Review: Trial of the Amazons hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

DC Comics bills Trial of the Amazons as the “first Wonder Woman crossover of its kind.” I guess, looked at in the realm of “crossovers among books in the Wonder Woman family,” a la your standard Bat-crossover, then yes, this is a first.

But considering the “crossover,” as it were, involves just one regular series title, Wonder Woman, and then two specific “Trial of the Amazons” issues branching off the Wonder Girl miniseries and then the single final issue of the Nubia and the Amazons miniseries, this is not even so much a crossover at all as Wonder Woman plus a bunch of miniseries issues created specifically to form a “Trial of the Amazons” event series. Which is to say, I’m not sure Trial of the Amazons can really straight-faced take the “first of its kind” mantle away from Wonder Woman: War of the Gods, for instance, as delightfully bloated as it was in its 1990s way.

[Review contains spoilers for Trial of the Amazons and Tales of the Amazons]

Not dissimilar to the strange collections schema of Batman: Fear State Saga, Trial sees three important “Road to the Trial of the Amazons” stories shunted to the Tales of the Amazons collection, while two of Jordie Bellaire’s generally unrelated “Young Diana” stories are reprinted at the front of Trial. I get why — the two “Young Diana” stories were backups to Wonder Woman #785–786 included here — but what’s happening is completeness being valued over story sense; an uninitiated reader just picking Trial up off the shelves would be better served by the “Road” stories. DC so far hasn’t collected Bellaire’s “Young Diana” stories anywhere other than a non-trade “special,” so it’s not even as though collecting “Young Diana” in Trial is continuing from what’s happening in the main Wonder Woman trades; rather, Trial is a trade reader’s first glimpse of “Young Diana” and a complete non sequitur.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Forgive me for letting my knowledge of Tales seep over into my Trial review, but this is important because Trial, absent those “Road” stories, is a different book. In Trial, former Amazonian queen Hippolyta is murdered, and the culprit turns out to be Bana-Mighdall warrior (and one-time Wonder Woman) Artemis. Trial never explains why, which is a suspect choice but, in the manner of comics, I’m OK with it because there is another trade and it does contain the Artemis: Wanted special and I imagine we’ll learn more there (like I can’t fault Infinite Frontier for not revealing every detail when Dark Crisis follows behind it).

But the “Road” stories from Tales reveal a secret meeting between Artemis and Hippolyta, Atalanta, and Antiope — together the three eldest of the Amazons — that clearly ties in to Hippolyta’s murder. That reframes how someone reads Trial; insofar as Trial doesn’t offer answers anyway, the “Road” stories at least suggest Artemis' actions as potentially heroic instead of inexplicably violent. With or without “Road,” Trial does not read as unfinished to me as Wonder Girl: Homecoming did, for instance, but still again I think some deference was given to issue-completeness here that should have been paid to story sense instead.

All of this goes to picking apart Trial a bit, in admittedly a speculative way that will probably become more concrete after I finish reading Tales. If I’m speculating correctly, what happened here is that Hippolyta foresaw a certain danger to the whole of the Amazons that mandated the Themyscirians, the Bana-Mighdall, and the new Esquecida finally putting aside their differences and living together in peace. To accomplish that, Hippolyta’s solution was to charge Artemis with murdering her, creating a murder mystery that — I guess — would serve to unite the Amazons (if against Artemis); meanwhile Atalanta and Antiope position themselves to be the eternal guardians of Doom’s Doorway (one of Trial’s other driving questions) such that no other Amazon will have to do so.

If correct, that is … kind of silly, that the best way Hippolyta (and the book’s writers) could think to unify the Amazons was to have one of them off the former regent in conspiratorial fashion rather than Hippolyta simply leading the Amazons by peaceful example. Too that Michael Conrad and Becky Cloonan write Wonder Woman Diana in a mad, uncharacteristic frenzy over her mother’s death, when — if Dark Nights: Death Metal’s “everything happened” still stands — Hippolyta has already died and been resurrected at least once, and also that Diana herself literally just came back from the dead. Trial goes through certain logical dramatic motions but it’s messy in the details.

I did not think the art in Nubia and the Amazons in particular was quite at the level it should be, considering the importance of the book and what efforts I hoped DC might put behind it. After an uneven start in Trial, then, I was very happy to see Rosi Kampe join the Wonder Woman title at least for these few issues, bringing some life to the page reminiscent of Cliff Chiang’s New 52 run. And though I still haven’t come around to the irreverancy of Joelle Jones' writing, she’s clearly Trial’s powerhouse artist, and the 14-page, three-scenes-in-one sequence in her final Wonder Girl issue is a gigantic accomplishment.

Across seven issues, Trial of the Amazons is structured with two issues of forward action (Trial issue #1 and Nubia and the Amazons #6), followed by two flashback issues (Wonder Woman #785 and Trial of the Amazons: Wonder Girl #1), and then the final three issues of forward action again (Wonder Woman #786, Trial: Wonder Girl #2, and Trial of the Amazons #2). Though no part is wholly irrelevant, I would say the flashback issues feel weaker, as if indeed the backward-looking is a crutch to pad out the event (Wonder Girl particularly probably needed the flashback issue to fill in gaps between where that original miniseries ended and Trial began, but none of it is so necessary as not to feel that Trial stalls out of the gate).

But once Trial enters its endgame of Amazonian champions against ancient evils — and especially with Kampe and Jones — it’s an enjoyable story, despite my quibbles.



I’ve found I have more to say about Trial of the Amazons, a story I enjoyed despite its flaws. In part I think I enjoyed it so much because some of those flaws are questionable approaches to the characters and settings that, at least, offer more attention to the Wonder Woman franchise than it usually gets. Wonder Woman, Wonder Girls, Amazonian social strife, and more in the second part of this review.

[Includes original and variant covers]


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