Friday, November 21, 2014

The Pull List: Wonder Woman #36 Review

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

I didn't have high hopes for this one, guys. I saw the cheesecake cover in Previews and discovered that the writer, Meredith Finch, has only written for Zenoscope Entertainment. You know, the publisher of the masterpieces that are the various GFT (Grimm's Fairy Tales) series.

(Oh, and there are no spoilers here, since I didn't get pissed off enough to include any. So feel free to read away!)

GFT Tales from Oz #2 Cover B
Via Previews World
GFT Inferno #1 Cover C
Via Zenoscope Entertainment
GFT Cinderella: Age of Darkness #1 Cover A
Via Zenoscope Entertainment
GFT Inferno: Rings of Hell #3 Cover A
Via Zenoscope Entertainment
GFT Masumi: Blades of Sin #1 Cover C
Via Zenoscope Entertainment
The one on top? That's the title that Meredith Finch wrote. Which, okay. Everybody has to start somewhere, and Zenoscope is never lying about what kind of books they produce: it's not even soft-core porn (nope, that's where Tarot:Witch of the Black Rose shines), just visually titillating. And if that's your thing? Fine. No judgment here. Just don't ask me to take it seriously as a meaningful piece of comic literature.

However, when you pair Meredith Finch's writing background with the art for the new Wonder Woman arc? Again, siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
Wonder Woman #36 Regular Cover
Via Comicvine
But let's focus on Meredith Finch first. Her writing didn't really bother me at the beginning. She's no Azzarello, but I wasn't expecting her to be. Yes, I was biased by her sole credit with Zenoscope, but as a struggling artist and writer, I understand that, sometimes, just to get noticed, you may have to take the crap jobs. There's no shame in that. It does, however, seem to be a big risk on DC's part to bring in such an untried writer on such a prominent book. 

Anyway, the opening sequence was eyeroll-worthy, reminiscent of GFT, as it basically served as an excuse to get Diana into and out of the shower, which was oddly paired with Finch trying really hard to sound deep and poignant about the duality of water, the bringer of both life and death. Thankfully, the story moved quite quickly, with Diana leaving Themyscira (and a bunch of grumpy Amazons) to investigate the deaths of humans in Thailand due to a natural disaster. This is where I felt Finch dropped the ball. Number one, the first thing Diana does when she sees Swamp Thing/Alec Holland? She punches him (you'll see the fight later in this review, and it's actually one of the better pages from the whole book, artwise) relentlessly, enough that Holland gets fed up and restrains her with roots. Even Aquaman is like, "Dude, you're not really a shoot-first kinda person," and that leads into this monologue: 
Wonder Woman #36
The type may be too small for you to read it, so I'll just write it out for you.
"A year ago, I had one responsibility - the Justice League. Now I feel like I'm being pulled in a thousand different directions ... My mother is a clay statue and I'm Queen of the Amazons until I can find a way to restore her, but before I can do that, I need to convince my sisters not to kill our brothers, now that the First Born is no longer a threat. I'm still a member of the Justice League ... Clark's only just finished overcoming Doomsday. I'm trying to get used to the idea that I have an enormous new family of self-indulgent gods and demigods, and now I'm the God of War. Just thinking about that, and what it means, terrifies me. I can't seem to figure out how to give everyone the time and attention they deserve. Just when I think I'm starting to get things under control in one area of my life, another falls apart."
Phew. That's ... a lot of words. To be fair, yes, that is a tremendous amount of stress for one person to handle, even Wonder Woman, but I just don't see her suddenly attacking somebody that doesn't have control over water - he's the Avatar of the Green, Diana - just because he's there and she's pissed. I mean, if they were going for the angle where being the embodiment of War affected your choices, it would be one thing, like when Dean Winchester had the Mark of Cain and the First Blade, but nope, Finch essentially says that Diana is just so overwhelmed with responsibility that she ... acts irresponsibly? I just don't buy it. 

Also, this monologue is a prime example of why a more experienced writer should have been chosen for the team: there is so much backstory in that confessional that, instead of showing, Finch just tells us that is what is bothering Wonder Woman. This issue is supposed to be a starting point for new readers, but it's just so jam-packed with "previously on Wonder Woman" information that, for me, it's kind of a turn-off. And I'm a long-time reader of the series. This is not necessarily just Finch's problem, however, since the entire DC universe is so interwoven that it is nearly impossible to read just one title without feeling completely lost. Some of what she's referencing in the above speech didn't even happen in the Wonder Woman books, and it's always difficult to incorporate other people's work into your own*. 

Overall, I don't think Meredith Finch was the worst choice ever for Wonder Woman, and as she gets more familiar with the character and more comfortable with her own vision, she might actually do wonders for the series. But based on this book, there's a lot of growth that needs to happen before it becomes a Must Read. 

And now, onto David Finch's art (yes, he is the writer's husband, in case you were wondering). I will be the first to say that the art isn't necessarily bad, although there are moments when I'm like, "Um, arms don't look that way, but whatever." David Finch is a talented artist, as evidenced here by his take on Swamp Thing.
Wonder Woman #36
Via Comic Book Resources
The coloring is gorgeous, too, even when you reach the problematic areas, which brings us to David Finch's style for Diana. She just looks so young. As I put it last night when I was ranting at Three, "she has the body of a twenty-two-year-old woman who's just gotten breast implants but the face of a fifteen-year-old girl experimenting with her mother's nighttime makeup." She has a very GFT feel to her, especially when we get to the fighting scene I mentioned earlier.
Via Comicvine
Now, I will give David Finch this prop: at least it doesn't look like he traced from porn stills, a la Greg Land (to whom I will get on Monday, believe you me). It's more likely that he just studied a lot of Megan Fox's poses, but at least in the above tussle with Swamp Thing, she isn't as pouty-baby faced as she is on the cover and the below picture. 
Via Comic Book Resources
I may have started reading the new arc with bated breath - and I can't say that my skepticism (and general "meh" feeling) hasn't stayed with me - but it wasn't the disaster that I predicted it would be***. I prefer Cliff Chiang's** art over David Finch's, and I'm still not 100% sure that DC's choice of writers was the best. Still, I am willing to give the new series a chance to stretch its legs and find its voice. I'd give this first outing a three out of five.  

* I've said this before and I will say it again, I really dislike how both Marvel and DC have this thing where all their books are essentially tie-ins to the others. Sharing a universe is one thing (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), but when you constantly have to update yourself on other titles in which you aren't invested? A kind of sound business move on the publishers' parts - more sales! - but when you think about it, it can discourage new readers and, well, people who can't afford to spend $50 a week on comic books. 
** Terry Dodson, to me, is the definitive Wonder Woman artist (I'm also a fan of Alex Ross' version of her), but Cliff Chiang is the most recent and captured her strength and beauty quite well.
Wonder Woman #23 Textless Cover
By Cliff Chiang
Via DC Wiki
VS.
Wonder Woman #13 Regular Cover
By Terry Dodson
Via Terry Dodson's DeviantArt
*** The true disaster was Spider-Woman, so be prepared for a fire-and-brimstone style rant on Monday. I am still fucking pissed about it.
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