Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wonder Woman: Contagion Caps Off My Wonder Woman Graphic Novels For My Wonder Woman Year!

The Good: Decent peripheral character work, Interesting villains, Generally good artwork
The Bad: Incomplete feeling, Monotonous tone, Some forced character elements.
The Basics: Still isolated from her people, Diana confronts enemies from Themyscira and outer space who threaten to destroy her work on Earth.

As my Wonder Woman Year rapidly moved to a close, I found my pace with reading the remaining graphic novels from the heroine somewhat relaxed. It’s strange; a lot of bookstores and comic book shops do not carry the full selection of Wonder Woman books and I’m not sure why that is. I would think, as one of DC Comics’ big three recognizable heroes, she would be prioritized some. Perhaps with impending release of the film Green Lantern, Wonder Woman is being pushed back to #4 and DC us deprioritizing her works. Regardless, it has been a good year and I have enjoyed reading all of the Wonder Woman graphic novels I could get my hands on. The last one (I currently have) is Wonder Woman: Contagion, and it is one of the last Wonder Woman books that Gail Simone worked on.

Contagion is a surprisingly short trade paperback anthology and it continues the story of Princess Diana isolated from her people following the Olympians being brought by the Greek Gods to Themyscira. The anthology is a collection of two stories, the two-part “A Murder Of Crows” and the three-part “Wrath Of The Silver Serpent” storyline. The plots are almost entirely unrelated, though the character elements between the two stories are serialized. And the work is best described as “average.” Part of that overall feeling comes from the book not doing anything extraordinary; reading Contagion, one does not feel like they have been taken on any sort of important journey or even that the trip was exceptional in any way. If this is Simone’s swan song with Wonder Woman, she goes out with an unfortunate whimper.

“A Murder Of Crows” finds Diana forced to put down the serpent god Quetzlotl, who is uncharacteristically swallowing subway cars and putting humans in jeopardy. When Wonder Woman rescues the subway full of people, some children aboard undermine the affection some have for Wonder Woman and her heroism. Scorpion, Adder, Goat, Spider and the other child in the private school uniform begin to sew discord among the people of Washington, D.C. After forcing a man to burn a synagogue and then kill himself, the children manipulate Power Girl into a fight with Wonder Woman. As Achilles leaves Thalarion to try to end war once and for all, Power Girl and Wonder Woman duke it out for survival.

With the “Wrath Of The Silver Serpent” storyline, Washington, D.C. becomes ground zero for an alien invasion. The Green Lantern Corps discovers that Talcyion Omega has been obliterated by a race which used worms to feed off the entire populace. With the lone survivor of the attack, the Green Lantern Corps members flee the planet. Shortly thereafter, Earth is attacked with Washington, D.C. isolated from the rest of the planet. After Wonder Woman, Achilles and Steve Trevor attempt to stop the worm invasion. The leader of the invaders, Astarte, reveals herself to Diana as her aunt. Diana learns of the gruesome nature of the Civilization and she fights for Earth’s freedom . . . against her malicious cousin whose powers rival her own!

Contagion might sound cool in the abstract, but it is a real mixed bag. So, for example, the identities of the children in the “Murder Of Crows” storyline is completely unsurprising. Especially when one considers the resolution to the prior volume, “Warkiller,” the book has a pretty monotonous feel with the conflicts and fight sequences being more a matter of comic book form than actually feeling like an organic storyline. So, as a fan more of Wonder Woman than the entire DC Universe, I was surprised by the banter between Power Girl and Wonder Woman; this was actually the first time I had seen them together in a story! But while the fights are unsurprising, the identity of the children is supposed to be a big deal, even if it is somewhat obvious to seasoned readers. The revelation, however, is passed off almost more as a footnote than a legitimate reveal or without any sense of consequence or ramification for all that came before.

As for the “Wrath Of The Silver Serpent” storyline, this could have been the awesome beginning to a major new crossover event, but the villains are introduced and thwarted within the three-chapters that make up the stroyline. So, by this point, readers might understand that I am feeling like Wonder Woman needs some good villains. Given that the body of Genocide has not been recovered and it has been mentioned several times in these stories, one has to wonder why Simone and the franchise are settling upon minor villains whom they are not willing to truly invest in. After all, the Civilization is brutal, the warriors are almost unstoppable and the worms they use to make their slurry are absolutely disgusting. Simone worked to establish a culture and a concept and then - poof! – they are done with them.

Contagion has decent artwork. For all my complaints about the battles, the artwork which represents them is fluid, looks good and is consistent. In fact, the only thing the pencillers do not seem to have down in this volume is the look they want Etta Candy to have. For some reason, the pencillers have not chosen, by the end of this volume, if they want Candy to be a fit warrior woman or a woman who is a little heavier and has multiple chins. The visual conflict for the character design is frustrating to readers.

More than anything else, Contagion leaves the reader without the feeling they have read anything of note. Simone makes a pass at character elements, especially with Diana’s focus on her sense of isolation and desire to still save the world which has mostly rejected her, but she does not grow the character at all. This book is devoid of the banter which the prior volume possessed and it stacks up poorly against other graphic novels, not from doing so much wrong as not doing anything one wouldn’t expect from the typical, average graphic novel.

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 book reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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