Four years and thirty-five issues of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang later, how is Wonder Woman doing? The climactic final issue of the previous creators’ run found the Amazon settling into the mantle of War, defeating the First Born, and holding together her family of gods, demigods, aliens, and mortals. New creative team Meredith and David Finch take up that theme of responsibility… and multiply it by adding in a global natural disaster, Diana’s fellow Justice Leaguers, and (according to #36’s back matter) her relationship with the Man of Steel.
Too many hats? Too many spinning plates? It remains to be seen how the writing for this new arc will shake out, but its first issue felt overstuffed and unsure. I’m pleased that M. Finch didn’t totally dispense with previously established plots and relationships, but Azzarello‘s last issues built up to a confident Wonder Woman, sure of herself and her abilities. The Wonder Woman we see in book 36 in scattered to the point of making tactical mistakes. Attacking Swamp Thing with no provocation? Probably not something Diana would do–as Aquaman points out a page late. Yet the lampshading of this uncharacteristic act is shallow, especially in conjunction with D. Finch‘s art. There’s not much wrong with his action sequences, but a baby-faced Diana clashes with both the rest of her all-male League co-cast and the popular conception of the heroine as a mature, strong character. The doe eyes and emphasis-on-the-breastplate are heightened by shower scenes, repeated mentions of the children killed in the aforementioned natural disaster, and a depiction of Diana holding a teddy bear. What exactly is the team going for? I’m going to be charitable and say compassionate or multifaceted.
Meredith Finch is fairly new to comics writing. There were moments of potentially great storylines in this issue, mainly concerning Queen Hippolyta (living statue? immobile piece of art? meeeellltttiiiiiing??) and the legacy of the Amazons’ past crimes, the sons of Themyscira. The scenes in which the Amazons discuss the presence of their brothers were interesting and heartfelt, as well as providing a bridge between the past and current arcs of the book. Those scenes were M. Finch at her best in this issue. I hope for more of that; more of Diana as a leader and diplomat for her people; more portrayals of Wonder Woman as the heroine we know she is, rather than a regressive pondering of whether women really can have it all. Azzarello and Chiang‘s run was not flawless. Sometimes I feel like the only woman in the world who was reading it, let alone enjoying it. But they left the Amazon at a high point, and creators following in their footsteps need not tear Diana down in order to make her intriguing, significant, emotionally compelling, or human.