Sunday, March 17, 2013

New 52 Wonder Woman: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Black Boots

My friend and improv troupemate Meredith Roberts is a lifelong Wonder Woman fanatic, so I lent her all of the issues of the current volume and asked if she'd send me a piece on them for the blog. She was gracious enough to agree, so what follows is all hers, the words and the pictures and the captions and all. Thanks, Mer!

New 52 Wonder Woman: 
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Black Boots.



The action figure that started it all, entombed forever like a 
monster of Pandora’s Box, except in a cool, customizable lamp!



INTRODUCTION.
The inception of comic obsession is different for everyone. For me, it began with a Wonder Woman action figure (complete with lasso-twirling action!) that I got in a kids’ meal from Jack in the Box circa 1997. That’s when she became real for me, instead of just some peripheral pop culture icon. 




DID YOU KNOW…? The man who 
invented Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth 
also invented the real-life lie detector.






My interest piqued, I started collecting all things Wonder Woman, including books about her creator, poly-amorous feminist/inventor William Moulton Marston. As it turned out, Marston’s goal was to prepare young men for what he perceived as the inevitable domination of the planet by strong, independent, peace-loving women. (You’re welcome, Hillary Clinton.)

It’s this story—Wonder Woman’s true origin—that has earned my long-standing dedication to the franchise. Much more so than the comic reality, which has changed continuously since her 1941 debut in DC’s All-Star Comics #8.

That said, you can’t be a fanatic of something for this long without forming at least some attachment to the fundamentals. So I was anxious about DC’s New 52 re-launch. Yes, I was excited to see what new turns my favorite heroine would take, but I also knew certain changes could be difficult to stomach.

Now, having read all 17 of the New 52 Wonder Woman issues available upon this writing, I am ready to share my perspective as a seasoned fan. So, strap on your girdles—this is going to be a bumpy ride.

THE PLOT SO FAR.

Seventeen issues in, it’s all about bastards. Specifically, bastards of Zeus, ruler of the gods on Mount Olympus. You’ve got twin bastards, Apollo and Artemis. Rock-fleshed bastard, Lennox. There’s even a bastard fetus! Plus (surprise) Diana of Themyscira, Wonder Woman/bastard Amazon Princess. (More on THAT later.)

So what this story is turning out to be is a poor-man’s Game of Thrones, complete with:

Imp


Superfluous nudity


and clipped, British tone.



The king can’t keep his pee pee in his pants, so he knocks up a bunch of different women. The queen is super pissed about this and sets out to kill all the bastards, exacting revenge on anyone who gets in her way. Now the king is missing, so all his offspring (along with some others) are pitted against one another, vying for his throne. 


Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, back home on Paradise Island, all the other Amazons have been turned to snakes, and Hippolyta, Amazon Queen and Wonder Woman’s mother, has been turned to stone by Hera, Zeus’ jealous, raving maniac wife. 

How will Wonder Woman restore peace to the heavens and save her Amazon, Olympian and mortal families?! Only time (and $2.99 per issue) will tell.

THE GOOD.

Let’s start off on a positive note! There’s a lot to like about the New 52 Wonder Woman:

1. The plot. As proven by HBO, this plot has the potential to be a real winner. Luckily, I’m a big GOT fan, so I don’t mind the similarities between the stories. 

2. Updated gods. New wardrobes and modern habits and mannerisms generally elevate the coolness levels of the gods beyond the standard, archaic Greekiness that has previously plagued the lot of them.

3. Hippolyta. She’s never looked better! Especially considering how many times she’s been killed off and resurrected.


4. Cool horrific visuals. Loving all the creepy hell stuff, blood, mythical beasts and clever battles with ancient creatures. 

“I’m a merMAN!”

5. Worthy opponents. The bad guys are spot on so far. Beats the hell out of Angle man, Merman and Egg Fu. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are enjoying one of the few benefits of not being a Wonder Woman fanatic—the long period of stupid, shitty bad guys that dominated the series for two decades, thanks primarily to the highly anti-feminist Comics Code Authority formed in 1959.)

6. Strife. Yes, she also falls under the god category, but she gets her own kudos for excellent character development and general likeability. I love the writing on this gal, not to mention her risqué, strappy outfit and super short hairdo. 

7. General badassery. I like that we’re working to slake off a bit of the tree-huggeriness that has defined the Amazons for so long (except when they’re killing each other in civil war, of course). Though I may not agree with the execution, per se, the idea that Amazons can be ruthless and badass when necessary is one I support wholeheartedly.

Now for pain.

THE BAD.

As I said, there’s plenty to like about this series. But there are also a couple of pretty serious, glaring issues that would make any hardcore WW fan balk. 

The Well of Souls contains the spirits
of murdered women.
Pretty serious, glaring issue #1: The origin of the Amazons.

The Amazon backstory has been revised numerous times over the past seven decades. The most recent iteration was detailed in the successful 1987 series reboot, which indicated that the Amazons are the tormented spirits of women murdered by men through the ages, granted new life and eternal youth by the gods. 

