Wonder Woman: Bitter Rivals

I can’t say I was excited to read this trade.  After my little rant the last time I read a Wonder Woman comic, I steadied myself for much the same obnoxious nothingness.

Mercifully, it looks like Wonder Woman may finally be getting better… at least marginally.

This trade is a direct continuation of Wonder Woman: Down to Earth.  Unlike the beginning of the story though, there’s plenty going on within these pages.  Themyscira has just been struck down by an angry Hera, and now lies battered and broken off of the U.S. coastline.  Diana has just rescued Vanessa and is trying to save her life.  Circe has escaped her imprisonment on Paradise Island and was rescued by the Gorgons to bring Medusa back to life.  Plus, Diana is trying to solve the mystery of who murdered Darrel Keyes, a man who was loudly opposed to Diana’s message.

It’s definitely a lot going on, far moreso than in the first trade.

With all of this happening, one of the most fascinating storylines didn’t even directly involve Diana herself.  This comic provides further insight into Veronica Cale, the billionaire businesswoman who is hellbent on destroying Wonder Woman’s good image.  Here, we learn her entire backstory and why exactly she dislikes Diana so strongly.

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Veronica has a true rags to riches story.  She is the living embodiment of the American dream, and yet she’s not the woman everyone aspires to be like. No, that role has been filled by Wonder Woman, someone who, in Veronica’s mind, didn’t earn such esteem.  Furthermore, Veronica maintains that it’s wrong for people to idolize someone like Diana, because she is such an unrealistic, unattainable role model.  She can fly, she’s impossibly gorgeous, she can life incredible weights and charge into battle against the most dangerous of foes.

Veronica’s opinions are murderous and she certainly takes her dislike of Wonder Woman way too far, but the subtextual implications of her character were rather fascinating.  In many ways, Veronica represents the real public criticism  often thrown at Wonder Woman, concerns that she’s preaching immoral behavior or that she’s not the proper sort of role model for anyone.  This is perhaps the first time I’ve seen a Wonder Woman comic be so self-aware (at least since Marston’s initial run in the 40’s), and it was incredibly refreshing.  Veronica’s hatred of Diana was crafted so well that it feels organic, and reflective of what some people in the world might actually believe.  This made her a much better antagonist than most.

While Veronica stews over Wonder Woman’s success, Diana is busy trying to solve Keyes’s murder.  She eventually discovers who is responsible, and learns that many aspects of her life are starting to converge.

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A manhunt begins for Doctor Psycho but, being a master of transformation, he easily slips away.  I’m sure this isn’t the end of him though, and he will undoubtedly pop up again for a showdown with Diana.

The comic closes on a bit of a cliffhanger as Circe fulfills her promise to the Gorgons and brings Medusa back to life.  Medusa, angry at her fate, appears with a single goal in mind.

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This was a pretty great way to end the comic, and is no doubt setting up the main plot for the next storyline.  For once I’m actually interested to see where a Wonder Woman comic is going to take a story.

Overall I was very impressed with this comic.  Although I still believe there was a little too much going on in its pages (at times the multiple storylines were difficult to keep straight and became a bit convoluted) this was a major improvement over the last trade.  There was far more action and plot here, and I was actually beginning to care about the various characters.  I’m hoping that this is a turning point for the character, and that future Wonder Woman comics continue in this same vein.  If they do, I’ll be happy to read more.

-Jess

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