Or – “How NOT To Relaunch Your Core Franchises, Part Deux…”


Regular Spoilerheads may recall me using the term “stunt-casting” in reference to certain recent books, notably Flash and Wonder Woman, but the term also applies to Marvel’s “Spider-Man & Black Cat,” “Daredevil: Target,” and to a lesser degree, the cover work of Michael Turner and Alex Ross. I use the term to describe a sales tactic where the selling point of a book is the CREATOR, and not the title/character/team itself. Sometimes it works, as seen by sales, but other times it doesn’t. In my mind, Flash and Wonder Woman are damaged titles, forced to wash off the stink of failed relaunches where the stunt creative team simply wasn’t up to the challenge (whether creatively or schedule-wise) of giving us a coherent, monthly title featuring believable story & characters. Flash has it easier, with issue #9 pretty much hitting the reset button, and repackaging the character (though curiously, repackaging it into a PREVIOUS iteration of the Flash, with Bart Allen becoming a Xerox of granpa Barry), while Wonder Woman’s erratic schedule actually forced DC to jettison the finale of the first arc from the schedule (it will be published as a standalone special somewhere down the line). The new writer has made some puzzling choices with this issue, to mixed effect…

I can’t speak for DC’s sales figures, but I can tell you a little story about my comic shop… Wonder Woman holds jumped precipitously after the relaunch, as people scrambled aboard for the new Wonder Woman show. The delays gave the usual second and WW1.jpgthird issue dropoffs a HUGE help, to the point where 1 sold out, 2 left us with a few in hand, and 3 & 4 left at least a dozen copies each on the stands. Certainly this is the pattern with sales on new books, but, at least anecdotally, the problem is worse, as people dropped the book as much for DELAYS as for story/character problems. Frankly, what killed this book was NOT the long delays (anybody seen Ultimates 2 #13?), but the fact that it’s WONDER WOMAN, and she was being used in JLA, she was being used in Manhunter, she was being prepped for her key role in the upcoming “Amazons Attack” crossover. The story, in which Diana eschewed Wonder Woman and gave the role to Donna Troy, was done well (if somewhat by-the-numbers in terms of plot), but was undermined by JLA #0 clearly showing Diana in costume AFTER the events of the first story arc. It’s difficult to tell whether Heinberg’s story wasn’t viable for a flagship property, or whether the flagship property wasn’t viable for Heinberg’s story… Either way, the “Who Is Wonder Woman?” question was answered with a weak “Diana is, but I wonder how she gets back into her star-spangled bikini?” I used to wonder that myself, back in high school, but my answer was probably a bit graphic for the average reader. Bygones… All this hot air ain’t getting the book recapped, is it? The first panel of this issue introduces the main thrust of Jodi Picoult’s story:


There’s a well-done mixed message here, as she has to remind herself of her new status as “Stranger In A Strange Land” even as the reflection she sees clearly says different. This is a very effective starting point to the new take on her book, visually strong and clearly explaining the main character’s dilemma. Diana is pulled from her reveries by a rough jostling as women attempt to get in and out of the lavatory around her… She steps out, and we find her at a superhero theme park (an ironic touch that isn’t QUITE an anvil on the head, but… it ain’t subtle) with her partner Tom Tresser, aka Nemesis. It’s unclear how the Superboy Punches have changed him, but at the very least, he seems younger and less patient than his appearances in Suicide Squad and the old Brave & The Bold stories might have you believe.


Remember that anvil? Does you head hurt yet? We see the beginning of a theme, that the world at large has forgotten Wonder Woman for the new-flavor-of-the-week (and the use of the newly front-and-center JLA Chairman Black Canary is funny, especially given the Post-Crisis origins of the JLA, now re-retconned away), but the cute idea quickly becomes less cute with repetition. The return of Maxi-Man as part of a “Who Wants To Be A Superhero?” type reality show is clever, but he’s less than capable when the park’s rollercoaster malfunctions, getting immediately conked on the head. Diana’s first lines of dialogue this issue, “I am NOT Wonder Woman” are put to the lie when innocents are threatened…


