Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman -- issues #1 & #2


Image copyright DC Comics 2014
Just over 70 years ago, Wonder Woman debuted in Sensation Comics, a creation of  William Moulton Marston, inventor of the lie detector and all-round eccentric. Mr Marston had many odd ideas that went into her creation (I won’t go into them here, but any good book on the history of comics will help you out – 741.5 under the Dewey Decimal System, down at your local library), but one that was actually quite good was the idea of a powerful female superhero, to serve as a role model for girls and boys alike. That’s a borderline radical concept now; think about how it went over in 1942!
Nonetheless, the character was given a shot and rapidly took off. She’s been in publication more or less continuously since then, though there have been some definite ups and downs along the way.

This latest publication, Sensation Comics, is a weekly digital comic, which will also be released in physical form later, much like the Arkham City or Injustice comics that have been doing the rounds for a while now. It appears to be outside of mainstream New 52 continuity, presumably to make it accessible to more casual readers and present “What If”- style stories.  Possibly the “featuring Wonder Woman” tagline may also mean that we’ll see other characters pop up from time to time too.

This story arc that spans the first two issues, “Gothamazon”, is penned by Gail Simone, who worked on WW’s main title for a number of years in the pre New 52 relaunch.

The setup is simple enough – Batman’s rogue’s gallery decides to co-operate for a change, and the Dark Knight is subsequently taken out. Within hours Gotham City is falling to pieces, overrun by criminals. Thinking quickly, Oracle summons Wonder Woman to bring her brand of Amazon justice to the streets. Wonder Woman has never really been one for killing, but she’s nonetheless a trained warrior and immediately goes around kicking some criminal butt.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple – Wonder Woman is not Batman, and while she has strengths he doesn’t, she also has weaknesses he doesn’t. Very quickly she realises that ridding Gotham of its criminal element is not going to be the easy job she thought it would be.      

It’s a pretty cool concept and it gets off to a promising start. But it’s not explored as thoroughly as it could be, and although I enjoyed elements of the story and the ending, I think it was ultimately treated in a bit of a throwaway fashion. It’s a plot arc that could have worked in mainstream continuity either in the past or the future, but I think it needs to be extended over a longer period – maybe 5 or so issues to take a better look at the whole situation? 
Of course, a comic can’t really be reviewed separately from its art. Though I quite enjoy Ethan Van Sciver’s art, I don’t think he was actually the right person for this book. All of the supporting characters look quite good, but Wonder Woman herself looks a bit mixed – it’s like the detail of Brian Bolland combined with the more aggro look of John Byrne, and I don’t think these two looks work well in tandem. Sometimes it looks okay, but a lot of the time it just looks a little off. Still, everything else looks good – if she was just showing up as a supporting character we’d let it slide. Hopefully, though, if van Sciver continues on the book, his depiction will improve. 

All in all, these first two issues are a fun distraction, but not great. They both feel kind of rushed, and everything wraps up a little too neatly. Still, the title has promise, and for only US99c (Digital Edition) an issue I’m pretty happy to stick with the title for a while – I’m looking forward to reading more.  

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