"Wonder Woman - Gods and Mortals" Review
Great Hera! It's Time For Change! (Background)
During the mid-1980s, it certainly was time for some changes to occur in the pages of every DC Comics book. DC felt that their fifty-year-old continuity had become extremely convoluted and that they needed to start from scratch again.
So in order to accomplish this, the twelve-issue miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths was published. The story essentially got rid of the multiverse that was made years earlier and all the parallel Earths were fused into one main Earth. The results of this were not pretty. The event saw the deaths of many superheroes, most notably the Barry Allen version of The Flash and Supergirl.
With the slate swept clean, some story arcs and miniseries were published later on to reintroduce the origins of DC's Trinity. John Byrne wrote and drew the six-issue series Superman - The Man of Steel, Frank Miller wrote the four-issue story arc Batman - Year One, and George Perez wrote and drew the first seven issues of the newly relaunched Wonder Woman series Gods and Mortals.
The reason why Wonder Woman's ongoing title was rebooted when other titles like Batman weren't was because Wonder Woman herself died during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Given this, DC was able to start fresh with Wonder Woman. George Perez, who had previously done the artwork for both Crisis on Infinite Earths and The New Teen Titans, was chosen to write and draw Wonder Woman's new series.
Amazonian Princess vs. The God of War! (Plot Synopsis)
The story of Gods and Mortals begins with Ares, the greek god of war, planning to reek havoc on the world sometime in the future, so the Olympian goddess decide to make a race of women who could counter-act Ares's wrath with the ideals of peace and love called the Amazons. However, Ares has thought ahead and had an agent tell the demigod Hercules that the Amazons are cruel and must be stopped. Hercules succeeds and enslaves the Amazons. Hippolyta (spelled as "Hippolyte" in this book), queen of the Amazons, manages to escape and lead a retaliation against Hercules's men. This turns out to be a terrible mistake on their part, since they went against their ideals to regain their freedom. So they are sent to the island known as Themyscira. As years pass, Hippolyta begins to long for a daughter. So she forms a child from clay, and with the help of the goddesses and Hermes, Princess Diana is given life.
As Diana reaches adulthood, the island's prophet tells of an impending disaster by Ares and that a champion who can stop him must be chosen in a tournament. Diana volunteers, but Hippolyta declines it, feeling that she doesn't want to lose her daughter to Ares. Diana, under a disguise, participates in the tournament and is victorious. Reluctant at first, Hippolyta soon accepts that Diana is truly worthy of being Themyscira's champion.
After the tournament, the gods and goddesses forge a gift for Diana to utilize: a golden lasso that can make one speak the truth. Also, Hermes takes Diana to the home of Ares, where Diana is given half a talisman by a hooded woman named Harmonia. She tells Diana that she needs to find the other half in order to find Ares.
Sometime later, air force pilot Steve Trevor's plane is taken down nearby Themyscira as a result of one of Ares's agents attacking him. A missile that was intended for use against the Soviets is accidentally dropped from the plane and heads for the island. Diana manages to stop the missile and save Steve. She's told that he should be returned to America, referred to as "Man's World" by the Amazons. With the help of Hermes, Diana manages to get Steve back in Boston. Hermes then brings Diana to a woman named Julia Kapatelis, who could be of great assistance to Diana in guiding her through Man's World.
It quickly becomes evident to both Julia and the reader that Diana can't speak english as the perspective shifts. Diana decides to show Julia the talisman in order to get her point across. When Julia touches it, she begins to see morphing images of Themyscira and it's inhabitants. With that, she decides to help Diana.
Meanwhile, the sons of Ares, Phobos and Deimos, starting plotting to stop both Diana and Steve Trevor. Agents are sent to kill Steve in the hospital he was sent to, but he manages to fight back and escape. The Agents then decide to frame Steve as a Soviet spy and have a manhunt of him to begin. Steve manages to ally himself with Lt. Etta Candy at her apartment as he explains what has been happening to him.
