Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wonder Woman: Mythos About As Bad As A Wonder Woman Novel Could Be!

The Good: Moments of character insight
The Bad: Over-detailed in irrelevant ways, Characters read as simpletons, Narrative flow, Unsatisfying resolution, Thematically lame
The Basics: Despite being a novel with words instead of words and pictures, Mythos is a Wonder Woman (Justice League) novel which is boring and bad.

"Write what you know" is the creative death knell of writers today. The newer novels I read tend to be stunted by authors who obsessively detail what they do know that they completely flounder on extrapolating what they do not. So, for example, Audrey Niffenegger's new novel, Her Fearful Symmetry reads like a travelogue of Highgate Cemetery and the rest of her story is so buried beneath details of the real place she worked that the book is strangled. To a lesser extent, Carol Lay's novel Mythos, is stunted by her exacting details about diving. Unfortunately, wile Lay clearly knows about diving, she does not exhibit similar knowledge of hero stories or writing abilities.

I came upon Mythos as part of my Wonder Woman Year when my local library system had the novel - it is worth noting that there is no comic book version of this story, it is exclusively available as a novel - available to me and eager to study every incarnation of Wonder Woman I could, I took this book out. Mythos is a Justice League Of America novel which focuses on Wonder Woman as a primary protagonist. However, Superman, Batman, the Flash and the Green Lantern (Kyle) appear prominently in the novel.

While on her honeymoon in the Bermuda Triangle, Ana Lindstadt and her husband Henry go diving and when they become separated near an island that does not appear on their charts, Henry disappears. Much to Ana's surprise, so does the island she saw from underwater. This leads Wonder Woman to worry that Henry may have stumbled upon Themyscira, the secret island of the Amazons and that his life and the lives of the Amazons are in danger. While the Justice League Headquarters is taken off-line for maintenance, Diana returns to Themyscira to search for Henry but quickly learns that he has not washed up there. Unfortunately for Diana, the Oracle there informs her that her mission will take her to an opposite island, one where Diana surmises there will be all men, ruled by violence.

Leaving Themyscira, Diana follows the clues and Ana to the portal which takes her to a dimension where she finds Themyscira's opposite island. The men there are not, however, brutes. They are automatons ruled by Ares as part of a generally mindless mass. Despite not knowing what a woman is, they are unsurprised to see Wonder Woman because ancient pictographs in their God Mountain detailed Wonder Woman's arrival. Unfortunately for Diana, inspecting those pictographs reveals that her attempt to rescue the zombified Henry will awaken a great evil which will turn the men into superhuman warriors who will storm Themyscira and kill all of the women there before Ares ascends and takes over the world. Still, Wonder Woman attempts to buck prophecy and rescue Henry, but as the walls foretold, he discovers a powerful artifact on the bottom of the sea and the pair is forced to return to the island. With Wonder Woman held captive by her own lasso, Henry - under the influence of a powerful orb - begins to transform the men into warriors and Wonder Woman must await rescue from her Justice League comrades, who have no idea how to find her.

Mythos starts as an annoyingly predictable "prophecy" story and evolves into an unsatisfying super hero story where the common human seems to be smarter than the actual heroes. While certain elements of this work, most notably the way Ana rescues Wonder Woman from the mind-control of the orb, most of them fall flat, including Ana's ultimate solution to the problems all of the heroes have gotten themselves into at that point. But more than just Ana being an annoying addition to the club of people who are supposed to be an almost-invincible alien (Superman), a brilliant detective (Batman), a man who can move at virtually the speed of light (the Flash) and a creative genius in control of the most powerful artifact in the universe (Green Lantern), the book falls flat because even Ana is relatively monolithic. Ana is a diver and Carol Lay fills in all sorts of details about diving to make the few underwater scenes resonate for anyone who has a diving background or interest, but she fails to make Ana interesting in any other way or the book resonate with anything else.

As a result, this reads like pulp, from the chapters having individual titles that set up the theme or location to the predictable reversals that come. Superman arrives on the island in the first half of the book, yet the reader can see that clearly the problem does not get solved. In addition to being somewhat insulting that a Wonder Woman book would rely so much on the Man Of Steel, the method Lay uses to incapacitate Superman makes the monolithically good hero look like a lightweight. While I'm not fond of Superman, I'm not particularly fond of seeing characters misused and Superman topples in a cheap way in Lay's vision. Similarly, the Flash is dispatched with annoying ease and from the moment Green Lantern becomes a problem, I found myself asking a question that one would think any contemporary creative person would ask (anyone used to using a computer, one would think, would consider any infected device could use an antiviral sweep, I would think). Lay never has Green Lantern ask the question. And here is where writing about what you know is clear; Lay is not terribly creative or insightful into the creative mind if her readers will come up with solutions instantly that do not occur to her.

But more than any other character, it is Wonder Woman's voice which Lay fails to grasp. Having read almost a dozen graphic novels featuring Wonder Woman now, I can easily acknowledge that Wonder Woman's "voice" changes with different authors. That does not always mean the changes work. Jodi Pocault's voice for Wonder Woman in Love And Murder (click here for my review!) made little sense for a character who has been living in the United States for decades. Similarly, Lay's voice for Wonder Woman is less authoritative and she makes diplomacy and pacifism sound wussy. Whether she intends to or not, she makes Ana more internally strong than Diana and that doesn't work for me. Similarly, whether she intended to or not, Mythos creates a Wonder Woman who gets into trouble and needs to be rescued. By the men.

Thankfully for Wonder Woman, the men come swooping in and as part of a team effort with minimal involvement on Wonder Woman's part, everything gets resolved (rather unsatisfactorily). Fortunately for readers, I suffered through this boring, unsurprising, unsatisfying, pulp novel with the diction that the average fourth grade reader will be able to get through (though some of the references to attraction might be over their heads) so you will not have to. There's nothing compelling or interesting here for readers.

For other novels with superhuman characters, please check out my reviews of:
I, Strahd - P.N. Elrod
Revenge Of The Sith - Matthew Stover
The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner - Stephanie Meyer


For other book reviews, please visit my index page!

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

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