Gail Simone’s recent Wonder Woman arc has employed all the elements of a sword and sorcery epic, taking the Amazon princess on an other worldy quest for a blasted landscape known as “Black Horizon” and the demonic D’gath. Along the way, she has picked up the legendary warrior Beowulf and Claw the Unconquered, a blast from the DCU past.
This issue opens with a powerful dreamscape, a vision of a world in which Diana Prince has used the Amazon throne to slay her enemies (in an especially brutal fashion) and force even her closest companions to their knees. This continues the narrative thread of the last few issues, in which Wonder Woman has been struggling with an evil, inner temptation. To what exactly? So far, that has been the least clear aspect of this tale, though the “Stalker” who first whisked her from her Washington digs to this interdimensional journey provides a few clues. The mystical stone around his neck has brought him soullessness and damnation, a taste of which has been given to Diana herself whose fantasies of wielding absolute power are a by-product of lassoing Stalker. If D’Grth is not slain, this infection will spread to all worlds. In typical Simone style, this story intertwines with a fairly comic battle between Agent Tresser and the giant white gorillas guarding Diana’s apartment back in the DC universe. The outcome of this fight involves Tresser hiding in the bathroom, a whiff of a pretty powerful perfume and the reappearance of a fan favorite.
Meanwhile, the band of adventurers experiences some clever intramural banter, with Wonder Woman excoriating Claw the Unconquered for his barbarian misogyny. We also finally meet D’Grth along with a special guest appearance of Beowulf’s nemesis Grendel. The brief struggle that ensues has one of the band betray the others and Diana taking a big risk to do battle with the D’Grth on her own turf. After some confusing bypaths and visionary journeys, next issue promises a demonic beat-down on the National Mall.
Plotting for this story arc has not been perfect and the seams really show in this issue. A lot of exposition still did not answer all the readers questions about what, exactly, is this quest all about beyond killing a cosmic Big Bad because he is about to do something horrific. Hopefully, the injection of Beowulf and Claw into the tale will also become clearer next time. This particular issue felt like little more than a rush to get Diana in the arena with D’Grth and has been the weakest of this arc thus far, in part because it leaves the reader wishing for a clearer explanation to prepare us for what promises to be a big smackdown next issue.
On a positive note, Aaron Lopresti’s artwork, especially the organization of his panels, has become one of the strongest points of the series. Lopresti specializes in telling the visual story by cropping characters and scenes and then pulling back the “camera” for outstanding splash pages. In general, Lopresti has found an impressive way to draw Wonder Woman, following most of her modern artists in being able to draw her body as powerfully feminine without being overtly eroticized, a super heroic physique that seems to be exactly what a female warlord like Diana would inhabit. His final panel of this issue, an apparently possessed Diana crouching in the reflecting pool at the National Mall and getting ready to lunge into combat, is a perfect example of Lopresti’s talents.
Pick this one up only if you have been following the arc or just to admire Lopresti’s work. Simone is an extremely talented author but this might not be the best place to jump on the series and experience that talent.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!