Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mission's End Illustrates A Failure In The World, Not Wonder Woman!

The Good: Character arc, Engaging story, Mostly decent artwork.
The Bad: Missing details, Coda story
The Basics: Wonder Woman's mission comes to an end when she is forced to kill Max Lord and protect Themyscira from the OMAC army in Mission's End.

When I learned that my local library was able to get me in Wonder Woman: Mission's End, I almost immediately pulled off the shelves the other volumes from around the same time that I have enjoyed. Sure, I didn't need to reread Identity Crisis (reviewed here!), but I do enjoy it so much. Mission's End is deeply intertwined, though, with The OMAC Project (reviewed here!) and Superman: Sacrifice (reviewed here!). I might have to do a "How To Read The Countdown To Infinite Crisis Saga" article, but for my money, getting The OMAC Project, Superman: Sacrifice and Wonder Woman: Mission's End adequately prepares readers for what comes after. It's a great story and because Wonder Woman is arguably the central figure in this corner of the Countdown, Mission's End is an essential story and bookend for Diana's story.

And for an end for one incarnation of Wonder Woman, Mission's End honestly fits the bill well. Despite tying into Infinite Crisis (reviewed here!), a story where the Countdown was better than the story it led to, Mission's End remains faithful not only to Wonder Woman, but the pantheon of characters in her Saga. Sure, there are two divergences near the middle and end of the book that minimize the strong character journey, but for the most part, Mission's End is a solid look at the consequences of Diana making the right, horrible, choice for the right reason and understanding that the world did not get saved by her the way her mission sought to. And, having read subsequent graphic novels, it is very clear that there are real and lasting consequences to Diana's actions in this volume.

With Diana returned to sight, she returns to her embassy to tie up some loose ends. Just as she realizes that her aide, Jonah, is lying to her, she is called off. The Themyscirans, defending the daughter of Ares and Circe, are attacked and Lyta is abducted by Ares. As Diana prepares to deal with this threat, Superman is taken over by Maxwell Lord and in order to stop him, Diana must kill him. With her associations with both Superman and Batman destroyed by that action, Diana sets off on her own. In dealing with Jonah, she determines he was working for Max Lord's Checkmate, but has no cause to hold him.

After informing her staff at the Themysciran Embassy of the situation, Diana surrenders herself to a tribunal at the Hague. While she awaits trial, Cheetah attacks and the Tribunal puts Diana under more secure arrest. But when Themyscira is attacked by OMACs, Diana must again leave to save her people. With the sacrifice of the principles of Paradise Island, Diana's mission seems fully compromised and she becomes a fugitive, despite holding to the ideals she and her people stand for.

Mission's End is smart on the character level because most of the major principles are treated as complex entities, working under the guidelines that make them seem realistic and independently viable. Diana seeks to save lives and make a peaceful world. Max Lord does not play that way and when he weaponizes Superman for his own cause, Diana does what she must to save the most lives possible. It is not an easy decision, but it is the right one. Superman under Max Lord's control is a clear and present danger that the OMACs were not until after Max Lord was killed. Diana still stands for peace, but she made a complex decision based upon what would achieve peace.

Similarly, while fighting for the survival of Themyscira, Artemis is forced to make a difficult decision of how peace may best be achieved in a world that does not value the message of peace. Faced with the extinction of Paradise Island, Artemis asks the question "Is it better to live for peace or die as an example?" In choosing to fight for the lives of all on Themyscira, Artemis has Io build a death ray that allows Themyscira to survive the OMAC onslaught, even when Brother Eye will not end the attack. In the face of evil that is set out to end Paradise Island, Artemis chooses the lesser of the evils in hope that there will come a time for the complicated nature of the decision to be weighed and appreciated.

As well, the gods intervene to illustrate they are not completely out of touch and in doing so, they illustrate an understanding that is remarkably adult for a comic book series. Sure, the gods need to be expelled for one of the Crisis volumes, but the choices they make in this book make that action sensible.

Through it all, Diana clings to hope and that becomes a power that is incredible and viable in Mission's End. Through complex decisions, overwhelming battles and shattered friendships, Greg Rucka makes hope seem reasonable and even cool. There is nothing hokey about Diana's strength of hope and the desire to endure. Sure, Rucka's interlude with Cheetah is distracting and the final chapter, which is a retrospective of the second volume of Wonder Woman, as seen through the lens of tabloid covers and the friendship between Superman and Wonder Woman is a real downbeat, but for the most part, Rucka tells a story that is intense and dangerous, but overwhelmingly fueled by a positive message. That message seems to be that even when the results are not immediate, hope is worth preserving and will win out in the end.

Seven pencillers contribute to Mission's End and most of the art is quite good. There are a few panels that have slightly simplified facial expressions or coloring, but most of the panels have a realism that is awesome. Most prominent, for sure, are the panels where humans are turned into OMACs and the coloring is clearly enhanced by computers. Most of the time, Mission's End looks good.

Ultimately, Mission's End is not at all a complete story. I recommend starting The OMAC Project, cutting to Superman Sacrifice where appropriate and then rather than reading Superman's uncertain and lame character closure, continuing through with Mission's End. Wonder Woman's character arc has always been a complicated one and with Mission's End, there is a lot for adult readers to enjoy and find compelling. It ends one chapter in Wonder Woman's story very well, regardless of where the current incarnation is at.

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
Beauty And The Beasts By George Perez
The Contest By William Messner-Loebs
Wonder Woman: Lifelines By John Byrne
Paradise Lost By Phil Jimenez
Down To Earth By Greg Rucka
The Hiketeia


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

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

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