Friday, July 31, 2009

Wonder Woman: Rise of The Olympian - Where It Went Wrong

I mentioned that I was interested in the trade of this but, luckily for me, a friend of mind gave me his issues for free. I say lucky for two reasons - 1) I got them for free and 2) it is a pretty bad story, which is why I got them for free. I actually wanted to like this story, I really did. Gail Simone's Wonder Woman run started off great with The Circle, but I had stopped caring by the end of Ends of the Earth. I wanted Rise of the Olympians to be great and to rekindle my interest in the series, but, sadly, it did not and all but ended any interest I had in the book. A quick warning though, there are spoilers ahead if you care about such things. Anyway, hit the jump to see what I thought of Rise of The Olympian and where it went wrong.


The Manazons

Yes, the Manazons are technically called the Olympians in this story, but they were actually introduced with that name in the solicits and called that for a while, so I'm just going to go with it. Plus, and I'm being honest here, I actually like it more. Yeah, I said it. Olympians is just so boring and unoriginal. Anyway, I'm starting with them since I actually liked them, much to my surprise. They were actually a pretty good part of the story, probably the best part, but they were barely apart of it.

They basically go around being proactive Amazons and then eventually merge with the Amazons with Achilles, the King of the Olympians, ruling both groups under order of Zeus. They work as a nice inversion of Wonder Woman's mission, but, as already said, the small focus on them really does make them seem inconsequential.

In fact, at one point they barge into the U.N., tell the world they are going to end all war and then nobody does anything! That's how unimportant they are to the story. Yes, they replace Wonder Woman and the Amazons as the Zeus's and the other gods' champions, but that is a really tangential subplot for most of the story, and only really mattered in the last issue.


Importance

I don't ever remember DC promoting the story like this, but I always got the vibe that this was supposed to be Wonder Woman's version of Batman: R.I.P. or Superman: New Krypton - a story that shook up the status quo for a while. Yes, technically some of the peripheral stuff has changed, but Wonder Woman herself remains essentially the same. Yes, you could say that the same is true of Superman coming out of New Krypton, but Superman's dynamic does change drastically if there are 100,000 other Supermen out there, even if he himself remains mostly unchanged.

Diana ends up leaving the Amazons and renouncing the gods but that is a very similar status quo to what she started with when DC relaunched the title after Infinite Crisis and post-Amazons Attack. While the details are a little different, Wonder Woman is basically back to where she started -without her gods, mission or fellow Amazons. The fact that the series spends the next two issues with a Wonder Woman/Black Canary team up does not really enforce the idea that what happened to Wonder Woman was important. Even though both Batman and Superman had some filler in between the status quo shifts, readers knew there were bigger things coming. That has not been made clear with Wonder Woman.

If DC wanted to shake things up, I think a good way to have done that would have been to make Wonder Woman a co-feature book, with Achilles, and, preferably, putting her in the second feature. Yeah, Wonder Woman's fans might be upset but I think it would have been a good way to re-enforce the fact that she no longer the gods' champion and, with a backup focus, without a purpose for the time being.


Genocide


The bastard offspring of a Ninja Turtle, Doomsday and the 90s. What a god awful character. Basically, she just goes around and kills people and beats the shit out of Wonder Woman and everyone else while she's at it. Genocide was actually revealed to be a version of Diana from the future, but she is merely a puppet of Ares, so there is no interesting conflict since none of Diana's personality remains. The fact that Genocide is Diana is completely meaningless, except for the fact that she's Ares queen in the future, but that doesn't really matter to the story. In fact, meaningless if probably a very good way to describe the character in general. The character serves no real purpose and even seems to lack anything resembling a core concept. There are vague attempts to maybe set something up, but nothing really comes through that well in the story.

Genocide also lacks anything remotely looking like a compelling personality. She is basically a plot point that other characters react to, and often unconvincingly at that. It is hard to believe that Genocide is the worst thing most of the characters have seen. Utter waste of space. Oh, and she's coming back at some point. Sigh.


The Story

Mostly confused and melodramatic. The story didn't have a core narrative to me and the Olympians, who the story is supposed to be about, barely play a role. Genocide could be the main plot but she's dispatched in the penultimate issue. I guess it could be about Wonder Woman dealing with her failed mission or her ideals back firing on her, but those never play a large role either. Or, rather, I don't think they take up enough of the focus of the story to count.

It is also incredibly melodramatic. Simone tries to make the whole thing seem important and meaningful, but it all comes off as flat, hollow and manufactured. The ending is also very anti-climatic with Wonder Woman defeating Ares in like four panels by simply embedding an axe in his skull. There is also some really bag dialog, the worst being quoted below:

For a long time to come, the secretaries and money market handlers and C.E.O.'s who make their living in this business district will refer to this as G-Day, as a pivotal shared trauma like Hurricane Katrina or 9/11.

Katrina and 9/11 comparisons? Seriously? Manufactured drama and trying to invoke memories and feelings from those two events is a terrible way to try and drive home the devestation caused by the fallout of a superhero fight and ranks up there with Dr Doom and Magneto crying in 9/11 issue of Amazing Spider-Man.


