Tag Archives: Wonder Woman: The Perez Years

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.

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Starts in tedium, moves into action, ends in confusion: The Wonder Woman reboot, year four.

The third year of the George Perez Wonder Woman, as I blogged about previously, was much better than I remembered it. Year four, however — issues #36 through 48 — was much inferior. Chris Marrinan’s interior art doesn’t work for me (Jill Thompson, who took over penciling by year’s end, did much better) and the stories are a mixed bag. The first story arc, by Perez, Mindy Newell and Marrinan, is every bit as tedious a slog as I remembered it.

The story involves a group of philosophers, thinkers and religious leaders visiting Themyscira to meet the Amazons and learn about their ways. It’s a tense moment for the Amazons, as some of the visitors are men; some of the visitors are disapproving too. It’s a perfect opportunity for Eris, the Goddess of Strife, to spread her malevolence among the guests and hosts alike. Her accursed apples poison minds; some individuals are completely replaced by magical clones. With some help from Lois Lane, Diana eventually saves the day.

That’s a story that could have worked but it bogs down in endless talk (I think it’s the main reason I remember Perez’ run as being talkier than it is). We get far more detail on the visitors’ backstory than we need. Lots of discussion about faith, and how Amazon society runs (including that some are lesbians while others practice celibacy or “the way of Narcissus” — Perez didn’t think he could get away with openly saying they masturbate). Some of it is just dull, while the rest is dull because it’s such a huge mass of static discussion and conversation, issue after issue, with hints of something sinister going on.

Things pick up when the Silver Swan returns following Eris’ defeat. Her abusive, manipulative husband has gaslighted her into even greater hatred of the Amazing Amazon; the Swan will prove to the world that Wonder Woman is a terrible image of womanhood, a standard no ordinary human being can hope to achieve! Can Wonder Woman defeat her foe? Can the Swan’s former pen-pal restore her sanity?It’s a good, action-packed arc which doesn’t stint on the character side of things. As witness Silver Swan does break free of her hubby’s control and start to rebuild her life. She even succeeds — when Phil Jimenez brought the Silver Swan back, she had a new identity, so presumably this incarnation turned out okay.

Next comes a one-shot story hinting at ties between Pandora and Wonder Woman, which I think pay off later in the War of the Gods crossover event. Then comes a more effective than expected story in which one of Vanessa Kapetelis’ friends commits suicide. Nessie has to deal with it and so does everyone around her. The non-linear story got me lost in spots, but overall it worked.

The third arc is intriguing but also confusing. In the pre-Crisis Wonder Woman history, Wonder Girl was an orphan Wonder Woman rescued and brought to Paradise Island where she trained as an Amazon and took the name Donna Troy. In the reboot era, Wonder Girl was around as a Teen Titan years before Wonder Woman appeared; a retcon eventually explained that she was an orphan trained by the Greek Titans as a gift to Earth, a champion wielding their powers. The similarity of the names, IIRC, was just a coincidence. In Wonder Woman #47-8, they finally meet.

The story involves some leftover “bestiamorphs,” the monstrous creations of Circe, and a cabal of rat creatures created by alien DNA that the Titans (the former Teen ones, not the Greeks) once battled. And mysterious dreams in which Donna sees through Diana’s eyes and vice versa. It turns out it’s all a scheme by Circe, who was behind the ET rat creatures as well as her bestiamorphs. Why? No clue. I’m not sure we ever learned (time will tell). It’s fun seeing Donna and Diana meet, but at the same time it’s a little unsatisfying. Given all the history they used to have together and no longer did, I suspect that was inevitable.

#SFWApro. Covers by Marrinan, Marrinan and Perez, all rights remain with current holders.

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Wonder Woman: the Perez reboot, Year 2.5 thru Three (approximately)

My repeated observation (here and here) about reareding George Perez’ reboot of Wonder Woman is that the stories have been good but not quite as good as they seemed at the time. The run I’m covering now, from #20 through #35 is by contrast a lot better, though it doesn’t start off that way. “Who Killed Myndi Mayer?” has Wonder Woman and the Boston PD investigate the death of the flamboyant publicist for the Wonder Woman Foundation. It’s competently done, but it ends being an anti-drug preachment (cocaine! Cocaine is the killer!). And Myndi was such a mismatch with Diana, I’d have liked to see them spend more time together.

