Wednesday, 25 April 2012

One Last Look At Wonder Woman # 8 (Part 2)

In which the blogger rounds off a discussion of Wonder Woman #8 which began here;

         
Whatever you do, just don't ask questions. Sense is the real enemy in Wonder Woman #8. As long as you keep jumping from panel to panel, turning from page to page, you might just get away with it. After all, Casting Shadows does contain perhaps the single most innovative and unsettling version of the underworld ever to have appeared in a super-book. That's no little achievement in itself. A foreboding, protean shadow-world of ever-changing land- and city-scapes, composed of the souls of the dead as marshaled according to the schemes of its God Hades, there's an air of anxious unease bordering upon terror which radiates from Cliff Chiang's pages. As a backdrop for Wonder Woman's army-of-two invasion of the after-life, it's a notable, unsettling achievement. Just don't go back and re-read the comic in an attempt to discover how this hell works, because all you'll find is smart-sounding gobbledygook. Everything in the domain of Hades is "made of souls", we're told, with the form that they combine to create being "governed by Hades' whims and imagination." It's an interesting conceit, but then it's further complicated by the revelation that the dead aren't "being used" by the God of the Dead, but rather choosing to collaborate with him. As Hermes "explains";

"Imagine dying, and gaining the ability to be anything, Anything for just a piece of time, knowing that your time to reinvent is your forever. Not existing in a world, but being the world .. "
      
     
It all sounds rather poetically convincing, but scratch at the words and there's so many questions that even the illusion of logic collapses. What does the second sentence in the above actually mean? What's this "piece of time" he's describing? Indeed, who are these dead, and why have they ended up here? Why would they be so willing to spend eternity being forever rearranged as part of the underworld's furniture? Do they retain anything of what we would regard as individuality? As an idea, the world-made-of-souls is at first glance thoroughly compelling. But don't concentrate on it, because it just comes to pieces in your hands, with the questions so outnumbering the facts that the story itself starts to tear like the most fragile of spiders webs.

       
A single mystery, or even a cluster of them, is one thing, but Azzarello's scripts for Wonder Woman are often created from little else. A string of enigmas can suggest an air of mystery, but a constant stream of imprecision and confusion simply wears the reader out. Weaving together an entire world from a shower of such shallow and showy stuff produces a foundation for the narrative which all too easily fractures. And so, if Hades is in such control of this world, why does he need to play with Hermes and Wonder Woman as he appears to? His creations seem remarkably easy to defeat, his own ambitions strangely simple to side-step. His form as a skinless warrior, for example, is quite useless in defeating Diana; could he construct no more powerful and effective a form to take? Is he lulling the visitors into relaxing their guard? Is he genuinely unable to fight Hermes and Wonder Woman off with the entirety of Hell at his command? Is he trying to somehow direct them towards Zola's imprisonment? In the absence of any explanation at all, the mysteries wearingly pile up, and the strain on the reader's willingness to care increases and increases upon just looking over the page is a chore. Why ever does Hades first appear in skinless human form, hidden beneath a statue no less, before assuming his identity as a small child with a candle-topped head? Why does he attempt to so harm Diana when his plan is really to take her as his Queen? The answer, it seems, is that Azzarello simply doesn't care for why things happen so much as he enjoys the prospect of events looking interesting and compelling. In short, it's all about a particularly fan-pleasing fusion of horror and cool. This is spectacle trumping sense, as if the first can only be achieved at the cost of the second, as if the audience doesn't deserve both for their entrance money.

        
It's a shame that Chiang's expressive, imaginative art should be gilding this spectacular if predominantly benign fraud. His work is beautifully staged, his establishing shots evocative and informing, his fight-scenes choreographed in such a fiercely compelling way that we're almost carried across the thin ice of Azzarello's nonsense. And then the plot staggers onwards, and we're faced with even more questions which no attempt of good-natured collaboration with the writer can answer. (*1) No, Chasing Shadows might as well have been named for its own lack of depth and carelessness, for its willingness to load up the pages with a sequence of look-at-me plot-beats rather than anything as unfashionable as a story. Diana picks weapons; Diana travels to hell; Diana is attacked; Hermes tells Diana to go without him so he can later save her; Diana finds Zola; Diana seems to escape; Diana is shot, according the New 52 doctrine of shock; Diana is left in jeopardy as the cliffhanger arrives: the end. The reason why the new Wonder Woman so often feels hollow is, quite frankly, because it is.

