by J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Don Kramer (pencils), Michael Babinski (inks), Alex Sinclair (colors), and Travis Lanham (letters)
The Story: Diana learns about the fall of Paradise Island and sets off in pursuit of her people’s mysterious tormenters.
What’s Good: If there’s one thing JMS’ first full issue of Wonder Woman has going for it, it’s tone, and that’s a very big thing that I fully expect will carry his run. This story feels big, it feels epic, it feels important, and it feels grand. I’ve at times referred to comic artwork that has a “high-budget feel,” but in this case, I think that’s just as appropriately applied to JMS’ storytelling. This doesn’t come across like just another day in the office for Wonder Woman. Rather, this issue presents sweeping storytelling and high stakes that, if anything, feel fresh and vital. I was excited reading this issue, and that’s not something I’ve felt about the character in some time.
A lot of this is thanks to JMS’ decision to spend the first half of the issue recounting the fall of Themyscira. The narration does a good job depicting the scale and the heroism of Hippolyta and the Amazons. The wholesale slaughter and the mysterious bad guy all seem credible, visceral, and emotional; this doesn’t read like just another typical scene of hackneyed mass destruction. I was surprised by how much I was invested in this flashback, especially the downfall of Hippolyta. The extended scene very effectively propelled Diana on a quest where she has to balance her hunger for vengeance and her obligation to save the surviving Amazons.
I also continued to like JMS’ writing of the Oracle, who maintains that air of vulnerability and childishness despite her tone of intellect and her air of sadness. She’s an enjoyable character all around, and I’d like to see more of her sooner, rather than later.
Perhaps the biggest surprise this issue offered, however, was Don Kramer’s artwork. I cannot imagine a better coming out party for an artist. Kramer’s work epitomizes what should be the standard for the modern DC comic, but also occasionally mingles this with shading that lends a softer, almost painted feel. It’s stunning work and I’m just as intrigued to see what he has in store for us as I am JMS.
What’s Not So Good: It’s difficult to offer meaningful criticism, given how this run has just started and we’re still in the dark about so much. As a single issue, however, I found the bad guys, particularly the goons we spend much of the issue seeing in action, to be fairly bland. They’re just your standard bad-guy pseudo-government agents and soldiers. Despite what they’ve achieved thus far, their lack of defining qualities does make them seem unimpressive and less menacing than they should be. I hope seeing more of the big bad will make up for this.
I’m also not yet enthralled with this new, shambolic urban environment that JMS has placed Wonder Woman in. It’s not bad, but it really isn’t very special at all. I would think that such a dramatic change in setting for a character would mean that that setting would be a lively, unique one, as Oklahoma was for Thor. That’s not really the case here, unfortunately, as it just seems like your typical, dark, dirty city. That said, JMS did give me some hope with an amusing scene involving a kid attempting to buy ice cream in one of these neighborhoods.
Conclusion: I liked this more than Superman #601. It has a definite life to it and much promise for the future.