|bluefall (bluefall) wrote in scans_daily,|
@ 2009-03-11 00:31:00
|Entry tags:||char: wonder woman/diana of themyscira, creator: william messner-loebs, publisher: dc comics, series: when wondy was awesome, series: world of wondy|
When Wondy was Awesome, part 6 (To Shatter an Empire)
So, after Perez's tenure wrapped with the War of the Gods crossover event, the title was given to one William Messner-Loebs, aka WML for brevity's sake (she said, as though she were ever anything remotely approaching succinct). And WML's run on Wonder Woman was... let's just say a departure. It was wildly popular sales-wise, but I have a lot of problems with it personally. He had no real respect for anything that Perez had done; he discarded her entire supporting cast as soon as possible, did a complete, arbitrary retcon of the Amazons' history and Diana's parentage (which thankfully was ignored by subsequent writers), buried Themyscira in an inaccessible pocket dimension for three years (for most of which time the readers were led to believe it had been destroyed, and in fact the whole "it's not really gone" was probably a panicked retcon), and mangled Polly so badly when she finally did show up that the letter columns spent months convinced she was Circe in disguise. We're talking "War Crimes" levels of butchery, here, or worse, and an unfortunate foundation for all the crap that's come her way since. But let's not speak of that, as to this day it still fills me with rage.
And Diana herself? He made her a klingon.
I mock, but this is still one of my favorite panels of all time.
If there's a failure in Perez's portrayal of Diana, it's her childlike, pacifistic innocence - her drastically overstated reluctance to do violence and her excessive remorse when she fought to defend herself. The Perez Wonder Woman is too naive and pacifistic for a warrior born and a princess of amazons, young or not. Messner-Loebs, on the other hand, pushed her way too far in the other direction; his Diana is confident and unapologetically fierce in battle, charismatic, clever, and has what is usually a good sense of humor; but she's also sarcastic, snarky, and frequently almost disdainful of the people around her. Not only does she not mind inflicting pain, she flat-out enjoys it, and she's reckless and willingly causes collateral damage to innocents in the name of "victory" when she gets sufficiently pissed off.
He also did a lot of stuff that, in retrospect, I think was meant to "humanize" her, kind of like we saw with the v3 relaunch - he made her worry about money and work fast food, gave her family-related angst, stripped her out of her uniform and had her deal with civilian worries like child support and gang activity instead of gods and powerful supernatural villains (except for Ares, but that's still not quite on, given his pact with Diana to leave Earth alone). Some of this worked out pretty cool, but it still felt pretty damn weird and more than a little forced to have Diana flipping burgers, even if she *did* have a very appropriately Diana attitude about it, for the most part. And the longer he was writing her, the less like Wonder Woman she was.
But he did have his moments; for example, his first story, the Wondy in space arc, which I share with you today. Low marks for plot, but full credit for concept, and Diana makes a very sexy space pirate.
It starts when Diana gets conned by a bad guy named Asquith to go into space and rescue Natasha Teranova, a cosmonaut trapped in orbit and running out of air. I say conned, but the cosmonaut is real; she's hanging out, doing magic tricks and making audio tapes for her daughter while her six hours of air run out.
This is cute, but also exactly what I was talking about with him not really having any respect for or sense of Perez' thoughtful diplomat. Even if we didn't know she speaks Russian, it's pretty easy to guess. She came to Man's World during the Cold War, after all, and her very first act here was to stop a Russian-US nuclear exchange. The idea that of the many languages she knows, Russian might not be one, is laughable.
But see, then he follows it up with a *good* Diana moment, like this one:
Here we see a self-assured Diana who apparently has no trouble with orbital mechanics or Russian electronics. Gone, thankfully, is the Perez Diana's confusion with and distaste for technology. Also, Natasha and her missing of her daughter is adorable. Just for the record.
Anyway, here's where the "conned" part comes in:
Asquith has sabotaged the satellite, and Diana and Natasha are adrift in space. They're moving away from Earth and have no way to manage a safe landing or contact their allies. Diana manages to rig the Apokalyptian shuttle she came in to drag them through hyperspace, in the hopes that some aliens will notice them and pick them up. But the shuttle's not safe for human habitation, so she perches up on top of the space station and latches the thing down with her lasso.
They spend quite a while drifting aimlessly, entertaining themselves with magic tricks.
Hey, look! The gratuitous sexualized nudity that was so tragically absent in Perez' run!
Eventually, a ship appears. Rather a big one, in fact.
(I kind of want a sound effect here that says "nom nom nom.")
They don't really get to meet the folks on board, though. They get gassed through the vents, and despite Diana putting up a sluggish, half-conscious fight, they're handily subdued, and wake up in the mud on an alien world.
So, they're on a slave planet, and all the slaves are women, from all over (including a khund named Ectreba, who immediately picks a fight with Diana. Man, khunds. What'reyagonnado). Not knowing their captors or any salient tactical details, Diana decides to bide her time, and she and Tasha hang out for a couple months getting the lay of the land and trying not get killed or curl up and die of sheer misery.
Eventually, they start learning useful details, like that the slave collars have audio receivers in them, and there's a daxamite being held prisoner in the main compound. (Daxamites have all the powers of the American Superman. We know this because Tasha says it about seventeen times.)
They also learn the... um, ecology of their captors, though I admit I use the term loosely.