*1:- A poor argument has been removed here on the appreciated advice of Son Of Baldwin. You can see the point, and the speculation it inspired, below in the comments.

         
And then, at the heart of all this visually fascinating fast-food storytelling is the real cypher of the piece, Wonder Woman herself. Is it a fear of alienating DC's targeted male-boy readership that leads to Diana having so little personality? Is there a concern that anything other than the most blank and by-the-numbers lead draped in the star-spangled pants might raise the shadows of flakker-alienating kitsch and camp? For this Diana has no character at all beyond that of the most stereotypical indomitable hero, lacking even the ironic touches of self-depreciation which marked the Arnies and the Slys at their commercial height. She rarely smiles, she never jokes, she has no personal quirks or even expressions of individuality beyond the flatness of her tone, her persistent melancholia and her preference for ancient weaponry. (Tellingly, Diana's been stuck with the dogged grimness of the piece whereas the various members of her male supporting cast, from Hermes to Hades, get the laugh lines from beginning to end.) Isolate her essential qualities and they're indistinguishable from the checklist which might describe the least interesting action/adventure lead. Replace her with any other humourless hunk-of-power reliant upon archaic weaponry - Conan or Thor would do - and nothing much would need changing beyond a line or two and a total humour-bypass. Yes, we love this simulacra of Wonder Woman for refusing to give in, yes, we admire her for her rescue of Zola, yes, we're inspired by her refusal to put her own well-being before that of the friends. But that's not because we recognise this take on Princess Diana as having a personality of its own. Rather, it's a recognition of the fundamental virtues associated with a particularly thin and yet reassuring role being pushed through a very obvious, you-can-cheer-now-cheap-seats plot.

            
Azzarello's reinvention of Wonder Woman as Buffy-The-Incredibly-Grumpy-Monster-Slayer has been an absolute triumph of flash over depth. It's not that it's been an unimaginative process, but it's certainly been a hollow one. There's so much there in this new set-up to distract the eye and engage the adrenalin glands, and that's a misdirection made all the more convincing by Cliff Chiang's wonderfully eye-directing, jump-the-plot-holes artwork. But that empty-heartedness which so many folks have noted, that all-calories-no-fibre sense that the comic is exciting and yet strangely unsatisfying? That's what happens when your lead character is a one-dimensional, don't-frighten-the-fanboys, heroic type, it's what gradually dawns when your plots are designed for the sake of the water-cooler moments rather than the sense of it all. It's all impressive work in many ways, but it's not impressive storytelling in anything other than a mechanical fashion. It can be fun, it can be deftly organised, it comes with a host of smart ideas, but it doesn't feel heartfelt and it's certainly not satisfying.

Just don't look back, don't ask questions, don't expect sense to anchor the spectacle or character to inform the cardboard cut-outs, and everything will fine.

   
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28 comments:

  1. Very well written commentary, Colin. I too have had issues with the way Diana is portrayed, particularly in the past few issues. I appreciate your broad perspective, pointing out that her role at large is lacking much personality. I'd honed in on the lack of intellect being demonstrated. She's been lied to and fooled repeatedly, yet she keeps falling for it. It is absurd. But the book is selling. So do the masses prefer a dumbed down Diana? It seems that way.

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    1. Hello Vanessa:- You're very kind, given what a particularly touching and telling piece on Diana's new and unfortunately dense-headed character you've written and posted at http://girls-gone-geek.com/2012/04/25/thoughts-on-azzarellos-wonder-woman/ . I appreciate your generous words, because I really do respect the article at the above link. Yours is the best discussion of that issue I've come across, and I'm glad that I choose to try to steer away from that essential concern to a few more structural, and sadly dry, issues. Yes, WW does keep being tricked, and - this irks me - she keeps being led by the nose by male figures. Into hell, into combat with Hera and so on, she's the point-woman, but the intelligence and the knowledge is often, if not exclusively, somebody else's.

