Category Archives: Reading

Doc Savage: The Secret of the Su and the Spook of Grandpa Eben

As a comics fan, pitting Doc Savage against Dr. Light in THE SECRET OF THE SU makes me laugh in a way the original readers wouldn’t have. It’s a good adventure marred by an anticlimactic McGuffin.

The story opens with a Florida doctor, Wilson, attempting to reach Doc Savage. Years ago, Wilson saved the lives of some Native Americans in the Everglades. In gratitude one of them, nicknamed Slow John, has been the doctor’s faithful sidekick ever since (this ages just as poorly as one would expect). Now Slow John (who isn’t slow; like the Native American in The Goblins he’s extremely smart) has revealed an incredible secret. Well, two secrets. One is that Slow John’s tribe are not Seminole but Su, a lost race dating back to ancient Atlantis. The other is that they have a McGuffin, something so amazing only Doc Savage can handle it.

Enter Dr. Light, AKA Dr. Licht. A German immigrant, Light was approached by Axis agents a couple of years before the story started. He still had relatives in Germany; if he wasn’t willing to work as a spy, bad things would happen to them. Light’s response was to laugh — kill them all, it’s not like he’ll care! However, if he discovers something of interest to the Reich and they can meet his price, he’ll be in touch. He’s a complete bastard, and that’s appealing in a villain. And the secret of the Su generates a lot interest; Light’s price for giving it to them is a cool $3 mill.

What follows is a lot of doublecrossing as Light’s team and some more dedicated Nazis race Doc’s crew to the lost land of the Su, somewhere deep in the Everglades. Dent makes good use of the Everglades, a vast junglelike world nowhere near as drained and tamed as it is now. The Su, of course, are not happy with visitors, and willing to set trained hawks on them (hence the cover).

Unfortunately the secret is a letdown. The Su have a wonder drug for treating infection, better than sulfa antibiotics. It could save thousands of soldiers on whichever side controls it. Which is perfectly true, but it’s not very dramatic. Even at the time, I wonder if fans felt that was satisfactory.

THE SPOOK OF GRANDPA EBEN opens in a small Western town where Billy Riggs, a likeable ex-con, is humiliated by Copeland, a local big shot businessman. Copeland is a grasping miser who sent Billy to jail for a theft he didn’t commit, and has hounded him ever since, demanding employers fire him, that sort of thing. Ezra Strong, another young man (usually I think of anyone named Ezra as a grizzled oldster) suggests Billy use his grandfather’s supposedly magical charm to wish a curse on Copeland.  To Billy’s surprise, Ezra’s amusement and Copeland’s horror, an invisible Something blocks Copeland’s path.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Copeland’s also got Doc Savage on his back. Copeland’s a crooked military contractor so Monk and Ham are investigating him; Monk’s checking the quality of Copeland’s chemicals, Ham’s going over his records for legal issues (one of the few times Ham got to do any actual law work in the series). The spook keeps returning, something or someone kills Copeland and before dying, he puts the blame on Doc. Once again, Doc has to go on the run from the cops while investigating the spook. And the bad guys who really killed Copeland are trying to take out Doc and

It turns out that Ezra has invented a force-field device, although they don’t call it that. It’s not effective enough to be of use in the war, but it might be effective in crime. When a local bad guy learned about it from Ezra’s dimwit girlfriend, he set all the events in motion. Doc, of course, clears everything up and takes the crooks down

Overall, this was a minor one.

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Too much of a good thing? Constance Verity Saves the World

What if Kim Possible’s crazy life didn’t get any less crazy by time she hit thirty? is how I’d sum up CONSTANCE VERITY SAVES THE WORLD by A. Lee Martinez. Martinez usually loves playing with genre tropes for humor, usually successfully, and overall I liked this one (second in a series)

The premise — well, my opening line pretty much covers it. Constance routinely battles mad scientists, crime cabals, monsters, alien invaders, occult threats, to the point where her reaction verges on the blasé. No matter how scary it is, her reaction tends to “meh.” It’s not like she hasn’t seen it before, no matter what “it” is.

Getting a life, though? That’s a little frightening. Constance has an accountant boyfriend, Byron, and it’s hard for her to figure out how much of her experiences to share with him. It’s also difficult for Constance to reset her reflexes so that the presence of an ET or a possibly dangerous robot doesn’t trigger a fight in their new condo. I did like that Byron really is thoroughly ordinary; he’s the Lois or Pepper to Constance’ superhero, and that’s a nice change from the usual.

