Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wonder Woman ’77 Chapter 23 Review and **SPOILERS**

Funk Up Your National Security

Written By: Amy Chu
Art By: Dario Brizuela, Jenn Manley Lee
Lettered By: Wes Abbott
Cover Price: $0.99
Release Date: August 18, 2016


I’ve been watching The Get Down on Netflix, a show that takes place in 1977 New York City. I was but a wee babe back then, but by the time I was cognizant much of New York was still a deplorable shithole. Yet I must admit, it was much more fun: Times Square was an illegal casino of three-card monty hustlers and dice-throwers, hookers paraded around wearing next-to-nothing in broad daylight, and everywhere was just action. Sure, gum wrappers and cigarette butts would swirl around in the afternoon breeze like late November leaves, and a lot of this “action” was, in fact, violent crime, but it was a damn sight more interesting than watching Papa Tubby and his family of reticent whitefolk waddle around to a bunch of chain stores and restaurants for the privilege of paying extra than they would in the same places back home. In that same hazy, wide-necktie era of President Gerald Ford and a burgeoning hip-hop scene existed the television Wonder Woman, a fact that has provided much context for the Wonder Woman ’77 title…but never quite like this chapter does! Is it too much, or does it strut its stuff? Read on, if you can dig it!

Explain It!

Despite the great Harvey Pekar’s advice, to get a “flunky government job” so you can fuck off and collect a pension, working for the government seems really, really boring. In the private sector, they get to find workarounds for the legal constraints that require extra documentation and compliance. But the government that hands down those laws has no such recourse. So we find one Doralee Bernly, thirty-year secretary to Army General Walker, preparing to sell secrets to the Russians just as she’s about to retire. Why would she risk her reputation and screw her boss like this? Because she’s bored! What, you think her life was all clandestine meetings and espionage to this point? It’s been filing requisition forms and getting General Walker coffee, for crying out loud! I’m sure if Doralee had to insert one more sheet of carbon paper into a typewriter spool, she was going to shoot herself. Doralee is meeting her contacts at Washington National Airport—not Reagan National yet, kiddies—on a flight coming from Detroit. And Steve Trevor and Diana Prince are hot on her trail, already wise to her seditious scheme!

Also on this flight are members of the popular funk band Superfunk! You remember Superfunk, don’t you? They did those songs “Funk You (and the Horse You Rode in On)” and “What the Funk is that Funky Smell.” They’re coming into Washington, D.C. to meet the President, and there’s already some fans congregating at the airport, blasing their tunes through a boom box (or “portable radio” to the young folks.) Doralee bemoans the fact that “they” are on this flight…and at first glance, I thought “they” were the members of Superfunk! I thought it was a sort of “you people” thing, but now I realize she’s talking about her Commie pals. Then in the next panel, Steve Trevor says, “Looks like it’s coming in from Detroit,” which could be construed as an observation he made because of the funk-rocking black folks hanging around—look, I don’t think this was the intent, but it could have been depicted clearer. In fact, the art in the entire chapter isn’t very articulate, but more on that later.

On the plane, Superfunk are letting it all hang out, except for band member LeRoi, who doesn’t like flying. His buddy Malcolm helps out by letting him listen to his brand new Walkman (or “ancient iPod” to the young folks), which he really enjoys because his own band is playing through the headphones. They disembark the plane right behind the Russian contacts, who are dressed very inconspicuously in matching black suits and dark glasses. As Superfunk’s fans rush to greet them, there’s a kerfuffle and LeRoi drops his Walkman at the same time Doralee drops her purse and what do you think happens? Identical cassette tapes (or “mp3 players” or whatever the hell would work with kids these days) fall out of each and get mixed up! Boi-oi-oi-oing! LeRoi makes off with the tape full of state secrets, while Doralee hands over a dub of Superfunk to the Russkies, and that’s when Diana and Steve move in to arrest them. But when they get back to the Inter Agency Defense Command headquarters…oh, you know what happens.

This brings everyone over to the Watergate Hotel, where Superfunk is staying. LeRoi pops in his cassette tape and hears some jive talking, but before he can hear much of it, Doralee shows up with the Russians and they abduct him! Diana and Steve are about the enter the hotel, but Diana spies LeRoi being taken away in a black car, so she spins into Wonder Woman and prepares to stop them! And so concludes the weirdest chapter of Wonder Woman ’77 I’ve ever read. I did like the story sort of part goofy What’s Happening?! episode and part political intrigue and espionage. That Wonder Woman proper didn’t figure into the majority of this story (indeed, hers is really a more “token appearance”) doesn’t hurt it at all, particularly since Diana Prince is characterized really well in this series. The art in this chapter was pretty disappointing though, it looked really hesitant and stiff, and frankly seemed amateurish. Still, for a buck, you could do a lot worse. I know I say that a lot when reviewing digital-first titles, but it’s true, dammit!

Bits and Pieces:

Some interesting Cold War espionage meets Motor City’s funk revolution in this historically accurate chapter of Wonder Woman ’77. The story is pretty engaging, despite not containing a whole lot of actual Wonder Woman, but the art dragged the whole thing down quite a bit. Still, if you’re looking for some late 70s Wonder Woman action, then you’ll find it here.


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