Next we get a story that will have repercussions for a while: the gods decide to leave Olympus due to Darkseid corrupting it (I forget which Big Event that was) and so with Wonder Woman’s help, they depart (Perez drew this one and the visuals are great) for a New Olympus. Hermes, however, stays behind, feeling that the gods should be doing more to help humanity rather than sitting on New Olympus gazing into their own navels. He sets up his own church in Boston, hands out miracles like Halloween candy, but unfortunately the last of the Gorgons and the ancient, accursed murderer Ixion have plans to exploit the situation … This leads to lots of discussion about gods, faith and religion but it doesn’t get overbearing. Afterwards, Hermes sticks around, eventually moving in with Steve, but stops trying to attract followers. Meanwhile the Amazons begin debating whether it’s time to open their island to outsiders, ultimately deciding yes.

Then we get a crossover with the Invasion! event, which brings Diana into the Justice League for the first time in post-Crisis continuity and lets her work with more of DC’s female heroes. And then we get a huge plotline that runs just about all of year three. It starts with Barbara Minerva, the latest version of the Cheetah, using two alien warriors left behind at the end of the Invasion to help her steal Diana’s magic lasso.

Setting off in pursuit, Diana winds up in Egypt where she gets the lowdown on the Cheetah’s origin from her aide, Chuma. She also discovers the existence of Bana-Mighdal, an isolated community of Amazons, vastly more brutal than the women of Themiscrya. They sell weapons and mercenary services, reproduce by kidnapping men (as most of the locals are Middle Eastern, these Amazons are dark-skinned) and dispose ruthlessly of anyone who gets in their way. Eventually Diana learns that when Circe arranged the murder of Theseus’ Amazon wife Antiope a handful of Amazons there completely misinterpreted events, turning them hostile to both the men and women of the outside world. Diana tries to explain the error but since none of them know Hippolyta is still alive, they don’t believe Diana’s claim to be her daughter — come on, she’d be thousands of years old! Wonder Woman has to battle the Amazons, the Cheetah and then when she finally wins over the queen, an angry usurper murders the queen and sends out Shim’tar, a seemingly ustoppable warrior woman who kicks Diana’s butt hard. Ultimately, with the help of Hermes, she discovers Shim’tar is powered by the Girdle of Gaia, linked to Diana’s lasso, so by pitting the lasso’s pure energy against Shim’tar’s tainted abuse of the Girdle, Wonder Woman destroys her foe. Bana Mighdal is apparently destroyed, though I believe it (or at least its former inhabitants) turn up again.

There’s a lot of spectacular action without losing any of the character bits Perez’ run was noted for. I do think the art goes down some after he stops penciling it, but overall this is a great stretch to reread.

#SFWApro. Covers by Perez, all rights remain with current holders.

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Old foes in new bottles: George Perez’s Wonder Woman (again)

Since I last reviewed the George Perez Wonder Woman reboot, I’ve read slightly over another year’s worth of issues, and a busy year for Diana it was.

Crossovers. Following the success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, crossovers became an annual event. In #8, which is told in a series of letters and diary entries, Wonder Woman participates in the dreadful Legends crossover event. A couple of issues later, she launches a plotline that ties into the much better Millennium crossover. These things can bog a series down, but Perez handles them well. Legends happens offstage and Millennium ties into Diana’s own story.

The myths. Following her defeat of Ares, Zeus, egged on by Pan (who turns out to be one of Millennium‘s villainous Manhunters) generously offers to have sex with her. Diana refuses; an indignant Zeus commands her to enter Doom’s Doorway below Paradise Island and test herself against the monsters there, to prove her worth as Amazon champion in “the Challenge of the Gods.” Plenty of action, mythological monsters, a big reveal about how closely Diana’s tied to Steve Trevor and the discovery of Hercules, imprisoned there in torment. It’s a good story that gives Hippolyta a chance to shine too. However the Amazons forgiving Hercules for assaulting, enslaving and raping them doesn’t sit as well with me as it did on first reading.