I’m reviewing this one as an Is Our Writer’s Learning? book because I did learn a couple of things from it. Most notably, that original takes are few and far between. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished has a similar concept in Jennifer being afflicted with a life of constant peril and strife, though my handling it is quite different. The Astro City series frequently goes into the same territory, and it was the whole premise of the Gerard Jones/Will Jacobs The Trouble With Girls (reviewed here and here): Lester Girls wants a normal life but destiny keeps throwing him into a world of danger, sex and excitement. It’s the execution that makes it work, or not.

The second point I learned is that there’s a limit to how far some premises will stretch. Trouble With Girls kept the laugh balls in the air for two TPBs; Martinez manages it for the length of a novel, but it’s a near thing. We know pretty much how any of Constance’s scenes will go, the same way the last one did. It’s a one-joke premise, which is not a bad thing if the joke works, but it almost doesn’t. I don’t feel any urge to read the first volume or V3 when it comes out. But I did enjoy this one, more than several other superhero riffs along the same line. Martinez has a good feel for the tropes he’s parodying, and not everyone does.

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Spider-Girl, vampire hunters, a musical and a fantasy gone dark

Fair warning, my review of Kingdom the Wicked below gives away a major spoiler.

SPIDER-GIRL: Duty Calls and Secret Lives by Tom DeFalco and Pat Oliffe are the eighth and ninth paperback collections of May Parker, fighting crime in an alt.world where Marvel heroes are about 20 years older (I read Duty Calls a while back but forgot to list it). In the first volume, a looming gang war leads “Mayday” to bring together a new version of Marvel’s New Warriors, Peter decides to get back into action and May makes a catastrophic mistake due to her determination to save everyone, even the bad guys. Secret Lives has the clone Kaine return, Normy find romance, May angst even more, and we learn how this timeline branched off from the regular MU (Earth-616) when Kaine returned the Parkers’ kidnapped baby to them. Great stuff; there’s a reason May and the “M2” setting remain much beloved by fans.

SAVAGE by R.A. Jones and Ted Slampyak is a by-the numbers vampire-hunter graphic novel in which the eponymous protagonist recounts how he came by his profession and battled a vampire king who was tied to him more closely than he thought. A couple of good ideas don’t redeem this formulaic stuff.

SHE LOVES ME was the latest production from Playmakers, a musical adaptation of the film The Shop Around the Corner (making it one of the first screen-to-stage adaptations). Georg and Amalia work at a parfumerie in Budapest and they cannot stand each other; every night, they relieve their feelings by going home and pouring out their hearts to “dear friend,” a stranger they met through a lonely hearts club (the snail mail equivalent of Match.com) and have yet to connect with in person. Why that’s right, Georg and Amalia are each other’s dear friend — so what will Georg do when he finds out and Amalia doesn’t? I’ve seen this before, but not done as well; a real charmer. “I’m nervous and upset /because this girl I’ve never met/I get to meet, tonight at eight/I know I’ll drop the silverware/but will I spill my drink/upon her plate, tonight at eight?”

The first chapter of the graphic novel KINGDOM OF THE WICKED by Ian Edgington and D’Israeli has children’s author Christopher Grahame discover his beloved fantasy world, Castrovalva, is doomed, as a mysterious evil boy leads the monsters from The Land Under The Bed to conquer it. I was intrigued, but commented to a friend that “I just hope it doesn’t turn out this is all taking place in his head.”

Oops. It was. And that’s a stupid twist, and it’s handled poorly to boot: we get a long scene of Chris and the evil one talking in Chris’s mindscape supposedly made scary because in the real world Chris is undergoing a life or death brain operation … Mr. Edgington, it’s been done, and better (the Canadian TV series The Odyssey did the same thing with more flair). I’m baffled why this got good reviews from people whose judgment I respect.

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The little things: Georgia O’Keefe and Sherlock Holmes quotes

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.” — Georgia O’Keefe (creator of the painting illustrated here, The White Flower).

“The little things are infinitely the most important.” — Sherlock Holmes

Any writers reading this know detail is a big part of what we do. Which ones we need to include. Which ones we have to include. Which ones we should leave out.

