Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wonder Woman Reboots With Gods And Mortals The First Trade Paperback Anthology!

The Good: Moments of story, Moments of artwork
The Bad: Ultimately, some of the characters feel like generic sidekicks, Awkward artwork in points
The Basics: A decent trade paperback anthology that starts the story of Wonder Woman, Gods And Mortals explores the origins of Diana and her mystical island.

I love being able to start things at their beginning and, frankly, I've been a little disappointed in my study of Wonder Woman to not have been able to start at the very beginning. Fortunately, I have picked up the trade paperback anthology Wonder Woman: Gods And Mortals which is, for all intents and purposes, the new beginning of the Wonder Woman saga. Following Crisis On Infinite Earths, a major crossover event in the DC comic universe (or multiverse), DC Comics sought to reboot several of its most important and iconic characters. Wonder Woman was one of those. As a result, in 1987, the monthly Wonder Woman comic book restarted with issue #1.

Issue #1 restarted Wonder Woman with the origin of Wonder Woman and the establishment of the essential mythos of the character. Gods And Mortals starts with issue #1 and includes the first seven comic books of the new Wonder Woman series. This actually works out fairly well as they work to tell one essential story and the trade paperback anthology, which was published in 2003, includes writer George Perez's thoughts on his work on the series as well as these early issues.

"The Princess And The Power" opens with a neanderthal man in 30,000 B.C. killing a pregnant woman he is inadequately providing for after his arm is bitten off. From there, the story leaps to 1200 B.C. and Mount Olympus where the Greek Gods and Goddesses are squabbling among themselves, mostly about how powerful Ares (God of War) has become. Many of the Goddesses, accompanied by Hermes, journey to Hades* and the Cavern of Souls, where they find the souls of women whose lives were cut short through the violence of men. They resurrect these souls as Amazons, immortal women who are bestowed great power. Unfortunately, they were corrupted by Ares and Heracles is set upon the Amazon community. Thwarted by Hippolyte, the most powerful of the Amazons, Heracles is embarrassed and drugs her, enslaving the Amazons. Ravished and defeated, the Amazon women are rescued by the Goddesses and are sent to a magical island where they live and grow in peace and isolation, though all are forced to wear bracelets to remind them of their time in the servitude of Heracles for their arrogance. Charged with guarding a great evil sealed under the island, the Amazons spend thousands of years repenting and growing stagnant. Then, Queen Hippolyte is blessed with a baby, whom she fashions out of clay and is bestowed with the gift of life, as well as many superhuman abilities. This is Diana, who is raised by all on the island to be the smartest, strongest and most virtuous of the Amazons. But when the oracle foresees the Gods and Goddesses being crushed by Ares, a tournament is planned and the victor shall be sent to Man's World to thwart Ares!

In "A Fire In The Sky," Air Force Colonel Steve Trevor is introduced. A pawn for a warmongering General, Trevor is sent to show off an American plane over airspace that is not supposed to have anything under it. At that point, Diana is preparing for her mission, having been given a lasso of truth forged from the girdle of Gaea. But as Diana is about to leave Paradise Island with Hermes, a fighter jet with Trevor appears over the skies of Paradise Island. Diana destroys the bomb Trevor's copilot launches and rescues the wounded Steve Trevor.

In "Deadly Arrival," Hermes brings Diana to Boston after returning Steve Trevor to a military hospital. Having been given a talisman from Ares's mad daughter, Hermonia, Diana is given the task of learning how to use it. She finds herself at Harvard in the company of Professor Julia Kapatelis, who speaks enough Ancient Greek to understand Diana and express a willingness to help her. But Ares's sons, Deimos and Phobos send an enchanted statue to slay Diana in Man's world, hoping to curry the favor of Ares. While Steve Trevor finds himself under arrest and at the mercy of a military conspiracy centered around a cult to Ares. And in Boston, Diana and Julia, as well as Julia's daughter Vanessa fall under the influence of the demigod Decay!

In "A Long Day's Journey Into Fright" Diana rescues the aging Vanessa and her new friend Julia from Decay. While the Goddesses of Olympus prepare to sail into oblivion, Lieutenant Candy uncovers information in Top Secret documents which might exonerate Trevor and upset the Ares Project. But Diana's heated battle with Decay in broad daylight puts her in the public eye and she is coined "Wonder Woman" by the press. Seeing her on television, Steve Trevor realizes his visions after the plane crash were not just a dream and he finds Diana and Julie in their refuge.

In chapter five, "The Ares Assault," the gods once more put their faith in Diana to save them from oblivion as Phobos and Deimos's plan to bring the world to the brink of war comes to fruition. Using the talisman, Diana, Julie, Trevor, Lt. Candy and Colonel Michaelis enter the demented hellish realm of the gods. While Phobos strikes terror into the mortals, Deimos tries to dispatch Diana, with his snakehair repeatedly biting her and driving her closer to death!

In the sixth chapter, "Powerplay," Diana and her team use the full talisman to transport to the military base where the followers of Ares have taken over and are preparing to launch nuclear missiles at the U.S.S.R. As conflict breaks out, Diana is taken by Ares to his plane where the god taunts her and she must use her wits to stop him.

Finally, in "Rebirth!" the military cabal worshipping Ares is unraveled and Diana is healed by the gods. She brings Vanessa back the power to restore the girl to her proper age and in the process becomes the newest hero of Boston. As the world gets used to having a Wonder Woman, Diana acclimates to fame and having a publicity manager, not knowing that being in the public eye is setting her up for her next conflict!

George Perez, who wrote all seven stories, has the surprisingly easy task of reinventing Wonder Woman and the truth is, the challenge is not one that is insurmountable. After all, while most people know Superman or Batman's origins, Wonder Woman's are much more nebulous and less common-knowledge. So, Perez details the story of a mythical woman created by the gods and Goddesses. Pretty cool origins and actually, the first chapter takes a decent amount of time before Diana appears and I actually like how much thought went into the backstory.

But therein lies perhaps the most problematic aspect of the Wonder Woman story in Gods And Mortals. Wonder Woman is endowed with the powers of several gods and Goddesses and between her innate abilities and the tools which she is given, she is formidable. But she does not exactly reason her way out of her problem and the way it is presented in Gods And Mortals, she pretty much stumbles onto her salvation and that feels weak.

The paper quality of Gods And Mortals reminds one of newsprint and the coloring is more muted than contemporary comic books, which is disappointing, especially for a contemporary trade paperback anthology. As well, the images have a generally comic strip look to them and those looking for rich colors and a strong sense of movement will be out of luck with this book. While characters are generally easy to differentiate, the drawings are simpler than those who like current comic books are likely to enjoy. Even so, Perez, who penciled the book in addition to writing it, included decent detailing, like all of the bites on Wonder Woman after she attacks Deimos.

Ultimately, Gods And Mortals is very average and my recommendation is a weak one. This is essential in that it is a solid beginning to the super heroine, but it is hardly incredible literature.

* The only real bad oversight for Greek mythology comes from this book's common mistaking of Hades (God of the Underworld) for Tartarus (the actual land of the dead).

For other Wonder Woman anthologies, please check out my reviews of:
Who Is Wonder Woman? by Allan Heinberg
Love And Murder By Jodi Pocault
Amazons Attack! by Will Pfeifer
The Circle By Gail Simone
Ends Of The Earth By Gail Simone


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my index page!

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