Issue #1 of Strangers in Paradise (SiP) XXV was released last week, serving as the first new installment in the acclaimed indie comic series since the story completed in 2007. There have been brief tie-ins and cameos in other comics by creator Terry Moore, plus a brief revival as SiP Kids, but for the main story, it seemed like Issue #90 of Vol. 3 was the true finale. Now we get to see what really happens next for Francine and Katchoo, and it is quite a treat to see a new chapter. Especially since…oh, wait, this is supposed to be a review of Wonder Woman #39, isn’t it? ….do I have to? Because I would much rather be talking about SiP and with this new series I have so many thoughts and…okay, fine, I’ll stay focused on the train wreck that we’ve had ever since James Robinson took over Diana’s series.
Let’s keep this short, shall we? This issue stinks, the arc as a whole sucks, and the series has fallen down a pit. Congratulations, I just saved you the time it would have taken to read a more detailed review.
I’ll dig in a little more for the rest of the article, but at the end of the page it’s just going to be the same emotion stretched out to 1,500 words.
The issue picks up where #38 left off, with Wonder Woman facing off against “Silver Swan”, the new supervillain identity of Vanessa Kapatelis. They fight a bit, and Silver Swan spouts the by-now-standard “I’m evil now” speech about how Vanessa is dead and referring to her in the third person. Wonder Woman says she doesn’t want to hurt her, and that she’s holding back because she still cares for her, but the Swan keeps pressing the attack and the scene ends with her unveiling her sonic powers in an attack.
The cut jumps to the Amazon jungle and the abandoned temple of the New Gods where Grail and Jason had brought Diana when they kidnapped her. Darkseid has taken up residency there with Grail, and is overseeing Parademons performing labor as part of his next plan. Despite returning to his full power after killing Zeus (Hey remember how literally killing Zeus should be a big deal and have ongoing consequences and remarks? This comic doesn’t), Darkseid doesn’t want to reclaim his position on Apokolips just yet, so he is settling in here for the time being.
Grail wonders why they aren’t hiding somewhere else since Wonder Woman and Jason know where they are, but Darkseid points out that since A.R.G.U.S. and the Justice League haven’t launched an attack then they must not be able to locate them. He sends the Female Furies out to collect the last four artifacts that he needs for his plans, and they use a boom tube to travel to the Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul where they find Steve Trevor and the Oddfellows waiting for them.
Before we can see what happens next in Turkey, the scene jumps to Jason at Diana’s beach house, cleaning up after the party he had thrown. He’s having an argument with himself acting out Diana’s role in the conversation, going back and forth on whether or not he is acting childish. He seems to settle on recognition that he is acting childish, and as he decides that he needs to ‘show the world’ the news comes on and reveals that Wonder Woman and Silver Swan are fighting.
The comic jumps back to the fight itself, where Wonder Woman deduces that it was the nanites intended to help Vanessa recuperate from her paralysis that have given her these new powers and also warped her mind. Swan refuses to accept that her mind has been affected by the nanites, saying that she isn’t “insane,” just “mad.” Jason arrives on the scene and tells Swan to stay away from his sister, but his presence only enrages Swan further since she thinks that having a brother that she never mentioned was yet another thing Diana had hidden from her. Wonder Woman tries to warn Jason off, but he transforms into a tornado around Swan. When he turns back into human form again, he is surprised that Swan withstood the winds by cocooning herself in her wings, and she quickly flies forward and slices his throat with her wings.
Wonder Woman then charges at the Swan, stating that she had been holding back before, but now she will know what it’s really like to fight an Amazon. She easily slices off part of one of Swan’s wings, and there’s a giant explosion to follow. The final page of the issue is a double set of three panels, showing each of the three characters falling to the ground from the sky.
Review (Why do I even bother anymore?)
Where do I even begin with this?
The dialogue between Wonder Woman and Silver Swan is incredibly stilted and awkward. It’s manifestly better than the dialogue was two issues ago, because at least they are speaking in cohesive sentences, but it was absolutely painful to actually read through it. Wonder Woman has to verbally explain that she recognizes who Silver Swan is because she recognizes the art from Vanessa’s old drawings. Vanessa tops that by actually saying that Diana ignoring her in the hospital was like Narcissus ignoring Echo’s affections.