Detail can make or break a story. Details can bring a character to life — the scars on their back from fighting dinosaurs, their passion for playing chess by mail (yes, that used to be a thing), their freaky tattoo or being nitpicky about other people’s grammar. They can also bring settings to life: the smells, the flavors, the music. The minor details of alternate timelines, such as Leslie Howard and JFK still being alive in the film Quest for Love. Or the slightly different wording of the song “Teen Angel” in my Atoms for Peace (“That fateful night the saucers came/We were caught in their attack.”). For historical fiction or fantasy, the fine points of slang, culture, attitudes and politics can make the period vividly real.

Or take the throwaway line in Monty Python’s crunchy frog skit where a chocolatier points out the repellent ingredients in his chocs are all listed on the label — lark vomit comes “right after monosodium glutamate.” It makes the grotesque premise (there really is a small dead frog in “crunchy frog chocolate”) that much more vivid.

But as O’Keefe points out, details can also distract and confuse us. The classic example is dialogue. Real human speech is full of pauses, mumbling, distractions and repeated words (one of my friends used to use “like” in sentences as a punctuation mark). Even when quoting people as a reporter, I trimmed that stuff out.

Too much visual detail can bore or frustrate readers (it’s TYG’s biggest complaint about the Game of Thrones novels) as much as a lack of any detail. Some people love the nitty-gritty details of how magic systems work. I usually find them boring as all get-out (as long as the magic feels right and stays consistent, I’m fine with not knowing the details). Errors in factual details can make readers stop taking a book seriously. For example, a nonfiction work I read some years back that mentioned in passing that research into identical twins has proven our personality is 100 percent shaped by our genes. Um, NO.

Of course some readers or viewers will treat any inaccuracy or error as a fatal flaw that ruins the entire work. When Stage Crafters did A Glass Menagerie, we got a note from the audience that the pillows had those “do not remove this tag” tag on them even though they weren’t around at the time of the story (late 1940s). How could we make such an utterly incompetent error? Given that Tom, the protagonist, specifically states at the beginning this is a subjective story and not a literal retelling, that seems really pointless nitpicking. But for some people, the nits wreck the story.

So that’s part of the challenge. What some people see as a distracting detail, others are going to find fascinating and fundamental. There’s no perfect level of detail that works for every writer, every story, every reader.

But hey, nobody ever said our gig was easy.

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Giving us the bush leaguers: Gerry Conway’s Detroit Justice League

Gerry Conway’s creation of the “Detroit League” after seven years as writer of Justice League of America is often treated as one of the worst creative calls in comics. Rereading it over the past year, I don’t disagree, but what struck me is how Conway writes his new team as if even he didn’t think they were worthy heirs to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Conway wanted to shake up the series by changing out the membership. He’d have more control as the characters wouldn’t be obligated to other series. And they wouldn’t come with the baggage and expectations that established DC characters did. While most of the League is fighting a menace off-world, J’Onn J’Onzz’ people arrive on a mission of conquest. The JLA wins but without the big guns. A furious Aquaman decides that if the other members can’t commit to a full-time life in the JLA, they should quit, so he invokes a convenient clause in the League charter that empowers him to dissolve and rebuild the team. Superman, Batman and most of the others are out; Zatanna, J’Onn, Aquaman and Elongated Man stay; and newbies Vibe, Gypsy, Steel and Vixen sign up (all put to much better use in the CWverse later). Steel’s family offers them a fortified HQ in Detroit and their new adventures begin.

Conway says his template was the Silver Age Avengers story where Stan wrote out Thor, Giant Man, the Wasp and Iron Man and brought in Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver under Captain America. Teen Titans also did it successfully when Marv Wolfman and George Perez rebooted them with a mostly new membership in the 1980s. The Detroit League didn’t do so well.

Part of the problem was relocating them to Detroit. I like the idea of local, neighborhood-protecting heroes, like Wonder Woman during her depowered period. And the scenes of the League interacting with the locals are fun bits. But a local feel doesn’t really work for a team that has a history of protecting the entire US, not to mention the world.

A bigger problem is that even Conway didn’t seem to feel his creations were up to the task. In the first few issues, Stan Lee’s “Kooky Quartet” of Avengers took on established foes (Attuma, the Enchantress, the Mole Man) and new ones (the Commissar, Power Man, the Swordsman). Lee constantly emphasized that the foursome didn’t have the raw power of the earlier team, but he showed they had the skill and guts to triumph nonetheless.

