Friday, January 12, 2018

REVIEW: Wonder Woman #37 (2017)

WONDER WOMAN #37 (2017) —
Regular cover by Bryan Hitch.
©DC Comics
DC Comics, $2.99, 32pgs.
On-sale December 27, 2017

“Children of the Gods: Conclusion”
20 pages. Read Time – 9:25

by James Robinson (story); Carlo Pagulayan & Stephen Segovia (pencils); Jason Paz, Art Thibert, and Raul Fernandez (inks); Romulo Fajardo Jr. (colors); and Saida Temofonte (letters). Edited by Chris Conroy.

 BOTTOM LINE: Nice to look at, but a little anti-climactic and of no seeming consequence, other than the fact that Darkseid’s back — but we knew he would be.

I don’t work in the comic book industry and, so, of course, cannot know, but I suspect they’re building the books backwards these days. Hey, I’m not saying all comics are edited by Bizarro, but those who are doing the work certainly don’t appear to be starting at Step 1 anymore.

I imagine that in the old days, the editor would say to the writer, ‘Pitch me a story,” and, having caught whatever bull the writer was throwing that day, would decide how many issues it should take to tell that tale. But now, I must suspect, the editor says, “Your story has to last six issues. What’ve you got?” 

I suppose that’s tpb syndrome. The first consideration is not the story structure, but the story length, and the need to fill an eventual trade paperback collection. We know the tpb will be, say, 120 pages, and we can’t have a single story run four issues and 100 pages, then have just the first two issues of the next three- or four-part tale.  And, so, what we get, almost invariably these days, are story arcs that start out on a strong concept in issue one, maybe play with that idea a little bit in issue two, and then devolve into so much filler for parts three, four — and, maybe five. Whatever need has been decided in advance. Each of these issues is generally about little more than setting up the last-panel surprise appearance for some character or concept. Then, almost without fail, after everything has dragged out, we get to about the halfway point of the last chapter and everything wraps up quick in a neat little bow.

And while the filler issues always annoy me, it’s these last chapters that really disappoint. Instead of building up to a climax and coming back down, these comic book conclusions tend to keep on building and building and building, and then without warning go full Thelma right over the cliff, ending with a thud like Wile E. Coyote on the canyon floor below.

And that’s kind of what we’ve had here: A seven-issue epic with maybe four issues of plot — three if you cut out the one with the life history of Wonder Woman’s new brother Jason, who ended up having just about zero impact on the story.

This issue is mostly a throwdown between Zues and Kid Dardseid. And it looks great. So props there. Although it’s done in lots of splash pages and large panels of about three to a page, so it reads pretty quickly. And even at that it’s a tad too decompressed for my tastes. It takes two pages just to have Darkseid slip away in a Boom Tube to a new battle location once Wonder Woman joins the fray. The fight would be more epic, but Jason, who was totally awesome, until he was totally evil, and then totally evil until he suddenly wasn’t, keeps Grail from joining in, and that takes them off-panel for most of the issue.

Once Darkseid kills Zeus and returns to his full adult might, the Justice League shows up and Darky exits stage left. That leaves Wonder Woman feeling a little peevish at her peers, as she had intended to fight to the death for the sacred honor of daddy dearest. It would have been interesting to have that confrontation play out in some way, but the League is there really just to effect a full stop in the story, not to enhance its telling or to help shed any light on Wonder Woman's many conflicted feelings about her father. They are basically the living embodiment of Wile E's ACME rocket sled smashing into the plot. It might have been interesting to have Wonder Woman give her colleagues more of a tongue lashing, leading to Jason lashing out physically, thinking he's coming to her defense. Then big hero fight, which seems just about all Darkseid could have hoped to leave in his wake. In this way, we might have had a chance to see Jason's conversion from villain to repentant hero. But as it is he just says he's sorry for betraying Wonder Woman to Grail and Darkseid in the earlier chapters, and ta-daaaa, the Wonder Twins are totally reconciled, which, as portrayed, proves that Wonder Woman is either a lot more forgiving, or else a lot stupider than we would expect.

I have to doubt Hercules and Zeus are really good and truly forever dead. They are immortal Gods after all. I mean, if every character in the DC pantheon can come back from the grave, I’m sure Herc & Pop-Pop will find a way.

And actually, that would have made a fun quest for the next story arc — Wonder Woman and Jason wading though the hoards of Hades to bring back their father and beloved half-brother. But instead we’re promised The Silver Swan. Meh.

One thing that did seem odd — Robinson completely dropped the subplot with Giganta. She had been tracking down ancient artifacts and, somehow, in a way that was never quite explained (at least not well enough for a dunderhead like me to get it) that was what enabled Grail to find all the children of Zeus she killed for energy to revive and restore Darkseid. But it had seemed last issue like there was more to it that that, and I got the distinct impression Steve Trevor and Etta Candy were on the trail of a greater mystery. But then this issue comes, big fight, and, hey, no more of that artifact stuff over there in the sidebar. Steve doesn't appear in this issue at all.

Maybe some of that artifact stuff is what will lead us into the coming confrontation with Silver Swan. Still, when this issue is collected in tpb form, I imagine the sub-plot will come off seeming strange, as something presented as a big whoop of great significance to the overall plot, and then just left dangling, as if all it ever was, was busy-work to keep Steve busy and out of Wonder Woman’s hair, or else just to drag this story out to seven issues and a full tpb.

One final thought — I am a wee bit disappointed that probate attorney Blake Hooper ended up being Zeus in disguise. It seemed to me like an attorney-to-the-super-heroes would have offered up tons of story springboards, and Hooper himself was given a fun and interesting characterization, like a kind of Saul Goodman by way of Felix Unger. That could have made for an interesting supporting player.

You can read my full review of the first chapter of this arc, in WONDER WOMAN #31, here.



COVER: 8.50 | PLOT: 6.75 | SCRIPT: 8.50 | LAYOUT: 8.50 | ART: 8.75 | EDITS: 6.00

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