Saturday, March 29, 2014

Restoring Wonder Woman Makes For An Unremarkable Book With Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors!

The Good: Wonder Woman is remarkably efficient in the book!
The Bad: Mediocre artwork (comic strip style), Repetitive, No real character development.
The Basics: Eleven men and one woman decide the fate of Wonder Woman rejoining the Justice League after a creative reboot of Wonder Woman from the 1970s.

When there is a creative reboot of a popular character, it can be a tough sell to the loyal fans who made that character into an icon. In the case of DC Comics, periodically, they attempt to reboot sagging franchises in different ways. Green Lanterns get replaced (only to come back, forcing entire reworks of the premise for the book), Flashes return from the Speed Force, and others are simply resurrected directly. In the case of Wonder Woman, a heroine who has spent remarkably little time in the pantheon of the DC storytelling universe dead, long before she was killed off (albeit temporarily to assume a godly position), she was reworked as a superspy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Almost unrecognizable to the fans and absent from the ongoing stories in the Justice League, that incarnation of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman, led to an eventual reset of the character in more familiar and popular context.

Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors is the story that restores the post-Diana Prince (only) character to Wonder Woman and pretty much writes off the Diana Prince phase as mental tampering from her mother. So undermined, Wonder Woman gives herself a challenge before she feels comfortable rejoining the Justice League of America. The concept is not an inherently bad one (though it is a bit self-punishing), but the execution is problematic. First and foremost, the book has twelve stories that are both repetitive and unremarkable. Wonder Woman gets herself out of the dangerous situations in virtually the same way each and every time, making for a plodding book. Second, there is something troubling about the book having an overt feminist message (which is wonderful!), but having eleven men (to be fair, one is a robot and one is an ethereal spirit) and only one woman (the painfully uncertain Black Canary) make a life-altering career decision for a woman. That seems pretty backwards.

Not making a clean cut with the Diana Prince saga, by day Diana Prince is working at the U.N. for Morgan Tracy. She writes reports for him and monitors crises that pop up around the world. In the process, she is tailed by a member of the Justice League (supposedly unbeknownst to her) and reverts to Wonder Woman to thwart whatever the villain of the moment is. The labors Wonder Woman has to overcome all involve a “villain of the issue.” Wonder Woman goes after Cavalier (a flat-out misogynist), a Peace-making alien machine, a man who wishes to be king of the world (and almost incites nuclear war as a result), the god Mars, Diogenes Diamandopoiulos (a rich man who wants to see and set foot on Paradise Island), the Duke Of Deception, Celestris, Felix Faust, an alternate universe where women are subservient to Mchsm the High Consul of Xro, Chronos The Time Thief, Dr. Cyber (who duplicates Wonder Woman), and Unca Wade (Wade Dazzle) at Dazzleland.

Wonder Woman is usually shot at, relies upon her lasso to get truth out of people, and her invisible plane. Each of the members of the Justice League presents a compelling case for why Wonder Woman should be readmitted into the Justice League and that reason is pretty much “she defeated this villain.” It’s the same with all of them, “This is the story of this incident and, hey, because Wonder Woman was there and took care of the problem, she should be readmitted into the Justice League.” In other words, none of these incidents truly makes Wonder Woman shine from any sense of skill, ability or savvy. She’s just the super hero in New York City when the bad stuff goes down.

Lacking any real intense moments of character, Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors also flops on the art front. Simply colored, Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors looks more like an extended comic strip than a sophisticated graphic novel. While this is a sign of the times (the issues put together for this trade paperback anthology were all from the 1970s), it does not look or feel good in this day in age when graphic novels can be genuinely sophisticated.

Ultimately, Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors is not terrible, it is just subpar and fans are likely to enjoy it much more as a historical document than a thrilling new story.

For other Wonder Woman volumes, 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!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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