Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wonder Woman #751 Review and Spoilers


Written by: Steve Orlando

Art by: Jan Duursema
Colors by: Romulo Fajardo Jr
Letters by: Pat Brosseau
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: February 12, 2020

The issue following a big celebration or event is often a good time either for a new creative team to come on board a title or for the existing team to re-establish the fundamentals of the series and hint at what's coming down the pipe in future issues. And this latter course of action is pretty much exactly what writer Steve Orlando attempts to do here in this post-celebration issue. Is he successful? Well, there's only one way to find out…

The issue starts with a confrontation between Boston detective Nora Nunes and Diana in which it's revealed that Nunes has been moved in next door to Diana in order to keep an eye on her. A fairly fraught conversation ensues, albeit one largely devoid of the worst excesses of Orlando's penchant for melodrama. Diana negotiates it with some skill, though, and, as I may have mentioned in one of my earlier reviews of Orlando's Wonder Woman, one of the more impressive things about him on this book is his portrayal of its central character. Diana is calm, cool and, for the most part, conciliatory; when Nunes reveals that she's been given a day to assess whether Diana is a threat to the city that she wishes to make her new home, Diana is very gracious about it and suggests that she accompany her as she goes about her job.

This being a Wonder Woman comic, Nunes does not get to hang out with the Justice League or brush up her skills with Detective Chimp. What Orlando does present us with is a nice, fairly self-contained story comprised of three episodes of increasing danger, which nevertheless demonstrate who Wonder Woman is and what she's all about. It starts with a minor natural disaster in the form of an unseasonal storm that threatens Boston's South End and gives Orlando a chance to put Nunes, Diana, and Etta Candy in the same place. Etta's recently-formed NGO (Sight, Support, Sustenance) offers to help out with disaster relief and she and Nunes have a brief conversation while watching Diana in action. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but one of the problems here is that the nature and, particularly, the scale of the disaster is just a little bit ill-defined. The National Guard has been called out, but the only thing of note Diana does in this section is hold up a collapsing pier while it's being evacuated. It feels a little… underwhelming.

The following section has Diana confront a group of looters whom Orlando uses to make a political point that seems ill-judged and a little bit confusing to this British reader. The three looters act like typical random thugs but belong to an organization called the 'Sons of Liberty' and describe themselves as 'individualists'. I get that there's a contrast being made here between the community-minded support of Etta and Diana and the selfishness of the looters, but I'm not sure the implicit criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, misrepresentation) of a value that a good proportion of the population still see as a vital part of the American character is all that good an idea. Particularly, as it's made in such a jarring manner. In any case, Diana deals with the looters as efficiently as you might expect, and the stage is set for the third and final section of Diana and Nunes' day together, which has been effectively and comprehensively spoiled by the issue's cover.

Diana's confrontation with the 'Dark Fates' is inconclusive but does set up future confrontations rather nicely. We're not finished yet, though. As well as the Dark Fates, we get not one, not two, but three teases of further adventures – what looks like a heavily-armored Paula von Gunther (look her up!) recruiting Devastation who's just beaten up Firebrand (herself a character far too interesting to be used in such a perfunctory manner), a reference to Donna Troy that seems to be a tie-in to Year of the Villain and, the lead-in to next issue, Valda the Iron Maiden, an old supporting character from Arak: Son of Thunder last seen hanging out in the Oblivion Bar in Shadowpact. Yes, the man Orlando is digging deep through DC's past to find as many badass female characters as he possibly can and throw them in the mix. I'm kind of impressed, to be honest – although if he screws up Valda in any way, I will be extremely annoyed. I like that girl!

The obscure fanboy references aside, though, this issue is at heart a re-affirmation of the core values and elements of both the character of Wonder Woman and the comic book series that bears her name. Although Orlando's dialogue borders on the preachy at times, Diana has always been – and remains – a character who embodies compassion, courage and a keen sense of justice. Whatever the shortcomings of Orlando's writing (and, it must be said, they are not as much in evidence here as they have been in other titles of his I've reviewed), he gets Diana and writes her well. His pairing with Jan Duursema will, I hope, be a productive one. I first encountered Duursema on DC's Arion: Lord of Atlantis series in the 80s. There's a nice fluidity to her action sequences here and her Diana is great. All in all, this is a promising start to the next phase of the book.

Bits and Pieces:

A simply structured, impressively drawn story becomes the frame on which writer Steve Orlando hangs his 'manifesto' for the series going forward. Focusing on Diana's compassion and sense of fairness, as well as showing a determination to mine DC's rich history for plot elements and antagonists, Orlando has got this reviewer at least intrigued as to what the future for this title might hold.


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