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The (All New) Wonder Woman 601 + The New costume in action (originally posted July 29, 2010 on TGWTG)

September 15, 2010

Here is my first blog post from my old home on the TGWTG blogs, I hope to cross post there in the future when I get more established.

So without further Adieu, here’s my take on:

(The All New) Wonder Woman #601


Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Don Kramer
Inks: Michael Babinski
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Travis Lanham
Associate Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Covers: Kramer/Babinski & Alex Garner (variant)

When we first heard back in April that JMS, whose credits include Thor, Spiderman and a host of TV scripts including his epic series Babylon 5, was going to be taking over the Wonder Woman title from Gail Simone his proposed story arc set off some alarms for Wonder Woman fans… He promised to destroy Themyscira the home of the Amazons. This wouldn’t be nearly so annoying if it hadn’t already been done several times.

The first major time the Wonder Woman character was reinvented in the 70s as depowered, white suited martial artist superspy in the vein of Emma Peel from BBC’s The Avengers the Amazons were banished from the mortal world.

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More recently, in the last decade, it was almost destroyed by a civil war which ended when Hippolyta renounced her crown, transported into space and destroyed by the forces of the alien Imperiex, rebuilt nearly destroyed again by Hera, invaded by the OMACs during the Infinite Crisis and then relocated to a hidden location which separated them from the rest of the DCU (including Wonder Woman, Donna Troy, Supergirl and Wonder Girl who were all part of the Amazon sisterhood).

And when they finally came back from that it was for the horrible mini-series known as Amazon’s Attack…

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This series saw the Amazons transform from guardians of peace and culture into bloodthirsty and happy dictators and misandrists. Very poor straw-man caricatures of both the Bush Administration and feminists ensued.

And then it ends with Athena (really the villain Granny Goodness in disguise) banishing all the amazons except Hippolyta from Thymescria and erasing their memories essentially destroying the island again…

Then Gail Simone took over the title, she gradually restored the Amazons, explored Dianna’s origin from a new perspective and finally had the Amazons wage a war in defense of DC redeeming them for their actions in Amazon’s Attack.

So of course it leaves a bad taste in my and others’ mouths when the Amazon’s are killed off yet again… Isn’t it a little disturbing that the society of powerful, cultured and successful women keeps getting tossed in the proverbial fridge? I mean how many times are they going to do it?

But that didn’t fully prepare us for what they had in store… This was the early promotional image for the story arc:

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Showing us Diana surveying the ruins of her homeland; you’ll note it’s nearly identical to the cover of issue 601 except that is shows the Wonder Woman we all know and love. At the time JMS had this to say:

“Our story puts Diana, alone, against almost impossible odds in a situation that begins with the destruction of Paradise Island and nearly everything she holds dear. Pursued, hunted, with the events that led to this a mystery, and her future uncertain, Diana must go into the depths of her soul, and the darkest places in the world, to try and rescue the people, and the world, she cares for. Something, or someone, has flipped a switch so that the world she lives in is not the world that was…and she’s the only hope of restoring that world.” Emphasis added.

See it wasn’t until the day that issue 600 arrived in stores, last month, that the full scope of his plan was revealed… Thymescria was not being destroyed again but the time line was being changed to it was destroyed when Diana was a child. What resulted was the desired media frenzy with mainstream news toting Wonder Woman’s new look… which was billed as being more practical… but we’ll get back to that in a minute.

It’s finally time to talk about the issue itself…

Now the story did begin with a prelude in issue 600 and it does help to read that but issue 601 provides you with all you need going in. An Oracle shows Diana her child hood and how much her mother loved her then shows her the fall of Thymescria (at Diana’s instance). Hippolyta leads a leads an ultimately doomed holding action of the Island to allow time for some of her people and her young daughter to escape to safety.

Now the Amazon queen and her warriors are displayed  with a lot of courage and grace and I can’t really fault this part of the book…

Hippolyta immolates herself rather than give up the knowledge of her daughter’s whereabouts to her enemy who holds the Lasso of Truth… it’s a really touching scene that shows the that shows just what kind of people the Amazons are.

The rest of the book shows that the army that destroyed her people is hunting down the last survivors but especially is interested in capturing/killing Diana herself… Diana tracks them back to their base but has no time to strike a blow against them as she learns that some of her people are under siege in Turkey, as she can’t fly yet she hitches a ride with the enemy reinforcements and arrives at the war zone at the end of the issue.

The writing, art and colors on this story are all excellent, though the art does dip into cheesecake a bit too much… not saying you can’t have any sex appeal in a comic but considering they are trying to tote these changes as progressive, it’s a little ironic.

If this story was about a brand new character in the same situations it would be really intense… a scattered people, a mysterious enemy… this is the stuff of high drama that separates the decent action comics from the exceptional ones. But unfortunately when you apply these to Wonder Woman they echo too many painful memories for the fandom. And yes the comic contains the seeds of it’s own undoing, Diana has visions of Wonder Woman and it seems several of the other Amazonians know that history has been changed. The fact that we know this will likely all be undone in a year or two really saps a lot of the drama the situation could have had… Which is again makes the story suffer.

The Verdict:

Comic Quality: 3/5

-Excellent pacing, writing, and characters

-Great Art

-Self defeating premise that would have been better suited to a new character or an Elseworlds, title.

Out of the Fridge Rating: 2.5/5 (The Fridge door is open and it’s getting drafty)

-Art contains excessive cheesecake

-Shades of an unfortunate past in the Wonder Woman franchise, and totally undoing the redemption of the Amazons.

-Great examples of women as strong indviduals.

The New Costume in Action

As a bonus for this first entry I want to compare the old and new costumes… The DC comic blog had this to say about the costume, designed by Jim Lee:

It’s a look designed to be taken seriously as a warrior, in partial answer to the many female fans over the years who’ve asked, “how does she fight in that thing without all her parts falling out?”) She can close it up to pass unnoticed…open it for the freedom to fight…lose the jacket or keep it on…it has pockets (the other fan question, “where does she carry anything in that outfit?”, it can be accessorized…it’s a Wonder Woman look designed for the 21st century. The bracelets are still there, but made more colorful, tied on the inside and over the hand, with a script W on each of them that form WW when she holds them side by side…and if you get hit by one of them, it leaves a W mark. This is a Wonder Woman who signs her work…letting her enemies know that she’s getting closer.

Okay honestly does this deisgn make her look like a more serious warrior? More so than her classic design or her battle armor?

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I don’t think it does… I never worried about where Wonder Woman kept things in her battle uniform. It’s not like she needs to keep her house keys in it, she had the ability to shift to a mortal form with street clothes at will. The only thing she might need on her person is the keys to the invisible jet and for all I know that thing uses retinal scans or something…

Maybe it’s the pants that are so tight we can see her ass cheeks in full detail that makes her look like a more serious warrior… maybe it’s the long painted nails that help (where as the Gail Simone run noted that Diana doesn’t have anything in her make up drawer other than a perfume she got as a gift and that was unopened), or maybe it’s the fact that the character is once again in heels something which had been removed from the costume in recent years.

Call me crazy but those don’t make her seem more like a warrior… Though if I recall correctly the blog originally called it a street fighter costume but that created a huge backlash. Either way I don’t see it.

This is supposed to appease female fans? Which is more sexualized: the old Wonder Woman or the new? Does the new look really look like a more serious warrior than this:

The new costume gets an Out of the Fridge rating of: 1/5 (In the Freezer!)

-Promoting an over sexualized costume as progressive

-Telling us a costume with several tactical disadvantages makes for a “serious” warrior.

Ta-ta for now…

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