Julia brings Diana back to her home where she meets Julia's daughter, Vanessa. Earlier in the day, an unexpected delivery was dropped off at the Kapatelis home that contained an ugly purple statue. As Julia educates Diana on the english language, the statue turns out to be be yet another agent of Ares named Decay. She comes to life and attacks Vanessa, rapidly aging her. Diana tries to stop her, but Decay destroys the entire house. Managing to get Julia and Vanessa out in time, Diana pursues Decay. All this causes the neighbors and the media to notice. When Diana finally defeats Decay, reporters begin to surround her, startling her away. The media decides to dub her "Wonder Woman", the news of which reaches Steve and Etta who decide to try and find her.
After getting Vanessa to the hospital, Diana and Julia get to the Kapatelis's winter home, where Julia tries to translate the inscriptions on the talisman. Diana notices a figure outside the house and she goes to confront the person. It turns out to be Steve, who explains that he needs Diana's help. As she questions why she should help Steve (since the missile nearly hit Themyscira), they discover that both Steve and Etta were followed by Colonel Michaelis, a friend of Steve's.
Michaelis explains that he wishes to help Steve and that he discovered a file labeled as "Project: Ares" at the military base. It turns out that one of the generals named Tolliver had seemingly gone mad as a result of Ares's influence and was plotting out a way to start World War III. The group wonders as to what their next move should be as Julia finishes translating the talisman. The translation forms a geometric pattern that resembles a vulture.
Elsewhere, Phobos and Deimos continue to raise all hell as they start to effect the militaries of both the US and Soviet Russia, ensuring Ares's plan to start World War III.
Diana examines the pattern on both the paper Julia wrote on and on a map from the file and realizes that the patterns match. This reveals to her how she can find the other half of the talisman. She explains to the group of how they can find the other half. They also get word of the uprising clashing between the US and the Soviets. After putting the talisman up against a nearby mirror, the group is teleported to what looks like a representation of Hell, where Deimos begins to battle them. He subjects the group to their worst fears as Deimos tries to kill Diana. She is forced to kill Deimos in order to free both herself and the group. Once the other half of the talisman is retrieved, the put it together and are teleported to the military base. As they arrive, Ares makes his presence known to the world.
Ares's minions begins to attack the group. Midway through the battle, Diana is transported into a black void of nothingness where she faces Ares himself. He reveals that he intends to slay his father, Zeus, and become more powerful than any other Olympian god. He also shows Diana a potential future in which that Amazons have aged and felt that Diana failed her mission to stop Ares and bring peace to the world. Diana doesn't buy it and she begins to fight him. However, as the fight goes on, Diana gets more and more severely injured. She decides that the only way to stop Ares is to expose him to the truth of his plans. Wrapping the lasso around him, Ares sees the full consequences of his actions; that he'll lose all his followers and the world will be left to waste, which causes him to weep to first time in his life. He agrees to seise his attack under the condition that Diana continues to "save man from himself".
With Ares gone, all the chaos begins to fade. It turns out that in the battle, Michaelis was killed. Steve then carries in Diana battered body, asking for help.
Diana is returned to Themyscira in an attempt to save her from the brink of death. With the help of Poseidon, Diana is healed. Days later, Hippolyta is much more hesitant to let Diana return to Man's World, given Diana's near-death experience. But Diana mentions that she has some business to finish up back in Man's World, most notably restoring Vanessa's youth. The goddesses then send in another gift for Diana to utilize: Hermes's winged sandals. Hippolyta reconsiders her concern and decides to let Diana return to Man's World under the certain conditions.
Diana returns to Boston with a special salve that manages to restore Vanessa's youth. Julia gets the news and she reunites with her daughter. Diana is then taken aside for debriefing, but Julia interjects and says that there is a better way to get Diana's mission known to the world. Julia takes Diana to meet Myndi Mayer (who had abruptly visited Julia earlier on just before the news of her daughter's recovery came to her), a controversial publicist of Boston. Mayer explains to Diana that if she's promoted properly, Diana's mission and her ideals can be spread quickly across not just Boston, but the whole world. And soon enough, Diana's title as Wonder Woman becomes known.
