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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Friday, August 12, 2005

Who's that Girl? Part 3: The Newest Wonder Woman of all (so far)

Wonder Woman v.1 #212 - 223

When Julius Schwartz took over the editorial duties of Wonder Woman with issue #212 he was left with something of a mess. in Robert Kanigher's haste to eradicate all vestiges of the "feminist" era he leaves plot holes you could fly an invisible plane through. The letter column of this issue explains that a great deal of work has gone into creating this "newest Wonder Woman of all" which includes contributions from E. Nelson Bridewell, Allan Asherman, Martin Pasko, as well as Schwartz and writer Len Wein. Robert Kanigher is notably not mentioned here.

The result of all this work is another bold change of direction. Wonder Woman bumps into Superman and he asks her when she regained her powers. This causes a certain amount of confusion in Wonder Woman as she has no memory of being de-powered. Queen Hippolyte gives her a rather lame excuse about not having enough data to restore this part of her memory, though it is easy to infer that she disapproves of this period where Diana chooses to be independant of her mother, and this is why she never got around to mentioning that there was a gap in the memory restoration process [1].

As she has no information why she lost her memory in the first place, Wonder Woman is concerned that it might happen again and so plans to resign from the Justice League. At the urging of her fellow members she thinks of a compromise: her next 12 adventures will be monitored by her fellow JLA members and if she completes all successfully then she will consider herself fit to resume active membership. This not only gives the comic a much needed sense of stability with a year long story arc, but it means that every subsequent issue gets to cover-feature a guest star.

While he is tying up loose ends, Wein also moves Diana into a new apartment [2], gives her a more interesting job at the U.N. that takes account of her background in military intelligence [3], rehabilitates a previously seen character to become her new boss but losing his sexist attitude, and even gives us a whole new magic costume transformation sequence [4] that appears to be contractually required to be shown in every subsequent issue. It's very reminiscent and about as realistic as the magic costume change twirl from the TV show, though what it desperately needs is an anime style magical girl transformation sequence with no pseudo-scientific BS explanation. Still, not a bad job for a single issue.

The following issues not only feature a series of guest superheroes but also a variety of creative staff with Cary Bates writing #213 & 215, and Elliot S Magin doing #214, 216 & 217, before Martin Pasko settles in as regular writer in #218. There's not a lot to be said about these issues. It seems to have taken Julius Schwartz a while to find someone to write the comic for any length of time and the result is that these issues lean heavily toward villain-of-the-week stories with narration by whichever JLA member is spying on Wonder Woman this issue, and little to no characterisation or subplot other than the "Twelve Tasks" frame.

The plots themselves are pretty lame, although #215 raises some odd questions about how the JLA deal with foes they have defeated, as it is written in the form of an informal trial held by the JLA with only themselves as judge, witness, and prosecution, at the end of which they sentence the defendant and escort him to prison. Seems a tad undemocratic to me.

The "Twelve Tasks" sequence winds down in #222 with some of the best art and writing we've seen for a while. Okay, the plot is Westworld meets Disneyland, but it somehow has more bounce than previous issues. The coda to the sequence comes in #223 which is basically an excuse to bring Steve Trevor back from the dead in such a blatently contrived way that you have to admire Pasko for his chutzpah. As a final test for Wonder Woman, Aphrodite, who is in a snit because the JLA have been having all the fun, has Paradise Island invaded by men. This is apparently a puzzle for Wonder Woman to solve as the masked men are not men at all, except for the one that is. Tracking down the real man by a process of elimination, she unmasks him to find that *gasp* he is Steve Trevor.

The puzzle was, as far as I can tell, to recognise that it was only a test, and to find the only real man. Why bring someone back from the dead to fill this role rather than use any of the available living men? Aphrodite gives the thin excuse that he had visited there before, and Hippolyte claims that it was "a test of love" which WW passes by asking to keep him - what else is she going to do when faced with her dead boyfriend brought back to life? Say "Nice to see you, Steve, but I've moved on with my life"? Personally I think Aphrodite is giving WW her boyfriend back as a prize for completing the tasks set her, but isn't about to admit it to the "girls only" club of Amazon society. Otherwise the story makes no sense.


Next: Diana 1 Earth 2.

Notes

1. in fact, by #223 we find that she chose to cut out this part of WW's life rather than being unable to restore it, but never explains why. Note that this is not the only time Hippolyte attempts to resolve situations by making people forget things.

2. bye bye multicultural room-mates. We never did catch your names.

3. which ties her new job to her old one in military intelligence.

4. See previous entry Magic Science.

4 Comments:

Blogger Scipio said...

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod...

Maybe YOU can help me with this:

do you have any pictures of

MARSHA MALLOW?

She's one of the totem characters of my blog (along with Vibe, the Golden Age Starman, the Composite Superman, and the Human Flying Fish).

1:02 am  
Blogger Marionette said...

That was Lois Lane's room mate from the 70's, wasn't it? As I have a complete collection of Lois Lane, I can probably oblige...

1:56 am  
Blogger Scipio said...

YE-HEh-HEh-ES!!!!!

10:56 pm  
Blogger Daniel said...

"gives the comic a much needed sense of stability with a year long story arc"?

I would have said, gives the comic a sense of stagnation with a two-year long story arc. WW was bimonthly at the time. And the jury's still out on how much of a readership spike you get from having Red Tornado or (much as I love him) the Elongated Man on the cover.

What this seemingly-interminable guest-star rotation told me at the time was that even the editor doesn't really think Wonder Woman can carry her own magazine.

1:02 am  

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