Methinks thou dost protest too much, Diana… After all, they may not understand themselves, but they’re not the ones denying their heroism, yet leaping into action in their underwear to save the day. With innocents no longer on the firing line, Agents Tresser and Prince take their oh-so-very-X-Files vibe to the souvenir shop, where Tresser laments missing Wonder Woman (Tom: “I bet she looked HOT.” Diana: “What are you, twelve?”) and picks out a gift of a toy “for his niece.” Suuure it is. Wonder Woman’s action figure is 75% off, and when Diana asks why, she’s a bit disturbed to hear that “Wonder Woman’s not cool.” Once I have my skull rebuilt (y’know, from the anvil), Tommy and Di head for home, after a quick stop for gas. Tom tries to scam her with the “I’ll pump, you pay” routine, but is stopped cold by her response…


I’ve heard mixed reviews of the whole “Diana can’t pump gas or order coffee” portion of this issue, but I have to say, it doesn’t throw me. Look at it this way: Di has been around for ten, mebbe twelve years, founded the JLA, got involved in a host of things, acted as Themiscyra’s ambassador to the outside world. But in that time, she was always Princess Diana, even when she had her full embassy, she wasn’t buying groceries, or pulling a paycheck, or even cooking for herself. She’s been busy! Even Rucka had her in an embassy with a staff (including a chef), and she, indeed, got around by flying, either in her plane or under her own power. As someone who has a college degree, but didn’t know how to tie a necktie until last year, it’s entirely possible to be a functional grownup and still have gaps in your knowledge base. Upon their return to the Department of Metahuman Affairs, Sarge Steel greets them with a joke. “Two federal agents walk into a park, complaining about how easy their job is…”


“It doesn’t make sense to me, either…” In wrting parlance, that’s called “hanging a lantern on it,” where you have a character in the story point out the main flaw, in this case the fact that the previous writer established that Wonder Woman was not being held responsible for the killing of Max Lord. Everything clear? Yes? Okay, so here’s where it gets muddy. Diana now has to go and catch herself for questioning… I can’t decide whether this idea is brilliant or stupid, so we’ll call it brillpid. Tom and Diana end their evening with coffee (After being repeatedly asked “Venti, Grande, or Uber?” Diana amusingly responds with “I don’t think she speaks English. Of course, I think some of those words come from Italian, which is derivative of Latin, which Diana speaks and… this line of thought isn’t very constructive.) and she walks home. Suddenly, a voice cries out in the wilderness, creaming for assistance, and Diana (who IS NOT WONDER WOMAN) turns back into Wonder Woman and leaps into action…


There’s the bracelet scene we needed. After all, you have to remind people every once in a while of people’s signature moves, otherwise, they’re not signature moves anymore. It’s like wrestling: Chris Jericho without his Lionsault is just… Lenny Lane. Back to the point, it’s nice to see Wonder Woman enjoying her adulation a tiny bit. It gives a little human ego in our superhuman Wonder Woman, and seems like a nice moment for her after a day of insult added to injury. Across town and a bit later, as Nemesis returns home, we find Wonder Woman waiting for him, with a very out-of-character sultry “I heard you’ve been looking for me.. Well, maybe I’ve been looking for you…” Wonder Mae West takes a moment to slink over and give him his fantasy super-powered lapdance, and just generally acting very un-Wonder-Woman-like.


Okay, she knows her Greek, she can perfectly imitate Wonder Woman, and she’s slutting the place up to the point where Paris Hilton is blushing… I know who this is, and it annoys me, for reasons we’ll get to in a moment. We get tangible proof that it isn’t Wonder Woman moments later, as Sarge Steel recalls the real Diana with the news of Nemesis being captured, and showing her a piece of evidence: a faux Wonder Woman bracelet. She knows (but can’t reveal how she knows) that it’s a fake, part of a costume made for a museum exhibit, but isn’t sure who could be impersonating her (even though the person in question has JUST FINISHED impersonating her in the first story arc, which, much like the first arc of Flash, is being ignored completely here)…


Frickin’ Circe, AGAIN? We don’t even know how her LAST evil plan ENDED yet! C’mahn, people, there are other Wonder Woman villains, aren’t there? What about Dr. Cyber, or The Cheetah, or Giganta… or… uh… Egg Fu? Actually, maybe there AREN’T any other villains. In any case, combine this less-than-shocking reveal with the general sort of “Huh?” of the rest of the issue, and it’s not an impressive whole. Had this been the new issue 1, I’d probably have been more satisfied with it, as it is, it seems like another case of DC editorial saying “Pay No Attention To The Editorial Edicts Behind The Curtain!”