      The book is selling, but it's to a tiny niche. It's selling to a mostly-male readership, and they do seem to prefer a woman who isn't really anything more than an indominable hero without the smarts of Diana's old self. That doesn't mean that women can't and don't enjoy this verison, of course. I'd hate to seem to say that. But I think it's safe to say that it's aimed predominantly at blokes. That audience don't always seem to smile on smart women. But I refuse to give up on the belief that Diana could sell, and sell truckloads, to a broader, less laddish, readership if DC could just be bothered to do so.

      One day, one day.

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    2. Thank you for the compliment on my essay. I share your belief that Wonder Woman has a fantastic and broad appeal. So yes ... one day. I hope.

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    3. Hello Vanessa:- A fantastic and broad appeal? It was a scene in Gail Simone's run of Wonder Woman which reminded me of what a fantastic character she was. In it, she and Power Girl were fighting, and while PG was throwing her weight around, WW was simply holding back, dodging the blows, thinking her way through the situation. It was one of those moments when a light goes back on ...

      So, yes, one day ....

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    4. I just wanted to thank Colin for providing the URL to Vanessa's post, and thank Vanessa for having written it in the first place. Thank you both! My day today would be poorer if I hadn't read these two posts.

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    5. Hello Richard:- That's kindly said, sir. I too enjoyed Vanessa's post very much.

      I'm reading Tony Fletcher's All Hopped Up & Ready To Goat the moment, Richard. It's a history of NYC's musical history, and several times I've been reading it and recalled your words about your relationship with the city. It's added to an already enjoyable experience :)

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  2. I stopped collecting WONDER WOMAN after issue #7's hotbed of misogyny and sexism, but a friend allowed me to read his digital copy of #8 and it's hard to disagree with a single word you've said here, particularly in the broadest sense.

    There is, however, one mistaken detail: Hephaestus is actually the one who insists that Wonder Woman take Eros' guns; she doesn't make this decision on her own (very few of her decisions are made that way; this Wonder Woman needs LOADS of advice and help from her male companions).

    So one could argue that Hephaestus and Hades are in cahoots; or that Hephaestus and Diana are. Though, it's difficult to tell. As you said, WONDER WOMAN is a series of poorly-strung-together mystery points.

    In any event, you've been hitting the nail on the head so many times with these reviews, Colin, that I'm certain the casket is airtight.

    Thank you for blessing us.

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    1. Hello Son Of Baldwin:- That's a splendid catch; thank you. I don't express the point at all clearly, and though I'll amend it of the morrow, I'll make sure I own up to your help. And of course, that is a moment which could show that BA means for the revelations about the Amazons to be yet another part of a dastardly scheme that Hesphaestus is involved in. It wouldn't change my feelings about the previous issue and how it worked in isolation as an individual comic, but it would be better than what we've got now.

      I do appreciate the support you've given these pieces. A small blog floats or sinks on such kindnesses, and this certainly is a small blog. Thanks for encouraging folks to visit.

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  3. Hi Colin, you really put in perspective the problems with the current Wonder Woman book. I think you are spot-on, and commend you for taking the time to analyse this books in such detail.

    Me, I've been reading it, but it's been such a passive experience that I had not even stopped to think about the problems with the book. As you said, Chiang's artwork and designs are so striking that you can enjoy the book on a surface level without thinking too much about how shallow it is. Just don't ask me what it was about twenty minutes after i put it down.

    However, even with my uncritical reading (and overall light enjoyment) of the books, there have been a few moments that have struck the wrong chord with me. Obviously #7: even if the story about the amazons turns out to be a lie by Hephaestus, the whole situation paints Diana as a moron: either it's a lie and Diana is a moron for believing such an unlikely story (if someone showed up and told me my dad is a serial killer, I'd probably give my dad the benefit of the doubt), or the story is true and Diana is a moron for never finding out about such an essential aspect of her culture.

    Besides that controversial issue, the transition between the issue in which the amazons where turned to stone and the beginning of the next issue, in which Diana is casually chilling out in a café was pretty jarring: how much time has passed? Was there an off-camera mourning period? Does she not care about her whole race's destruction?

    Finally, that issue in which they set a trap for hera involving Hades and Poseidon. Their plan was so convoluted I don´t even remember the details, but I remember the whole thing was resolved by deus-ex-machina magic that came out of nowhere. I felt cheated.

