Category Archives: Comics

And youth keeps right on growing old (or) Alan Moore becomes a grumpy old fart

As my recent birthday reminded me, we’re all getting older, including creators way more successful than me. And just like everyone else, age can warp us creative types in various ways.

To take an obvious example, let’s say you start out your career doing something both original and good. The response from readers is often not “now give us something else original and good” but “give us more like that one.” The financial pressure to keep doing the same thing, even if you want to experiment, can be very strong (I’m reminded of Jack Kirby’s lament that he wanted to inspire other comics creators to do what he’d done and create new things; instead he inspired a lot of them to work on stuff he’d already created like New Gods or Fantastic Four). Even if that doesn’t happen, very few creators can stay on the cutting edge forever. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work on Oklahoma was ground-breaking, as Ethan Mordden details in Beautiful Mornin’. By the 1960s they were still successful — Sound of Music was a mega-hit on stage and on screen — but their shows were what the avant-garde musical creators were breaking away from.

Another effect of age is that creators, just like the rest of us, get nostalgic for old stuff and grumpy about new stuff. Richard Rodgers didn’t think anyone would be able to make a musical out of rock music. Harlan Ellison, in his late 1980s writing, objected to DC’s reboots of Superman and the Shadow (admittedly the latter was dreadful) — why were they disrespecting fans who like the old stuff? — but he also objected to Marvel’s New Universe line. Not because it was crappy (it was) but what if fans spent money on the new books instead of Spidey and Captain America? What if that led to the classic characters getting canceled in favor of the New Universe? Not good!

If it’s not acceptable to launch new books or reboot old ones, the only option is to keep doing old ones the way they’ve always been done (which was the point of his short story Jeffty Is Five). Ellison was in his fifties by then; he’d gone from being an angry young man speaking the truth to power (okay, yelling the truth to power) to a crotchety old fart wishing kids would get off his lawn (of course, George RR Martin’s Armageddon Rag was bewailing how the world had turned to crap and he was in his thirties at the time)

Alan Moore seems to have wound up in a similar place.

It’s noticeable in LGX: Century in which he seems displeased with 21st century culture in general and particularly with Harry Potter — what a sad, juvenile set of stories those were, unfit for mature minds! In the series’ finish, LGX Tempest, which I just finished (review to come soon), we get more of the same. James Bond, who was believably vicious in Black Dossier, is now a homicidal maniac taking great glee in killing people for sport. Complaints about how America has been infatuated with superheroes, plus snark that Birth of a Nation was the first masked-superhero film (the KKK as masked vigilantes — makes you think about Batman, doesn’t it? Well DOESN”T IT?). Elric (not officially) tells Orlando in one scene that stories about superhumans make readers think “only impossible beings are capable of greatness … they cease attempting it for themselves.”

It appears the characters are speaking for their author as Moore has made the same points in several interviews (here, here and here). They’re not fit fodder for adults. People who watch superhero movies are clinging to their childhood, afraid to face the world. They’re escapist fantasy. Despite a little added diversity, they’re a master-race fantasies fit only for white supremacists.

My short answer: bite me, Mr. Moore. As JRR Tolkien once said, the only people who object to escape are jailers.

My longer answer: Getting nostalgic for childhood, wanting to escape whatever your life’s woes are for a while, these are not bad impulses. And it’s not a binary thing, where if you read comics you can’t possibly read anything serious or “mature.” I read superhero comics. I also read a lot of other stuff (very little of it is serious literature, true), and I stay informed about politics and what’s going on in the world. And no, reading comics or fantasizing about larger than life adventures does not mean we give up on doing anything ourselves (he reminds me of a Bill Maher rant I blogged about a few years ago).

As Kurt Busiek once pointed out, if comics can express the fantasies of teenage boys, they can express anything: the fantasies of girls, fantasies of justice, the frustrations of middle age. Nerd Reactors compares comics to videogames, another field that initially targeted kids but now spreads out to appeal to all kinds of people.

I’m sure part of this is Moore’s frustrated anger over the way DC Comics has made his work into their intellectual property (you can find the details of his issues online). But that doesn’t make his argument any less cranky and unreasonable.

