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November 14, 2007

CR Review: Wonder Woman: Love and Murder; Wonder Woman #14


Title: Wonder Woman: Love and Murder
Creators: Jodi Picoult, Terry Dodson, Drew Johnson, Paco Diaz
Publishing Information: DC Comics, hard cover, 128 pages, November 2007, $19.99
Ordering Numbers 9781401214876 (ISBN13)

Title: Wonder Woman #14
Creators: Gail Simone, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, November 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers

It's nice that they put author Jodi Picoult's name in larger type than the superhero she wrote in the comics collected into Wonder Woman: Love and Murder; what she really deserves is an apology. In the comic book version of a weird casting moment when someone is given a television or movie showcase that seems to outright work against the skill-set of the potential star, Picoult's suggested ability with banter and wordplay is asked to brighten up what feels like an arbitrary, continuity-heavy re-launch, which is almost immediately dragged into an even more laborious and poorly conceived, continuity super-heavy plot about the Amazons taking over Washington, D.C. I have enough experience with reading these kinds of four-color clusterfucks that were my life a video game it would be on my character's scroll-down menu, and I barely understood what was going on here half the time. Worse, I never cared. Former Senators jetting into world hot spots as trouble-shooting diplomats are frequently saddled with less baggage than this.

imageIn an introduction that feels like a defense attorney's opening statement, Picoult talks about establishing a secret identity for Wonder Woman that matches the metaphor-rich second faces of her fellow licensing juggernauts, which sounds like a great idea never apparent in much of anything that follows. It should be said that the author's endorsement of a ridiculous cliffhanger ending that asks readers to buy yet another book after dropping 20 bucks on this one greatly diminishes her status as a figure of sympathy. It also makes me never want to buy one of her prose works for someone for fears that it will end up being tossed back at my head. All that running around and blowing stuff up and flirty dialog in the face of danger fails to lead to a resolution of of any kind; it leads to an advertisement. This may be the first Wonder Woman book Wonder Woman herself would object to giving someone as a gift.

It should be clear to just about anyone's eyes that Wonder Woman #14 works much better as a standard comic book than Wonder Woman: Love and Murder works as a high-end collection. The writer Gail Simone, after what I'm guessing was a stage-setting/clean-up issue #13, efficiently whips together a sturdy standard set of plot complications: a mysterious conspiracy with dire implications for our heroine, the re-introduction of a long-standing supporting character (Etta Candy) in a slightly different role, and a general ramping up of the physical obstacles. The most clever subplot involves of all things a group of super-gorillas that Wonder Woman defeats in battle and then has living in her apartment. Gorillas are generally funny, this crew is easy to understand as far-out fantasy characters even if you don't know anything about DC Universe super-gorilla back plot (or if simply reading that last sentence makes you giggle), and there's something to the invitation to come share her pad that speaks to the formidable earth mother aspects of the character, the notion that Wonder Woman's such a decent person she can reform some bad guys by simply sharing a refrigerator with them.

Unfortunately, those aspects only pop out in terms of a comparison to the more ragged work in the collection combined with the reduced expectations that still seem to go hand-in-hand with the common, humble funnybook. Taken on its own, this is really no better than a standard, forgettable comic book of the type that close editorial attention and the number of talented people wanting to make them should mean dozens of every week. You still have to care about people bearing names like Captain Nazi, and accept that with tens of thousands of comics pages shining a light on the character's world there's room for a conspiracy to have flowered just out of sight. The art is even more seductively rounded than work from the same pencil artist in Love and Murder, but the scenes in both rely on a number of disconcertingly generic backgrounds that I guess are there to make the figures pop when it's the detailed settings that are the most memorable. Both writers' scripts seem to push the art teams into stretch to find a level of visual interest in very talkative scenes, to mixed effect. The only real change between book and comic is a writer that seems a bit more at home: good news if you're inclined to buy this book anyway, but not really enough to demand your attention if you're not.

posted 11:00 am PST | Permalink

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