Friday, May 29, 2009

Rise of the Olympian Part 7:
Compound Fracture (DC)
Wonder Woman #32 When: July 2009
Why: Gail Simone How: Aaron Lopresti

The Story So Far...
Created as a living weapon of pure malevolence by Cheetah and the scientists of The Society, the creature known as Genocide has successfully bested Wonder Woman and her Justice League allies in their every encounter.

As a dark mirror to the Amazonian warrior for peace, Genocide has spread death and destruction to everything she touches, using the Lasso of Truth as a weapon of negative psychic energy to manipulate and disorientate Wonder Woman and her friends.

Having fought off the advances of Zeus' new chosen warrior, Achilles, she now returns her attentions and fury to the evil mirror using her own gifted Lasso as a weapon against the ones she loves. Having learnt the dark truth about Genocide, only one Amazon can survive, but will it be Wonder Woman?

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Genocide 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Wonder Woman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Genocide 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Genocide 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Genocide 3 (Explosives)

- The creature called Genocide was designed as a weapon of pure malevolence, fashioned by T.O. Morrow and the most brilliant and deranged scientific minds within the membership of The Society. Approved during Libra's reign over the union of villains, and overseen by Cheetah, the golem-like creature was created using a similar mystic ritual to animate clay with life that gave birth to Wonder Woman. By collecting samples of soil from the darkest corners of the Earth, the taint of genocidal attrocities committed over the past one hundred years embued the creature with vile inclinations when given life by the magic of Felix Faust.

From this tainted Earth was born a creature as powerful as Wonder Woman, only as despicable as she is kind. Genocide possesses abilities additional to Wonder Woman's strength, speed, and endurance, including using the Lasso of Truth as a conduit to amplify negative psychic energy. Through this technique Genocide can channel concussive blasts, amplify negative emotions, and cause erratic behaviour.

Panel Edited for dimension, but not content. WONDER WOMAN IS REALLY THAT BAD ASS!!!- 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 -- Wonder Woman!

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: Genocide Ranking: Wonder Woman (#13)

What Went Down...
Crash landing in the busy streets of Washington DC's business district, Wonder Woman leaves a streaming crater from her crash landing. Responsible for her sudden descent - Genocide - a twisted version of herself tainted by the dark magics of Ares and her deadliest enemies. With only a moment's pause, Wonder Woman compells local law enforcement to clear the area, doing her best to protect the innocent from the carnage that will be unleashed.

Moving at incredible superhuman speeds, Wonder Woman charges along the main street with the conviction of a hero out of patience. She brings both fists colliding into either side of the head of a flat-footed Genocide, following rapidly with an elbow to the jaw, and raking nails that rip Genocide's spiked visor from her face.

Urbana crumbles as Wonder Woman charges Genocide's body through cement and ponders the necessity death might play under the stakes at hand. Genocide is not ready to go down without a fight, however, reversing the momentum with a swing of Wonder Woman's hair! The evil creature defies any expectation of stupidity, denying Wonder Woman's ability to out-think her. References to the torture of Etta Candy - WW's friend - and knowledge to be used to hurt others become Genocide's weapons in a secondary psychological assault.

With superhuman strength, the creature tosses Wonder Woman like an overgrown discus with sufficient force to penetrate a nearby bus. The toss leaves a clump of the Amazon warrior's hair clutched in Genocide's hand, held with a grim boastful prophecy of Wonder Woman's death.

Genocide's actions had made as many enemies as Wonder Woman's had friends, inviting the interference of Agent Tom Tressman and TO Morrow pilotting an invisible helicopter from the Department of Metahuman Affairs. With the best of intentions they fire a missile into the empty street, but even unconventional weaponry, such as a probability bomb invented by Amos Fortune, proves grossly inefficient against the evil Morrow helped to conceive. The dust stirred by the explosion helps to obscure Genocide's retrieval of a populated city bus -- which she hurls as her own missile toward the copter!

Before Wonder Woman can take flight to save her fellows, Genocide snags her ankle and drags her back down to Earth. The grappling, however, serves to bring Wonder Woman into close quarters, where she unleashes a fierce left-right hook combination. With the beast staggered, she pulls the tiara from her head, using the sturdy metal to slash violently at Genocide's throat!

While Genocide clutches her gushing throat - Wonder Woman leaps to the aid of the bus full of people, forsaking the helicopter to crash. The Shield emerges to help evacuate bystanders to safety, but a recovered Genocide is able to retrieve Tom Tressman from the chopper wreckage. She uses the stolen lasso of truth to force upon Tressman revelations about Wonder Woman's true feelings toward him, crushing hopes of romance.

Wielding her tiara as a weapon once more, Wonder Woman charges, slashing Genocide's arm to break the tendons that control her grip on Tressman. With the Agent freed, Wonder Woman delivers an uppercut that props the monster into the air. From there, she clutches the stunned beast and flys hard and fast for the Earth's outer atmosphere. It is the beginning of her end game!