#SFWApro. Covers by Howard Chaykin and Kevin O’Neill, all rights to image remain with current holders.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading, Writing

I love the detail on this cover

 

Due to that muzzy-headedness I mentioned Friday, I didn’t focus enough to get today’s book-review post written. So instead I’m going to give you a comics cover I like because of the detail.

The cop whose hat has apparently been pushed off by his headcrest. The girl clutching her Mom. The military members here and there. The obvious shock, conveyed so well even without human faces (though part of that is knowing what’s happening — crop out one of the figures from the context and I don’t know they’d say “shock” so effectively).

It’s very easy to do a crowd scene that’s just a crowd of people. Making them a crowd of individuals is tougher. Murphy Anderson does a great job here. The story inside involves the last survivor of Mars plotting to conquer Earth; a scientist who escaped the effect of his morphing ray sets out to stop him. It’s not a standout, but it’s enjoyable if you like Strange Adventures yarns, which I do.

But even if I hated it, I’d still think the cover was cool.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, cover art

Paperback covers for hump day

Charles Binger gives us an anthology cover that captures elements of multiple stories therein.I’m guessing the answer to the cover question is “the space-dive wanton” as she’s the one on the cover. Besides, she looks like she’d be a fun empress. Art is uncredited.This is based on DaVinci the way a “based on truth” movie is based on facts. Cool uncredited art on the cover though.An eye-catching cover by Robert Gibson Jones.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

So I’m not the only one who remembers Wonder Woman’s twin sister?

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Nubia when she debuted in Wonder Woman #204 and I’m glad she’s back in NUBIA: Real One. But I’m a comics nerd and I’m old enough that I bought the debut issue off a drugstore spinner rack. I have lots of affection for characters so forgotten they’d barely qualify for pub trivia questions (the Galactic Golem, the Devil-Fish, the Reincarnators, Jason Bard …). I’d have put Nubia in that category, but no, she has a fanbase. For example, LL McKinney, the Real One writer, who says she was blown away to discover there was a black woman who could hold her own with Wonder Woman.

In hindsight, it’s not surprising Nubia has fans. While many comics readers hate having female/POC characters introduced as spinoffs of established white/male heroes, as writer Devin Grayson once said, a lesbian Batwoman or a black Wonder Woman automatically gets a cachet that a new gay character might not. Maybe that’s less true in the current comics world, but appearing in 1972 Nubia was a lot more unusual, beating Storm out as as the first black female superhero. And she’s also a good character; I doubt anyone remembers the black Legionnaire Tyroc as fondly.

Nubia shows up after the clumsy reboot that restores Wonder Woman to her powers after several years as a (comparatively) ordinary woman. After her martial arts mentor/father figure I Ching is killed by a random sniper, Diana gets the kind of convenient head injury that brings on amnesia, somehow makes it back to Paradise Island (which vanished from the mortal world at the start of the powerless period, something blithely ignored here) and regains her powers. Then up shows an armored warrior who challenges Diana for the name of Wonder Woman. Having Wonder Woman defend her title is one of those ideas that crops up semiregularly in the series. First there was one of Robert Kanigher’s Silver Age stories, then Nubia (created by Kanigher and Don Heck), then a Bronze Age tale, then one of William Messner-Loebs’ stories in the 1990s.

When Nubia challenges Diana, they initially prove perfectly matched. Nubia finally gets the drop on her, as on the cover (and not by a lucky break, as often happens — she beats her fair and square), but then freezes at the killing stroke. Diana disarms her, Hippolyta — who suspects the truth — proclaims a draw. The two warriors embrace but Nubia warns Diana when they meet again until their rivalry is decided.

In the following issue, Kanigher and Heck explore “The Mystery of Nubia” in a backup story. To Nubia’s puzzlement, Hippolyta makes a point of embracing her for a second goodbye before Nubia returns to her home, Floating Island. The inhabitants are a black tribe, two of whom fight for the right to wed their princess, Nubia. She, however, informs the winner that he has another challenger — herself, fighting for the right not to marry anyone. They battle, she wins, but Nubia refuses to kill him: a woman, she says “never forgets that once a life has been taken, it can never return.” She then broods privately on how lonely she feels as an orphan who doesn’t even remember her parents — was that why Hippolyta embraced her, out of compassion?

