Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wonder Woman: Beauty And The Beasts Is An Old School Setup For Much Better Storylines.

The Good: Moments of plot and character development, One or two panels of art.
The Bad: Repetitive story feel, Light on character development, Verbiage gets in the way of artwork.
The Basics: After a long time, I finally get my hands on Wonder Woman: Beauty And The Beasts only to be disappointed with a storyline that goes nowhere.

Last year was my “Wonder Woman Year,” but because I love the character, I’ve still tried to find the last few graphic novels of hers that I did not read last year. That means that Wonder Woman: Beauty And The Beasts has been on my reading list for over a year now. Last night, I had the chance (finally) to read it and the sad truth is, it left me feeling very disappointed. This volume is the third in a series that was part of George Perez’s tenure at Wonder Woman and the reintegration of Wonder Woman into the DC Universe (she was killed in Crisis On Infinite Earths, reviewed here, and then reborn) and is the weakest of the volumes so far.

In this volume, the Silver Swan plotline from the prior volume is wrapped up, the potential relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman is put to rest and Circe is introduced as one of the formidable villains for Wonder Woman. And, ironically, the weakness of Wonder Woman: Beauty And The Beasts is that it uses the medium poorly; almost completely overwhelming the artwork with the dialogue and trying to distinguish Diana as a nice woman more than a hero with incredible abilities.

Yes, I love to read, but I just accused a graphic novel of being too wordy. The truth is, Wonder Woman: Beauty And The Beasts uses the medium poorly because of how much dialogue it is attempting to cram into a small space. This is especially contrasted by the inclusion of Action Comics #600, which has so little dialogue that is stands out. The book essentially has three parts, with a thread of subplots with Olympus reorganizing and Diana getting to know her human family better.

Still acclimating to life away from Paradise Island, Diana begins to feel homesick. Still, she tries to do good in the world and that takes the form of having a charity fair where she is a featured guest. After a series of corporate-sponsored murders occur, the Silver Swan attacks at the charity event and Wonder Woman has to save the day.

While Diana muses on her growing feelings for Superman, the Olympian gods are attacked. Warned by Hermes, Diana attempts to save Olympus, but she and Superman are pulled through a boom tube to Apokolips. There, as Darkseid explains to his assistant Desaad, Wonder Woman and Superman are separated and fight adversaries who appear to be the other in order to lure Wonder Woman and Superman into a trap where they will actually fight each other. This, naturally, backfires for the villains.

Finally, the book introduces Circe. As the Olympian Gods try to create a new order, in an artifact recovered by the Kapatelis’, Wonder Woman tours Greece and finds herself drawn to a strange island. On that island, she is attacked and incapacitated by Circe, who chains Diana up and prepares to kill her. Unfortunately, in the process, she goads Diana into getting angry and Diana breaks free and sends Circe packing.

Sadly, the stories have very limited character development and even less in the way of intrigue. The Silver Swan story is jumbled with peripheral characters discussing melodramatically the feelings they have for their pen pals and foreshadows for a conflict that does not materialize in a satisfying way. The story is a long, drawn out setup with characters that it is hard to believe anyone would care about that turns quickly into a “save the innocents/dispatch the villain” story. And Wonder Woman is good at that, but the whole thing is a pretty underwhelming use of the character.

The best artwork comes in the anything-but-wordy interstitial involving Wonder Woman and Superman. Starting with the two of them kissing, they contemplate having a relationship before Diana is sucked into the boom tube and Clark follows her. Through this adventure, Superman comes to be in awe of Diana and realizes they can’t have a romantic future. While that story works, Darkseid is painted as more of a fool than a truly realized and horrific villain who would later bring the world to the edge of enslavement. Desaad, at least, gets away with it as he is a pretty generic lackey.

The final section is a good concept, but the execution is tedious as Diana tries to get to know the Earthbound (non-Themysicran) home of the Greek gods. The travelogue of Greece is remotely interesting and the introduction of Circe is memorable, but somewhat nonsensical. Hermes clues Diana in to the existence of Circe, who might not have been a threat had she just avoided Diana. Circe is a recurring villain and, like many DC Universe characters, bears little resemblance to the incarnation introduced here.

Ultimately, even as a fan of Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman: Beauty And The Beasts is not exciting, interesting or even character-building enough to recommend. As such, it is easy to forget about and move on to other, better Wonder Woman stories.

For other Wonder Woman volumes in this incarnation of the Amazon Princess, please check out my reviews of:
Gods And Mortals by George Perez
Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Gods by George Perez
Wonder Woman: Lifelines By John Byrne
Paradise Lost By Phil Jimenez
Down To Earth By Greg Rucka
The Hiketeia


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

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