By: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (story), Amanda Conner (art), Tony Akins (pencils), Walden Wong (inks), Paul Mounts (colors)
The Story: Diplomacy in a metal bikini—what can be wrong with that?
The Review: I know I’m playing into stereotype here, but I actually preferred anime and manga for many years before getting back into American comics. Like most fans, I was drawn partially by the exotic air of the material, but mostly by its extremes of imagination and emotion. Later, I’d realize anime and manga have their gradations of low-brow and formulaic versus intelligent and inspired as any other medium, but at the time, it all seemed utterly original to me.
Originality would not be the predominant quality of this series, and in most respects, you don’t see anything in particular which really ties Ame-Comi Girls with a Japanese aesthetic, either in substance or design. If there are certain tropes manga usually fall into (and there are plenty), this title doesn’t really use them. Nothing in the way the story proceeds or the way characters behave really remind you of anything you ever read in a tankōbon.
If Gray-Palmiotti draw any inspiration from the Eastern world of comics, it may be the sheer enthusiasm and hyperbole with which they attack the story. We all know that campiness ruins almost any story by its sheer awkwardness, but when done with a wink and embrace, camp can be an entertaining palette cleanser. In that regard, this issue feels a bit like Singin’ in the Rain, but with less spontaneous musical numbers and more blood-spattered war cries. Taking her cue from 300, perhaps, Princess Diana screams in battle, “This is our land and no man shall ever conquer it!” She then follows up with, “Let us send Hades the gift of dead men!”
Clearly, this Diana is not entirely suited to the role of ambassador, and that’s what makes her tour of diplomacy to Man’s world so entertaining and fun. A cartoonish Wonder Woman loses much of her dignity and sense, but I don’t know but that I like this version of her nearly as much as Azzarello’s highly refined and crafted Amazon. Diana’s sudden jumps in temperament definitely add a lot of liveliness to the title, particularly when she switches between peace mode and war mode. Confronted with denial in the middle of her speech to the U.N., she spits, “Sit down, you waste of skin!”
Extremely broad and unsubtle, but that’s what Gray-Palmiotti do best, for better or worse. It’s for the better when they address strange fictional vagaries head-on, like the tension between Diana’s pride as a woman and her preposterously skimpy outfits: “I must also advertise myself as a whore to the nation of men?” It’s for the worse when they dabble in political statements they have not the experience nor understanding to make: “If Themyscira showed any signs of economic or military value, I promise your boots would be the first on the ground.”
If there’s any relation to anime in this title, it may be in the art. Conner has always excelled in facial expressions and body language, to the point that despite the obviously cartoony nature of her art, it comes off completely credibly. I hate to demean her style with this word, but you can’t escape its inherent cuteness (but not cutesiness), which brings so much personality to the work. Even Diana’s expressions of rage come across charming and not over-the-top, just in the subtle ways her eyes crinkle or nose flares or jaw clenches. I still have a hard time getting on board with Akins style, though he makes a greater effort at capturing the “anime look” with the big, googly eyes and the cat-girl/Lolita designs he puts in place.
Conclusion: Splendidly entertaining, mostly unoriginal, with a lot of delightful art and some less-than-amazing art. And yet, the “Ame-Comi” part of the series remains a mystery.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Needless to say, I’m never hiring Areto to guard anything of value ever.
– Hippolyta’s reasoning for choosing the good ol’ U.S. of A as ally: “We shall align with the strongest, most democratic nation.” I guess that’s technically correct. And it seems culturally appropriate, considering her Greek roots.