Cary Bates takes up the writing for the finalé, “War of the Wonder Women” in which we learn Nubia’s origin. When Hippolyta sculpted Diana from clay (an origin Kanigher never used himself, giving her an unseen father) she also created a black twin sister. Mars, however, stole the baby away before the gods blessed Diana with the strength of Hercules, speed of Mercury etc. While that should give Diana the edge, Mars has trained Nubia in every possible form of combat, molding her into a weapon to destroy Wonder Woman and the Amazons. Floating Island attacks Paradise Island; Wonder Woman arrives to help her sisters fight the invasion; Nubia then proclaims their final battle. Diana, however, guesses the ring with Mars’ symbol that Nubia wears is fueling her rage and manages to remove it. Nubia’s war-fervor fades and the two women drive off Mars together. When Diana returns to Paradise Island, Hippolyta reveals the truth.

Although the last caption of the story proclaimed it “the end and the beginning,” the beginning went nowhere. In Supergirl #9, Supergirl gets fed up with men and accepts Hippolyta’s invitation to relocate to Paradise Island before deciding withdrawing from the world is not the solution. Nubia appears, but primarily for Supergirl to save from a deadly poison. Nubia’s final appearance came in Super Friends #25 in which the villainous Overlord has turned the Super Friends into his evil puppets. When Wonder Woman goes to Africa, Nubia confronts her, revealing that she’s devoted herself to becoming the champion of Africa’s women. It’s not a bad idea for giving Nubia her own space — as an Amazon she’s always in Diana’s shadow — but nothing further came of it.And then came Real One by McKinney and Robyn Smith. We meet Nubia as a typical American teenager with two lesbian moms — well typical except that she’s freakishly, superhumanly strong. She’s always hidden it because she’s black and she knows damn well white people react to even non-metahuman blacks as dangerous menaces. Sure enough, when she uses her strength to stop a robbery (one of her friends was in danger), the police are way more concerned about the scary black woman than the crooks.

The story concerns Nubia’s unease about where she fits in the world, her relationships with her friends (made more awkward by knowing she’s different) and an entitled white bigot/misogynist at her school who’s harassing one of her friends. Midway through the story she learns her origin when her moms’ friend Diana shows up and guess who it is? Wonder Woman explains that years ago, she found her lost twin sister in a temple of Mars, kept as a baby in suspended animation. Hippolyta gave the child away to her moms — one’s an Amazon who gave up Themyscira for love of a mortal woman — and raised her normally as possible. But that jerk at school is getting increasingly dangerous so like it or not, it’s time for Nubia to become a hero …

I really enjoyed this. It does a great job fitting Nubia into a real world of social media, date rape and Black Lives Matter. If this Nubia turned up in a future issue of Wonder Woman that would be cool, though McKinney says she’d like to see the original return. I’d be cool with either.

#SFWApro

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading, Wonder Woman

Way more golems than I anticipated!

GOLEM: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions in the Making of the Artificial Anthropoid by Moshe Idel is a nonfiction book I read years ago about the kabbalistic view of the golem: how do you make one (there are several versions)? What does the ritual signify? Is a golem truly human — for example, could it make up the minimum number of Jewish men to sit shiva (probably not)? This is extremely dry as Idel isn’t dealing with folklore and the kabbalists have no interest in what a golem might actually do; the legends of golems as protectors or folktales of them as bumbling servants only developed in the 19th century (the 16th century legend of the golem of Prague doesn’t go back any earlier). The kind of reference that makes me glad I have so many books.

THE GOLEM: Mystical Tales from the Ghetto of Prague by Chayim Bloch is an early 20th century book  I read some years back under the impression the tales were authentic traditions rather than 19th century retcons. That said, this is an entertaining collection of faux folktales as Rabbi Judah Ben Loew and his servant “Joseph” outwit Christians seeking to hurt their people while the golem, effective as a protector, keeps bumbling simple household tasks.