In any case, the common thread throughout the years has been that the Amazons’ main purpose is to promote peace, love and unity by protecting the world from evil forces. 

The New 52 origin story of the Amazons, on the other hand, is that every 30 years or so, the Amazons all go out like lady pirates, board ships full of mortal men and literally sex them to death. But wait! There’s more. The resulting girl babies then become part of the Amazon society, whereas the boy babies are traded for weapons. Let me just repeat that: Traded. For. Weapons.

What’s wrong with this picture?

1. Character sympathy, destroyed. It’s difficult for me to feel concerned for the beserpented Amazons now that I know they routinely participate in murder, child abandonment, human trafficking and, oh that’s right, let’s not forget rape.

2. Limiting cultural shift. What other incredibly anti-Amazon shit can we pile on top of this mountain of incredibly anti-Amazon shit? Oh I got it. A fundamental facet of Amazon culture is that they do not have to rely on men for anything. That’s pretty much out the window with this development. Although this new comic version is somewhat more similar to the “real” Greek Amazon myth, it’s worlds away from the intended significance of the comic civilization.

3. PLOT HOLE. Perhaps even more upsetting than the complete undoing of Marston’s original vision for the peace-loving Amazons is the logic problem surrounding this story: Apparently Wonder Woman—PRINCESS OF THE AMAZONS—doesn’t know any of these grisly details about the history of HER OWN PEOPLE until she is enlightened by an outsider! How fucking ludicrous. There are only two reasons this could possibly be true:

          a. The Amazing Amazon is apparently too stupid or unobservant to catch on to her own history. “I thought it was divine,” she says vaguely in Issue 7. She thought WHAT was divine? All the Amazons getting mysteriously pregnant at the same time? The fact that every generation is almost exactly the same age? The fact that about half of the preggers mysteriously never have a baby?

          b. There is some reeeeally good reason why all the Amazons (and every other divine entity she’s run into over the course of her life) didn’t tell her. Spoiler alert: absolutely NO REASON has been given yet as to why EVERYONE was in cahoots not to tell her. So I guess we’ll have to go with option 1. Wonder Woman is stupid and unobservant.

Pretty serious, glaring issue #2: The origin of Wonder Woman.

In a nutshell, the long-accepted origin of Diana of Themyscira is that Hippolyta, longing for a child of her very own, molded a clay baby that was granted life and special powers by the gods.

More like 'Ho-ppolyta
The New 52 series acknowledges this history, but reveals that it is actually a lie, fabricated to protect Diana from the wrath of Hera. Because Diana is actually the bastard sex-product of Hera’s husband, Zeus, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, who had a torrid affair following some skirmish or another 23-ish years ago.

With this revelation comes a slew of insight into Diana’s childhood. Apparently she was teased a lot by other Amazon girls about the whole clay baby thing. Also, it seems she always had a problem with the fact that she didn’t actually come from her mother’s womb.

What’s wrong with this picture?


“It was the kids. 
They called me Mr. Clay.”
1. Character sympathy destroyed. You guessed it—sleeping with someone else’s husband plus the already extensive list of Amazon transgressions is not garnering a lot of respect or concern on behalf of stone-bound Queen Hippolyta. Hera has every right to be angry considering that (unlike Zeus’ other conquests) Hippolyta knew exactly what she was doing and with whom.

2. Uncharacteristic personality shift. One of the great fundamental facets of Wonder Woman’s history is that she doesn’t have DADDY ISSUES. Now that’s gone by the wayside, opening up a whole new avenue for all the typical neuroses that William Moulton Marston so fervently despised.

3. PLOT HOLES:

HERA + THRONE = Stupidity!

          a. How does not telling Diana about her father protect her from Hera, exactly? Obviously plenty of other Amazons knew something strange was going on, unless Hippolyta just so happened to get pregnant at the exact same time RapeFest ’88 was going down. But if that had been the case, they could just have just told Diana she was a rape baby like everyone else without going through the whole clay baby charade.

          b. Perhaps they had to make up the clay baby story because Diana, now a demigod by parentage, would have powers far beyond the other Amazon rape babies that would need explaining. But in the clay baby story, the baby is given powers by THE GODS. Remember: Hera is QUEEN OF THE GODS, so you’d think she could pretty easily call bullshit on that one. This is the second instance of inexplicable character ignorance.


More than anything, I’m just so very upset at how much has been hidden from Wonder Woman so far in her life and in the series. It absolutely makes her seem less intelligent, less confident, less strong and assured—less all the things I’d hoped for her in this new series. 

If knowledge is power, Wonder Woman is doomed.

Smaller, less-glaring issues.
OK, so this is mostly just me whining about things that could have been done better.

Humor. Dear god, stop making puns. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pun! But there are other, more effective types of humor you can sprinkle around, and nearly all attempts at them so far have fallen flat.