    It's a shame, really. Because the book has the potential to be amazing. Cliff Chiang's work is gorgeous and, as you point out, Azzarello does have some neat ideas. If only he had the inclination to turn those ideas into a compelling story, this might be one of the best capes books on the racks, as opposed to a beautiful, entertaining piece of eye candy.

    Finally Colin, just wondering: Have you read Azzarello's For Tomorrow Superman story? I'm curious about it, but most of the reactins I've heard are mixed. If you have, what's your take on it? Is it worth picking up?

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    1. Hello Guido-Vision:- Thank you. I always find it hard to make sense of a book which I seem to find both entertaining and strangely unsatisfying. That tends to be the signal for a blog.

      I think your use of the word "passive" is a telling one. We read WW, but I'm not sure that everyone is about to empathise with the characters in anything other than the more basic way, and the stories similarly come across as oddly alienating. As you say, 20 minutes later and little is left, and that's especially true for the likes of #6, where the plot doesn't make so much sense in the first place, as you note. My feeling about those obscure aspects of the plots and the scene-jumps you refer is that they're sadly just style being celebrated at the expense of sense. It does make WW take a little longer to read, and it is a quick read even at the best of times, but not, shall we say, for the best of reasons.

      And you're SO right to nail that the naked canoeing murder plot doesn't work even if it is a big lie, because it relies on Diana being, as you say, a completely gulliable idiot. Oh, dear. Even those who're keeping faith with the BA issues have to accept that the WW of these issues is strangely passive. Very strangely passive.

      I've not read For Tomorrow, though once or twice I've seen in the local library and thought that it might be worth a look. Next time I catch sight of it, I'll pick it up. Thank you for the nudge :)

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  4. Colin,

    I have seen the enemy, and as Pogo pointed out, he is us. More on that in a bit. I absolutely LOVED this comment:

    You called Wonder Woman "Buffy-The-Incredibly-Grumpy-Monster-Slayer."

    That's absolutely PERFECT. It paints the picture so well. This is absolutely a triumph of flash over substance. I mentioned Buffy in an earlier comment, in regards to Spike.

    I really didn't care for the latter seasons of Buffy, and the show (IMHO) is just like this new Wonder Woman -- it looks gorgeous, as long as you don't look behind the curtain, or ask any questions, because then the house of cards would come crashing down.

    Maybe, in this new world of $2.99-$3.99 comics with 20-22 decompressed pages, that's the new model. Keep them coming with shock and awe, gorgeous layouts and things that, at first (and hopefully the only) glance look terrific. Keep distracting the masses (such as they are now) and praying they don't ask questions or ask how everything fits together.

    I still mourn the Perez WW. She might have been very, very naive and almost too innocent to live (sometimes she might have been also been considered a gullible idiot when deceived by Mindi Myer or Barbara Minerva, but I think Perez was going more for the innocent lamb, for good or ill), but I always got the idea that Perez not only loved the character (and her cast), but that he was genuinely world-building.

    This WW relies as much on knowing what came before (to show how DIFFERENT this WW is from the older ones), but not in really fleshing WW out, certainly not in many good ways.

    As to the Pogo comment. I live in the Northeast, and visit a fairly successful comic shop that is part of a chain. I was talking to a new staffer there last week, probably in his mid- to late-twenties (I'm the wrong side of 40, if it helps). He asked about the new WW, absolutely LOVED it, and didn't see anything wrong with what had happened in issue 7.

    I didn't condemn him over it, but when I explained my misgivings, this individual put a lot of weight on Azzarello's name to deflect criticism. He wasn't hateful or nasty, but he pretty much refused to see the possibility of another POV, even to acknowledge it.

    I really didn't expect that.

    Thank you (and Vanessa) for making this reader think!

    Take it and run,

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    1. Hello Earl:- Thank you :) I fear that I can’t be the first to have used that Buffy comparison, though I hope that the form I span for it had something of my own palm-print on it.

      It pains me to agree with you on the virtues of later Buffy seasons. I think it’s cracking up to series 4, and there were always fantastic episodes after the cast moved on from high school. But I never enjoyed the later shows; they were so often grim without relief or compensation, for one thing. Which doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy them. I just tend to believe that the first three seasons are Buffy at its best.

