Monday, September 13, 2010

I Start Off My Exploration Of Wonder Woman With “Love And Murder,” An Average Story.

The Good: Good artwork, Interesting story, Decent-enough character development
The Bad: Repetitive beyond belief, Annoyingly leads to a cliffhanger
The Basics: Great artwork and decent dialogue push up the average Love And Murder storyline from Wonder Woman.

Every year, I set myself up with a few different projects and I have declared this year my “Wonder Woman” year. In my exploration of graphic novels and films, I’m going to get all I can in to read and watch about “Wonder Woman.” And why not? She’s cool, kicks butt and is one of DC’s big three super heroes. To date, the only thing I’ve had to do with “Wonder Woman” was evaluating an action figure of her (check it out by clicking here!) and that was a few years back! So, when my library got in the graphic novel Love And Murder for me, I was thrilled. I was also a little confused.

To be fair, Love And Murder is a trade paperback anthology as it anthologizes five “Wonder Woman” comic books previously published as their own issues. All five of them were written by Jodi Picoult, the novelist, and rather ridiculously, Picoult ruins the suspense of the book by revealing in her foreword that this is a cliffhanger and that instantly led me to a sinking feeling in my stomach. Unfortunately for her, the real problem with Love And Murder is that it is part of a story already in progress and this seems much more like a middle act than its own narrative. And the most confusing aspect, alas, is not encapsulated in the “The Story So Far . . .” summary which opens the book.

The other aspect of the book which is somewhere between confusing and annoying is the constant identity crisis Wonder Woman is going through. I mean, hasn’t Wonder Woman been around forever? Or at least a very long time? Why does she have such a huge problem with her dual identity all throughout Love And Murder? That is never explained. Why now? Why is she hesitant about her role, other than she is a fugitive as Wonder Woman (for events prior to this book which are adequately explained). Sadly, constant references to her split roles as Diana and as Wonder Woman drag down the opening to the book and they are paired with reminders on almost every page that Wonder Woman (and Diana) is not human, so the opening seriously drags.

Love And Murder finds Diana Prince working for the Department of Metahuman Affairs in Washington D.C. Paired with a master of disguise named Nemesis, Diana is tasked with guarding a new superhero (who was essentially a winner of an “American Idol” type contest). When a nearby roller coaster collapses, Diana quickly changes into Wonder Woman and comes to the rescue, which prompts the Department to task Diana and Nemesis with hunting Wonder Woman down. Almost immediately after Sarge tasks the pair with finding Wonder Woman, Diana’s confused moralizations about who she is now are cut short by Nemesis being abducted by Diana’s old enemy, Circe.

In rescuing Nemesis, Wonder Woman gains a new ally, but Circe’s escape sets off a series of events which put everything in peril. As Wonder Woman and Nemesis search for clues as to why Circe has turned up now, Circe returns to the mystical island of Themyscira to resurrect Diana’s mother, Hippolyta. With that accomplished, Circe sets the Amazons against Earth, leading Nemesis, Wonder Woman and the Justic League Of America into a battle between dimensions while trying to determine what exactly is going on.

And, from the outset (thank you, Ms. Picoult, don’t you think people read your foreword if you put it at the beginning of the book?!) we know it’s not going to be figured out within this volume and that is irksome. That said, the journey is pretty fun.

In Love And Murder, Wonder Woman is presented as a wise-cracking government agent who has the ability to transform into a superhero using tools like bracelets that are impenetrable and a lasso which forces those ensnared in it to tell the truth. Her nemesis, Circe, talks with a great tongue-in-cheek banter which reminds one of a Joss Whedon work. So, for example, when she resurrects Hippolyta, the previously-dead queen notes that the air is pretty rank and Circe responds, “Yeah. Maggots will do that.” Throughout the book, the dialogue is quick and the banter between Nemesis and Diana is pretty good.

It also, though, makes little sense to a Wonder Woman newbie. Diana might not be used to paying for things at inflated rates, but why does she not know how to pump gas? Moreover, when Wonder Woman is captured, her release is unfortunately predictable.

Why, then, do I ultimately recommend Love And Murder? This trade paperback anthology has just enough going for it for readers of all ages to enjoy. The dialogue is good, even if the internal voice is debating pointlessly the dual nature of the heroine. But also, the artwork is astonishingly good. Having spent the past year reading trade paperback anthologies – especially movie tie-ins – and graphic novels, I’ve been used to an unfortunately low quality of art. In Love And Murder, the panels are immaculately drawn with consistently good coloring throughout. In fact, the only beef about the artwork would have to be that Hippolyta and Wonder Woman look way too much alike both physically and in their costuming so some of their fight sequences near the end are visually confusing.

That said, readers who want to see a strong, smart and surprisingly funny super heroine kick some serious butt, Love And Murder works. Despite a few predictable elements, the book features a decent villain in Circe and a good conflict between the characters of Diana and Nemesis and Wonder Woman and Circe to make the book engaging. Ultimately, the recommendation came from the realization that I actually cared what happened to the characters before the end of the book and it has been a long time since a comic made me feel that. The only real potential danger, then, of Love And Murder is that at the end, readers are likely to want to pick up Amazons Attack, which continues the storyline and other graphic novels that precede this. Perhaps this will end up being a Wonder Woman year for more than just me!


For other book reviews, please check my index page!

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

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