THE JOURNALS OF PROFESSOR GUTHRIDGE by Kyt Wright is a novella about a 19th century occult investigator tackling various supernatural threats the main one being whatever crushed the skulls of some Jewish immigrants as if they were paper. And why on Earth is there so much clay around the crime scenes? This is adequate reading that suffers from a few anachronisms (nobody in the 19th century used the phrase “she has feelings for you” — and it’s odd to describe a Jew as having “some interest” in the Torah); a bigger problem is that Guthridge at one point rapes his lover but it’s treated more as a ghastly faux pas than rape. I will give Wright points for an ingenious solution to getting the magic talisman out of the golem’s mouth — just blast it with enough machine gun fire that the paper falls out of the collapsing head.

THE ALCHEMIST’S DOOR by Lisa Goldstein has Elizabethan occultist John Dee fleeing a demon across Europe, ending up in Prague at the court of occult-obsessed Rudolph II. There Dee meets Judah ben Loew, who has just discovered one of the 36 Lame Wufniks (the same mythical figures I used in No Good Deed Goes Unpunished) lives in the Prague ghetto. Rudolph wants to find and kill the man, destabilizing all of creation, in the belief he will be able to build a new reality; can Dee, ben Loew and the golem Yossel hold him at bay? The golem here is both a Hulk-like destroyer (making this Herb Trimpe cover appropriate — contrary to Wikipedia it has no connection to the Golem in Strange Tales above) and a Data-like artificial life-form yearning for humanity. A good historical fantasy.

JOE GOLEM, OCCULT DETECTIVE: The Outer Dark by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Patric Reynolds is somewhat stronger than the first volume. Joe investigates fanatics plotting to summon Lovecraftian outsiders to Earth, then battles a woman suffering from a unique form of possession; meanwhile Simon Church decides Joe’s girlfriend Lori is asking too many inconvenient questions … Makes Simon out to be a real shit, manipulating Joe as much as the men in Scent of May Rain.

#SFWApro. Top cover by Ernie Chan.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Old houses, Victorian killers and an immortal: books read

THE TWISTED ONES by T. Kingfisher (AKA Ursula Vernon of Digger and Castle Hangnail) has a North Carolina woman reluctantly drive to her late grandmother’s house to clear out her possessions so Dad won’t have to. In between ruminating on her life, she stumbles onto a journal by her grandfather full of cryptic passages about strange things in the woods, then discoves what he was talking about when she stumbles into an uncanny land that shouldn’t exist. Unfortunately the first 100 pages are overwhelmingly a mundane story of a woman cleaning out a house and Kingfisher couldn’t keep me interested, nor did the uncanny land make up for it when we finally got there. Possibly the problem is that Kingfisher’s riffing on Arthur Machen’s short story “The White People,” and I’m not as fond of Machen as she is. So thumbs down for me, though I did love the protagonist’s dog (he reminds me a lot of Plushie, below).

ETERNAL WARRIOR: Sword of the Wild by Greg Pak, Trevor Hairsine and a couple of other artists is I believe a prequel to the immortal Gilad’s appearance in Archer and Armstrong. Unfortunately Gilad turning against the Earth and the gods only to run into his still faithful daughter and his now monstrous son really doesn’t tie in well to the other series and didn’t grab me in its own right. Competent, but not terribly distinguished.

PRETTY JANE AND THE VIPER OF KIDBROOKE LANE: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder by Paul Thomas Murphy tells how the discovery of a murdered maid in 1871 became a cause celebré. Police interested fixed on the son of the girl’s former employer, whom they claimed seduced her, then dispatched her when she became pregnant. While this was sensational in its day, it’s not a gripping crime by today’s standards, and maybe not that startling then — both Invention of Murder and Black Swine in the Sewers of Hampstead show how morbidly the Victorians fixated on tales of scandal and death like this. The details of legal and police procedure are interesting but not enough to make the book so (The Poisoner did a better job with its Crime of the Century).

#SFWApro.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

A golem of rags? Ragman, original and rebooted

Ragman is probably best known as a member of Team Arrow on the CW’s Arrow. He’s never been more than a B-lister in comics, but I recently reread his original, oh-so-forgettable 1976 series and the 1991 reboot. This is one of those cases, like Hawk and the Dove, where the remake surpasses the original.

