Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pull List Review: Wonder Woman #19

About three pages into this issue, I was bored, and that boredom never stopped. So I thought about it for a few minutes, and realized that I'm generally bored with Wonder Woman right now as a series. I can remember being excited by it long ago, and I can't say for certain when I lost my interest, but it's been a while since I felt particularly invested in anything happening in this story. There are several reasons for this, each of them exemplified in their own way in this issue.
     There is the commonly-acknowledge problem of Diana's lack of personality, as well as her passivity. Now, there is a moment in this issue where it almost seems like writer Brian Azzarello could improve both of those points, but then he flubs it at the end. Orion's been overbearingly sexist and idiotic since he showed up, though, admittedly, in a way I think works and provides some solid humor at times. This time out, he makes a wisecrack or two insinuating Diana is sexually interested her half-brother Lennox, and for once she responds in appropriately dramatic fashion, by threatening to tear his genitals off. She kisses him first, to distract him, I guess, while she gets close, but it's a very long and awkward kiss that serves little purpose. But it gets brushed aside quickly when we discover her true intentions, and it's quite satisfying to have Orion finally be put in his place. It is also a flare up of activity and attitude from Wonder Woman that we rarely see in her own book, and for a page or two everything is great, with Orion making another jackass comment and getting decked in the face for it. Things get lame again quickly, though, when his reaction is to storm off and quit the little team Diana had assembled, which she silently lets him do. She looks amazed when he boom tubes away, stunned and scared and sad. Yet she makes absolutely no effort to keep him from leaving, though there is plenty of time to do or say any number of things. This is indicative of Azzarello's whole take on the character, which is basically that she can be a badass when he wants to splash some of that into his pages, but is otherwise mostly a set piece that happens to share a name with the book's title.
     She's not even in most of the issue, which is more about The First Born getting his sword back from Poseidon after they have a dull negotiation in which everyone gets exactly what they want. I mean yes, technically The First Born sacrificed a chance to invade the seas and hell, but he gets his weapon and his armies returned with no hassle so he can run off and attack the heavens. Which brings me to another thing that bores me about this title: The First Born as a character. How one-note can a villain be? And it's not even all that interesting a note, just rage rage rage against the gods. It is ceaseless and unwavering, i.e. he never changes or grows or does anything the least bit unexpected. And the pace of his progress is ridiculously slow. He's been off on this weird introductory side adventure for so long, and yet I feel no excitement at the idea of him finally being integrated into the main storyline. He hasn't hooked me yet, and he's had ample time.
     Lastly, we have the rest of the gods, who Azzarello obviously loves and finds brilliant, but come across to me as a band of kids playing grown-up and doing it badly. All the attempts at clever dialogue wind up as cutesy puns, and for their incessant talk of power, they do so very little. I can't think of anything the gods do more than hang around by the pool drinking, which accounts for multiple pages this month as well. It's the world's dullest soap opera when they're the book's focus, and just as slow-moving and one-note as any of The First Born's material. Here again, it's all about the same prophecy and capturing the same baby as it has been since the very first issue almost two years ago, now. It was a fine if not entirely original hook at the start, but it doesn't have the legs for this distance, and almost every sentence from Apollo, Dionysus, and Artemis (who really goes by Moon in this series) is the same bland "we've got to stop this kid" as always. Blander, even, than usual, because the characters themselves seem a little tired of talking about it.
     The issue looked pretty good. Tony Akins and Goran Sudžuka go well together, so the shifts in art were never jarring. I quite liked the look of the smaller catfish-squid-thing Poseidon that lives inside of his sea monster body. It complimented the larger form without copying it, and was generally very detailed and lifelike. And after Diana punches Orion his face gets super weird, like he ages suddenly or something, and again there was a lot of minute detail in the linework and loads of seething emotion coming from Orion. Nothing was ever unclear, the backgrounds were full and rich, and all the characters looked like themselves on every page. So definitely a solid book, visually. It actually seemed like the most polished work Akins has delivered on this series, since he tends to be a bit more sketchy. I don't know if it was being paired with Sudžuka specifically or just having fewer pages to do or what, but there was none of the roughness Akins sometimes brings to the table.
     But even when it was at its most beautiful, Wonder Woman #19 never grabbed my attention. It didn't even feel like it wanted my attention, except arguably during the gimmicky and absurd kiss. Yet another DC title that feels more worth abandoning every time I consider it. Azzarello is doing his thing, and doing it well. But his thing isn't doing it for me.

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