Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Loveless trade paperback (DC Comics)


Much like books with the Flash versus Captain Cold or Aquaman versus Black Manta, I’m always inclined to give a Wonder Woman versus Cheetah story a little extra consideration (maybe it’s the Challenge of the Superfriends influence). That little bonus doesn’t help G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Loveless much, however, and I’m eager for the runs by Steve Orlando, Mariko Tamaki, and Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad to come. To Wilson’s credit, the best moments in this volume are pretty good, addressing story threads some 75 issues in the making (hard to believe we’ve been in Rebirth that long), but where Loveless goes wrong, it goes pretty wrong, and here’s hoping one of those other writers can write this title out of that particular trouble.

[Review contains spoilers for Loveless and Wonder Woman 1984]

Wilson gets the privilege in Loveless of writing Diana’s reunification with Themyscira and her mother Hippolyta, something that’s been coming since Greg Rucka began this Rebirth title. Rucka’s intention, I perceive, was to add an additional element of sacrifice and heroism to Diana’s origins, that she knowingly left her homeland to come to save ours with the understanding that she might not ever be able to return. Because of course this is all a meta-exercise in retroactive continuity, we’ve never experienced Diana’s pain of leaving home over the years, and almost right off this book started giving us glimpses of Themyscira, suggesting perhaps a discomfort up and down the chain of actually separating Wonder Woman from that specific intellectual property, especially given Themyscira and Hippolyta appearing in the previous and current Wonder Woman movies. All of which is to say it’s even surprising this final reunification storyline took as long as it did.

Wilson’s story so far has not been epic, and so Diana’s return to Themyscira — which ought be a big majestic story worthy of four years of build-up — is not particularly epic either. It inherits, first of all, the weirdness of the “Dimension Chi” idea that takes from Golden Age Wonder Woman concepts, which is quickly dropped as soon as it’s no longer a useful plot device. Second, it pits Diana versus Grail as the final “big bad” of the Themyscira saga; that nicely ties back to James Robinson’s run on this title, but also it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and a basic sword fight with Grail is hardly enough to get the blood pumping on so momentous an occasion.

To Wilson’s credit, however, not only again does Grail tie back to Robinson, but no sooner does Diana return to Themyscira than she goes about reuniting Veronica Cale with her daughter, closing the loop with the end of Rucka’s Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth. If I didn’t find this story particularly effective, I still appreciate Wilson’s efforts to make the whole of Diana’s Rebirth story so far of a piece. And where the main story stumbles from lack of suspense or drama, there’s a tender epilogue issue with art by Lee Garbett that almost makes up for it, with affecting emotional moments between Diana and her mother, Steve Trevor, and Cale.

But even that soon goes sour. The premise of the “Loveless” story proper is that Cheetah kills the god Aphrodite (with a power-up from “Year of the Villain”’s Lex Luthor) and as such Diana must defeat Cheetah without the power of love, which apparently variously makes people possessive, apathetic, or violent. Wilson introduces this through Steve getting mad that Diana’s going off to hunt Cheetah (who killed a god. In their house) instead of spending time with him. If this were ultimately revealed to be an effect of “love dying,” it might be ill-conceived but understandable, but instead Wilson doubles down in the end and Diana and Steve break up.

In this I greatly prefer Brian Michael Bendis' take on Clark Kent and Lois Lane (via Greg Rucka’s Lois Lane miniseries), in which Lois lives a life largely independent of, and not dependent on, her super husband. (Notably, some nine years ago in Superman: Grounded, Wilson had a problematic take on Lois not wholly different from what happens here.) If we’re to believe that characters like Lois, Steve, and Iris West are the equals of their superheroic counterparts, then something like Steve wanting Diana to stay home and watch Law & Order instead of going off to save the world just doesn’t track, and it makes Wilson’s Diana and Steve both seem rather silly.

I wonder to what extent Wonder Woman 1984 played a role here, given that in broad strokes — let’s say, Wonder Woman vs. Cheetah — this book would seem to be among DC’s inevitable comics mirroring of the movie (which we’ll see then again when Tamaki pits Diana not coincidentally against Maxwell Lord). If we posit that it behooves DC to have Diana fighting Cheetah on the chance that a movie fan might happen to pop into a comic store, I wonder if it equally behooves DC to have Steve Trevor appear here but also to move him out the door a la his counterpart’s cinematic fate.

In the end, we do get Wonder Woman versus Cheetah, but notably Diana doesn’t start calling Cheetah “Barbara Ann” until late in the story. That is, the “we were once friends” nuance of Rucka’s portrayal of Diana and Cheetah is absent and Wilson seems unable to capture it (Cheetah could as easily be Grail here than Cheetah herself). Also, though this book has good contributions from artists Garbett, Xermanico, and Jesus Marino, some of the climactic Cheetah scenes are drawn by Tom Derenick, an artist I still haven’t warmed to; the absurd posturing and facial expressions, not to mention Cheetah’s Cheshire Cat-sized grin, take the seriousness out of scenes that desperately need it.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Loveless



With Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Loveless, Themyscira is back, and the classic loving relationship between Diana and Hippolyta with it. It looks as though we’ll return immediately to Themyscira in the next volume and I have good faith that Steve Orlando will handle that well, though I’m curious at what point old troubles might creep in — DC has a history of making the ostensibly peaceful Amazons into emotional xenophobes prone to attack, and I’m not optimistic history won’t repeat itself. Irrespective, some good creative teams coming up and I’m excited.

[Includes original covers and variants by Jenny Frison et al. Can you imagine how this book would be if the interiors were as good as Frison’s variants?]

Comments ( 3 )

  1. I have liked other things GWW has written (Alif the Unseen, Air, Ms Marvel), but the solicitations for this run and issue-by-issue reviews never piqued my interest. I'm very excited for Orlando's (abbreviated) second run, and hope Cloonan gets to actually stay on the book for awhile and can write unimpeded

    1. An unimpeded Wonder Woman run in general would be a nice thing. Perez wrote 62 issues of Wonder Woman; nowadays we're lucky to get 25, if that, before a writer jumps ship. Someone writing a long enough run to really do some character work would be a joy.

  2. I read these issues in the floppies, and as I read them, when it turned out that Diana was reunited with Themyscira and her mother, it was presented as being so quiet, so unimpressive, so mundane a moment that I thought that surely none of it was real, or it would be a much grander celebration. I read Wonder Woman in floppies since the beginning of Rebirth waiting for the moment that her history and her people could be restored to her, and once it finally was, lo these many issues later, I didn't even believe that it was happening because the writing was so dry. I'm so glad to see that I wasn't the one one who felt it was so underwhelming an event after so long of promising such a thing.


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