Flame engulf Amazon and abomination alike as they burn on a pointed reentry.
Fighting on the way down, the duo crash through the Earth to the subway system below, where serendipity brings a speeding train to collide with the monster.

Unrelenting in her follow through, Wonder Woman takes full advantage of the train, catching the airborne creature to fly it back toward the streets. A fist provides the punctuation to drive the fiend through layers of concrete to the surface. Even so, such a blow is still insufficient to finish the power concerned.

Genocide strikes back with another blow, fighting as if the stakes were of a terran fist fight, rather than the high speed airborne struggle they are locked in. They continue to trade blows, a choike hold, a polish hammer, an elbow to the nose, and a headbutt that finally puts the beast on the back foot.

Emitting a regret detected by the creature's tainted use of her lasso, Wonder Woman leaps around onto Genocide's back and in spite of the terror and conflict inflicted upon her and her friends, apologises. With storm clouds gathering to provide a dramatic backdrop, Wonder Woman clutches the lasso of truth in her fists and rips it from Genocide's body, reclaiming it from the tainted golem.

The agony, or perhaps even mythic implications, of the lasso's removal is enough to send Genocide's limp body hurtling toward the ocean depths below. Wonder Woman could save her, but chooses not to. It is a revenge fitting for a monster whose sole purpose was to spread the evil it was born from. This, however, is not the end for Genocide. Eventually Wonder Woman attempts to recover the body, but finds none, for it has already been claimed in the name of Ares.

Genocide will return.

The Hammer...
Well, for the second time actually, I give you your winner: Wonder Woman!

Yes, I actually already wrote the last third of this article a few days ago, but a nasty mishap with a loose sleeve, a touchpad mouse, and Blogger's auto-save function, meant I faced the demoralizing task of doing it all over again. As you can imagine, the first version was much better.
Still, in taking some time to find the positive, I realise it's given me opportunity to reflect more upon the details of these closing thoughts.

As tends to be the case, there was a bit of a patronizing tone to the original discussion I wrote. It's a bad habit I'm sure I share with many other commentators who feel the need to constantly discuss Wonder Woman like it's a puzzle that needs solving, rather than a comic series to be reviewed.
What probably doesn't help is the fact that: Wonder Woman needs fixing.

She isn't necessarily broken, but as a franchise, WW just isn't performing to a standard that you would expect of a character generally sharing banners and lunchboxes with Superman and Batman -- DC's superhero holy "Trinity".

There's a tendency to look past the on-going series toward fabled projects like Adam Hughes' All-Star Wonder Woman, or Grant Morrison's promise to make-up for Wonder Woman's diminished role in Final Crisis with a story of her own. Like a lot of other readers, I'm thrilled by the prospect of a special project like those, (particularly Morrison's), but is this really the tactic to elevate the character to the status she deserves?

I wouldn't say there's been an excess of pressure on Gail Simone, but it's difficult not to look at her work with added scrutiny. Like every writer who tackles the character, [Simone] shoulders the baggage of previous attempts to revamp the series for a modern audience. Though not in the echelon of A-list writers, Simone's work has garnered cult fandom sufficient enough to make her appointment to the series feel like a statement. It hasn't appeared nearly as conceited a shift as recent efforts, like the ill fated white bodysuit secret agent escapades in Allan Heinberg and the Dodsons' relaunch, but there's a feeling that Simone has been given the opportunity to elevate her own status off the back of recentering the Wonder Woman title.

Aaron Lopresti's clean and (usually) attractive artwork might not boost the book into the top ten sales as instantly as other names, but he does well to serve the return to good old fashioned superheroics that defines this run.
There's a sense that maybe Simone (and/or DC editorial) is trying to hang the hat of the title on an epic that balances elements from various periods, combining mythology with superheroes. I don't know how successful the story is at building the gravitas it aims for, but it feels so much more productive by investing in this type of basic forward movement, rather than sitting, waiting for the short-lived fruits of a messiah like Hughes or Morrison. In this respect, Simone has arguably been the writer picked to oversee the most successful incarnation of the series in recent times. One that doesn't indulge an unhealthy obsession with creating the next important 'graphic novel' or Dark Knight Returns for Wonder Woman.

It isn't all glowing praises, however...
Genocide, the character who stars in this particular issue, is just a little too ridiculous to be the kind of heavy-hitting villain Wonder Woman has lacked. Like some of the worst characters to come out of the nineties, Genocide boils down to spikes, a gaudy costume, and a bad attitude. She is to WW what Doomsday was for Superman, and Bane for Batman. Not that this character had the misfortune of actually being sold as indefinitely successful against her prospective foe, unlike those villains that killed and crippled DC's other leading heroes. I guess there are some advantages to being the struggling icon, particularly when your creator had the foresight to mandate a regular publishing schedule.