There’s also a minor retcon of John Byrne’s Genesis crossover, which established that all Earthly pantheons are indirectly the children of Jack Kirby’s New Gods. I never liked that (Kirby’s awesome, but he ain’t Homer) and Perez specifically negates it, at least for the Olympians.

Romance, or at least as close as Perez’ Diana ever came. In Legends she meets Superman and understandably she’s blown away by him. Is the feeling she has when she thinks about him what people in Patriarch’s World call love? It isn’t (there’s a team-up story in Action Comics that settles that) and Diana’s love life goes dormant until the 21st century. I think this suffers from Perez not wanting to get into the possibility of Amazon lesbian love (so Diana would understand love, just without heterosexual examples) though he did touch on it later (Greg Rucka made it explicit).

Talk and more talk. In an interview (never published, alas) I asked one comics writer and WW fan what she thought of the reboot, and she said it was too talky. I didn’t think so at the time, but I must admit it’s more notable rereading. #8 is mostly people talking about Diana, rather than Diana doing anything; in #17 Diana visits Julia and Vanessa in Greece and there’s a whole bunch more talk. Not that talk is a bad thing — James Robinson’s Starman is conversation-heavy and usually uses its well — but in these books the dialog is not really interesting enough.

•Old foes. In these thirteen issues, Perez reboots three pre-Crisis adversaries, to varying success. First came Barbara Minerva, the post-Crisis version of the Cheetah. Minerva is an archeologist who steals relics she can’t collect legitimately. When she’s not able to steal Wonder Woman’s lasso, she tries taking it by force, transforming herself into the fast, deadly Cheetah (as you can see a cat-woman rather than a woman in costume).

I’ve never thought well of this Cheetah, but rereading I realize that’s not Perez’ fault. His Barbara Minerva has a focus; multiple other writers have used her since, but without any focus. She’s just a Wonder Woman villain with no distinctive motives or goals beyond villainy. That’s damn boring. But that isn’t Perez’ fault, so I apologize for thinking so.Next up, the post-Crisis Silver Swan. Surprisingly for a guy who loves mythology, Perez skipped Roy Thomas’ version (a descendant of Helen of Troy) in favor of an abused woman whose bullying husband has not only empowered her with a sonic cry (science, this time) but brainwashed her with a jealousy of Wonder Woman (quite close to the original Cheetah’s, actually). It’s an effective story, but Thomas’ mythological origin was so much better, I wish Perez had incorporated it (I think it could be done without losing the abusive relationship aspect).

And finally we get Circe, who markedly improves on Dan Mishkin’s version. It turns out the part of Greece Wonder Woman visits is under control of Circe, who lives on an isolated island but uses her shapeshifted slaves (“beastiamorphs”) to monitor the area in animal form; work against her and you die. The resistance sees Wonder Woman’s presence as a chance to get free; Circe sees her as a prophesied threat (as did the Mishkin version, but the prophecy’s easier to understand here).

What makes Perez’ Circe interesting isn’t the curse but that she’s Wonder Woman’s polar opposite. Diana preaches gender equality and friendship between men and women. Circe, by contrast, is a misanthrope who hates both sexes (used by men, shat on by other women, or so she sees it); she’s devoted her immortality to spreading distrust, manipulation and hostility between them, including murdering Hippolyta’s sister Antiope (her marriage to Theseus was too warm and friendly). There’s a passing reference to Circe running various vice enterprises under pseudonyms to further her aims; today she’d probably be running revenge porn websites.

After such a strong beginning, unfortunately, Circe didn’t return until 1991’s War of the Gods crossover, and I don’t think she kept the malevolent MO (both the Cheetah and Silver Swan came back quicker). We’ll see.

Like his initial arc, Perez’ work doesn’t blow me away as much as it did on first reading, but it’s still damn good.

