Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Short Tenure Of Artemis As Wonder Woman Is Encapsulated In Wonder Woman The Challenge Of Artemis

The Good: Engaging plot, Much of the artwork
The Bad: Very fractured storytelling/lack of transitions, No real character development
The Basics: The short tenure of Artemis as Wonder Woman is made more problematic by the writing which features very abrupt shifts in the story throughout Wonder Woman: The Challenge Of Artemis.

As a fan of Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman graphic novels, it always pains me when something fails to live up to my expectations. In learning about the larger arcs in Wonder Woman’s story, I was psyched about two phases: her blind phase and the period when Artemis replaced her as Wonder Woman. The blind phase actually managed to live up (for the most part) to my expectations. Unfortunately, her deposed phase, as presented in Wonder Woman: The Challenge Of Artemis, did not.

The fundamental problem with Wonder Woman: The Challenge Of Artemis is that the book feels rushed and like it is trying to fit into too many DC Universe crossover events while still struggling to be its own thing. So, most of Artemis’s story is diluted by Diana fighting Batman villains, most notably the Joker. I know from my Flash Year that the Joker’s attacks using Joker gas was a major event in the DC Universe in the mid-1990s and Wonder Woman: The Challenge Of Artemis is written to fit in with that event. As a result, much of Artemis’s tenure as Wonder Woman is spent without focusing on her character at all. In fact, Artemis has no real character development in the book.

While Artemis fends off the forces of the White Magician, most notably the Chauvanist (a hulking brute of a man whom she easily puts down), Diana starts working to clean up the local mob. Unfortunately, the woman who has inherited the Boston mob decides to employ Poison Ivy, Cheshire, and the Cheetah to stop Diana. The deposed Wonder Woman finds herself in the unenviable position of trying to keep a rival gang boss alive long enough to thwart the supernatural and mundane forces of Julianna Sazia. When she tracks Sazia down and finds her in the company of the Joker, Diana does the unthinkable: apparently blowing the Joker up with his own bomb!

That draws the attention of Artemis who moves in to pound Diana and put Sazia down once and for all, which results in Diana returning to Themyscira to confront her mother about why the second contest had to occur at all. In the process, Diana learns a key idea about Circe and she works to find the sorceress in her new, mortal form. But the White Magicians forces are not so easily stopped and he lures Artemis and Diana into a final showdown which will once again change the balance of power between the sisters!

While all of this might sound like it is intriguing and fun, the writing does not support it. One page, Diana is tracking down the White Magician and realizes his latest victim is the Cheetah, the next, she is in the hospital visiting friends. “Oh no, my temporary ally may be dead somewhere at the mercy of a great evil! Eh, I think I’ll take a breather and visit my wounded friend in the hospital.” And once there, she lets loose the whole Circe plotline which seems to pretty much come out of nowhere! Similarly, Artemis in one frame is conversing with two people and in the next she and Diana are kicking the crap out of one another and it is not that the reader is not keeping up, it is that the writer keeps dropping incongruent elements into the frames.

The artwork in Wonder Woman: The Challenge Of Artemis is good. Artemis looks pretty fabulous as Wonder Woman, even if her tenure as the heroine is incredibly underwhelming and underdeveloped. Diana and Artemis have distinctly different looks and until Diana’s namesake enters the book in a dream, all of the characters are instantly clear when reading this volume.

But, for those hoping for Artemis to learn a long, slow lesson or Diana to truly wrestle with not being Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman: The Challenge Of Artemis is a surprising letdown. Artemis is, predictably, arrogant and brutish and Diana seems to be pretty much the same as ever, save that she wears a different costume and does not have the lasso to use.

The end result is that Wonder Woman: The Challenge Of Artemis is a lot of hype for a non-event and serious fans of Wonder Woman are likely to recall this as one of the biggest missed opportunities of the franchise.

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
Destiny Calling By George Perez
The Contest By William Messner-Loebs
Wonder Woman: Lifelines By John Byrne
Paradise Lost By Phil Jimenez
Paradise Found By Phil Jimenez
Down To Earth By Greg Rucka
Eyes Of The Gorgon By Greg Rucka
Land Of The Dead By Greg Rucka
Mission's End By Greg Rucka
The Hiketeia


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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  1. I think the Joker-crossover you refer to, JOKER'S LAST LAUGH, occurred in the early 00's. Joker's appearance in this storyline is just a simple guest appearance.
    This story also gave Hippolyta some immoral characterization (manipulating an innocent Amazon into fulfilling a deadly fate intended for Diana), although this isn't the first time. Near the end of the Pre-CRISIS Wonder Woman, it was revealed Queen Polly (Blonde this time) did some mindwiping on her daughter for reasons too complicated to explain here. It led to an estrangement that was only healed before everything got retconned.

    1. Thanks for the added info!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments!