“The Circle” (part one)
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist(s): Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Diana gets on with her life, though a restive band of albino gorillas and a suspicious Sarge Steel complicate matters. Those factors pale in potential deleterious impact to whatever mystery Hippolyte’s involved in.
Comments: This is how you do it. Gail Simone hits the ground running on her first issue, wisely pulling what’s workable from recent plotlines while preparing to put her own personal stamp on the contested character. Nothing major happens yet, but everything is being put into place in what must by definition be a transitional issue to a rather rocky and ill-handled title.
Diana’s notoriously hard to write, though a few significant creators have pulled it off with aplomb. Diana’s last good writer was Greg Rucka (sorry, Heinberg, but you blew it), and he approached defining her character by letting us see how she was viewed by the people around her. Both her entourage as an ambassador of peace and her enemies to that cause took their shots. Veronica Cale was an especially useful nemesis in this regard, as she hated Diana for all the qualities she came by naturally.
Diana has endless empathy for the people she meets. That she’ll also fight when she has to and use violence as a workable solution is one of the many contradictions of a complex character. Cale, as Diana’s primary critic, exploited the fact that though Diana sees the truth about so many, and effortlessly incorporates difference, otherness and the alien into her world view, she’ll never really be one of any of the people she bonds with. She’s even unique among the Amazons. The former goddess with divine might will always be an exceptional being, no matter what she does.
This contradiction allows Simone to instantly explain why Diana has adopted the Agent Prince personality. While not quite as bumbling as Clark Kent, the efficient, reserved agent façade is a means of using her skills while working and living among mere mortals, the real people she has come to America to aid. Heinberg introduced this setup, but glaringly failed to ever get around to explaining it so succinctly.
With that taken care of, we’re free to see Diana handle a misguided attack from a group of young Gorilla City adolescents with aplomb, understanding and wisdom. They even become courteous, if rambunctious, houseguests.
And we also have Sarge Steel (finally free from being distracted by crossovers and impersonated by shape shifters) use some of that acumen he’s lauded for and begin to question just what is really going on with his exceptionally gifted, mysteriously circumspect agent. One can buy Nemesis, so self-involved, not really seeing past Diana’s disguise, but not so the wise and experienced Steel.
With home and office taken care of, that leaves the supernatural level at which Diana really operates and lives her private life and it looks like Hippolyte’s weird behaviour on what remains of Themyscira may reveal some long-held secrets about her daughter’s identity and conception. It’s nice to see a Hippolyte who seems sane and ancient Greek in origin, mythological and epic rather than just angry and irrationally vengeful.
Oh, yeah, and there are Nazis. Diana never likes those.
Wherever these subplots are going, I trust Simone to use them to enhance Diana’s myth, not trash it. Unlike most of the writers who take on this task, she seems to already know who Diana is, and that’s really the battle already won.
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