The Detroit League? They defeat their first foe, the alien Overmaster, when J’Onn figures out it’s just an imposter and wakes up the real Overmaster. The League faces the team’s old foe, Amazo, but even though his mind has been switched for a drunken bum’s, it takes J’Onn to stop him.

In #238, the villain defeats the classic League, which would seem a perfect opportunity for the new kids to prove themselves. But no, they go down too; it takes the villain’s brother to save the day by shooting him.

The Detroit League doesn’t get into serious heroic mode until it takes on Despero (an old JLA foe, heavily buffed up) in a multi-issue arc. There, they prove themselves, but it was too late. As Conway says in the interview link above, sales had dropped, so he concluded the experiment hadn’t worked. The higher-ups thought he was the problem, not the cast (and even before Detroit his stories hadn’t been up to his best work); he got to wrap up this incarnation of the League (Steel and Vibe die, Gypsy and Vixen quit, the JLA dissolves) and left the book.

While a few writers since have looked back at the era and tried to show that it was cool (Gypsy, for some unfathomable reason, keeps cropping up), it never really was.

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The Arcana and a Beastmaster; two reviews leftover from last week

THE LAST SUN: The Tarot Sequence Book One by KD Edwards gets points for an unusual urban setting, the colony that Atlantis erected on Nantucket Island (apparently the continent’s sinking took place a lot later in this mythos) by transporting pieces of mundane cities to build it together, creating a rather eclectic layout. Protagonist Rune is the last of the Sun house (Atlantean aristocracy being modeled on the Major Arcana), a private investigator tricked into guarding the heir to The Lovers until he reaches age while also being hired to find a missing child of House Justice, all of which, of course, turns out more sinister than anticipated.

 

I enjoyed this, and would probably have liked it more if I were more of an urban fantasy fan. It’s competently plotted, and I liked that it had a gay protagonist. However I could have done without a tragic gang rape as part of his backstory. And given that Arcana heads seem to reflect the nature of their cards, why is Lord Tower relatively normal when that card is an ominous card of doom?

I’m a lot less fond of space Westerns than I am urban fantasy, but Andre Norton’s THE BEAST MASTER is a very good space Western. Protagonist Hosteen Storm is a Navajo veteran in te war with the alien Xik; humanity won, but Earth got blown to smithereens (fortunately we were already out in the stars). Storm, slightly PTSDed, shows up on the planet of Arzor, nominally to use his skills and his telepathic link with his beasts (eagle, meerkats, dune cat) on the frontier but secretly to avenge an old wrong. Much to his surprise and annoyance, he finds himself bonding with the colonists, even the man he’s out for revenge on. He also likes the native Norbies, who respect him as a warrior. Then he discovers a hidden Xik base on Arzor, from which the aliens are stirring up a Norbie/human war. It’s his chance to settle the score with the Xik — if he can.

Norton making her hero Native American was a radical step at the time, and Storm is indeed a hero, not a sidekick. He’s extremely capable and respected by everyone, though as Judith Tarr points out, Norton’s portrayal has problems. It’s an all-male cast, which surprisingly didn’t bother me as much as it usually does. My biggest problem is the handling of the aliens. The Norbies are very noble savage, the Xiks are pure evil, apparently willing to whip up a war just for kicks.

This might be Norton’s most successful work, in that it inspired the Marc Singer Beastmaster movies, which are fantasy and only carry over the idea of a hero with telepathic animal partners (as does the much less entertaining TV series). I was actually surprised how little role that aspect plays in the book; the animals need as much conventional training as they do telepathic guidance. The telepathy could probably have been dropped altogether.

Regardless, it really is a great book, if the flaws are not deal-breakers for you.

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Super heroes, maps, design issues and squabbling soldiers: my week in books

BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: Emerald Knight by various writers and artists shows this is still the funnest 21st century Batman, as far as I’m concerned. This is a Batman who actually enjoys squaring off against the Dinosaur Head Gang, helping Huntress against the stalking super-villain Mr. Camera (the twist on why Huntress came to him for help was really neat) or discovering Egghead has allied with the cosmic horror Ygg FuSothoth (a takeoff on Wonder Woman’s Egg Fu). Certainly this was more fun for me than anything in continuity since the New 52.