As detailed in Ragman #1, Rory Regan is a Vietnam veteran working with his father in the Rags ‘n Tatters junk/pawn shop in a inner-city slum. Rory’s reporter girlfriend Bette wishes he’d put his brains to work in something more professional, but Rory’s always loved his father’s trade, despite the way other people look down on them. He also knows Rags ‘n Tatters is a lifeline for the community: his father’s always giving people more than their junk is worth, just to keep them afloat financially a while longer (how does a guy with no money himself make this work? No answer).

One evening, dad is drinking with his friends — former acrobat, former prizefighter, former circus strong man — when they discover an old mattress in the junkyard stuffed with a million bucks somebody hid for safekeeping. Dad figures he’s made Rory’s fortune, but then a mobster shows up looking for the money. When Regan Sr. refuses to give it up, the mobster sets a trap using convenient high-tension wires; when Rory comes home from a date, the mobster tells him to give up the money or Daddy dies. Rory can’t help as he has no idea the money exists; the hood springs the trap, Rory tries to rescue his father and the other men, but only winds up almost getting killed along with them. He survives, and apparently gets the strength, acrobatic skill and boxing skill of his father’s three friends transferred. Donning an outfit Dad bought for Rory to wear at a costume party he hunts down the crooks. Then the “Ragman” (the costume doesn’t look particularly ragged, except for the cloak) begins waging war on the predators who victimize his friends and neighbors.

The art — Frank Redondo using breakdowns by Joe Kubert (who did the covers as well) was memorable, the stories by Robert Kanigher not so much. The origin is old-fashioned, the villains are generic gangsters and drug-dealers and the characters are stock. Rory’s noble and suffering, Bette’s constantly nagging and Opal — a black singer with the hots for Ragman — is sexy. The emphasis on Ragman fighting for the down-and-out has given the series some fans, but rereading didn’t change my initial reaction when I bought these on the stands: meh. When it closed after the fifth issue, I didn’t miss it.The reboot, cowritten by Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming with art by Pat Broderick, was far more memorable. It also makes good use of golem lore. The set-up is similar: Rory’s a Vietnam veteran helping out at his dad’s shop, though Bette is now a homeless vagrant — the neighborhood’s even more down and out than before. When a drug ring tries to use Rags ‘n Tatters for their business, Regan Sr. refuses; they kill him, put Rory in the hospital and have his “aunt and uncle” take over the store. There’s nothing Rory can do about it until he sneaks into the store and discovers a strange, patchwork costume (it really does look raggedy) hidden in his father’s closet. When he puts it on, he’s transformed: stronger, faster, more agile, and the costume — it’s self-aware in some fashion — can suck out the souls of criminals like the faux relatives running the store. Rory is now the Ragman, with the power to find out what’s behind Dad’s killing and to help the people in his community (now located in Gotham City).

Then a Rabbi shows up. He reveals Rory’s dad was Jewish — Reganowitz — and that the ragman suit is the product of kabbalistic mysticism. After Rabbi Judah ben Loew created the Golem of Prague, other mystics grew uneasy about using a soulless creature to protect them. Using the same rituals they created the Ragman costume; it’s effectively a rag golem but requires a human wearer to animate. Rory’s dad was the last one to wear it, in Warsaw during the uprising against the Nazis. When the ghetto became consumed by fire — the one thing the rags can’t handle — and it became clear there was no hope of winning, Rory fled. Burdened by guilt, he hid the rags away and never wore them again.

The rabbi begins training Rory because the rags are dangerous. They do indeed drain the souls of his foes (along with adding a piece of their clothes as another patch) and the accumulated evil urges the wearer to turn Punisher rather than protector. Complicating things is that during the years the suit was quiescent, the Rabbi created a new golem as a protector. In the years since, it has gone from a formless figure to human in appearance; it can see its way to gaining a soul and the ability to speak (golems can’t speak because of their soulless state; it’s what distinguishes the creation of a golem from God’s creation of Adam). Now that the suit is back online, the mystical energy that empowers them both is flowing out of the golem and into Ragman. The golem arrives in Gotham City determined to destroy his rival and secure his future.