Poor Wonder Woman… At least the art was good (it’s not the Dodsons, but it’s well done and might be mistaken for their work, which is certainly a compliment), and maintains continuity with previous issues. But the writing kept beating me up with the significance of the central “I am not Wonder Woman but I must be Wonder Woman” conceit, and I don’t like feeling patronized to. Overall, it’s not a bad issue, just a disappointing one, and the plot, while competent, isn’t the shot in the arm we need to get this back on track. The old chestnut says that Wonder Woman is a successful PROPERTY, but not a successful comic book, but the last couple of years of volume two were able to prove that the comic book COULD be successful. I hope we haven’t sacrificed that success on the altar of “Everything You Know Is Wrong” and damaged the main character and series beyond repair. Two stars out of five, with the well-done art alone pushing it up from 1.5. Hopefully, it’ll all make sense in the trade.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Brent F.
    April 11, 2007 at 6:03 pm — Reply

    There are rumors that Gail Simone left the Birds of Prey for Wonder Woman, god I hope they are true.

  2. April 11, 2007 at 6:35 pm — Reply

    That is the big rumor – and signs right now point in that direction. I too hope it is true, although I would rather see Gail leave Gen13 instead of BoP.

  3. April 11, 2007 at 7:38 pm — Reply

    I think she has huge plans for Gen 13, and as such, Birds was the title she felt most comfortable leaving… As for the rumors, she has stated that it’s a “dream gig,” so I think it’s either Wonder Woman or Justice League of America.

  4. TomGrice
    April 12, 2007 at 12:24 am — Reply

    Two super quick things, and no, I can’t argue with the rating this time but I did like it better than you:

    1. Last issue (the woman shelter issue) was not Jodi Picoult. I don’t remember who it was but I know it wasn’t her. This was her debut issue and has been ready for some time (witness the new issue shipping today). So she may not have known all the details about Heinberg’s run (not sure he does either) so I let a little of the overlap (Circe) slide. I think Picoult was brought on to give a new perspective on the Wonder Woman character and I thought she was successful with it so far. Not close to the job Rucka did, when WW was simply the best book on the shelf, but still ok for a new direction.

    2. The real nitpick with the review: why does Diana being Greek mean she speaks Latin? I mean, I know Diana is the Roman name for the Goddess Artemis, but does that make Diana Roman and not Greek? Are they the Roman Amazons and not the Greek? Is it Heracles and not Hercules (or vice versa what eva) and stuff? Did she speak Latin in the past? What is up with that?

    And Chris Jericho without the Lionsault is not Lenny Lane. Chris Jericho sucking on the mic makes him Lenny Lane. Or Rob Van Dam. Good on the mat, bad on the stick. The opposite of Hulk Hogan.

  5. April 12, 2007 at 7:16 am — Reply

    Point 1: You are correct, last issue was written by Will Pfeifer, not Jodi Picoult. This is my own fault, and for this, I apologize… My only defense is sheer stupidity.

    Point 2: Diana being Greek does not mean she speaks Latin. Diana having previously spoken Latin means she speaks Latin, as she did during the Perez run (which, while Pre-IC, is Post-Crisis, and the whole cloth of that story is mostly intact from what I can see.) She is educated in several ancient languages, and was seen to speak to the Roman version of her Greek gods in Latin.

    Um… Chris Jericho without the Lionsault would then be… um… Christian?

  6. TomGrice
    April 12, 2007 at 9:34 am — Reply

    Hells Yeah! And Christian totaly rocks! The Instant Classic!

  7. April 13, 2007 at 11:21 am — Reply

    1) Your wish, DC’s Command, Brent F.: http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=108610

    2) I think this is maybe partly an apology to Sandra Bullock. Bear with me – I just recall another, less worthy actress smearing the idea of Sandra as WW because she was too old, or didn’t have the chest, or something. Then, like, two years later, I look at this review, and at that pic of Diana & Tom, and a movie title pops into my head: ‘Miss Congeniality 2″. You think maybe?

    Oh, and “Reservoir Dogs.” But hey, is there any people-in-suits-and-sunglasses-walking-menacingly-towards-you-scene that ISN’T “Reservoir Dogs”?

  8. April 13, 2007 at 12:29 pm — Reply

    Oh, yeah… I predict that this book may get really good. :)

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