The first volume of STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Mollie Ostertag collects the webcomic about Alison Green, the former superhero Mega-Girl. Alison quit when her anti-hero archfoe Menace made her see that all their clashes of titans weren’t actually changing the world — and the people who’s powers could have, have been eliminated over the years. But she does want to make the world better so how does she do it? I like the concept and the character interactions and Alison’s decent heart, but sometimes she’s so idealistic she’s an idiot. I think that’s intentional — like a lot of idealistic college students she doesn’t always see the forest for the trees — so it didn’t bother me too much. The art’s kind of “meh” though.

ATLAS MAJOR is a reproduction, with notes, of Joan Blau’s 1600s atlas of the world (his plans to further map the heavens and the oceans never came to pass). I flipped through this mostly in relation to something I’m working on, but this was unquestionably an impressive achievement. It also shows me I didn’t know the world of old atlases as well as I thought. My mental image is of beautifully illustrated global maps like the one above, but a lot of Blau’s atlas shows far more detail about major cities or regions than I expect. For me it’s more something to page through and go “oooh” than read closely, but there’s a lot of “oooh” here.

SMALL THINGS CONSIDERED: Why There Is No Perfect Design by Henry Petroski looks at efforts to design better chairs, better toothbrushes, better potato peelers and better car cup-holders to show how any design is guaranteed imperfect due to cost constraints, consumer interest or lack of interest and the pros and cons (better toothbrush handles are too large to fit into toothbrush holders). Even in the best circumstances, Petroski points out, there’s not going to be a perfect design because we always have to admit that there might be something better that hasn’t been discovered yet. As usual with Petroski, extremely interesting. However his efforts to expand his theme and discuss how everything is design (how we plan our weekend, how we decide what we’re going to eat) were forced.

Two decades before John Ostrander introduced his super-villain version of the Suicide Squad, Robert Kanigher tried repeatedly to make the concept work. SUICIDE SQUAD: The Silver Age collects the stories of Task Force X (seen above) an elite team known as the Suicide Squad because of the deadly nature of their missions. The stories are the weird kind of monsters and SF menaces Kanigher used in his Wonder Woman and Metal Men runs, but like the Blackhawks, it suffers from having too many colorless protagonists.

When this series failed to sell, Kanigher switched to “The War That Time Forgot,” which ran for eight years in Star Spangled War Stories. The series premise was WW II soldiers battling dinosaurs, sometimes thawing out of suspended animation, sometimes living on isolated islands, always absurdly powerful (as one fan site noted, real dinosaurs can’t bite through tanks, but it’s certainly cooler when they can). It included one shot characters but also several recurring protagonists. One was a PT boat skipper in a “Suicide Squadron” so nicknamed for its dangerous missions.

Then came a new version of the Suicide Squad, once again an elite team trained for impossible two-man missions. Kanigher tried to jazz up the drama (as John Seavey says, he didn’t seem to think dinosaurs were enough) by having the mission teams hate each other. Morgan, for example, hates his partner Mace for getting Morgan’s brother killed through (as Morgan sees it) cowardice. Every issue they’re in we get Morgan explaining how Mace’s every heroic action just proves he’s a coward … somehow. It gets old. It doesn’t help that Mace just grits his teeth and takes it; if he hated Morgan back, it would be better.

While I’m not a huge fan of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, it’s definitely the best version of the concept to date.

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Let’s start off Friday with some cover images

I don’t think that stuff is good to drink. Art is uncredited.

Joe Kubert cover for the story of a WW II Navy officer who grew up as a feral child raised by pterodactyls. And how often does one get to say that?

Next, a couple by Powers

OMG, it’s a man with an icecream on his head! Horrifying! Luckily for the artist, the art is uncredited.

Mitchell Hooks did this one. I saw the woman’s meant-to-be-ecstatic face on lots of covers back in the day.

An eerie one by Kelly Freas.

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Sherlock Holmes: “It is easier to know than to explain why I know.”

Yep, time for another of the Great Detective’s insights into writing: “It is easier to know than to explain why I know.”

Holmes’ point was that it was much easier to make a lightning-fast deduction than to break down his chain of thought for Watson or Lestrade. I’ve often had the same experience writing: at some level, my unconscious mind knows what the story needs even if I can’t explain why it’s right. Sometimes I can’t explain what it needs, only that it’s not what’s on the page.

