Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 8: A Twist of Fate hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Meredith Finch's Wonder Woman Vol. 8: A Twist of Fate is an improvement on what came before. There are still a legion of Wonder Woman books better than what we have here, but given that this is the second of what turned out to be just three Wonder Woman books by Finch, it's a auspicious sign that the middle volume trends upward. The major draw here is how Finch re-establishes one of Diana's old and important relationships; that the story and details around it remain rather shaky is less obvious  than in Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War-Torn.

[Review contains spoilers]

That Meredith Finch uses Zola and Hera from the Brian Azzarello run that preceded this is immediately a step in the right direction. After Azzarello's self-contained run, I liked seeing the Justice League in Finch's War-Torn, but Finch had Diana in something of a deferential role to the League; with Zola and Hera, Diana is more of the leader, and tonally I liked Finch's Diana here better than in the last volume.

Equally the whole reason I'm reading this book at all is that Finch has brought back once and future Titan Donna Troy. Donna spent most of War-Torn in a berserker rage (not to mention that the Amazons appointed her queen appropos of nothing), so it's significantly better to see Diana and Donna having calm interactions. Not to mention, despite that Diana is exceptionally overwrought when Donna goes missing given that the two have just met, it's wonderfully nostalgic to see Diana worrying over Donna again. Annoying too as the book's Violet character is initially, Finch makes us care about Violet -- and by extension Donna -- by the book's end, and some of this "stranger in a strange land" material and Donna becoming a Fate (whatever that exactly means) felt legitimately like a Donna Troy story of old.

I also thought Finch improved on Azzarello, surprisingly, in finally defining just what it means for Diana to be the new God of War. Hopefully in the next volume Finch explains exactly what's going on with the God of Peace Eirene and whether she was involved previously with Ares, because it was all rather nonsensical here, but I was very taken with Eirene's positing the utility of war, that without war there would be no uprising, no revolution, no fighting for freedom. Azzarello offered the suggestion of a more nuanced Ares but not how Ares enacted that nuance day to day; Finch shows a clear path to how Diana could be a "good" God of War, and Finch effectively offers some shades of gray where Eirene isn't entirely wrong and Diana, in fighting against her new role, isn't entirely right.

All of this is surrounded, however, by a ridiculous storyline in which Eirene grants a spoiled kid an inconsistent power set, and he proceeds very often to wipe the floor with Wonder Woman. It's not just that Aegeus comes off whiny and that his powers seem limitless -- ranging from winged horse to golden arrows to suddenly appearing on Olympus itself -- but also that Finch seems herself unsure of Diana's own strength. In their first meeting, Aegeus knocks Diana to the ground, and this doesn't surprise Diana at all even though she believes him a regular boy. A couple times too Aegeus disorients Diana with simple tear gas, even though we're talking about a hero who recently survived a nuclear blast side-by-side with Superman.

As I mentioned, the dialogue is overwrought throughout, and Finch's Diana tends to moralize often and obviously. Finch's Diana is also still going on about the burdens of being a Justice Leaguer, queen of the Amazons, and an Olympian god, complaints that seem out of character to me for Wonder Woman. Most egregiously, there's the suggestion toward the end of the book that Diana's failure to embrace her role as war god is what caused some Amazons to commit almost wholesale slaughter of their male brethren, an implication the book takes much less seriously than it should. The written dialogue also has a tendency to repeat what's obvious on the page, for example when Cheetah and Wonder Woman, in succeeding panels where each arrives at a Themysciran temple, exclaim "The temple! Finally!" and "There's the temple!" respectively.

Artist David Finch supplies a new armored Wonder Woman costume here which, while not unappealing, comes off bulky and heavy, the too-extreme opposite of what Diana normally wears; I favor much more the cinematic universe's tunic and skirt or pants to this. To some extent David Finch comes off restrained in this book, not nearly so outlandish in poses and such (except for Donna Troy's 1990s bare midriff look), which is almost a disappointment. Jonathan Glapion inks Finch well, but not every inker in the book does, and toward the middle of the book Finch's art gets a sketchy and less-defined look than he deserves.

Again, Wonder Woman Vol. 8: A Twist of Fate improves on Meredith Finch's first volume, though in all the plot still feels small and insular despite some big things that happen at the end. I believe there's a place for the kind of story Finch is trying to tell -- superhero struggles to have it all -- and on one hand that's exactly what I miss about the DC Universe, the idea of secret identities and that being a hero means sacrifice; on the other hand, "worrisome" is not how I think of Wonder Woman. One more volume to go, and I'm curious to see how Finch concludes.

[Includes original and variant covers, David Finch costume designs]
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