(Please note that the bad guys are called the "kreel" here, and don't let that confuse you when WML abruptly changes it to "sangtee" later in the story.)
Tasha's pretty understandably beaten down by all this slavery and woe, but Diana? Not so much.
And so the revolt begins.
They are, of course, successful, and they free the daxamite, claim themselves a space ship, and get clear of the prison planet. So, what does Diana decide to *do* with her new spaceship?
Why, topple a galactic empire, of course.
(She tattooed him with the Wonder Woman symbol across the forehead. I go back and forth every time I read this on whether that's cool enough to make up for how insanely out-of-character it is.)
I left out a few pages there, space considerations and all, but it's worth mentioning that the story this general tells demonstrates Diana to be a tactical genius, effectively crippling fleets five times the size and power of her own, with no casualties on her side, through use of clever ambushes and devious traps. Because of this, her little pirate clan proves extremely effective, and some of them, particularly a Dominator name of Sakritt, think that they're all rich and safe now and they should quit while they're ahead. Diana does not agree.
More weird characterization. She's very Diana, a noble champion, not willing to tolerate oppression, firm in her convictions regardless of how it interferes with her own personal interest, and then we hit the funeral pyre line and she's taken it just a step too far.
Being the effective leader that she is, Diana has each of her people contributing where they are most skilled; some in combat, others in R&D. The tech guys create a spiffy hologram projector and accidentally fool Diana into attacking nonexistent empire guys. They're embarrassed but Diana's not.
See, she *would* totally be unfazed, so that's good, but...
I mean really. What bizarre-ass Amazons are these? Even the Bana wouldn't do that shit.
I like that she's in lasso withdrawl, though. Take away the magic, and a rope with a loop is hardly the most useful or efficient weapon, but she keeps trying to make one anyway.
The pirates are not, of course, a unified front...
... but Diana knows what she's doing. (And can I just say how sad I was when Diana helped out the khunds in Gail's run recently and no mention of this storyline was made and Ectreba was nowhere to be found? ;_; She's just so fun.)
See what I mean? Totally knows what she's doing.
She also manages to calm down the daxamite and give her the artificial eye. The daxamite does not talk, particularly, even to give her name, so Diana decides to call her Julia. That is the most respect Messner-Loebs will ever give Julia Kapatelis and the rest of Perez' supporting cast.
Meanwhile the rumor of rebellion is spreading, as it will. (The pirates have helped it along with some ominous forty-story Diana holograms on prison planets, preaching the revolution.) Naturally, this makes the emperor and his cronies rather nervous.
This banal "battle of the sexes" shit is just so painful. WML was an especially egregious offender with that, and it's particularly glaring coming off Perez' run and all that incredibly careful, well-thought-out anthropology. Compare this nonsense to the last chapter with the Bana, it's like a whole different universe. But holographic!Wondy taunting the frantic head honchos here is still pretty cool (again, though, what's with that pose? This isn't a bathing suit calendar, sweetie, drop that arm and stand like you're in charge. I mostly really like Cullens' art, which makes the odd moment of sexualized wrongness that much worse).
Diana's holographic challenge serves its purpose, and the emperor invites her and her crew to come parley. They accept, and arrive at the emperor's palace.
Sneaky sneaky, Diana! (Just as an aside, this is not actually contradictory with her Spirit of Truth portrayal. It's just a broader form of a feint in combat - a matter of effective tactics, which minimize loss of life. This kind of quick, temporary battle bluff is very much an Odysseus sort of thing, right in line with her place as Athena's champion. Still, I don't imagine it's something she does very casually.)
Meanwhile, the person walking around with the guards looking like Wonder Woman is actually Tasha. She hid a crowbar on her person, which she uses to beat the bloody tar out of her captors. Elsewhere, Julia the Daxamite is running around at random doing massive generalized violence to anything that looks remotely military, causing a distraction suitable for Tasha to free the large pile of slaves local to the palace.
Diana is off to fetch her lasso, so she can
blow the ending of "The Crying Game" reveal the shocking twist of the Emperor's horrible secret!
Behold, as once again Diana manages to end a catastrophic conflict with careful application of the truth.
So after the fight, things wind down, the emperor swears to try to make things work out with 100% less despotic slavery, mostly because Diana's people will spill her secret if she doesn't, and Julia turns out to speak English and know the location of Earth (convenient, no?).
And then Diana went home and said to her friends, "So, J'onn, I hear you have better international recognition than Superman, eh? Huh. That's pretty cool, I guess. I'm known as an interstellar champion, of course, but whatever, it's not a contest, right? Oh, hey, Bruce. Topple any corrupt galactic regimes lately? No? Well, still, you stopped Killer Croc, and I hear he's a pretty dangerous guy."
Oh, and we do find out later that the coup was a successful one, even without Diana there to make sure the Emperor kept her word (something she and Tasha worried about): in Jimenez' run, as part of said author's rather strange relationship with Polly, we got this scene, where Julia (as part of the alien flotilla that came to Earth during Our Worlds at War) meets her savior's mother.
A lot of credit where it isn't really due, there, and Julia speaks better English than that, which was a major plot point in getting Diana and Tasha home. Nevertheless. Diana's a legend across half the galaxy. As a payoff eight years in the making, it's amazingly worth it.
Scans are from issues 66-71, never collected in trade.
Next time: See Diana deal with rent, taxes and deadbeat dads, and meet the other Donna in her life. It's more interesting than it sounds, I promise.