By J. Michael Straczynski and Phil Hester (writers), Don Kramer (pencils), Sean Parsons and Wayne Faucher (inks), Alex Sinclair with Pete Pantazis (colors), Travis Lanham (letters)
The Story: Of all the people in the world, Dr. Psycho–longtime Wonder Woman nemesis–pulls Diana in a sort of limbo between life and death. There, it is revealed that the Diana we’ve been reading about for the last nine months is merely one of an endless series of aspects of Wonder Woman that have appeared throughout the ages: always different, but always acting as an avatar of hope, heroism and leadership. (In one of those ‘other lives,’ of course, she is Wonder Woman as the DC Universe knows her: born out of a clay statue that was given life by the gods.) Diana’s current nemeses, it is revealed, wish not only to kill her as she is, but to kill everything she will be and ever was.
What’s Good: Wow! Phil Hester is really kicking ass on this. I have no idea how much is his work and how much is JMS,’ but given the dramatic shift in quality and trajectory since Hester took over, I’m more than happy to give him the lion’s share of the credit here. He managed, in this single issue, to neatly summarize everything that has happened, and provide a good and convincing explanation for the cluster we Wonder Woman fans have been subjected to for nine months. The best part of all is that the explanation actually makes some amount of sense, and actually–holiest of holies–gives us some character development! Incredible.
Remember back a few issues ago when I said the series was at a tipping point, and had the potential to be either utterly awesome, or utterly disastrous? I’m 95% sure after this issue that we’re pointed firmly in the direction of awesome. By framing this as more than just another “alternate timeline” storyline, by using it to elevate Diana and show that she is not just Wonder Woman, but that she is–and has always been–an avatar of hope and courage throughout time, and to all races and creeds of people, Hester adds a beautiful bit of meta-mythology to Wonder Woman’s origin story, while simultaneously giving this storyline something it has lacked from the beginning: purpose. The fact that the villains are out not only to destroy this incarnation of Wonder Woman, but to destroy everything that EVERY aspect of her and what she represents, also raises the stakes considerably, and gives a great big shot of adrenaline (and direction) to a story that felt like it was wandering aimlessly.
What’s Not So Good: Small nit, but I’m not convinced that Dr. Psycho was the ideal character to give this revelation; his specialty is illusion, after all, and if this issue turns out to be some kind of a trick/it was all a dream kind of thing, I will be absolutely livid. (Given the ending, I don’t think that’s much of a possibility, happily.) I would argue that Dr. Psycho and Wonder Woman have too long of an antagonistic relationship for this to work well, and the explanation he gives is (at least to my ear) tenuous at best. My guess is that he’s just the deus-ex-machina needed to drop the giant chunk of exposition required by this issue, but it would have been nice to see someone else, someone who CLEARLY has Diana’s best interests at heart, deliver the message. (For all that though, the scene where Psycho reveals himself to Diana is surprisingly sweet.)
Conclusion: Wonder Woman Finally has legs, a direction, and is moving again! For the first time in what feels like forever, I am actively anticipating the next issue. In fact, genuinely cannot WAIT until next month to find out what happens next! What a wonderful feeling. If Hester continues on like this, I think that, against ALL odds, “Odyssey” might end up being a very good, and very worthwhile, storyline after all.
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