Monday, September 27, 2010

Despite The Introduction, Wonder Woman The Circle Is Very Much An Average Wonder Woman Adventure.

The Good: Decent reinterpretation of Diana's origins, Good character development in latter half
The Bad: Lousy sketch gallery, Some mediocre artwork.
The Basics: Wonder Woman: The Circle is a good Wonder Woman adventure but not much more.

As my "Wonder Woman Year" continues, I find myself bouncing between different phases of Wonder Woman's story and what might be most disturbing for me about it is how it is not hard at all to keep it all straight. Instead, all that is truly irking me is that the more I read, the more I seem to find gaps in the storytelling. So, for example, I went from Amazons Attack to The Circle only to discover that there are three issues of Wonder Woman comics which are in neither trade paperback anthology! Serious grumble.

That said, The Circle is actually the storylines "The Circle" and "Expatriate" from the Wonder Woman comics, brought together in a trade paperback anthology with an introduction by Mercedes Lackey. And while Lackey declares this the Wonder Woman story she finally enjoyed, I found myself frustrated by it on multiple levels. Sure, it has its good points, Wonder Woman doing battle with Nazis, seducing Nemesis, and befriending villainous gorillas, but the continued reimagination of Wonder Woman is not without problems. In fact, one of the things Lackey liked, I distinctly did not, which was the recharacterization of Etta Candy.

Candy appears in other incarnations as an overweight military secretary who is usually eating cake when she is not aiding Wonder Woman in defeating villains. But what Lackey thought was irksome, I actually liked. I like that in Wonder Woman's mythos, there is a plus-sized woman and it is she who gets the stud. Etta Candy, cake-eating and overweight is the one who bags Steve Trevor in the comics. So why Lackey is psyched when Candy is another thin, military commander with no distinct personality in this reinvention of Etta Candy in The Circle is a mystery to me.

That said, the stories in The Circle are actually compelling and enough for even casual fans to follow. The two storylines have Wonder Woman returning to Themyscira despite the now-forbidden nature of the island. As well, the second part has some decent character development which finds her in the company of Nemesis once again, this time in a more intimate capacity.

"The Circle" tells the story of four Amazons who were made Hippolyta's private guard. In the days leading up to Diana's creation, these women became increasingly paranoid and fearful of what Diana's creation would do to Themyscira. Hippolyta goes through the yearly ritual of visiting the four imprisoned women, the only ones beside herself left on the enchanted island, when shortly thereafter, Themysicra is overrun by Nazis.

Meanwhile, in Man's World, Wonder Woman peacefully subdues an army of enhanced gorillas under Grodd's control and returns with them to Washington as her allies. After an encounter with Captain Nazi, agent Diana Prince and Nemesis (Tom Tresser) learn that the new Nazi movement has decided to make the abandoned island of Themyscira their new fatherland. Unable to get there on her own, Wonder Woman appeals to every god she can find (in non-Greek pantheons) for a way into the island. As a champion of Miohai, she is able to journey to Themyscira where she discovers the new Nazis may not be her biggest obstacle!

In "Expatriate," Wonder Woman begins officially courting Tresser, who is in the hospital, when she is called away by the world-destroying Khund. The Khund have arrived to try to thwart her and, barring that, are taken to their homeworld which has been invaded by a villainous race known as the Ichor. But in her attempt to communicate with the Ichor, Wonder Woman discovers a more formidable enemy, a Green Lantern whose homeworld was destroyed by the Khund and is bent on revenge!

The Circle, the anthology, is not a bad pair of stories and they certainly have the benefit of taking the Wonder Woman mythos in a new direction or at least a direction that feels new. Wonder Woman is compelled to understand the effects of her creation on her homeland in "The Circle," just as she is once again forced to bring peace and understanding to the universe in "Expatriate." While the first story does a good job of making the reader, and Diana, reconsider the established Wonder Woman, the second story does a great job of reinforcing the known Wonder Woman. She tries for peace and understanding, but can kick butt when necessary.

In none of my Wonder Woman reading so far, though, has Diana been so overtly sexual as she is in the beginning of "Expatriate," which is interesting, but seems oddly presented. Wonder Woman loses much of her confidence in her seduction of Nemesis and she instead seems awfully kittenish. The "awfully" there is meant in the context of "worst possible way." Wonder Woman suddenly seems like she is being written by a horny teenage boy and this is disturbing for a character who arguably has the highest evolved sense of ethics of any superhero in the DC pantheon.

It also doesn't help that in the Nemesis seduction scene, the art is done by Bernard Chang. Chang has Wonder Woman looking like Buffy Summers, or at least the graphic novel version of her. This is disturbing and little flirtatious acts like Wonder Woman biting her lower lip which is fun still reads less like Wonder Woman and more like a fantasy of her. And big doe eyes just doesn't work for the Amazon Princess.

What does work is most of the artwork in the rest of the issue, which was done by Terry and Rachel Dodson. Sure, on pages 27 and 27 Etta Candy is drawn with three distinctly different skull shapes, but beyond that, the Dodsons do decent artwork. The colors are vibrant and the sense of movement is good. As a result, Wonder Woman's combat with the gorillas as well as with the Nazis looks real good.

This is not high drama or even deeply revealing literature, but The Circle is a good pulp read and the protagonist is smarter, more powerful and sexier than any five other heroines who come to mind, so it certainly is easy to recommend!

For other Wonder Woman stories in this saga, please check out my reviews of:
Who Is Wonder Woman?
Love And Murder
Amazons Attack!


For other book reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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