Review: Wonder Woman: Warkiller trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Despite a slow start, when Gail Simone's Wonder Woman: Warkiller gets started, it's a fitting follow-up to Rise of the Olympian. This is a considerably more sedate story by half, but in no way lacks the emotion and intrigue of the previous volume, and it demonstrates well the sheer verve with which Simone writes the title character.

[Contains spoilers]

It was inevitable that Gail Simone team Wonder Woman and Black Canary, given Simone's notable work on Birds of Prey. For my tastes, however, the "Birds of Paradise" two-part story was too cutesy for the Wonder Woman title. I understand how Dinah's presence facilitates certain digressions about clothes and food, even as I'm bored with, every time Diana teams with another female superhero, the requisite discussion of how imposing Diana seems or the size of her bosom as compared to other heroes. The tone of "Birds: is so comic and so utterly different from what came before in Olympian that, had I been reading Wonder Woman in single issues, I might have considered putting the series aside.

Fortunately, the collection continues into the four-part "Warkiller," which deepens the conflict begun in Olympian without repeating any old ground. The threat of Olympian's Genocide still remains, but it's filtered now through the Amazon Alykone, Simone's fantastic addition to Wonder Woman's rogues gallery. Alykone is the best kind of enemy -- one who hates Diana and plots against her, but in this case one who also deeply loves Diana's mother Hippolyta; to this extent, Alykone can never been quite too evil nor quite too good, and if gives her a villainous depth that we did not even see in in Greg Rucka's mostly malevolent Veronica Cale.

Diana has not been exiled long from Themyscira before she learns her mother is in danger; much of the rest of the story takes place on the island, with various factions plotting for or against Alykone -- with a good helpfing of double-dealing -- toward the book's conclusion. It all feels modern, to be sure, but with a good helping of royal court politics (Diana refusing to escape from Alykone's jail cell) and considerable interruptions by the Greek gods. Maybe we see these Wonder Woman island adventures a tad too often, and I would have liked for this story to have some impact beyond just Themyscira -- but this is the kind of story one can't tell with Superman or Batman, only with Wonder Woman. What Simone presents, essentially, is a good, brass tacks, easy to understand Wonder Woman story, the kind I'd likely give to a new reader wanting to learn about the character.

I appreciated that Simone ties up a bunch of loose ends from Olympian, especially ones I might not have realized were loose ends. Donna Troy returns in Warkiller after flying off in a rage in Olympian; I had thought we understood well enough in Olympian that Genocide caused Donna's anger, and that the argument would be resolved off page, but Donna returns here in a satisfying conclusion to that thread. Additionally, I figured we'd seen all that we would see regarding Zeus and the other gods during Final Crisis, but there's a strong ending scene here that explains more; whereas many books have all but ignored Final Crisis, I've been impressed with how Simone's Wonder Woman is a very direct spin-off from that crossover.

Simone has thrown the reader a curve in that the initial parts of her run strongly suggested that Wonder Woman might enter a sexual relationship with Nemesis -- finally, I might add, ending the ridiculousness that Superman and Batman can have sex but Wonder Woman can't. That Simone brought men to Themyscira and teased the image of pregnant Amazons furthered the idea that "sex is coming." However, we find in Warkiller that Diana and Nemesis break up, and the virgin pregnancies are instead a scheme of the god Ares; in that Simone played fair, offering red herrings to mask the story's real direction, I have no objection, though at the same time I did think that if any writer might break the silly sexual stigma under which Wonder Woman exists, it would have been Simone. Oh, well.

[Contains full covers]

There is more most certainly to come in Contagion, Simone's final Wonder Woman volume after Warkiller. Among other things, I'm curious whether the Amazons have still lost their immortality, what will happen to the men brought to life by Zeus, and whether Diana will meet again the creature that gave off they clay that gave her life -- her proto-father. Again, Gail Simone's Wonder Woman has been a great look at the character, classic and intriguing, and I must say I'm quite a bit sorry to see it end next time.
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3 comments:

  1. I have to say, I'm a bit ambivalent about Simone's WW run, and it stems in large part from the whole "will they or won't they" thing between Diana and Tom. Throughout the entire run, the romance (such as it was) distracted from some otherwise very strong storytelling. I do not read WW to see Tom obsessing about if he's good enough for Diana. (He's not, but I digress.) It's odd-- the whole "Why Can't Diana Have Sex" conundrum is very resonant with a lot of women's lives. Virgin or whore. How strong is too strong and why the heck to we even have to ask that question. Personally, I think Diana has had lots of sex, after all as Diana has said, "They call it Paradise Island for a reason."

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  2. I think the funniest thing I ever heard considering Wonder Woman and Sex was on a dc panel.
    When asked by a fan if wonder woman ever had sex someone on the panel responded:
    has she ever teamed up with nightwing?

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  3. That is funny.

    Bowers, I'm with you on that we should just as well guess it already happened. Perhaps what troubles me about Simone's Diana/Tom relationship is: while granted Simone inherited the relationship, it seemed to me that Simone wouldn't be a writer who would feel compelled to have Diana in a relationship; therefore, I expected more from the relationship (something symbolic, or crossing the "sex line") than just a romantic entanglement, but that's ultimately all we got.

    Now, who knows, maybe Simone lost Tom to Ivan Brandon's Final Crisis Aftermath spin-off, and her intentions were something different, but all in all I had a feeling of, if that was it, I'd have just as soon seen a run where Diana didn't have to have a boyfriend at all.

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