Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Through a Glass Darkly trade paperback (DC Comics)

January 25, 2023

In its own way, Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Through a Glass Darkly bides its time until Trial of the Amazons just as much as the previous volume did (DC will die on the hill of “the show must go on,” but if Diana was meant to be “dead” for the last dozen issues, maybe the solution would indeed have been to suspend publication). But this is much, much more the kind of Wonder Woman story (or, even, comics in general) that I favor, basic “down to earth” superheroes vs. supervillains instead of the high fantasy of Asgardian mythology of Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad’s Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Afterworlds.

Mirror felt like the cozy mystery equivalent of a superhero comic to me; branching out, as it does, from Diana’s return to the living after a year away, the book is often more concerned with renewing relationships and chit-chat than it is with real plot. In other circumstances that might be a problem, but first of all, such a detailed exploration of a superhero’s return to life is interesting and novel; second of all, the writers populate this book with such good characterization and a strong supporting cast that the slow pace is hardly bothersome. Strong art from Marcio Takara helps immensely.

To be blunt, I think Cloonan and Conrad coddle Wonder Woman at times in ways writers wouldn’t for Superman or Batman. There is, perhaps conversely, also a theme of Diana’s ultraviolence in this run so far that I’m unsure is the writers leading to a point or not having enough grasp of what they write. Irrespective, Mirror is a big improvement over Afterworlds, and I’d be happy if the run kept going in this direction.

[Review contains spoilers]

After the umpteenth time some writer shows Batman keeping secrets from his family, sometimes the most dramatic thing in comics is lack of drama. To that end, Mirror’s first full chapter is a rather lovely change of pace (drawn primarily by Travis Moore) in which Diana returns to life (following the events of Dark Nights: Death Metal) and is welcomed back warmly and without questions by her friends and family.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

One can equally imagine the League mistrusting Diana’s resurrection or needing to run a battery of tests; if such is the case, Conrad and Cloonan spare us. Similarly Diana welcomes with open arms one of her replacements, Nubia; again, other writers might present mistrust or petty jealousies that don’t befit characters with so much experience, but Cloonan and Conrad’s story is impressive in its magnanimity – and also the amount of continuity it juggles between various Wonder Woman spin-off and Justice League books.

That done, Mirror gets down to establishing both its plot and its supporting cast, those we’ve already seen so far in this run and those we haven’t. Deadman returns, and though just about everything Conrad and Cloonan establish about Boston Brand and his powers seems antithetical to what I understood previously, Deadman seems a kindly but ribald partner who brings out Diana’s fun side.

If Dr. Psycho’s appearance in Afterworlds was somewhat puzzling, here his role as villain-masquerading-as-TV-personality is dastardly and timely. And the writers present a likable Etta Candy and Steve Trevor, spies extraordinaire; Steve’s reunion with Diana is deftly weaved into the overall villain plot and, again, seems mercifully without angst. (Only Etta’s inability to see an alien right in front of her in the annual grates.)

Diana’s battles with her mirror clones and classic foe Image-Maker are all enjoyable, and again Takara brings a deft vision that should please any modern comics fan. But Cloonan and Conrad are fantastically unhurried; there’s time enough to battle mirror zombies in midair, but also to sample Swedish cuisine and pay tribute at the grave of a fallen ally.

No sooner does Diana return than her mother waves her off a Justice League Dark mission to go back to Themyscira and rest; it’s hard to imagine someone doing the same for Superman or Batman, particularly without an alternate hero provided. And we see it at the end too, when Deadman also bids Diana to rest; self-care is good, but I can’t help think gender factors in to Wonder Woman being the site of it.

In Afterworlds, Diana participates in a spate of wanton killing (though her enemies are swiftly resurrected). Even as Conrad and Cloonan play up the “peace” and “truth” aspects of Diana’s mission, their depiction isn’t entirely devoid of “Amazon who kills without a thought,” either. In the conclusion of Mirror, when Diana finds that one of Psycho’s mind-controlled minions is actually her beau Siegfried, she’s alarmed to think, “I would have killed him.” The writers offer no more remark, but I wonder if they’re coming to it, seeing that Diana’s violence is leading her to make mistakes. The writers make Diana seem awfully careless if there’s no other intention here.

3.0

Rating

In my review of Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Afterworlds, I wrote, “Hopefully Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have all this myth-making out of their system and we can see a more earth-based Wonder Woman next time around.” With Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Through a Glass Darkly, they deliver tremendously, exactly the kind of book I was hoping for. Again, the storyline is boilerplate heroes vs. villains, what seems biding its time for Trial of the Amazons, but it’s fun and cogent, and that’s a mighty good second first start for this Wonder Woman run.

[Includes original and variant covers, sketches]

Comments

Post a Comment

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.