In the end, it doesn’t work out that way. Bette befriends the silent drifter and at the climax of Rory’s battle with the suit erases the “E” from “EMETH” on the golem’s forehead (from “life” to “death” in effect). With the golem gone, his life force enables Rory to wear the suit, instead the suit wearing him. He goes on to settle things with the criminal mastermind behind everything, and then confronts Batman. In that final issue, Ragman reflects on the many things he’s done to help people in the community, and they, in turn, stand by him. With the neighborhood united, Ragman floats off on the wind to further adventures, starting with Ragman: Cry of the Dead (the golem managed to return for that one too).

It was a great reboot, with stronger characters, a more interesting Ragman and some memorably weird touches, such as the street gang The Mimes (“If you wear clown white in this neighborhood, you must be tough.”). And obviously, it earns a place in my golem article.

#SFWApro. Original series covers by Kubert, reboot covers by Pat Broderick.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading, Writing

Some comics covers for Tuesday morning

Al Hartley takes us back to the days when wearing a dead animal’s fur was cool. I’m guessing it’s something like rabbit rather than something expensive like mink.Jay Scott Pike gives us a girl who I’m sure is not as bad as she pretends (from this description, I suspect she’s trying to make him jealous).Then we have the prelude to a painful Big Reveal, courtesy of John Romita—John Romita again, showing the kind of wedding moment that rarely happens in real life (which is a good thing).And another Al Hartley cover, showing that medical soap opera goes back long before Gray’s Anatomy.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, cover art, Reading

Girls and Golems: stuff I’ve been reading

Despite the cool cover, THE RED MAGICIAN by Lisa Goldstein only has one scene with a golem, as the eponymous magus attempts to create one only to have a hostile Rabbi/mystic undo his work. That said, this was a good one to reread, told from the POV of a young Jewish girl watching the Red Magician warn her 1930s European village about bad things coming, only to find the local Rabbi, who has magic of his own, stubbornly oppose him. As usual for Goldstein (this was her first novel), the magic is wild, unchaotic and feels very magical; the golem’s creation feels mystical, rather than simply reciting a spell.

SWEEP: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier is set in 19th century England, where protagonist Nan has been enduring life as a chimney sweep working for the brutal Crudd ever since the disappearance of her mentor/father-figure (never named other than “the Sweep”). When she almost dies cleaning out a school chimney, the ball of strange soot the Sweep left with her comes to life as a golem and saves her. Now they have to stay off Crudd’s radar while Nan introduces her new friend Charley to the wonders of life. This is a good juvenile, though stock as a story of an artificial life form; as a golem it’s only marginal (it talks — golems can’t — and there’s no clue how the Sweep created Charlie).

In THE MONOLITH by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Phil Winslade, protagonist Alice is a drug addict trying to avoid falling into the clutches of Princeton, a ruthless pimp who wants her working for him. When she inherits her grandmother’s old home she hides there, but discovers Something walled up in the basement. It turns out that years earlier, grandma helped a local rabbi make a golem to fight the local mobsters only to seal it away when it became too aggressive a vigilante. Now, though, it may be the defender Alice needs … This is the first three issues of a DC series, though the TPB came out from Image (I presume that means it’s creator-owned) — as the remaining issues involved Batman, I doubt we’ll see them reprinted. No great loss: I saw this in single issues and wasn’t impressed. It’s readable, no more than that.

I’ll add one last extra that definitely belongs in my article, the third and final issue of Atlas’ Bronze Age The Scorpion, by Gabriel Levy and Jim Craig. As Tom Brevoort explains, the first two issues, by Howard Chaykin, had presented the Scorpion as an immortal 1930s pulp hero, whom Chaykin turned into Dominic Fortune at Marvel after Atlas tanked. In #3, the Scorpion is a modern-day costumed crimefighter (given the immortal angle I’m guessing he’s the same guy) who goes up against a Fourth Reich with the help of a golem (the rationale for creating the golem is both contrived and kind of interesting).

#SFWApro. Top cover uncredited, bottom one by Jim Craig, all rights to images remain with current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Wonder Woman: George Perez’ era ends with a War of the Gods!

