I tried to come into James Robinson’s run on Wonder Woman with an open mind. I didn’t completely succeed with that—Robinson had a worrisome track record when it comes to comics, and I was trepidatious that he wouldn’t be able to get a handle on Diana’s character—but I gave it an honest effort. It’s not fair to a series to go in expecting failure. If you think it’s going to be bad before it even begins, you’re probably going to wind up thinking it’s bad. We’ve all had moments where we dismiss something because we “know” it’s going to suck, and when we come back to it a few years later with a clean slate we say “Wow, I never thought it would be this good”.
Unfortunately, now that we’re three issues into the series, I have to give my Official Stamp of Disapproval. I gave it a chance, but it has let us all down. On this past Wednesday I had my local comic shop remove Wonder Woman from my pull list.
This issue is a “How We Got Here” story, jumping back in time to explain a little bit of Grail’s backstory and flesh out her current vendetta against the children of Zeus.
It begins in the midst of her fight against the Greek hero Perseus, whom she defeats to feed his life energy to Darkseid in order to accelerate his aging (He is currently a six-year-old). After Perseus is slain and his winged horse Pegasus flees, Darkseid believes that Grail is finally ready to confront Hercules himself, which is where we first saw Grail at the start of this arc. The two of them embark through a Boom Tube for that fight which we already saw…and the comic then jumps back in time again to the start of this quest.
Grail was living in a secluded cabin high in the mountains (After having killed its inhabitants) and wondering how to raise the baby Darkseid. Darkseid manages to telepathically convey his hunger, but before she can figure out what he means they are attacked by A.R.G.U.S. commandos in retaliation for their past actions. Grail manages to kill most of the commandos, but one lone soldier reaches Darkseid and aims his weapon. Whether he was there to kill or capture we will never know, because Darkseid himself uses his Omega Beams and renders the commando absent from the waist up. Grail collects the baby God, realizes that his “hunger” referred to feeding on the life force of the Old Gods, and embarks on her quest to re-age him through the children of Zeus.
We are then treated a montage of Grail’s fights as she works her way through the various demigods. Some are figures from ancient mythology (Callisto, Limos, etc.) whereas others are people from the modern day who didn’t even know of their parentage until Grail clues them in. At the end of the montage we have arrived back at near-present day. Soon after having killed Hercules they are on the shores of Greece, spying on Jason, Diana’s twin brother who is as-yet-unaware of his connections. Grail recognizes who he is and wants to kill him then, but Darkseid holds her off, explaining that he has his own plans for Jason…
Remember when this comic used to be about Wonder Woman?
Way Too Soon For Somebody Else’s Flashback
This is only the third issue of the series that James Robinson has written, and we are nowhere near deep enough into the story to take a break away from the title character. I made this very same point back in Robinson’s first issue on the series, when even though Diana was actually in the story she wasn’t the focus of attention. Grail is not a longstanding foe of Wonder Woman’s whose origins have been a mystery that we needed to solve, and her relationship with Diana isn’t so intrinsic and complex that we need to see her side of it. She’s a relatively new character to comics. In fact, her history has been well-documented in other comics, so she doesn’t need or deserve her own spotlight like this.
This doesn’t even have the excuse of being a one-shot or Annual Edition in order to justify it’s break away from the focus. For a properly-numbered entry in the Wonder Woman series, to not have Wonder Woman even appear is a waste and an insult. The series title is Wonder Woman, it should be about Wonder Woman.
What was the point?
Even aside from the absence of the main character of the comic, the issue is almost completely empty. This flashback didn’t give us any information that we didn’t already have for the current story. The past two issues had already made it clear what Grail and Darkseid were doing. We know that Darkseid has been de-aged to childhood, and we know that Grail is killing Zeus’ kids to get enough energy for him to re-grow. A single caption box and editor’s note did explain where/when this happened, but that could — and should — have been included in their first appearance two issues ago.
The only question this answers is the ‘mystery’ surrounding the room full of corpses that A.R.G.U.S. had in its headquarters. Yet this was covered by a one-page montage that could have been slipped into either of the two preceding issues with ease.
The Mythological Nitpicks
Look, I don’t expect everybody out there to know the intimate details of Greek Mythology. Figures like Heracles have entered popular culture, so I’m not going to say “That’s not his real name!” if you say ‘Hercules’ in normal conversation. Not everybody has the time or the inclination to dig into legends written in a language nobody speaks in their everyday life, and I don’t hold that against them.
I, however, do have the time and inclination. More than that, I have access to Google and Wikipedia as well, and when you are writing a story that so heavily involves Greek mythology, so should you. So when you include a figure like Perseus and are clearly basing their story on the film Clash of the Titans instead of the actual myths — or even some pre-existing comic version of Perseus — I will hold that against you.
Perseus of mythic legend fought the sea monster Cetus, not the Kraken.
If they don’t care, why should we?
In the first two issues of his run James Robinson systematically undid all of the character and world building that had been set up for Wonder Woman by the Rebirth line. Now, in issue #33 he just flat-out drops her from the story. She is only mentioned once at the end. Oh, and she’s on the TV in the house that Grail has stolen.
Everything is about how important Jason is, or about Darkseid and Grail’s own journey. This comic is no longer Diana’s story, it’s a vehicle for other characters, and that’s just sad.