The Good: Good character development, Wonderful artwork, Engaging plots
The Bad: A little uncomplex on every front.
The Basics: Blinded, Wonder Woman is terrorized by the new Cheetah and Zoom, before the new ruler of Olympus calls upon her to retrieve Hermes from the underworld!
Those who follow my regular graphic novel reviews undoubtedly know that I am a fan of the Wonder Woman series. I like how Diana is not an absolutist and, despite her pretty incredible super powers, is surprisingly down to Earth. There is, of course, irony there in that she is essentially a goddess (or has been at various times), but I find I like her more than most of the other DC Universe superheroes. She is not the idealistic simpleton who is utterly invincible that Superman usually is and she is not a billionaire like Bruce Wayne (which makes me just resent him). Diana has vulnerabilities and she has ideals that she sticks to without ever simply becoming a parody of herself. One of the arcs I missed out on last year during my Wonder Woman year was Diana’s blindness arc. That all changed today when I got my hands on Land Of The Dead.
Land Of The Dead is remarkably accessible to new readers as it features a rather lengthy recap of just how Diana got to the point where the story begins. And the story is intriguing right off the bat as Diana begins blind. Having been blinded in the prior volume, Eyes Of The Gorgon, Diana is adapting to her new limitations. She is also in mourning for the son of one of the men who works at her Embassy. Land Of The Dead seeks to resolve both Diana’s blindness (we all knew she wouldn’t stay blind forever!) and the war among the Olympian gods that is happening concurrently.
Land Of The Dead is made up of two stories, “Truth Or Dare” and “The Bronze Doors.” “Truth Of Dare” is a remarkably straightforward story and it focuses at least as much on a villain I was unfamiliar with (before now) as it does with Princess Diana. Zoom, the Reverse Flash, encounters Barbara Minerva, the Cheetah. Insisting that his whole purpose is to make the Wally West version of the Flash a better super hero, Zoom shows little initial interest in Cheetah, though he is grateful Cheetah liberated him from his prison (suspended animation). When Cheetah begins murdering, the Flash drags Diana along and the pair fights Zoom and Cheetah as best they can.
“The Bronze Doors” has Diana returning to her embassy and her attempts at a more mundane life. Unhindered by her blindness, she breaks up a criminal enterprise that sells women as sex slaves. Shortly thereafter, she is called by Athena, who is now the ruler of Olympus. Athena charges her with the task of rescuing Hermes from Tartarus. Ferdinand, Diana’s chef who is a minotaur (kithotaur, actually), insists on accompanying Diana in hopes that he will be made a full man. Cassie Sandsmark, Wonder Girl, insists on coming as well as she wants to help Diana and figures the heroine might need a pair of eyes. As the trio battles their way to the domain of Hades, Ares makes a power play of his own and he meets with Diana to use her to achieve his own goal!
Land Of The Dead is a very cool Wonder Woman story – and a cool superhero story – in that it does not belabor itself. Diana is blind, that is a given. But her new blindness does not fundamentally change her goals. She fights crimes against women and works for the betterment of humanity. And given the opportunity, she fights for the same goals, like using the powers of divine individuals to restore dead children. Becoming blind did not make Diana selfish. It also did not make her vain, so the disgust she feels when a reporter asks how she is doing her hair now is a brilliant touch from writer Greg Rucka.
But because so much of the character remains steadfast, Land Of The Dead breathes because the characters around Diana are given the chance to develop. While Wally West makes a comment about the death penalty that allows Diana to foreshadow her lack of moral absolutism that sparks the Infinite Crisis, Land Of The Dead has solid character work for Zoom, Cassie and Ferdinand. Sadly, a significant character moment for Barbara Minerva is entirely glossed over in this book as she kills Priscilla Rich “off camera.” As a result, the fact that Cheetah helps Zoom network with Doctor Psycho seems more like a tie-in to something else than an organic portion of this story.
That is pretty much the anomaly of Land Of The Dead. The stories are essentially a classic hero team-up story and a quest story and they both work exceptionally well for that. Cassie learns a valuable truth, Ferdinand fails to learn an equally valuable truth and the shake-up among the Olympian gods is most intriguing.
The artwork in Land Of The Dead is homogenously great, making it fun to read. Rags Morales does exceptional work in every panel of this book, making it look gorgeous. There is a wonderful sense of movement and that was especially good as it pertained to Zoom. Knowing nothing concrete about Professor Zoom, the artwork made him instantly real and interesting.
Land Of The Dead is one of the best Wonder Woman stories and a book that is very easy to pick up and enjoy when one is looking for a quick, engaging super hero story!
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
Mission's End By Greg Rucka
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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