Look, I am literally a historian in real life, I have a degree and everything. I re-read The Iliad for fun just a few months ago. But even I don’t make ridiculous comparisons to Greek mythology like that apropos of nothing. The last issue had a sentence where Vanessa’s narration stated that Diana helped her learn about Greek mythology, but that was literally the only mention. It never showed up in any dialogue to indicate that this is a character trait of hers.
The previous issue had already implied that it was the recuperative nanites that gave Vanessa her powers, but even now when Wonder Woman makes the same deduction it doesn’t say — or even imply — how. They were apparently intended only to physically repair her nervous system and musculature, how does that translate to a sonic scream? How did she master them so totally in a span of a few weeks that she can withstand tornado winds from a demigod? “Nanites” have become one of the go-to explanations for superpowers the way “radiation” and “chemicals” used to, but we still need some kind of connection.
When it comes Darkseid being undetected in the Amazon jungle, the comic pointing out that it is bad writing doesn’t absolve it from being bad writing. Why haven’t A.R.G.U.S. or the Justice League dealt with him? He says that Wonder Woman and Jason must not have been able to relocate the temple despite having been there, but doesn’t even advance a theory as to why not. In real-life I have personally used Google Earth to locate things based on only the vaguest of geographical indicators even when I haven’t been there personally. Why can’t these super-agencies do the same using more advanced satellite imagery and tracking technology? There was literally a fight between gods at this location, there should be such an effect on the landscape that people can see it on satellite even if they weren’t specifically looking for it.
Then there’s the fact that Darkseid is willing to leave Apokolips to its pretender rulers for now because he doesn’t have a way to effectively control them, which goes against all of Darkseid’s characterization from his original creation. His entire history has been about his control and domination of the planet, and he’s always been shown to be supreme in both self-confidence and actual fact. In the animated series Justice League Unlimited, Apokolips fell into civil war after his death, with many of his lieutenants all vying for control. They all literally stopped and bowed to him mid-battle when he returned. No argument or challenge, they just recognize that he is on top. The idea that Darkseid would remain in hiding on Earth because he felt he couldn’t successfully re-conquer Apokolips is ridiculous.
Then (oh, so many problems with this issue) there is the upcoming fight between the Female Furies and the Oddfellows. This might just be the inanest part of this whole issue because this shouldn’t be a fight; the Oddfellows should be dead. No question, no escape, not even much of a struggle. Six men with guns — normal guns — against the Furies shouldn’t even last long enough to scream. They’ve overwhelmed and captured Superman (after already defeating Supergirl). The Furies are New Gods, with powers and abilities to challenge the likes of Wonder Woman herself, and even with Big Barda on her side (another New God), it was a life-or-death struggle when they came to blows in the animated film Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. The combat should have been over in this panel even before Steve finished speaking.
Jason’s return…oh, god Jason’s return. The “character argues with himself to come to an epiphany” technique can work if handled well (Personally, I loved seeing Kristoff and Sven “argue” in Frozen), but we have to have liked the character in the first place. And there needs to be some kind of give in the exchange. Jason is supposed to be an (approximately) thirty-year-old man, and so he gets no “isn’t he charming” points when he acts like a teenager in a fight with his mother. He doesn’t get credit for trying to see things from Diana’s perspective, because he’s so far into insufferable douche territory that all it does is highlight more of why we already don’t like him. Especially when his apparent realization is that the way to prove that he’s an adult is to rush headlong into a situation he doesn’t understand and begin acting like he’s tough shit. This is grating enough when it actually is a kid hero pulling this shtick. When it’s somebody who’s just acting like a kid despite being a grown ass man, it reaches a point where I just give up.
Then there’s the fact that Jason’s powers are so nebulous and all-encompassing that he seems more like Franklin Richards than Wonder Woman’s brother. I hit this back when Jason was first introduced (and also was evil, since the comic seems to have forgotten), but in what way does “Zeus’s son” translate to wind powers?
Trust me on this, don’t waste your time or money here. Go pick up Strangers in Paradise instead and dive into one of the singu best stories I have ever read.