I think the first time I had the experience was writing my second novel. I’d had a big major fight scene midway through the book, and it was decent, but then I found I couldn’t write the next scene. My gut seemed to clench up and obstruct me every time I tried. Finally I realized it was because what I’d written was wrong. Oh, it was perfectly adequate, but there was a better alternative, if I could only find it.

Eventually I did. It was a lot better. The book didn’t sell, but it was still a better novel.

I’ve had that sense of “something’s wrong” since, though not usually as strongly. And more generally I find a lot of choices and decisions I make in writing are intuitive: choice A simply feels better than choice B. My gut is a good guide.

But unlike Holmes, not a perfect guide. In writing new drafts, I spend a lot of time thinking and studying the previous draft’s structure and pacing. And after I’m satisfied that a story feels right and the logic holds up, then I go get feedback from my writer’s group or other beta readers.

For example, when I wrote The Savage Year I thought a lot about the story’s structure, giving Diana and Artemis multiple encounters with the villain. I thought about the talismans that would make logical sense for him to hunt for. But I also trusted my feelings about the story. As I was dealing with quasi-Lovecraftian horrors, I felt the sensations the magic triggers in Artemis needed to be weirder and more horrible. So I wrote at one point about how the magic made Artemis feel like rats were running around in her stomach, and trying to climb out. Other magical efforts triggered similar unpleasantness.

Then I showed it to the group and got lots of feedback. Including that the bad guy needed to come on stage sooner and that the effects of his magic weren’t creepy enough. I took those suggestions both into account. Eventually the story sold to Lorelei Signal (unfortunately the web site’s been down so long, I wonder if it will ever come back up).

I don’t know if this is true for all writers, and it doesn’t need to be. Everyone’s got their own method. As long as the story works for readers (or listeners, or viewers), it doesn’t matter whether we get it by following a formula or improvising based on intuition.

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The adventures of Wonder Woman’s much less interesting brother (with spoilers)

James Robinson will always have a spot in the comics hall of fame for his work on Starman in the 1990s. His recent run on Wonder Woman (with various artists; Jenna Frison does the TPB cover) does not burnish his reputation. Admittedly I’d already read Tim Hanley at Straitened Circumstancesnegative reviews of this arc when I picked this up at the library, but even without that influence, the best this book would get was “meh.”

Following Darkseid’s defeat in The Darkseid War,  his part-Amazon daughter Grail has been killing Zeus’s children to restore him to full power. She opens with Hercules, now living quietly as a lumberjack in the northwest, then goes on to other progeny, mostly made up for this story, all butchered in one panel or off-panel. That puts not only Diana in her sights, but Diana’s twin brother Jason, given up by Hippolyta years ago. Hercules tells Diana about her brother and asks her to find him. They instantly connect but oh no, he’s secretly pissed about having been given up and he’s working with Grail! The two women battle, Jason decides he can’t let his sister die after all, Darkseid and Zeus show up and Darkseid kicks Zeus’s butt. But the JLA shows up and having lost to them before, he takes a powder.

As Hanley points out, Greg Rucka retconned out Diana’s early New 52 adventures, including the reveal about Zeus as her daddy, so why is she still a demigod? My guess would be because this arc came out after the movie, which made Diana Zeus’s daughter, but I don’t know for a fact. I also wonder if the reason we got this plotline (which runs up through #50 I believe) is because Jason was the brainchild of DC big dog Geoff Johns so it just had to be worked into WW’s story (I’d have sooner see them use Nubia or make up a new twin sister)

As Hanley also points out, this arc has remarkably little of Wonder Woman herself. One issue is devoted to Grail’s backstory. Another does the same to Jason. Although Starman did a lot of flashback issues and did them well, they focused primarily on Starman (several different bearers of the name) and the Shade (one of the more memorable supporting characters). Here we’re focused on two guest stars, and not terribly interesting ones. I don’t find Jason as awful as some people do, but he’s not a memorable character and neither is Grail.

Robinson does show us a dynamic, formidable Wonder Woman, but he doesn’t show us her enough. The character bits among the supporting cast are good, but they’re just supporting cast. And the story’s just dull. It might have been fun to see Zeus’s diverse kids, but killing dozens of people off camera is par for the course for a villain these days. There’s no real drama between Jason and Diana. And Darkseid might as well be Mongul or Thanos or any other space conqueror; there’s nothing to make me care that he’s the adversary.

Thank you Durham Library for saving me from having to buy this.

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