In the "Keep a consistent creative team" versus "Ship the book late" debate, I tend to side with the creative teams. Though this meant something of a long wait for the collection of Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman? (and an even longer wait for the Superman: Last Son hardcover), the consistency of the art and plot throughout the story made it worth it. But, while it's easy to ignore the delays that plagued monthly buyers while I'm reading Who is Wonder Woman?, it's a little harder to ignore the effects those delays had on the following volume, Jodi Picoult's Wonder Woman: Love and Murder.
Wonder Woman: Love and Murder would be a passably good Wonder Woman story, if not for the fact that it treads, rather forcibly, right over the same ground tread by Allan Heinberg's Who is Wonder Woman? One gets the sense that this is not the fault of Picoult, who's more than proven her writing prowess, but rather of DC Comics Editorial, trying to toe the line between following up on Who is Wonder Woman? and not spoiling the events of the final issue, which hadn't been released at the time Picoult's run started. This makes the collection of Who is Wonder Woman? good for trade readers and bad for monthly readers, and Love and Murder the opposite.
To wit, Love and Murder completely ignores the fact that, at the end of Who is Wonder Woman?, the villain Circle altered Wonder Woman's powers such that Wonder Woman is completely human in her Diana persona. Despite vague mentions of Diana needing to learn to "be human," Love and Murder indeed ignores the events of Who is Wonder Woman? so much that Circe actually appears in this story and chides Wonder Woman for not being in touch with humanity, and Wonder Woman never pauses to say, "But ... didn't you just make me human yesterday?" For trade readers, you'll find here an awkward and somewhat strange case of deja vu.
Picoult, to her credit, has admirable intentions. In as inscrutable as Circe's motives are here, the reader gets the sense that Circle blames Wonder Woman for not being true to herself; in the end, Picoult suggests that Diana's time in Man's World had made her different than her Amazonian sisters--and ultimately, puts her in opposition to her own mother. Picoult picks up on the dichotomy of Wonder Woman, that she's an ambassador of peace who keeps the peace with violence, and that she was a gift from the gods to the Amazons who instead, essentially, gave her away to Man's World--in this, Picoult finds a Diana who's tried so hard to fill all of these roles that she's never paid attention to what she herself desires. It's a take that plays fast and loose with continuity, but still makes the effort to create a viable theme out of the Wonder Woman milieu.
Picoult also does well-enough for a new comics writer with the Washington, D.C.-demolishing action sequences. Maybe I'm a sucker, but there's something I love about seeing the Justice League gathered together to fight a fierce menace in the sky, even if that menace is slightly-confused Themyscarian Amazons. Picoult also offers some pleasant humor throughout the story; her take on Nemesis strays a bit more immature than his presentation in Heinberg's story, but the interplay between Nemesis and Black Canary late in the story made me laugh.
I'd describe a bad Wonder Woman story as one where there's gratuitous ripping of Wonder Woman's clothes, or maybe one where she's forced to spout "Great Hera!" a lot. Jodi Picoult's Wonder Woman isn't bad in that way. It's just that it's a story written very obviously in service to the Amazons Attack miniseries that was already on its way, and also one that's essentially prevented from really creating any new events in Wonder Woman's life or even touching on new events. That's unfortunate, of course, because my expectation is that a comic book by Picoult would be as popular as her novels are, if she were allowed to create a new character or given unfettered access to an existing one. Instead, we have a Wonder Woman story that's just "there," which is about the last thing this character needs right now.
(Tom Spurgeon also reviews Wonder Woman: Love and Murder at the Comics Reporter blog.)
[Contains full covers, introduction by Jodi Picoult]
We continue our Wonder Woman reviews, and our lead-in to Countdown to Final Crisis Volume 1, next time with Wonder Woman: Amazons Attack.