      “Maybe, in this new world of $2.99-$3.99 comics with 20-22 decompressed pages, that's the new model. Keep them coming with shock and awe, gorgeous layouts and things that, at first (and hopefully the only) glance look terrific. Keep distracting the masses (such as they are now) and praying they don't ask questions or ask how everything fits together.”

      There are notable exceptions, but yes, I think your paragraph sums up the philosophy of the New 52 books. And my feeling is that there doesn’t have to be a choice between spectacle and substance. The two can go perfectly well together, as they do in the best New 52 books. But on the whole, surface seems to be winning out, a mistake, I think, it a sub-genre where the surface is always so absurd in the first place.

      I did tend to feel that the Perez era lacked a certain zing, a certain energy. But I thought his work was characterised by love and respect for WW and Diana shone under his stewardship. Add that substance to some of the 2012 blood’n’circuses and what couldn’t the book achieve?

      I am somewhat perplexed as to why someone wouldn’t recognise the problems with WW #7, even if they chose to rationalise them away. Horses for courses is the rule, mind you. But there is a great deal of fandom which doesn’t want to engage with issues of social justice at all. I don’t know if that number includes the chap of whom you speak. But generally, I’d’ve thought the response ought to “Yes, there’s a problem here, but I deal with it because of X or Y.”, rather than “Who cares?”

      Oh well. Few people want a world of little but earnest, deeply meaningful conversation. Quite rightly too. But a little of it can be a very good idea.

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    2. It strikes me that this version of Wonder Woman is a pure exercise in Schadenfreude. Rather than the intrinsic excitement of its plot, it goes on "Look at what they're doing to Wonder Woman!" as its chief method of sustaining interest.

      If you had a mild dislike of Wonder Woman before, that may be enough to make it interesting. A lot of people who apparently never actually read the current title seem to have acquired the idea that Wonder Woman was prissy, preachy, and otherwise annoying. They seem to be the target audience. It seems to be especially popular among people who disliked the Wonder Woman fan base; we apparently have a reputation.

      For at least one fan of the character, this run is painful to read, like watching someone pull the wings off a butterfly. And for the first, too long arc in a rebooted universe, there seems to be almost no world-building going on in the title; just a lot of world-destroying.

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    3. Hello ihcoyc:- You're point is a fascinating one. The new Wonder Woman is in many ways, as you say, a debate with the very idea of what Wonder Woman has been and might be. In doing so, it does often function as meta as well as a story in its own right. With the seeming reboot of the Amazons in #7, it seemed to be so very meta, and so ill-judged, that nothing but the comparison between what was and what is seemed to exist on the page. In many ways, much of the New 52 has worked that way; it's a supposedly new project aimed at readers who are familiar with much of the old line.

      There's absolutely no doubt that this is Wonder Woman for the folks who wouldn't buy Wonder Woman. And I guess DC would regard it as a success; the book does seem to be shifting more copies than before, and to be honest, the quality - especially the art - is higher than much that went before. (JMS did WW little favours, and little for those who had to pick up the pieces he left scattered about either.)

      Yet I wonder whether it was necessary to so step away from the past to nail that audience. I don't believe so, as I guess is obvious. At the very least, I hope that this doesn't remain the only take of WW on the stands. The character can and should be presented in a variety of mediums and genres. Hard-headed sword'n'sandels Diana needn't be the only take, even if it's the only one in the New 52.

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  5. Haven't read WW in a few years. I didn't even try the first issue of Azzarello's run. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I really like your blog.

    I read your post about New Deadwardians. In my opinion, that is the best of the new Vertigo titles, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to review the first issue. If you want to check it out here's my blog: www.artbyarion.blogspot.com

    And I agree with you, there should be more than 8 issues.

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    1. Hello Arion:- Thank you for being so generous. And I can see from visiting your blog that we do indeed share a good opinion of The New Deadwardians :) Lets hope that with all the good will towards it - and there does seem to have been a great deal of good will - we'll see more than just a single limited series from the title.

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  6. Colin; As always, well said. Vanessa, I appreciated your heartfelt, well-argued essay too.

    I must be naive. I agree that the story of Amazons as sailor-rapists and male-child disposers is absurd. I agree that for the intelligent, capable Diana to believe it so easily is also absurd.