The story ends with the introduction of a greedy, power-seeking archeologist named Barbara Minerva reading the news about Wonder Woman and her lasso of truth. She says to her assistant that she wants the lasso, no matter the cost...
One of the aspects I really dug about this comic was the episodic nature of the issues.
Comics these days are in a highly-serialized format that allows writers to have major story arcs be told throughout the title. However, some of my problems with modern comics doing this is that the comics are usually written in a way that causes the story-telling to feel rushed in individual issues, yet when you get the trade collection of the story, it reads better in that format than it did in it's original form.
Here, though, George Perez paces each issue like an episode of a serial drama; the story takes it's time developing itself and it doesn't just rush through details. That said, it doesn't really bogged down the pacing to where it's painfully slow. It's just perfect. Plus, the ending of each issue makes you want more. For something I've seen recently that reminds of this format of story-telling, it would most certainly be the incredible AMC series Breaking Bad.
Another thing worthy of praise on this book is George Perez's remarkable artwork. The trade paperback remasters the coloring and inking from the original issues that were published back in 1987, and that makes the attention-to-detail in this book even more astounding. When looking at the art, you can tell Perez really put his heart into making the visual look of the book match with the story-telling; backgrounds and general settings are given atmosphere and and enough detail to make them seem tangible, the character designs are extremely consistent from panel to panel, and the panel arrangements are creative.
The fight scene are well-drawn and intense (the best examples are the Amazons retaliating against Hercules's men and Diana confrontation with Ares).
The character development of the supporting cast is done quite well since Perez writes the characters in a way that makes you care enough for them and you want to see them succeed alongside Diana. Some of these characters, like the Kapatelis family, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy would get even further development during Perez's run. And in the case of Steve, his history has a big role in the follow-up story arc Challenge of the Gods (which I will get to soon).
And lastly, I love how Perez wrote Diana. Many fans of Wonder Woman say that Perez had made the definitive version of the character and it definitely shows here. Diana is written as a character who genuinely cares for the well-being of others, is very compassionate, and is very optimistic about her ideals of peace, love, and equality.
But for things I didn't care much about, I'll admit, I was never really crazy for how the Olympian gods were portrayed in Perez's run or other runs after it (with the exception of Greg Rucka's run and Brian Azzarello's run). Particularly, the goddesses felt almost Mary Sue-ish in their portrayal, whereas the gods were much more brutish. The only god who ever stood out as a much more three-dimensional character was Hermes, since, while being a helpful supporting character for Wonder Woman, he was capable of making pretty big mistakes. This is admittedly more of a general complaint I have with some Wonder Woman stories.
But for more specific problems I had with this story, some of the dialogue felt kind of unnecessary. There was good dialogue at many points, don't get me wrong (there was some really good comic book style dialogue, too), but there were points where characters would say things that, when you read it out loud, seems kind of awkward and are things people wouldn't say. One such example would be the scene in which the Amazons see Hermes giving Diana the lasso, Hippolyta says, "By Athena's mantle! It cannot be! Not for centuries has any Amazon laid eyes upon him!" The first half of that was fine, but the latter wasn't really needed. Also, there were point in which characters would say things that seem much more fitting in thought bubbles rather than speech bubbles. To be fair though, most comics had this kind of problem going on, since the transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age of comics had passed not so long ago, and writing styles were still shifting. As time went on, the dialogue got much better.
And one last problem I had was that after the tournament scene, Diana is given her bullet-proof bracelets. To see if Diana can truly utilize them, a pistol is used to see if Diana can deflect the bullets. This could be rather confusing since it makes you wonder where the Amazons even got a pistol from. Admittedly, this is actually set up for the Challenge of the Gods storyline, since the scene after this shows Diana getting her costume and it's hinted at where this pistol and the idea for the costume came from. I get into more details about this when I get to the Challenge of the Gods review.
But overall, this is easily one of my all-time favorite Wonder Woman stories. It's easily the most memorable for me.
So what's the final score?
5/5 - Recommended!!