Monday, December 20, 2010

Warkiller Is Solidly Entertaining Wonder Woman, But Not An Enduring Work.

The Good: Good plot, Moments of character, Moments of artwork.
The Bad: Somewhat simple plot at points, Moments of artwork.
The Basics: The Wonder Woman trade paperback anthology Warkiller continues the Olympians plot and the isolation of Diana, but does not inspire a second reading of the work.

As my Wonder Woman year rapidly moves toward a close, I am excited by the latest influx of graphic novels which might help me meet my goal of reading as many works about Wonder Woman as possible in 2010. The latest in the series, the penultimate one in the current storylines that has been published, is Warkiller, by Gail Simone and artists Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryans and Bernard Chang. And while I enjoyed reading Warkiller, my final analysis was ridiculously easy to make. This book is worth the read, hard to recommend for the buy and is in no way to be confused with great literature. But it is fun and it makes an effort to hit all of the important points of the medium, with varying degrees of success.

Warkiller is a middle act for those who have been following the contemporary Wonder Woman stories. The book comes in the middle of a story which has rocked Wonder Woman’s life following the Final Crisis events. As a result, it alludes heavily on events from Rise Of The Olympian and sets readers up quite well for Contagion. Gail Simone had a pretty extensive story to tell and there are moments in Warkiller that feel like she had an ambitious message that was truncated for the serialized form and thus Diana/Wonder Woman never quite pops as much as the reader would hope for such an otherwise intriguing storyline. The Warkiller anthology is made up of six Wonder Woman comic books which comprise the two parts of “Birds Of Paradise” and the four parts of “Warkiller.”

“Birds Of Paradise” finds Diana isolated having renounced her Amazon heritage. After a brief trip to the Arctic, she returns to Tolifhar – her rescued gorilla companion – and she works to get her life back on track. That is when Tom and Dr. Morrow inform her that Genocide is not dead, though its body is missing and that Dr. Psycho has taken over the Department of Metahuman Affairs by swapping bodies with Sarge Steel. While King Achilles consolidates his power on Themyscira by asking Alkyone – the disgraced captain of the guard who led The Circle – to be his queen, Diana and Black Canary journey to Tokyo to find Dr. Psycho in the underground. There they discover a series of matches being fought using metahumans that are brutally pitted against one another for sport and profit. Diana – uncleverly disguised by Dinah – and Dinah fight for their lives to stop Dr. Psycho, while the master criminal sets up a match with an unlikely adversary who wants nothing more than to crush Diana.

In “Warkiller” (the storyline), Diana returns to America where she is reunited with Tom, who reveals that their relationship is over as a result of her actions during the Genocide incident. Irked, Diana takes on Giganta and discovers an unlikely ally for a battle with the Olympians. Zeus himself calls upon the Olympians to do battle, but Diana and Giganta thwart Achilles. Her victory, however, is short-lived as she dreams of Ares and the defeated god reveals that Diana is about to be betrayed. Leaving her gorillas, Diana returns once again to Themysicra where she is overwhelmed by a brainwashed Donna Troy. Losing her lasso to save Donna’s life, Diana makes it to her mother’s side as Hippolyta surrenders the throne to Alkyone. Alkyone, working with Ares, promises to defeat Achilles by creating a political mess which centers around the imprisonment of Diana and the execution of Hippolyta. As the warring factions reason out their paths, the Greek gods come to a final decision about their place on Earth.

Warkiller, the graphic novel, actually does manage to do quite a bit that is worthwhile. While the book starts slowly, it does so with good intent; the fact that the character ramifications of the first part of the story (in Rise Of The Olympian) are not overlooked. Instead, Diana wrestles with the consequences of having turned her back of the occupied Themysicra and she now has the mixed task of finding her own path. The character journey is an interesting one and in the second half of the book when she finds common ground with the villain Giganta (or more accurately, her alter-ego), the book actually rings true and makes an interesting statement.

Similarly, the portions of the text which deal with the Greek gods are fascinating. Having returned to Earth in the prior installments around the release of Genocide, Zeus has been off-kilter and the revelation that the gods were tormented by the Ichor is a creepy and telling bit of character work. In Warkiller, Gods are not dead, they are kept alive to become that which they despise through torment and mistreatment. It’s an interesting idea and the fact that Ares continues to relate with Diana even after she killed him is an intriguing one.

But some of the story is still a bit simple or obvious. While the consequences of Zeus killing Kane Milohai are developed in an intriguing way, the reader is left feeling that Simone and her team could have done more than just the smackdown that is in these pages. Wonder Woman manages to get out of situations without violence being the ultimate resolution, but it takes a lot of violence to get there and some of it just feels cheap.

That is, in part, because of the artwork. The art team for Warkiller does not keep a consistent level of quality throughout the book. The sense of movement is off in many panels, which makes reading panel to panel sometimes an awkward series of transitions instead of the fluid experience a writer and art team would want. Moreover, some of the art is just sloppy. Take page 30 in part 2 of the “Birds Of Paradise” section of the book. In several frames there, Diana looks more like Veronica (of the Archie comics) than she does Diana. This is tremendously disappointing and it is hard to want to shell out for sloppy artwork.

Even so, Warkiller has good banter – especially about the costumes – between Diana and the guest characters like Dinah (Black Canary) and Giganta. There is a decent level of pathos when Diana and Tom’s relationship inevitably disintegrates and the reader is excited to see where the storyline is going as there continue to be dangling issues, especially with the pregnant Amazons, the location of Genocide and the fact that Achilles still rules Themyscira. This leaves Wonder Woman adrift and readers eager for more. That is what a good serial does and this is just that.

For other Wonder Woman stories in this incarnation of the heroine, please check out my reviews of:
Who Is Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman: Love And Murder
Amazons Attack!
Wonder Woman: The Circle
Ends Of The Earth
Rise Of The Olympian


For other graphic novel reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

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

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