reis’s–but cast in the light of everything that’s going on around it, it’s almost impossible to enjoy, especially given the implication in this issue that Wonder Woman doesn’t free herself by drawing on her own inner strength, but is saved–much like I often am–by thoughts of kissing Batman. On its own, there’s nothing wrong with this, as the theme of love conquering death, while not exactly a revolutionary idea, is certainly appropriate, not to mention the direct involvement of Aphrodite, which is a trope of Wonder Woman’s entire existence, but everything around it makes it easy to read into it. Why can’t Wonder Woman’s love of her mother, her sisters, the entire planet save her when the love of a man can? Because she’s been cut off at the knees at every opportunity so that she doesn’t even have a chance of standing on her own.
In essence, Blackest Night has proven my earlier point: Despite all their bluster, DC obviously doesn’t think Wonder Woman is a strong character either. And never have I hated being right this much.
Well. That’s certainly a hell of a way to start the new year. Let’s move on to happier things, shall we?
Love and Capes #12: I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes before here on the ISB since I caught up with it in trade a while back, but the short version is that it’s easily one of my favorite comics right now.
The word “cute” isn’t one that I throw around all that often here on the ISB, but even with my well-known love of gorillas and space karate, I actually am a sucker for a well-done romance, and this is about as well-done as they get. The high concept is essentially Zahler’s take on the Superman/Lois Lane dynamic, and while it has a fantastic blending of romance and super-heroics–everything from meeting each other’s parents to setting up their friends on blind dates to time travel and evil twins–what really makes it work is Zahler’s incredibly strong character work. Admittedly, using analogues for characters like Batman and Spider-Man means that a lot of the groundwork has been laid to make them seem familiar, but Zahler never rests on that. Abby and Mark–and Darkblade, Amazonia, and the rest of the supporting cast–are incredibly well rounded, and once you get past the super-powers, they’re more Rob and Laura than Clark and Lois.
And it’s the strong character work that comes through in this issue, which–as the cover suggests–is the wedding the series has been building to. And it’s just great. There’s great super-hero action, great comedy, and even great romance that manages to be genuinely sweet without ever veering into the maudlin or forced that bogs down so many things like it. If it’s not the best Wedding Issue of a comic, I’d be hard pressed to figure out what is.
Of course, the flipside to that is that as good as this issue is, it’s not the one you want to pick up if you’ve never read the series before, as it’s more of a culmination than an introduction–that’ll come in the next issue, which is available for Free Comic Book Day this year–but Zahler’s got a way around that too. In addition to the trade, there’s a good chunk of it (at reduced but readable size) available to read for free on his website, and last year’s FCBD issue is still available to order from Diamond, though as it’s not the first Saturday in May, you might have to offer your local retailer four bits for it. It’s well worth it.
Marvel Boy: The Uranian #1: Hey… hey guys. Check it out. You know where this guy’s from?
He’s from Uranus.
His father took him to Uranus as a small child, and then he used a rocket ship to escape the gravitational pull of Uranus, and came to Earth to spread Uranus’s message of peace. But he’s facing a lot of trouble, what with people judging him for coming from Uranus. I guess the government just didn’t trust Uranus in 1950.
Personally, I’m not sure if our culture will ever be able to accept Uranus.
Suicide Squad #67: Before anyone starts to think that I’m completely down on Blackest Night–and lord knows where you’d get that idea–allow me to say one thing: I will put up with just about anything if it gets me some John Ostrander Suicide Squad.
Of all the “resurrected” titles, this is the one I’ve been really looking forward to, because it’s the one that really seems to capture the spirit of the series that’s coming back. Most of them lack the creative teams that defined the originals, and while James Robinson’s doing the Starman one, the James Robinson we have today is hardly the same make and model we had back then. This one, though, is fantastic. When Ostrander returned to the Squad a while back with From the Ashes, it was like he never left, and teaming up with Gail Simone–who deserves to be lauded not just for her great work with the obviously Squad-influenced Secret Six, but also for leading the effort to raise money for Ostrander’s eye surgery–it works the same way. It doesn’t miss a beat, and it’s got that pure joy and love of the DC Universe that comes through on every page.
Plus, there’s the fact that the Suicide Squad, a book where someone died in every single story arc, is tailor-made for a book where the dead return to fight their old teammates, and calling them the “Homicide Squad” is just icing on the cake. Plus, it’s given me hope for the future. The immediate future, I mean: Looking up the trade for From the Ashes on Amazon, they’ve got Showcase: Suicide Squad listed for release in June 2010! Here’s hoping it actually happens this time, and that Ostrander’s upcoming Squad-centric art on Secret Six leads to more.
And that’s the first Week In Ink of the year! As always, if you’ve got a question or concern about something I read, or if you just want to talk about how surprisingly funny and clever Stumptown is, or how enjoyable the dialogue gymnastics the Mass Effect comic has to go through in order to avoid gender-specific pronouns turned out to be, feel free to leave a comment below.