Meredith Finch disappoints – again.
To begin with, I would like to say that I have nothing personal against Meredith or David Finch. I simply don't agree or appreciate what they have been doing on this book (particularly for the plot) and sincerely wish that both the Finches and DC either try and solve the issues they are having with the series or leave it in between the hands of a different creative team. Keeping the book going in the way it has been going for the last few months would be a disservice to the fans, the creators, DC Comics and, especially, the Wonder Woman character (and what she stands for and represents in modern pop culture).
This might sound like some crazy fanboy rant (and to some extent, it kind of is) but I am really wondering why the editors at DC have decided it was a good idea to follow-up on Azzarello and Chiang's globally stellar-run on Wonder Woman with... This.
The two Finches have had 11 issues plus an annual to get a grip on the book but it just feels like they still don't understand a thing about Wonder Woman or her fanbase, which is honestly very alarming.
Wonder Woman is one of DC's flagship properties and should be given the treatment such an iconic character deserves (although Superman doesn't seem to be faring as well either, at the moment). This begs the question of who is to blame here: the editor pulling the main strings behind all these titles or the writers who are being restricted by the editors' notes?
First things first: The artwork
I actually don't have any issues with the artwork for this series. Though it may not be the best artist Wonder Woman has ever been drawn by (Terry Dodson, Aaron Lopresti and Cliff Chiang really did do her justice, as well as JG Jones when he was doing the covers back at the beginning of the previous decade) – David Finch's work is still satisfactory in terms of quality.
What is less satisfactory, however, are the covers he has been delivering for Wonder Woman. Just looking back at all of Chiang's 36 covers for this volume, it is evident that what is lacking from Finch's covers is variety. Each cover basically looks like a continuation from the previous one, rather than a standalone piece which explains part of the story. Chiang worked with different angles, ways of presenting Diana, colour palettes and settings to enhance his storyline – the only cover within Finch's last six that can really boast that is the cover of #43, which not only features Donna Troy, instead of Diana, but also uses different lighting parameters.
Now that we have dealt with the art, let's look into the real issue here: the writing.
As a fan of Wonder Woman who has been reading her book since 2006 (and has collected some of the material from before that era since), I cannot begin to say how disappointed I am with how the character is being handled. Any Wonder Woman fan would know that one of the character's core traits is the fact that she embodies love, compassion, strength, justice and wisdom. The issue here is that Meredith Finch's treatment of those issues is rarely in-depth and often, superficial. Rather than making us root for Wonder Woman and side with her, the character she paints seems patronizing, all-knowing, condescending and rather stubborn – the reason I have been reading Wonder Woman is because writers like Rucka, Azzarello, Simone and Heinberg have made me love the character and believe in everything she stands for. All those creators managed to craft a credible character who people could easily want to root for – a character who doubted herself, always tried to give the best of herself to the world and never felt as if she was enough. Yes, at times that could make her seem like a martyr who complained about not being perfect enough – but that would still be preferable to an entitled and arrogant woman who believes that anything she does is right. Though all Wonder Women past and present share the "I don't want to do this, there has to be another way", none of them were as stubborn, hell-bent and determined as this current, New-52 Wonder Woman is: there is neither a trace of doubt nor confusion in her dialogue with Eirene, and Finch's forced attempt to paint Wonder Woman as the voice of reason completely misses the mark and just makes her seem dislikable. As a Wonder Woman fan who stood by her when she understood that killing Maxwell Lord was her only option to save the world, back in 2006, I believe that the fact that even I can't root for her anymore proves how off-base the writing is with expressing the character's core essence and ideals to the readers.
Now, let's look at the plot.
The Finches' first arc with Donna Troy was far from being the most interesting storyline, mainly because it had previously been done before back in Wonder Woman vol. 3, when the Amazons on Paradise Island elaborated a plot to get rid of Wonder Woman and the Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman: The Circle). A similar premise (Wonder Woman versus the Amazons) had also been adopted previously in the critically-panned "Amazons Attack", so if the Finches thought that pinning Wonder Woman against her people was an idea original enough on its own to be able to work without an original execution, they were wrong. Sadly enough, the way they delivered the story was neither original nor interesting and its resolution was so memorable that I already forgot exactly how it ended. (Donna ended up being a prisoner on Mount Olympus and the old witch committed suicide, if my memory is correct?) Wonder Woman already seemed entitled back in that arc, due to her being absent yet still making demands of her "sisters", and rather than making us feel sorry for how alone and isolated the Amazon Princess probably felt at the time, I honestly could not care less with how the story developed or ended. If I am having problems remembering what happened to Wonder Woman over the last year but have no problems whatsoever remembering storylines that have happened to her from 2006-onwards (even some that I have only read once), I think that speaks volumes on the quality (and memorability) of the book's writing. In fact, any issue of Wonder Woman which isn't making me impatiently wait for the next issue or re-read it at least three times out of sheer anticipation for what happens next is a failed issue, in my opinion – and none (or very few) of the current creative team's work has resonated with me as of yet.
