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Amanda Waller #1
posted April 1, 2014
Jim Zub, Andre Coelho, Scott Hanna
DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, 2014, $4.99.
The main thing this one-shot starring DC's "New 52" iteration of its Amanda Waller character evoked in me is curiosity. Looking at it on my desk, I could not figure out why other than to test the market for a certain kind of pricing on a certain level of protagonist that a $4.95 one-shot starring this very bland character from DC's 2011 recent line-wide reboot would be a good idea. I'm grateful for there to be a work from one of the mainstream companies featuring a woman of color, but that's not the same thing as my ever once desiring to see this character have a solo outing the dozen or so times I've seen her on the page. It likely doesn't help matters that I thought the previous version of Waller was a billion times more interesting, and not just for the fact that she was larger and slightly older than the very conventionally attractive younger-seeming person on the page in this comic. My memory isn't perfect for these kinds of things, but Waller in her first iteration was I believe a self-made public servant with an advanced education that discovered and then seized through traditional political corridors of power the opportunity that running DC's "Suicide Squad" of black ops bad guys provided her. I think this version is more of a former spy/operative type pushed "upstairs" into administration. I feel like I've rarely and perhaps never seen the former and could fill a gymnasium with the latter. Both Wallers are supposedly possessed of an iron will, although relative to the bulk of DC's heroes after the 2011 relaunch, just about any person that makes normal choices over the course of a day would seem incredibly decisive and actualized.
In the adventure presented to us, we see Waller transporting a scientific asset (I think that's what they call recruited scientists) across the country when a former subject of the doctor's experiments tries to kills this person. The superpowered bad guy chases the survivors of an initial plane crash around what looks like a TV show set covered in snow. During this extended action scene, Amanda Waller
#1 becomes the kind of book where things seem to randomly happen for the sake of providing moments in a comic book story. The villain's plans don't make a bunch of sense in terms of all the options seemingly available to him. His powers at least twice work in ways to conveniently provide Waller an opportunity to react, and at one point develop a visual element I believe solely to facilitate a scene where the villain dramatically holds his target in place. I'm still a bit baffled by the climax, which seemed contrived from about five different angles. Waller eventually makes a tough choice as promised on the cover, albeit a choice that seems slightly deranged. What Waller puts together over the course of this issue is basically an argument to murder people based on both the harm they've already caused and a cynical take on the potential harm they may do to innocent people as assessed in the moment. That seems less tough than horribly convenient and kind of tough on new-character designers. I guess that's fine, a lot adventure comics work with protagonists like this. That's the thing, though: it doesn't really distinguish Amanda Waller. In fact, this entire comic seems like it could have starred any one of about three dozen supporting spy or police officer characters active at DC, Marvel or Image. At times it feels like a role-playing adventure made up off the cuff, where a veteran referee walks people through a rudimentary scenario in order to get a group of newbies used to rolling dice and talking their way through what they're doing.
As far as the craft on display, Amanda Waller
#1 seems professionally executed according to DC's current standards, which strike me as fairly specific and constrained. Most of the characters are quickly if broadly delineated both visually and in terms of seeing how they act. There's a funny moment where Waller instantly assesses the core personalities of the people with whom she's working, which is humorous because it's not very difficult. I mostly knew where I was and where the characters were: only in a key point regarding the escape of a car filled with civilians was I confused about the progession of events in physical space. Artists Andre Coelho and Scott Hanna find ways to make a detail-less backdrop work by manipulating the direction of movement and the power of that movement through panel placement. It had a syndicated TV show sturdiness, the quality that comes from people that deserve to get paid for what they do. In fact, I'm sure there's something a lot like it on right now.