Wonder Woman

I'm not sure if it's just Simone's take on the character or what, but I don't find the comic book version of Wonder Woman compelling. All of her inner conflicts just felt kind of false during the entire story. The character seems directionless and pointless to me in the comics and Simone does nothing to change my feelings about that.

This was also driven home by the fact that I read Allan Heinberg's Who is Wonder Woman? arc just before this one. Both Simone and Heinberg didn't really do anything, in my view, that made Wonder Woman stand out as an individual character. The only time she has really worked for me is as a member of the JLA.


Nemesis

He remains, sadly, unfridged. Also, unloved by Wonder Woman. Yep, despite all appearance to the contrary, Diana does not love Nemesis. This was also bad story telling since Simone actually has a whole scene early in the arc where Diana contemplates running off with Nemesis instead of being Wonder Woman. To have her later admit she plain does not love him came off as forced and rang hollow.


Kingdom Come

Okay, I'm probably being a wee bit too nitpicky here, but Wonder Woman actually uses her armour from Kingdom Come, or a variation of it, which annoyed me to no end. DC really needs to stop putting Kingdom Come stuff in their mainstream books just to invoke and prey on the feelings and nostalgia of readers. Also, both Donna Troy and Wonder Girl get their own versions of the battle armour, with Wonder Girl looking absolutely ridiculous in her's. Diana keeps her's in her apartment, which, while making some sense, seemed kind of strange to me. I guess it just seems weird to keep something like that hidden in your closet in an apartment with no real security or other 'batcave'-like options for hiding giant suits of golden armour.


Conclusion

As you can tell, Rise of the Olympian did very little to impress me. The one highlight of the book, the Manazons, who were also the ones referred to in the title of this storyline, were relegated to a subplot that never really went anywhere. I highly recommend you avoid the story. It lacks any charm, new or interesting character progression nor anything particularly noteworthy. Go grab an issue or trade of Secret Six instead. It's a far better series that could use the readers.


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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really want to care about the Wonder Woman title. D.C. has been disrespecting Diana lately and this "event" and Amazons Attack sure didn't help. I can't figure out why they can't figure how to make the Wonder Woman's character and her stories more interesting. I thought Gail Simone was going to be the fix. Is this really the same person writing Secret Six?

Anonymous said...

I think that during Jimenez (it was fun) and then Rucka's run (it was touching & deep) the character was handled so much better... I liked a lot things that I read from Gail before but this is just... uninteresting. Saludos!

Anonymous said...

I think the golden armor make a lot more sense, that the miss america´s bikini...

fodigg said...

This was a review of "wonder woman", not of the latest arc. If you don't give a crap about wonder woman to begin with, then of course you're not going to care about these changes in her status quo.

Eric Rupe said...

Anonymous 1 - Yeah, I love Secret Six so I was kind of shocked when Simone's stuff took a turn for the worse. If you are interested, here an article that quotes various comic people about the problems with Wonder Woman.

Anonymous 2 - The only Rucka Wonder Woman stuff I've read was the The Hiketeia which I didn't like.

Anonymous 3 - I agree that Wonder Woman should probably be wearing some kind of armor, I just don't like the Kingdom Come armor.

fodigg - Actually, I like Wonder Woman as a character and would love to have a Wonder Woman book that I would want to read. The character does have potential. I've enjoyed most of her non-comics stuff that I've seen, the recent animated movie and Justice League cartoon, and even some out of continuity stuff that I've read as well. I even enjoyed The Circle when Simone started her run. RotO is just a bunch of stuff I didn't care for that wasn't written that well.

Eric said...

I have to say that I disagree with a lot of this. Wonder Woman was struggling when the title re-launched, but since Simone took over it has been steadily improving and finding a place in the greater DCU. I think Simone's main issue is that she is trying to give Diana these grand epics that have good things, but fall flat in the execution. Her debut arc, "The Circle" was fantastic. Hippolyta's secret guard and the attempted infanticide were compelling stuff, and it seems like she is going to be re-examining that in the coming months. This type of story seems to be more Simone's forte, because it's more character driven and less grandiose in scale. I don't think she's used to writing stories like Ends of the Earth and RotO, so I can understand why these last couple of arcs have been shaky.

I'm also curious if you've read any of Diana's solo adventures besides this. You can't really judge her on her appearances in the JLA monthly, because I think a lot of how writer's portray her in that series rings false. Simone has an amazing handle on Diana as a character. For me, she is the best person to take on the character since Rucka's phenomenal job. I also don't really understand your complaints as far as Nemesis is concerned. She wasn't in love with him. Diana was doing a very human thing. She was using Nemesis for her maternal instincts. That was probably one of the best handled things about Rise of the Olympians. I wouldn't say that RotO was my favorite Wonder Woman arc, but I'll stick with it, if only because of Simone's writing of the Diana. I guess, if you started reading WW because of her appearances in her non solo book, I can understand why this title maybe isn't for you.

Eric Rupe said...

