Friday, March 06, 2009

Rise of the Olympian Part Four:
A Changed World (DC)
Wonder Woman #29 When: April 2009
Why: Gail Simone How: Aaron Lopresti

The Story So Far...
With the machinations of the evil New Gods thwarted, the deities of Mount Olympus return from capture to find their ethereal home tarnished by dark ruin. Recognising their increasing obsolescence, Zeus uses his remaining powers to create radical change in the world. After retiring the Amazons, he creates a new army of legends to champion peace in the world of man, the Gargareans.

Wonder Woman is far from ready to concede her position, however. While Zeus rallys against WW's newest godly sponsor; Kane Milohai; the warrior princess herself battles against a horrific new villain created by the evil masterminds of a newly reformed Society. Genocide is a creature created by the brilliant madmen of a newly reformed Society who, upon gathering the soil of locales marred by humanity's darkest moments, gave birth to Wonder Woman's ultimate evil counterpart -- a mythic monster lusting for destruction.

Capable of utilizing the golden lasso of truth as part of a destructive psychic weapon, Genocide lays waste to the heroine and her allies at the Department of Metahuman Affairs. Green Lantern (John Stewart), Donna Troy, and others, are able to help minimize the destruction of the attack, but when Wonder Woman redirects her focus from a disturbed Troia, to a rescue effort, she finds lurking beneath the rubble the mastermind behind her troubles -- Cheetah!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Wonder Woman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Wonder Woman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Cheetah 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Wonder Woman 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Cheetah 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Draw 1 (None)

- Before becoming a super-villain, Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva was an anthropologist who travelled to Africa to seek the secrets of a tribe whose guardian is said to possess the mystic powers of a cheetah.

When this guardian is killed by marauders, Minerva steps up to the mantle, but details of the mystic process mean the recipient must be a virgin, which she is not. The irregularity means the mystic powers of the Cheetah become a curse, as Minerva finds herself wracked with pain, and bloodthirsty when in the form of a human-cat.

As Cheetah, Minerva possesses strength, speed, agility surpassing any ordinary human, approaching the levels of the creature from which she takes her name. Her senses are also heightened to comparable levels to the animal.
With guidance from her eventual Society teammate, Hunter Zolomon, Cheetah was able to attain a new level of super-human speed far exceeding her natural skill.

- Commanded by the Greek gods to carve a child from clay; the Amazonian Queen, Hippolyta, bore witness to the animation of this child as her daughter, Diana.The child was enchanted with abilities comaprable to those of the gods themselves; fantastic speed, strength, agility, and endurance. With the teachings of Gaea and the peaceful Amazon warriors to guide her, Princess Diana grew to be their greatest champion, as powerful as she was gentle.

When the Princess was of age she was the natural choice of the warrior women of Themyscira to carry their message of of peace and harmony to the world of man.There, she served not only as a diplomat, but as a founding member of the Justice League whose legend grew to be one of the greatest heroes on Earth.

Math: Wonder Woman Ranking: Wonder Woman (#15)

What Went Down...
Descending into the cavernous darkness of the collapsed Department of Metahuman Affairs building, Wonder Woman seeks the hope of survivors of Genocide's lethal blast. Instead, she finds herself ambushed by Cheetah!

The feline villainess tugs at her arch-rival's hair, before unleashing the slashing terror of her cat-like claws. The Amazon defends well, returning the favour with a superhuman left hook that sends Cheetah hurtling through the air!

A verbal assault puts an already concerned Wonder Woman further on the back foot. Utilizing her fantastic speed, Cheetah disappears into the darkness of the collapsed rubble, forcing her foe to question whether or not she can fight in such confined space. The speedy Cheetah punctuates her mental assault, emerging from the dark in a blur of orange to strike the disoriented Amazon.

Support from the DMA arrives to aid the embattled Princess, but Cheetah's speed continues to bedevil, making any clear shot with weaponry almost impossible for the mortal men. With their attempts rendered moot, the villainess is left to run free, slashing from side to side across the flesh of Wonder Woman's face.

Disappearing into the dark again, Cheetah mocks her nemesis. The space she allows, however, gives Wonder Woman the opportunity to put into action a cunning plot. She summons her allies to fire their missile, using her unbreakable bracelets to ricochet the weapon toward her target in an unexpected assault directed toward the sound of the taunting voice.

Finding faith in her skills as an Amazon Warrior, Wonder Woman catches Cheetah in the air! Snagging her tail, Wonder Woman vaults the villain into a wall with superhuman strength!

Cheetah remains undeterred, despite the physical dominance. Instead, she pokes at the emotional imbalance being felt by the Amazon. Gleefully, she reveals Genocide to have Etta Candy in her posession; wife of Diana's former love-interest and Deputy Secretary of Defense, Steve Trevor.

Enraged, Wonder Woman warns Cheetah that any ill fate to fall on the woman will be paid for. With that, she delivers a final knock-out blow to Cheetah.

The Hammer...
If you're a regular reader of the Infinite Wars, you've been here for our many occasional musings on today's winner, Wonder Woman.

Despite being one of DC's leading icons, the heroine so frequently fails to match the sales quota of her fellows in the famous "Trinity". Such is her struggle with success that Wonder Woman typically meets appearances only out of obligation, joining the JLA in feature events as a broad concept, while more notably kept to a contractual mandate of monthly appearances that keep her own title afloat where others might have drowned.