Time will tell if Genocide becomes one of those wacky creations that finds artistic balance through later context, or is damned to the annals of shame like the many burly harbingers of doom that came before her/it. [I'm still a little unclear on the revelation of the whole future-tainted-Wonder-Woman situation...]

I like Wonder Woman as a character a great deal, so it's nice to at least feel compelled to buy the comic. From our pseudo-sports league perspective, Wonder Woman's finally fighting her way into the top ranks, but you need only look at our archive of reviews to see how little of that has come from the Wonder Woman series itself. It's a predicament that speaks to the nature of Wonder Woman's struggle as a marketable hero, always present by association (ie; JLA), but never quite successful as a solo presence. Who knows if we'll ever actually get to see that long promised Wonder Woman feature film, or if it'll avoid the pitfalls of being mindless drivel with Hollywood's latest 'hot young thing' in an invisible plane and star-spangled panties. You'll forgive me if I consider Megan Gale a massive Australian bullet dodged, pretty though she may be.

I don't know if Rise of the Olympian will be the trade paperback [*ahem* "graphic novel"] that everyone will have to have on their shelf, but it's produced some of the better issues I've seen in recent times. It might be a bit of an underhanded compliment, but by being slightly less ambitious than previous revamps, it feels like things are finally heading in the right direction. It'll take time before I look at Wonder Woman as a must-read from month to month, but it's been fun at least indulging in some Amazon fisticuffs with super-villains. More than I could have said of other recent tales. [Don't tell Greg Rucka I said that!]

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4.5

Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti continue their run on Wonder Woman monthly. Unfortunately, at the time of this posting, I was unable to find any collected editions containing this issue, but you'll find previous chapters of "Rise of the Olympian" in the trade posted to the right (containing issues #20-#27). You'll also find plenty of other stories, including a few with Wonder Woman in them, in the Infinite Wars Amazon Gift Shoppe. If Wonder Woman were to endorse any online store, I'd like to think would be the most fitting. Not only that, by using purchase links provided on the site, you help sponsor truth, justice, and future reviews! Check out the Secret Archives or character tags at the bottom of posts to navigate your way to more materials.


Anonymous said...

Personally, if Grant Morrison can go the rest of his career without touching Wonder Woman again, I'd be a happy, happy man.

Mike Haseloff said...

@Anonymous: Is that a lack of imagination, or a lack of faith talking?

Anonymous said...

See, it'd be one thing if he wanted to write the character because he had some genuine affection or interest in the her. But he doesn't. He clearly has no regard for Wonder Woman. He effectively took a hot steaming piss all over the character in the God awful Final Crisis, and went on to even admit he believes the character is "bogus."

But now he suddenly has a special project in mind; and it's because he wants to stroke his own ego. That's the ultimate impression I've gotten from his asinine comments of Wonder Woman. That's there's something wrong with her and only he can fix her.

And I guess us lowly WW fans should be grateful he wants to wants to grace our "bogus" character with his bullshit.

I say piss on him. Stick to what he knows...pretentious nonsense, an unbeatable Batman, and Superman as the Messiah...and leave Wonder Woman for writers who like and get the character.

Sadly, that's an admittedly short list, but I've zero interest in whatever embarrassment that pretentious prick wants to spew on Wonder Woman.

Mike Haseloff said...

@Anonymous: I don't think he really did any harm to the character through Final Crisis. I think perspective gained from the entire story really just suggests it was an unfortunate oversight. Wonder Woman took a backseat as an after thought, (but a seat, none the less).

Now that Morrison's acknowledged he hasn't really served the character and has obviously taken time to think about it, I don't see why he doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Like I said in this article: the frustrating thing about the distraction of fixing Wonder Woman is that, as much as it's a distraction, clearly something does need to be done.

At the end of the day, Morrison's work is interpreted in a lot of ways, but I think stories like Final Crisis and other examples suggest he's someone more than willing to indulge in all elements of the superhero construct.
I think he does that quite well, has a knack for rationalizing his way through the fantastic, and could really bring a lot to a Wonder Woman story that's genuinely written to compliment the character.

I don't know that he's the only person in the universe who can "fix" Wonder Woman, but I'll be keen to see what he does with his attempt.
Especially if it can be integrated into more standard fare like what Gail Simone's story has been doing. [The story] hasn't been a great testament to the character or a triumph of historic significance, but if it's able to provide a solid foundation, maybe WW can start benefitting from a library of voices in the same way Batman and Superman have. It could be a way to create a mean average of the best of the character, rather than constantly chopping and changing what she's all about.

At the end of the day, being relegated to a supporting role might not be flattering, but I don't think it's commonly intended as a personal attack against Wonder Woman, women, or fans. It's just a symptom of the situation, which could potentially be rectified by throwing guys like Morrison at it with the best of intentions.