    But that is why, in the tradition of mystery-novels and their protagonists, I still fully expect that at the end of the story arc, the former will have been revealed to have been a lie, and that we'll discover that Diana knew so all along. I want to believe that she's playing at appearing more gullible than she really is.

    It would make sense in the story if she'd had her guard up as soon as Hermes showed up: The Trickster god has been portrayed as anything but, so far--in fact, he's been shown to be earnest and grim, which is completely out of character. He's one to be wary of.

    Therefore I continue to hope that the writer--and Wonder Woman--are playing a deeper game. Again, along the lines of mystery writers and their heroes. I've seen 'The Maltese Falcon' and read the book numerous times, but can still remember the surprise when, after Gutman and Cairo leave, Sam Spade reveals to us that Archer was killed by O'Shaughnessy--and that Spade had known it for quite a while.

    A less regal example from the funny-book world was the fan outcry after, in the pages of '52', the character of Booster Gold was first returned to his shallow roots in terms of characterization, and then killed. I hope I'm not spoiling that story for anyone by pointing out that it was all a ploy on Booster's--and the writers'--part.

    So while agree with your descriptions of what is frustrating about the characterization of both Diana and her people, I'm still willing to hope that appearances are not what they seem, and that it will all be cleared up by the end of the arc. If it turns out I'm wrong--I often am--I will most certainly stop reading the book until it changes writers.

    mikesensei

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    1. "I hope I'm not spoiling that story for anyone by pointing out that it was all a ploy on Booster's--and the writers'--part."

      I dropped 52 after a while and, to my embarrassment, my discontent over Booster was a reason - boy, did I feel dim afterwards.

      - Charles RB

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    2. Hello Charles:- You're right, it's best to give a writer the benefit of the doubt. Dimness can threaten otherwise. I've jumped just as you describe myself before. I'd love Wonder Woman to be an example of misdirection, I really would. It won't change the meaning of #7 going out with that message, but boy it'd make a big difference in the broad world of Wonder Feminism.

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  7. PS--I always write what I think will be a short comment and find I was way too wordery. Here's the short form: Commentators maintain that if the Amazon-rapists story is true, then Diana is a fool for not realizing it sooner, and that if the story is false, then she's a fool for believing it now. That's a false dichotomy. It could be false, and she could know it's false--but not reveal the knowledge.

    Okay, back to work!

    mikesensei

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    1. Hello Mike:- I don't have my WW issues before #8 to hand, so I can't look for any evidence that Diana's seen through a lie about the Amazons. Fair enough, it is a third possibility, and I fully accept your point that I've been guilty in these comments of propagating a false dichotomy. Mea culpa! I find your argument compelling and your friendly, informed and respectful way of debating so convincing that I'm happy to broaden the possibilities that I accept might just be be possible.

      Yet what you suggest would certainly mark a change in how the title's been written so far; Diana's been very much a passive character following other men's leads up until now, so it takes something of a leap to believe that she's all of a sudden become a knowing character who's in charge of the situation, albeit in the covert way you describe. The book would have done this without foreshadowing - or to use another term cheating - but it will be something that's fascinating to see if it comes off.

      I will concede that the situation with Hephaestus pretty much forcing Eros's guns onto Diana does, as I said above, suggest that the Amazon-canoeing-murdering tale is tosh. That would be interesting. It wouldn't reverse my belief that the title is far more sound than substance, and nor would it shift my conviction that #7 shouldn't have gone out with such a dispiriting message about the Amazons unless there was a more positive message elsewhere. Still, it would be good to think that the book was both more carefully plotted than I thought - even if it leaves issues like the conclusion to 6 as a complete mess to understand - and that the Amazons are still something other than wretched killers.

      So, as you can see, I retain my general and specific concerns, BUT ... you're ABSOLUTELY right. There is a third possibility here. My response to that would be a measure of relief matched with a measure of frustration, for the reasons given above. But I must say, you've made me far more interested to see what's coming than I was just a few minutes ago. Let's see how it plays out, Mike!

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  8. I will forever love Azzarello for what he eventually turned 100 Bullets into, but it seems like he's being wrong-headed in that he's trying to apply his extreme noir style to a pre-existing character with a history that doesn't match those styles.