Claiming the Trinity represents the cream of the DC crop is open to debate. The heroine's role as a totem in the DCU feels very right, but when an event like Final Crisis rolls the character out in an inconsequential manner, one has to wonder exactly where Wonder Woman stands.

After our many visitations to the subject, it's very nice to finally be talking about a current issue of 'Wonder Woman.' Despite ranking in the top fifteen characters in our cumulative account, most of those reviews came from guest-spots and team obligations. Never before have we really had the opportunity to sit down and look at Wonder Woman on terms dictated by the character herself.

Thus far, Season 2009 of the Infinite Wars has been focused chiefly on the releases of each week. This approach gives us a chance to rank the contemporary involvement of characters based on reviews of significance week to week. Our budget isn't exactly impressive, however, and it's very likely the system will revert to matters less relevant to the current reader. Weekly sections are narrow and often dictated by reluctance as much as any keen favourtism.

This is relevant because I cannot claim to have any grand insight into the goings on in Wonder Woman at this point. I am largely ignorant to the specifics of Gail Simone's current run as writer-slash-saviour on the Wonder Woman title.

With that in mind, I'm not about to make any grandious declarations, one way or the other. I really can't tell if this is the touch to finally restore the percentile balance of significance to the Wonder Woman character, or if it's just another walk in the park. I want to say it's all a bit too wishy-washy to be noteworthy of any kind of revival, but, I also feel compelled to reiterate that it's an absolute joy to want to buy a Wonder Woman comic, and actually enjoy it, too!

It's difficult to seperate the influences of DC Editorial and Gail Simone.
That's not to say there's any imposing sense of pressure on the script, (like Dwayne McDuffie's Justice League of America), but the lines of direction seem to plausibly be shared between the writer's story, and a grand design for the character. Rise of the Olympian is very obviously challenging the mythology of Wonder Woman, even though the direction of the character seems to feel very familiar and unadventurous. It seems unlikely this will be the story upon which Wonder Woman fans can finally hang their hat, far from memorable in a context comparable to the classic Batman or Superman stories.

Unremarkable to the superhero landscape, though it may be, it's not really what I would consider worthy of criticism. In many ways, attempts to contrive revamps and epic tales within these pages have only led to their further deterioration.
Striking a balance between action and plot, it seems Simone is more than suited to at least raising the game of Wonder Woman to a standard that makes it a consistently noteworthy monthly title. I know I've been watching with interest, and am glad to finally have had reason to jump on in.

The art team really deserves recognition for the title.
While Aaron Lopresti's pencils sometimes veer into mediocre staging, they are more often than not, superb. Matt Ryan's inks are as confident and bold as the titular character herself, while Brad Anderson provides a colour palette that's cool and developed, offering gradients of depth without overly burnt highlights.

Lopresti's Wonder Woman falls at the centre of a visual triangle of muscular power, raven haired beauty, and functioning superhero, in a way many recent artists have failed to. The action creeps away from the penciller ever so slightly, but figures that are neither too hard, nor too soft, make up for that.

If I had a pet peeve, it would be an issue of characterization.
Personalized takes on superheroes and villains are nothing new in comics, but Simone's phrasing takes the book in some slightly uncomfortable directions. Bold and vaguely poetic overstatements feel a little awkward in the hands of different characters, but particularly Cheetah, who is a character I've grown very comfortable with over the past few years.

Simone's Cheetah, by necessity of the story, is perhaps a fraction more sinister than I'm accustomed to expecting. Recent turns in Catwoman [#78], Final Crisis: Resist, and JLA [#15], have eased me into regarding the villain with a vein of humanity that feels slightly absent in these issues. Her role in the plot feels like a reversion into a much less substantial character, reminiscent of classic and interchangable supervillains. Whether or not that's just my baggage, or a disappointing element of the story, I do not know. It certainly isn't the Cheetah I've come to look forward to, but the departure isn't so far that she's rendered unrecognisable. Actually, she's probably not altogether dissimilar to Loeb's casual reinvention of the character [from When in Rome], meeting the others.

It's slightly ironic that Grant Morrison's brief liason with the character in Final Crisis probably numbers among my favourite recent appearances, given his apparent difficulty with the character. The domination of his Wonder Woman wasn't terribly auspicious, but the heroic distance I read into the character felt somehow suitable. Simone's Wonder Woman doesn't have that natural sense of aloof stature, perhaps partly due to the effects of Genocide's attack, but also a script that interprets her role with clunky proficiency; "My cursed duty. My damnable priorities."

Sharing a third (or more) of the book is a B-plot centered on Zeus and the reclamation of Wonder Woman, presumably in the interest of opposing her as part of his initiative to employ men in the role of the retired Amazons. Usually I'm not especially interested in the mythological aspects of Wonder Woman, but this actually played rather nicely. Resonances between events effecting Wonder Woman and Zeus seemed wanting for a connective resolve, but weren't so far apart that the conclusion crumbled.

All in all, I'm sorry I didn't get to this sooner! As a book coming out in the week of Feb. 25, it was an all together good read!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4.5
Winner: Wonder Woman

You can catch all the action from Rise of the Olympian by checking out the collected edition from DC comics! By utilizing Amazon links provided, you help sponsor future entries on the site just like this one. You can find more great editions in the Infinite Wars Gift Shoppe, boasting collections that feature almost every issue review in the Secret Archives!

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