I wanted to like this comic. I really did.
I found the last Wonder Woman trade on “the shelf” a bit lackluster, but I had high hopes for this one.
After reading it, all I can say is: it’s no wonder (no pun intended) that Wonder Woman has been sort of adrift for much of her run. It seems the writers just don’t know what to do with her.
This trade collects two storylines. The first, “Lifelines” features Wonder Woman battling Morgaine Le Fay (named after the character in the Arthurian legend), who works to capture and drain the power of immortal beings so as to make herself immortal. Believing Diana still possesses her Amazonian immortality, Morgaine captures her along with a handful of other immortal beings.
Along the way Wonder Woman gets help from the Phantom Stranger as well as the demon Etrigan, even battling the latter when he is put under Le Fay’s control. After she and her companions are captured, Diana ultimately saves the day by refusing to fight Morgaine. This passivity keeps Morgaine from gaining strength and ultimately causes her destruction.
Truth be told, this story wasn’t half-bad. I liked seeing Phantom Stranger and Etrigan, among others, make appearances, and I liked that Diana defeated Morgaine with a non-violent approach. Her love of peace is not often addressed enough in these comics, so it was nice to see it used as a means of defeating an enemy for once.
The second storyline collected here, what I have dubbed the “Video Game” story, focuses on Wonder Woman’s run-ins with various people, heroes and villains alike. We see her square off against Barry Allen’s Flash, Sinestro, and even Doomsday.
But is she actually fighting these people?
Well, of course not, because they’re all dead. Seeing as how this is the 90’s and technology was just starting to rule the world, it only made sense for the comics world to latch onto that. Doctor Lazarus, distraught over causing the accidental death of his young son, uses his artificial life machine to bring his son’s consciousness (or a form thereof) back to life. To keep him occupied while Lazarus generates a body, he lets his son have access to a series of tapes, all of various super-powered individuals, to play as video games. Of course, as it turns out these video games end up coming to life and start wrecking havoc on Gateway City.
Because you know, why wouldn’t they?
The computer housing the artificial consciousness is ultimately destroyed, and the unbeatable Doomsday copy dissolves into ash. All is back to normal.
There really seems to be a trend with these Wonder Woman comics. Specifically, it seems like they’re not really sure what to do with the character. This entire trade focused on Wonder Woman paired with special guest stars from all across the DC universe, as though she’s not enough to carry a comic all on her own. Does Wonder Woman even have any arch-enemies? Sure, she fights plenty of people, but Superman has Lex Luthor and Batman has the Joker. Every major character I can think of has a significant foe tied to them.
All except Diana.
Considering she’s been around longer than many comic book characters, this is both surprising and disconcerting. Certainly after so many decades, Wonder Woman deserves some actual direction and drive in her story. There really doesn’t seem to be much that remains the same with her character, other than her origin. Even her closest friends change. Whereas other characters at least have a semblance of continuity from decade to decade, Wonder Woman is constantly changing and evolving, but it’s not necessarily for the better.
Although Wonder Woman is supposed to be part of the trinity, one of the longest-running continuous comic book characters of all time, she feels less fully defined than her male counterparts. Perhaps writers just didn’t know how to market her stories, or couldn’t come up with story arcs that they felt could be carried by a female character. Whatever the reason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Diana is a bit of a lost soul, one who still hasn’t quite found her footing despite having been around for over 50 years.
This post has moved away from the specific comic it’s supposed to address, but I couldn’t help myself. Reading it brought all of these niggling thoughts to mind that I’ve never really considered before. It left me wondering just how long it will be before Diana finds herself on more stable ground. Given that her basic story is so strong and enduring, I can’t help but wonder why a richer, more fully realized world hasn’t been created for her. Hopefully as I begin to read comics written more recently, there will be a marked shift in her depiction, and she will finally be allowed to come into her own as a character.