    It's a shame, because when he's on point, he's fantastic. In 100 Bullets he stages a condemnation of the corporatization/privitalizing of America, which he correctly posits as the reason for city crime/social issues by placing "random" mini-stories about non-plot crimes that contrast with the main plot (where a secret society of the European rich co-opted America from even before its revolution to be their own special country. Azzarello poetically labels this issue "The Greatest Crime in the History of the World" and I think even calls it worse than crucifying Christ, because America truly had a hope to be free of such people and practices.) Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is similarly great, as he really gets into Luthor's head.

    On the other hand, when he fails, he crashes and burns. Here, Superman Tomorrow, etc.

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    1. Hello Andrew:- I have always meant to give 100 Bullets more attention. I've certainly enjoyed and admired what I've read, even if I found myself oddly untouched emotionally by what was going on. Your explanation of the broader context of where the comic went after those first few issues certainly makes me want to get back onto picking up the 100 Bullets collections.

      "Lex Luthor" I did admire, but again, I find it hard to be moved by BA's work. I guess Superman Tomorrow etc is not the place to begin. I've often picked up the collected edition, read a page and put it straight down. I even borrowed it once and found it unreadable. And there's no too much that defeats me ...

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  9. I was just as surprised--I assumed it would be unconnected stories involving revenge. I was more enjoying the storytelling/art until about trade 3; the best one is probably Counterfifth Detective, but going in order is the best bet.

    By the by, have you read Batman: City of Crime? I bring it up because it's by the writer of Stray Bullets, David Lapham, and reader reviewers pan it--yet I would say it's amongst the best Batman stories in the last 5 years (I'm not bold enough to say decade.) It begins with something that could've been preachy and heavy-handed, and which I'm almost certain I HAVE seen used limply in Batman before: a fire breaks out in a slum building, claiming the lives of children trapped inside; later investigations reveal they were child slaves, bought and sold.

    Angered that something like this happened under his watch, Batman sets out to find who is responsible. It gets much more complex from there, and paints a picture of the city as a whole that really capitalizes on turning it into its own character.

    I've heard similarly good things about Scott Snyder's Black Mirror stories, but it looks like you weren't as impressed with his Court of the Owl sequel.

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  10. Oh, and Superman Tomorrow should not be read by anyone, anywhere.

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    1. Hello Andrew:- I'm convinced that - to quote from the Sound Of Music - that the beginning is the very best place to start with 100 Bullets :)

      I struggled with City Of Crime and just couldn't get past the first issue. But, as I find myself often saying, that was before I started the blog and my taste is very different around.If I see it around, I will give it another go.

      Sadly, I'm not impressed with the Batman/Owls stories I've read. I'm just full-up and maxed-out with grim'n'gritty, particularly when it doesn't actually make sense. Perhaps I've been unlucky with the comics I've read, perhaps it'll get better. I'll check back in a few months and see what's going on.

      To quote the far more acceptable Marvin Gaye.

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  11. Who knows, it could be me who is wrong about City of Crime--I read it earlier on in my comic reading days, although I was not completely new at the time and senseless violence didn't impress me then.

    As I understand it, the Batman/Owls thing is a sequel/continuation of The Black Mirror, 300+ pages of previous comics. It might be that Snyder just isn't that good at catching readers up to speed or that this sequel isn't particularly good; I'm hoping it's those, and not "literally everyone is wrong and Black Mirror is also quite bad," as I've heard so much good news about it it'd be a shame for it to turn out to be a lame duck.

    I haven't admitted this elsewhere, but that's how I feel about Transmetropolitan: I read the entire first trade, and most of it was formless smugness without any real story to each issue, so I gave up.

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    1. Hello Andrew:- Whenever I find that my opinion of a comic disagrees with someone else's, I'm always keen to find what I missed and how I can grasp the values of the qualities which I've not responded well to. As such, my default position - unless its in case of blatant sexism and so on - is that I've missed the point. As such, I very much want to "get" Mr Snyder's Batman, and if coming at The Black Mirror can help me do that, then all well and good. At the moment, I can't stick the Owls story, despite recognising good ideas at work there, but I hope to be proven wrong. It would hardly be the first time.

      I realise that it isn't a cool thing to say, but I too have had the problem with Transmetropolitan that you mention. It's another title which I'm determined to have another tilt at sooner rather than later.

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