In 1991, the George Perez era of Wonder Woman came to an end with #62. Though really, everything that’s happened since has built on his foundation; even Greg Rucka’s recent reboot just gets us back to Perez after the mess of the New 52 reboot. It’s a disappointing stretch, building on the murky hints about Circe at the end of year four, and never attaining the excellence of the third year of Perez’ run.

After recapping much of the previous series in #49, we get #50, in which Hippolyta leads a party of Amazon ambassadors into “Patriarch’s World” to begin a goodwill tour. A running thread through the next seven or eight issues is that there have been mysterious deaths and thefts of ancient religious artifacts from museums in the cities the Amazons visit. Hmm, possible connection? Another complication: first Hermes seems to go nuts, then it turns out his Roman counterpart, Mercury, is impersonating him at times, then fighting to replace him. A third: everyone Diana knows is snapping at her, finding fault with her, worrying about the impact she’s had on their lives. It’s puzzling and upsetting for Di, especially when it’s all happening at once, and she’s had alarming, stressful nightmares about her friends.

Turns out there’s a reason. The post-Crisis Dr. Psycho has been mind-gaming everyone, subtly playing on their resentments and Diana’s insecurities to torment and distract her. Unfortunately this version of Psycho is less interesting a reboot than the Roy Thomas take, which was close to Marston’s misogynist original. Perez’ seems to be (as my friend Ross once put it) a sadistic aesthete; at one point, after a woman’s seen through his disguise (Vanessa’s school guidance counselor), he torments her by feeding nightmares into her unborn child and forcing the mom to experience them. He gloats about what a brilliant masterpiece this will be. We never learn anything beyond that about his goals or origins. However this arc does climax with a great scene where Wonder Woman delivers the woman’s baby without either the baby or the mother dying (at that point

Things continue looking worse as the Amazons look more and more like killers. Wonder Woman herself comes under suspicion. Etta’s CO, General Yezdigerd, is up to something. Insp. Indelicato’s partner starts to see a pattern before he’s murdered. And then begins the War of the Gods.

It turns out Circe (who was using Psycho to distract Diana) has been gathering the various stolen artifacts for a mega-ritual which summons most of the pantheons out of wherever they dwell when they stop being worshipped (it’s a little unclear). The Roman pantheon attacks Olympus to claim it from the Greeks. The Egyptian gods rise in Salem, where Dr. Fate hangs out. Thanagarian gods appear in Chicago, where Hawkman and Hawkwoman operate. Other deities manifest elsewhere. The Bani-Migdhall Amazons and the Cheetah are  involved as agents of Circe.

Her endgame? The destruction and rebirth of reality, with the new reality one where her patron, Hecate, will reign supreme. And in the process, Wonder Woman will be destroyed, as prophecy decrees either she dies or Circe does. And sure enough, right before the final issue of the crossover, Circe confronts Diana on the beach where Hippolyta formed her and reverts her back into clay. That might have been it but the demon Etrigan’s old foe Klarion, the Witchboy, mischievously sends Diana’s soul into Hell instead of the Greek afterlife. She returns for the big finish … which wasn’t so big.

I’ve complained that some stretches of Perez’ run get awfully talky, and the climax was very much so. There’s been so much going on, and much that isn’t clear so great honking swaths of War of the Gods #4 are devoted to explaining what exactly was going on, the secret history of Black Adam’s Egyptian pantheon-powers, why Solomon is one of the Shazam powers alongside Greek and Roman deities and more. It’s not much of a climax, and it’s not material we had to have (would anyone have thrown the book away and complained if we didn’t have Solomon explained?).

Perez’ final issue of WW follows. Appropriately the theme is moving on: Steve proposes to Etta, Nessie graduates, Hippolyta tells her daughter that she needs to go off and do her superhero thing and leave the Amazons to work out their own arrangements with the rest of the world and the Myndi Mayer Foundation, which in the DC Universe handles licensing for the Wonder Woman comic, gets a letter from George Perez saying it’s time for him to move on too.

Next up: The very different William Messner-Loebes run. We’ll see if it’s as much fun as I remember it.

#SFWApro. Top cover by Jill Thompson, everything else by Perez. All rights remain to current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Wonder Woman