Self contained incontinuity. Sooo Wonder woman talks about how as an Amazon she’s no stranger to baby killing, which is incongruous with her purported ignorance of the Amazons’ violent heritage. It’s also incongruous with her surprising proclamation that she loves everyone (Issue 10, or as I like to call it, “An Episode of Family Ties in Hell, complete with feel-good ending!”), the first time in the series that Diana’s propensity for love and peace is shown to apparently still be part of her character. 

This raises questions like—is promoting peace and love unique to Diana, and not the Rapazons? Based on the fact that I just called them “Rapazons,” I’d say so. But then why the baby-killing comment? It’s confusing as fuck.
Oh for real? It’s controlling when
you take control? I had NO IDEA
    

Bad writing. Yes, I’m a writer, so I’m picky. But come on guys. You only have to write like 10 words a page. Can’t you do a better job? Take a look at this cute sample from Issue 17. 

Also, it seems people say things just to sound cool in the moment, rather than conveying specific plot points. For instance, why in Issue 1 does Wonder Woman claim not to be Wonder Woman when fetus bastard baby momma asks “Are you…?” and Wonder Woman says “No, I’m not.”? This is never addressed or explained.

Inconsistent art. I guess this is to be expected from artist to artist, but the difference seems rather radical, especially when we look at how the title character is portrayed. Wonder Woman (or Mujer Maravilla, as she is known en Español) seems to change ethnicities at every page turn.  But, whether she’s a Puerto Rican Barbie, an Irish bride or just completely fucking deranged, she always has that choker on.

Aiaiai! Spicy Latina!

The whitest white girl ever-much?


If someone didn’t just stick something up your ass 
unexpectedly, there is no excuse for this expression.
Which brings us to…

THE UGLY BLACK BOOTS.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the outfit: a critical aspect of every super hero persona. Plus a fun and fluffy note to counterbalance all the “rapes” and “fucks” heretofore.

1. The choker. Fuck that fucking choker. All the other vestments come off, but that goddamned choker stays on. Why? Why is it there? All of the items of her outfit have significance—the tiara is a razor-sharp boomerang weapon. The bracelets are bulletproof (and now have magical sword generators—awesome!!). The lasso is super strong, unlimited length and compels the truth. The Old Glory motif is based on the emblems of a fallen soldier. So far the choker just seems to be a way to make Wonder Woman look sluttier. All. The. Time.

2. The upper armband. Same as above. WTF?

3. Matching metals. No more gold in her girdle, breastplate or tiara—all metallic adornments have been turned silver, like the bracelets. This actually doesn’t bother me at all. On super uniforms, I prefer fewer colors to more, in general.

4. The black boots. UGHCK. More like BOOOOOO (ts). Hello? Didn’t you just hear me? LESS colors. Not MORE colors. Red. White. Blue. Silver. Black? It just doesn’t fit. The change is too big and yet not big enough. It drags the whole outfit down, making it visually heavy. I can’t believe I care this much about this thing.

5. In general. I’m a little disappointed that she didn’t get more of a makeover. I respect the attempt to stay true to the character, but the whole endeavor seems a little, “Eh. So what?”

EPILOGUE.

I’m looking forward to what lies ahead for the Amazing Amazon. I have utmost faith that somehow, somewhere, someone will get this right. Until then, I’ll just sit around like every other die-hard WW fan, cursing Joss Whedon for leaving us out in this cold, movie-less desert. You were our only hope you bastard. Come back, Joss! 

Come back.

10 comments:

  1. I sure as fuck wish you'd fucking learn to fucking write without fucking saying "fuck" every fucking other fucking word.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's how you raised me, fucker.

      Delete
    2. Aww, my first fight in the comments section. Thanks, y'all!

      Delete
    3. That contradiction led to toss this entire opinion piece in the trash. If you're going to criticizes someone's writing, then at least have some integrity with your own. This is a bunch of whiny nit picks and false comparisons.

      Delete
    4. I'm not sure what "contradiction" is being referred to here. But hey, the fight in the comments section continues more than a year later. Huzzah!

      Delete
  2. The F word is said 6 times during this article.
    ...and 7 times in Dad's one sentence comment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome to my childhood.

      Delete
  3. Of note you’re incorrect when you say: “why in Issue 1 does Wonder Woman claim not to be Wonder Woman when fetus bastard baby momma asks “Are you…?” and Wonder Woman says “No, I’m not.”? This is never addressed or explained.”
    What Zola (or "bastard baby momma" if you prefer) actually said was, “Monsters, they were gonna kill me.” [new panel for close up] “… Are you?”
    WW then says, “I… No I’m not.”
    WW never denied being WW, she denied that she was going to kill Zola. Not until the next page when Zola sees the armour does she recognise her as WW, to which WW notes her name is actually “Diana”.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh man-- thanks for clearing that up! I stand corrected!

    ReplyDelete
  5. "highly anti-feminist Comics Code Authority formed in 1959."

    How so? Some of the items listed in wikipedia would perhaps be enthusiastically endorsed by this new wave of pop-culture-critic feminism.

    ReplyDelete