This issue was a major let-down plot-wise given that none of it really made sense or felt credible to me. The character of Eirene is definitely not understandable given that she is never mentioned or alluded to before the previous issue and thus has very little background to work with – her erratic and illogical behaviour does not work in her favour as a character, a goddess or a villain, even, given that the writer seems to have planned this arc on an issue-to-issue basis rather than planning it on the whole.
I mean who hires someone to kill Wonder Woman to only then show up and take Wonder Woman throughout the world to try and explain her role as the god of war to her? Wouldn't it have made more sense for Eirene to first try and communicate with Diana and then try to kill her if she did not comply rather than trying to kill her in hopes that it would send her subconscious messages about how she should be doing her job? Is the god of war also supposed to be a psychic or have I completely missed the point? Finch tries to justify this by saying that Eirene was trying to either get rid of Wonder Woman or prompt her to become the god of war by killing Aegeus – it still seems a bit convoluted and a sheer waste of time, resources and energy for "the god of peace" who could have really tried to talk to Diana first before scheming to kill her.
The appearance of Zeke in this issue also does not make any sense at all – I understand that Finch wanted to be able to bring the character in for some kind of Deus Ex Machina effect which would bring Ares, Appollo and Donna back to life whilst resolving the whole situation with Eirene, thus bringing a conclusion to the story, but it felt more like weak storytelling than skilled craftwork. The plot seemed so fragile it felt like it would all fall to pieces every time I turned the pages. The sheer lack of understanding and communication between Diana and Eirene adds ridicule to the entire dialogue rather than drama and paints both characters as being dafter than either of them should be. We should be dealing with strong, mature women, here, not capricious, hysterical girls. The dialogue is cryptic and barely makes sense to the reader – the confusion Wonder Woman is subject to (as well as the fact that Eirene completely ignores half of the words Diana tells her) just didn't make sense for me. Overall, it all seemed too forced. (For example, Diana really hammering home the fact that Eirene ignored Zeke when he arrived, which really felt more like Finch's way of trying to make sure that the audience understood everything that had happened, in case it was not clear enough, because it definitely was not clear enough). The whole idea that Eirene is dying because Diana is not fully committing to her duties as the god of war does not make sense when Eirene seems perfectly fine (and capable of speaking too much and repeating the same words too often) whilst Diana is crying blood from her eyes (I thought Eirene was the one who was dying, but then it turned out it was Diana, and then no one ended up dying – what just happened?) The fact that Diana completely failed to understand (or even acknowledge) Eirene's point also did not make any sense, given that what she was saying did have some logic to it (although I didn't agree with some of it). Which brings us to the reader witnessing a verbal duel between two characters who both seem to miss the point entirely which makes it impossible for us to actually root for either side of the argument. And then, once Eirene discovers that Diana is dying, she still tries to kill her, which begs the question: why did she have to have a whole debate with her beforehand if she was still going to try and kill her at the end? The overemphasis Diana gives to Zeke by constantly worrying about him during the fight is also slightly irritating, given that this again feels forced. We know that Diana cares about others. We know that she loves others. But her yelling out Zeke's name when she is being targeted by a deadly attack seems strange and forced, again.
And then here is the quote that really killed everything for me:
"The stronger people think you are, the less you are required to prove it. But then there are the times when you just have to show them what you are made of." Gee, wow. Whatever happened to the humble Wonder Woman? The one who ran an embassy, represented a nation at the UN, saved the world, wrote a book and still took the time to sign the book at small bookstores and help out regular folks? Whatever happened to the Wonder Woman who was trying so hard to be accepted and to succeed in "bringing peace to Man's world" that she often forgot about herself? The Wonder Woman who blinded herself to win a fight against Medousa and who then used her one wish to bring a child back to life rather than restore her eyesight? Why is Wonder Woman now an arrogant woman who seems to think as highly of herself as everyone else used to? The strength of Wonder Woman writers from the past was that Wonder Woman was never the character who made you root for her: all the characters around her, trusting and believing in her, is what strengthened her likeability as a character. Wonder Woman never complimented herself or thought of herself as being superior to anyone or anything. If anything, she valued all life and considered herself to never be good enough – the other characters were the ones who pushed her upwards and made her likeable. Her interactions with those characters were what made her likeable, such as her protectiveness (and harshness) with Zola during Azzarello's run or her sadness when she was forced to kill Ares (who accepted to pass on the mantle to her out of trust, because that is what characters do, they trust Diana).
The bottom line here is that if the book is about Wonder Woman, the book should at least make Wonder Woman likeable. Because if the character is not likeable, than there is no point in reading what happens to her. I do not wish to disrespect the creative team behind this arc, but I am completely disappointed with how Wonder Woman is being handled and this issue definitely was not a satisfactory one, due to it feeling rushed, poorly planned with each page negating what was established on the previous one. The whole issue kept rewriting itself and everything that happened before it, including the deaths of Donna, Ares and Apollo, which have now been "fixed". There are many other things I could say about this issue but I feel as if now is as good a time to stop as any.
If some readers have actually enjoyed this issue, I would love to know why.
A long time Wonder Woman fan.