Flashpoint miniseries is not to get a good sense of Aquaman and Wonder Woman's conflict. A tragic murder took place, we know, and perhaps there's some unrequited love on both sides, but the "why" of the conflict is less important than the effect it has on the Flashpoint universe and those who try to end the war.
World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman therefore, is integral if the reader wants to understand what underlies this war -- allegiances and betrayals not even hinted at in Flashpoint. Wonder Woman mitigates the otherwise-severe characters of both regents; the separate stories of Wonder Woman and Aquaman are both entertaining, though complex narrative devices make each hard to navigate.
The book begins charmingly with the three-issue Wonder Woman and the Furies miniseries; Scott Clark's art looks painted (or maybe computer-generated) at times, giving a fairytale feel to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's re-tooling of Wonder Woman's origins. Here, a Princess Diana seeking Man's World is saved from an ocean beast by Atlantis's King Arthur, and the two arrange a romantically-charged marriage of convenience for their two people.
The youthful Diana is similar to that in the beginning of the recent Wonder Woman animated movie, a more approachable protagonist than the burdened pre-Flashpoint warrior/diplomat. In the same way, Aquaman is regal and optimistic in a way we haven't seem him lately; the two joke with each other in a way that sells their relationship to the reader. I can't overstate how important the first issue of Wonder Woman is in making the reader care about these new takes on the characters, something that helps buffer the rougher parts of these books.
Wonder Woman loses Clark after that first issue, and both art and story feel flatter in the second and third issues. After the Atlanteans seem to murder Diana's mother, what follows is a series of blows and counter-blows between the two people -- the Atlanteans seem to attack, the Amazons sink their island, the Atlanteans flood Europe, the Amazons destroy Britain creating New Themyscira, and so on. Wonder Woman is heavily interconnected with the Emperor Aquaman miniseries collected second in the book, and oftentimes a scene in Wonder Woman will end suddenly because it continues in Aquaman, but this makes for uneven and often confusing reading when reading Wonder Woman alone.
Emperor Aquaman helps to clarify the Wonder Woman story, but writer Tony Bedard makes it difficult by telling the story through flashback. The story starts between the second and third issues of Wonder Woman, but then moves to "the present," to a time before the beginning of the issue, back to during Wonder Woman, back to the present, and so on. In two periods, Aquaman contemplates using an earth-shattering weapon, making it hard to differentiate between those times; also Aquaman and Wonder Woman almost but not quite line up, with events in one story spanning hours and the same event in the other spanning minutes. To hash it all out requires more study than I imagine most readers want to undertake.
Bedard does present an interesting new origin for Aquaman, torn between two worlds, with art by Vincente Cifyentes -- though it's been so long since I've understood Aquaman's actual origin that I wasn't sure where this one differentiated.
Abnett and Lanning's Lois Lane miniseries is also fun, especially again the first issue where "our" roving reporter falls in with the resistance after Aquaman floods Europe. Nothing wrong with the spotlight on Grifter, either, though again I was curious where his new origin divides from his Wildstorm one. I only wish the writers' Lois and Wonder Woman stories might've intersected more; in both stories Diana learns the traitorous actions of her aunt Penthesilea that underlie the Amazon/Atlantis conflict, but each seems a new revelation with no indication which came first or how they connect.
I had high hopes for James Robinson's Outsider miniseries that finishes the book -- c'mon, James Robinson? Writing in a no-rules universe? What could be better? Unfortunately, Outsider does not amount to much; there are some fun cameos and some unlikely DC characters appear together, but it's hard to see exactly what Outsider contributes. The story reveals some behind-the-scenes workings of Flashpoint, but not to great effect; also I didn't think Robinson really made use of Outsider being set in India. The art reflects Indian dress and locations, but there was little integral use of Indian culture that would have kept Outsider from being otherwise mainly set in Metropolis.
What's most frustrating about Flashpoint: Wonder Woman -- and you'll see this too at least in the Superman book -- is that all the stories end suddenly or uncertainly, in deference to the main Flashpoint book. Wonder Woman hits a screeching halt; I have no idea where in the story the end of Aquaman is supposed to meet; and the end of Outsider is strangely inconclusive. Only Lois ends well -- also on a sudden cliffhanger, but at least that one I already know finishes out in Superman; I rather hope Outsider has its conclusion in another book, too.
[Includes original covers]
My guess is that most readers will feel they learned enough about these characters in Flashpoint and don't need the extra information of World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman; I understand that completely. Wonder Woman or Aquaman fans, however -- especially ones who might feel either character seemed too militant in Flashpoint -- might want to give this a look. There are many forces preying on Wonder Woman and Aquaman in Flashpoint, bringing them to war -- some they don't even understand themselves -- and Flashpoint: Wonder Woman is the book for understanding what's really going on.
Next up -- the end of Lois Lane and the Resistance leads right in to World of Flashpoint Featuring Superman, so that's where we're headed. And in two weeks -- the Collected Editions review of the first DC New 52 collection, Justice League: Origin!