#SFWApro. Wonder Woman covers by George Perez, New Gods by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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Wonder Woman lives again: the George Perez reboot

After a run of more than 20 years and 300 issues, Wonder Woman wrapped up with #329 and her marriage to Steve Trevor. Following the Legend of Wonder Woman miniseries, the Amazing Amazon started over from scratch in George Perez’s Wonder Woman #1. The first six issues were here origin arc partly written by Greg Potter, then Len Wein, but the plotting and the reboot concepts were all Perez.The first issue retells Marston’s origin of the Amazons, with some interesting additions. Rather than just magical creations of Aphrodite, they’re created to reincarnate the souls of the countless women who’ve died by the hands of men through the centuries, all preserved in Gaia’s magical womb. As in Marston, they become a force for good, get betrayed by Hercules (and fairly obviously raped), freed by the Olympian goddesses and sent to Themiscrya, where they must redeem their defeat by guarding Doom’s Doorway, a gateway into hell. It turns out that alone among the Amazons, Hippolyta originally died while in childbirth. She’s able to bring her daughter to life in a clay figure, the one and only child of the Amazons.

By the time Diana reaches adulthood, Ares is working to plunge the world into final conflict, whipping up his followers in the U.S. and USSR into a war fever. The Olympian goddesses order Hippolyta to select a champion to enter Man’s World and put a stop to this, and needless to say, it’s Diana. As she prepares to leave, Steve Trevor arrives, one of Ares’ acolytes scheming to destroy the Amazons and get rid of Trevor — an experienced combat veteran, but not a man who has any love for war — in one stroke. Thanks to Diana the plan fails; she takes Steve back to the U.S. landing in Boston (but unlike Marston, not out of love for him).

Unlike Marston’s Wonder Woman, Princess Diana is a fish out of water. She doesn’t speak English. Doesn’t understand our customs. Finds modern civilization a little intimidating. She turns for support to Julia Kapatelis, an archeologist with a specialty in ancient Greece. Together with Steve, Etta Candy and Julia, she has to stop Ares’ plans, but as he prepares to go nuclear, literally, will she be able to do it? Especially when his sons Deimos and Phobos set their creation, the monstrous Decay, loose on Boston?

I was totally blown away when I first read this (I know because I have a glowing letter in #7). Not just Perez’ art or the revision of the Amazons’ origins, but his older, more experienced Steve (“I’m not afraid of guns — I’m afraid of some of the idiots our military gives the guns to.”), his capable Etta (in the final conflict, she’s right in their fighting) and the gentle, insecure Diana. Perez doesn’t rush his story or squeeze in any excess fight scenes; it’s not until #4 that Diana goes mano-a-mano with anyone. It felt a little slower-paced on rereading, which is partly because I know what’s coming; Ares’ plans don’t provide as much suspense as first go-round.

And of course, the art is gorgeous. Ares has never looked more formidable.

Overall, though, it’s a solid launch for Diana’s rebooted series. There are two particular changes that I think worth discussing.

First, that the Amazons remain at an ancient Greek level of science and technology, in contrast to the relatively high-tech Marston Amazons. Marston’s Paradise Island had guns, medical laboratories and a plane for Wonder Woman to fly.  Perez’ Amazons have swords and spears (the gun used for Diana’s “bullets and bracelets challenge has a backstory Perez develops later) and healing poultices.

It’s not that this is bad in itself, but I do wonder about the Amazons staying on that island for more than two millennia and never evolving or changing at all. Greek culture, after all, valued science and the intellectual life (though not for women — Amazons being scholars and not just warriors is an idea I might play with some time) so why shouldn’t the Amazons have developed an advanced science of their own? Maybe a Grecian steampunk so it fits the aesthetic?

The second change is that in ruling out Steve as a lover for Diana, Perez never came up with an alternative. Wonder Woman, IIRC, didn’t get a date until the 21st century gave her a brief flirtation with the superhero Nemesis, then with Superman. Most recently she’s back with Steve (it’s also been established she had lovers on Themiscrya).

I wouldn’t want Diana defined by her love life. I’m pleased she didn’t leave Paradise Island out of love for Steve (Robert Kanigher’s Silver Age run also took Steve out of the decision). But just ignoring that side of her for years (as opposed to, say, declaring she’s asex or that her duties preclude it) feels odd in hindsight.

I’m not sure when the right pausing point is to do another Perez review. I guess you’ll find out when I do.

#SFWApro. Covers by Perez, all rights remain with current holders.

 

 

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