Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Being the writer of a five-issue arc between two other writers' major runs is about the worst place for a comics writer to be, with little room to change or accomplish anything or really to justify the arc beyond that a monthly comic's got to hit its marks. Credit to writer Shea Fontana that at least Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon makes use of the Wonder Woman supporting cast coming out of Greg Rucka's latest stint; if all four of Rucka's volumes might be considered the Rebirth Wonder Woman "season"'s pilot, then Fontana's is a serviceable "monster of the week" episode that teams Diana, Steve Trevor, and Etta Candy, with no great import otherwise. There's some distance between my own favorite conceptions of Wonder Woman and how Fontana depicts her, and the story is predictable and not altogether seamless, but there's nothing objectionable here; unfortunately for casual readers there's not much to recommend this volume over skipping to the next.

[Review contains spoilers]

I sense "Heart of the Amazon" was perhaps started with some lead time on the end of Greg Rucka's tenure. The first issues begin with Diana and Etta suddenly reconciled after the events of Rucka's run and Diana working with a wholly different military organization, and it's not until the fourth issue that Fontana explains away those changes retroactively. There's a number of elements that are either nonsensical or never tie into the main plot -- that the military has to hide out in a tech firm office, that their regular base has a bug problem (literally, it turns out, when for half the book I thought that was figurative) -- even suggesting Fontana's run itself had been foreshortened. Either way, it makes for a story in which the specific details become less important than the broad strokes, and the broad strokes are at least three issues mostly just centered around fight scenes.

Also, Fontana imagines Diana as a stranger in a strange land, using such malapropisms as "tech up-start" instead of "start-up" (as was also the case in Fontana's Justice League story) and seeming generally unfamiliar with what Friends was. As Diana has been a Justice Leaguer for what we believe to be at least five years, I'm not sure from where this idea of Diana being clumsily goofy comes from or what the attraction is to it; I far more prefer what seems more realistic, that Diana should be a cultured citizen of the world, a la Rucka's present-time depiction (and also Rucka's author/diplomat Diana of previous continuities). Here Fontana has Diana seemingly believing that signing a hospital discharge form is an "oath" and railing against the very basic idea that people die of old age; perhaps this infantilizing of Diana makes her easier to write (Fontana is surely not the only one guilty of this), but it hardly seems true to a reasonable imagining of the character.

Fontana's story sees a variety of groups chasing after Diana for her body and blood, supposedly to cure disease but really to make weapons. Amidst a pages-long assassin fight, Fontana parallels this with the modern tendency to value body over self, but I'm not sure the story ultimately gets as deep as it needs; the final moral is that everyone has power within themselves, as evidenced by Diana's interaction with reformed super-soldier Amelia Medina, but this sidesteps the major development that Fontana precipitates, that apparently Diana's divinely-gifted blood can heal sickness. The story is mostly couched in "I am more than my body" terms, which is surely a fine moral, but the greater question seems to be to what extent should one be willing to sacrifice oneself for others -- to the point even of giving up oneself entirely -- and I felt that aspect fizzled in the end.

The art starts out with the anime-inspired work of Mirka Andolfo, who does well especially with the scenes of young Diana (another aspect of this book that never quite seems to manifest its purpose). Later work by David Messina more resembles Bilquis Evely, reinforcing what feels like a late-book shift back more tonally in line with the Rucka run that preceded this.

A couple of one-off stories follow Fontana's, rather getting a variety of current miscellaneous Wonder Woman material under one roof. Tim Seeley's Steve Trevor special is a fun spy romp with some stronger jabs at gender politics than perhaps the main series can afford, and with some good material in the bookends about how super-spy Trevor and superhero Diana's relationship works. DC New Talent writers Vita Ayala's and Michael Moreci's one-off stories are both enjoyable, especially with sketchy, muted art by Claire Roe and, in contrast, Stephanie Hans' painterly tones. Surely Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing's "Last Kaiju" story is fine too, but it's tonally similar enough to Ayala's King Shark story as to begin to feel repetitive.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon

It's times like this I wish monthly comics didn't have to be so monthly. Given a gap in the schedule between Greg Rucka and James Robinson, DC might've been better off suspending Wonder Woman than proceeding with Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon. It's a shame, don't mistake, because it seems like Shea Fontana has a lot of ideas for the Wonder Woman character and, it seems late in this book, a good handle on the Diana/Steve Trevor/Etta Candy triumvirate, too. But five issues isn't enough space to make those ideas manifest (though I'm reminded, suddenly, that Batman: Year One was four issues) and ultimately I don't think there's enough room here for Fontana to get a fair shake on the book.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon
Author Rating
2.5 (scale of 1 to 5)


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