Eric - The start of Simone's run on issue #14 was the first time I picked up WW monthly ongoing. I loved The Circle and think it did a lot of things right. I do agree that a lot of Simone's run falters because of poor execution but, I think this a big thing for me, Simone concentrates too much on Wonder Woman's faults, which I don't think works for the character, or a lot of DC characters really. It's a really "Marvel" thing and it just seems out of place to me.

I haven't read too much of WW's solo stuff, just Simone's stuff, The Hiketeia (which I hated), and Heinburg's short run, which started good but ended with a thud. I have also read very little JLA, mostly Morrison with some of Joe Kelly's stuff.

What got me interested in Wonder Woman though was actually was the Justice League/JLU animated series so that might be why I can't connect with the comic version of the character.

Eric said...

That is some of the stuff I love about Simone's run. She is trying to humanize Diana. A lot of criticism about Wonder Woman as a character is that she is boring. She's a lot like Superman. She's too perfect. She's super strong, can fly, can deflect bullets, if all writers did was put Wonder Woman in situations that she could easily get out of that would be boring. I like the "Marvel" way, I guess. I like knowing that these super heroes have faults and can still rise above them. It's what makes them interesting to me.

This month's issue of WW was a vast improvement over RotO I will say. It helped that Black Canary guest starred. I think that if Simone keeps up with more character driven stories like she did with Birds of Prey and continues to do with Secret Six, I think Wonder Woman will become one of the best titles that DC puts out, as it should be.

Eric Rupe said...

Eric - I do agree that humanizing Wonder Woman is a good thing, I just don't like the way Simone is going about doing it. I don't think it really fits the character that well.

Anonymous said...

Wonder Woman as Aquaman are character with a great potential, all the mitological baggage they bear is a universe of posibilities. Is a shame DC cant bring the best of both of them. I´ve been reading Peter David´s run in Aquaman (vol 3, i guess) i find myself really enjoying the character.

kilmoonie said...

No one has mentioned the best part of the storyline yet: Aaron Lopresti. The art continues to get stronger and stronger from this guy. He's awesome, and will be doing an "A" level book sooner rather than later I bet.

I agree with a lot of your points, although I didn't hate the arc as much as you. It just felt really uneven. I could never "get there" is it were to care about what was going on. I detest the whole Nemesis romance, because I could never see WW being interested in a man like him, so I was glad that ended that way. One thing I don't agree on, is making Wonder Woman a back-up strip (to a guy!) in her own book. That's a horrible publishing idea.

Kirk Warren said...

@kilmoonie - I actually like the idea of pushing Wonder Woman to the backup feature and exploring the Manazons and Amazons new relationship with Achilles as the leader. This would give a group they obviously have plans for more development and provide the feeling that Wonder Woman literally was cast out from her people and quit the Amazons while still giving her 8 dedicated pages (Im assuming more than half the book would flesh out the Amazon/Manazon relationship already with Diana's friends getting cameos as well, leaving very few Diana centric pages) to tell her tale of finding herself and new role int eh world.

kilmoonie said...

@Kirk Warren - Wonder Woman isn't Superman or Batman with a multitude of books where you can just yank one away. Replacing the #1 comic female in her one and only book with a guy just seems silly. I agree that the Achilles stuff could be explored. But it should be as a subplot or even a mini. And after reading the latest WW, it looks like Gail is doing exactly that: checking in with it as a subplot.

We're way off point here, but yeah, Aaron Lopresti is awesome.

fodigg said...

@Eric Rupe

That may be, Eric, but it's not the impression I got from the review. Perhaps I'm reading something into it that's not really there?

I'm a big fan of the moves Simone has been making, and I think shattering some of the core conceits of the Wonder Woman mythos (e.g., no men in Themiscyra, Diana represents her people, Diana gets her powers from the gods) are bold moves and worth exploring.

By making these changes, we can see what Diana is without those themes to fall back on. I haven't been a big fan of the "Wonder Woman is a barely restrained killer" theme we've seen in Kingdom Come, Infinite Crisis, and most recently in Final Crisis. That's not a personality, and it was rewarding for me to read about Diana fighting that concept, literally, personified by the Genocide character.

Eric Rupe said...

fodigg - I agree getting rid of Wonder Woman's "killer instinct" is a good thing and maybe Simone will actually end up making Wonder Woman a better character but I think the biggest problem for me is her execution of her ideas.

Gail said...

Sorry you didn't care for it, Eric. I think, to be kind, you missed a LOT of stuff here. But what the heck, I'm glad you're enjoying Secret Six.

Best,

Gail

Anonymous said...

I agree with this review. But then it's reflected in how poor this title has faired since the relaunch. It has bled sooo many readers.

Simone has tried, to be fair, but I think this last arc sealed the deal. ROTO was a fail. Diana has never ever not cared for her people and mother and all of this was redundant.

It was tiresome seeing Diana behave as she has done. The woman is a founding JLA member and looked up to and she still is in crisis about who she is? Oh please.

If humanizing WW is to make her by turns a bully, a wimp or manipulative liar or someone who wallows in self pity then I could do without that. It is a step backward for Diana and makes her to me more drama queen than honorable heroine.

Genocide was laughable. Plain and simple.

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