By: W. Haden Blackman (story), J.H. Williams III (story & art), Dave Stewart (colors)

The Story: Amazon meets Marine.  It may be a match made in heaven.

The Review: I’ve spoken quite a many times on the enigmatic persona of Wonder Woman, how remote and difficult to pin down she is, but now lately, I wonder if that’s as negative a quality as I’ve made it out to be.  In a way, she can’t avoid being removed from us because of her unique nature.  As a mixture of goddess and mortal, as a member of a mythic race, as someone who prescribes to a lifestyle and ideology all her own, maybe she has no choice but to stand alone.

That may explain why, after all these years, Wonder Woman still has no one you can consider her definitive partner.  I don’t count her Trinity status, which often just feels like her getting shoehorned between the World’s Finest.  Nor do I view her relationships with Donna Troy (if indeed the character still exists in the new DCU) or Cassie Sandsmark as true partnerships; she’s more of an occasional mentor, happy to meet up every now and then to dole out a new Amazon warrior trick, but uninterested in any long-term collaboration.  And we’ve definitely never seen her get intimate with any of her peers in the superheroine community.

Blackman and Williams have taken on the challenge of changing all that, which goes to show how much confidence they have in their protagonist.  Batwoman has had a pretty amazing rise in prominence within the last few years, and the time seems right for her to have her moment in the sun with the First Lady of Comics (a wholly personal designation by me—I didn’t take a vote on it or anything).  In fact, she has all the potential to be Wonder Woman’s World’s Finest partner.

Consider the complementary contrasts between the two, as seen in this issue.  While Wonder Woman charges into battle, sword and shield in hand, against an army of similarly and archaically armed warriors led by a monster looking straight out of The Odyssey, Batwoman is no less aggressive in her confrontation with an urban legend.  You might say one is the spiritual foremother of the other; certainly they share a dedication to a warrior’s code of honor and duty that makes them seem inhuman at times.

But whereas Diana has had years to accept that distancing part of her character, Kate doesn’t show any sign she wants the same.  That’s why her fight with Maggie here feels so bitter; she chooses her course of action almost as much for her lover’s sake as out of her own morals, yet she’s perceived as abandoning her lover anyway.  You can’t blame Maggie for her feelings either, since Kate still keeps her in the dark in spite of last issue’s heart-to-heart.

There’s so much more we can talk about this issue, and that’s what makes this series absolutely one of the finest ongoings on the stands.  Each member of the cast has a personal and powerful storyline we can just as easily get invested in, independent of Batwoman’s story.  Each storyline gets told in an interesting, sensitive manner, even as they tackle some very interesting, sensitive subjects: the trauma of a victim, surrogate families, socialized racism, the loss of children.  There is never a moment where the narrative feels gaudy, overstated, or exploited.

After so many months not seeing Williams art, you may have forgotten how out-of-this-world gorgeous his work is, but from the very first page, the awe comes rushing back.  I know of no other artist actively working right now who comes close to matching the innovative use of panels and layout that Williams does.  Who in the world could have conceived a double splash page that simultaneously takes the shape of a Grecian shield and a carnival funhouse?  I’ll tell you: Williams, and only Williams.

Conclusion: About as perfect an opening to a story arc can get.  It offers you everything you’d want: meticulously crafted writing, breathtaking art, superhero fan service (in the most innocent sense of the word) to beat the band, and, most importantly, gripping, engrossing stories.

Grade: A

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – It appears Wonder Woman may have killed all those dudes.  “Clark would be horrified,” indeed.

Grade

Conclusion