From Darkseid to Doomsday: John Byrne’s first year on Wonder Woman

As I mentioned when I wrapped up rereading William Messner-Loeb’s Wonder Woman run, I thought so little of John Byrne, who followed him on the title, I debated skipping it. But I have the DC app on my phone, it includes the Byrne years, so I thought hey, why not? I’m glad I did because Byrne does better as writer/penciler than I remembered, though I can see why I wasn’t thrilled either.

First off, there’s her hair, which looks like she’s overdosed on conditioner.Or here.It looks ridiculous, as if Byrne were swiping from Marvel’s Medusa. And while I normally don’t worry about the drawbacks of Diana’s shoulder-length hair in battle, this much hair reminds me of Foz Meadows’ critique of the perfect hair problem.

The second reason I took a dislike to the run is that it opens with the Amazons battling Darkseid and the forces of Apokalips. Darkseid is a great character but way overused — as Keith Giffen once said, DC editors pass Darkseid around like a bong — and most of the time not used well. He’s not used well here, where he could be almost any alien tyrant.

The first four issues have Darkseid attacking Themyscira because he wants to hunt down the Greek gods. Byrne’s Genesis crossover event revealed that all of Earth’s mythological gods were created as a side effect of the war in New Gods that destroyed the old gods; Jack Kirby thereby gets credit for created the Asgardians, the Olympians, the Tuatha de Danaan and so on. I found that a terrible idea and apparently so did George Perez, who specifically retcons it out. Here, Byrne retcons it back in. Even without that, this is a listless opening.

Things improve after that though. Diana moves to Gateway City — former base of operations for the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl — becomes friends with a local museum curator, meets the Phantom Stranger and the Demon and battles Morgan LeFay who hopes to steal Amazonian immortality. The final arc has her battling a clone of Doomsday, giving Byrne a chance to show Wonder Woman is truly in Superman’s league.

His depiction of Diana’s strength is easily the best thing in this. In one story she encounters crooks using a high-tech tank for a robbery; she grabs it with one hand, hefts it up and smashes it down without even breaking a sweat. I like that. Otherwise, while not as bad as I remembered, it’s more “readable” than “great,” definitely not up to Messner-Loebs or the best George Perez issues.

But having launched, I’ll stick with it, so more Byrne (and the spinoff Artemis: Requiem series from Messner-Loebs) before too long.

#SFWApro. All art by Byrne, rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Comics, Reading, Wonder Woman

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