Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Wonder Woman 78

Wonder Woman 78, "The Fast Contract," Cover Date September 1993
Written by William Messner-Loebs, Pencils by Lee Moder, Inks by Ande Parks & Aaron McClellan

Wonder Woman 78 Flash Bolland

Our story begins as we watch a recording of an assassin with super speed called “Mayfly” as she is confronted by Japanese police following a hit. She proceeds to use super speed to murder everyone in the room, impressing Ari Buchanan, the mystery crime boss who has recently moved to take over the Boston underworld. His attorney and love interest, Donna Milton, confirms that she has recruited the assassin to target Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman 78 Mayfly
A costume design that might have originated in the 90's.

Meanwhile, in Wonder Woman’s apartment, our heroine, wearing acid-washed jeans over her costume, is visited by Etta Candy, who mocks WW’s new place, then helps WW pay the rent (in cash, including change) to WW’s strange old landlady. Diana explains that she’s been having issues with Maxwell Lord and her Justice League account, which has officially listed her as deceased following a spaceship explosion. The road to Infinite Crisis begins here! We see a target and a blue filter appear over Diana as she and Etta agree to try on wedding dresses. Etta complains she looks fat, even as Diana notices she’s looking dangerously thin. Etta laughs off Diana’s concerns, then promptly faints. She admits she hasn’t been eating, and Diana heroically carries her… to a salad shop at the food court. I’m pretty sure that she needs some calories, Diana, not water and vitamins. Etta laments that she has to eat while Wonder Woman can do whatever she wants, causing Wonder Woman to explain “you will never have my strength or my flight powers. Or my thinness.” Etta is about to eat a radish, when it pops out of view. It’s The Flash (Wally West version), and he helps himself to some salad while warning Diana that some new mystery assassin is after her. His rudeness causes Etta to take back her salad. Wally also takes off his cowl as he eats, apparently not caring if anybody takes a picture of him in-costume. Diana is shocked that a woman she’s never met would try to kill her, or maybe she’s shocked that a woman would be an assassin? Either way, she’s shocked.

Wonder Woman 78 Etta Candy salad
Seriously Wonder Woman, how about giving her some carbs?

Just as Etta begins to eat her delicious salad, it gets blasted by a laser, destroying it before it could fulfill its food destiny. Diana flips a cheap food court table over to defend against the laser blasts coming in as Flash points out that Mayfly is a hemophiliac, while Diana still struggles to understand why a woman could turn on her “sisters.” While Diana advocates for a plan, Wally decides he can handle her by himself, and promptly gets shot. Diana turns on the sprinkler system with her lasso, but the issue ends with Mayfly standing over Diana and Etta announcing “Bang bang. Splat. You’re dead.”

Wonder Woman 78 Etta Candy salad Flash
RIP, Etta's Salad.

Review: This is what they call in the biz a “down” issue, as almost all of it is dedicated to setting up a new villain for WW, then a focus on personal relationships. At the time, Wonder Woman had only recently come back from space and discovered that Paradise Island was gone and Superman had been killed by a monster in green short-pants. This issue does remind everyone that Diana does have some human friends to bounce off. There are a few problems though. One issue is that Diana is such a non-presence. She gives a speech about how Etta should eat because not all women can be magically imbued amazons, and laments Mayfly turning against other women, but it’s the same stilted “speech-giving” Diana that is just not that interesting. This issue and a few previous have aimed for a lighter tone, but Wonder Woman still feels pretty humorless, even when in situations that should be funny. It’s like Messner-Loebs thinks Diana working at Taco Whiz or living in a crappy apartment is so inherently hilarious we’ll laugh at its absurdity even without jokes. I’m also not a fan of the “very special episode” style treatment of Etta Candy and her eating disorder. I guess it’s topical and it’s a real issue, but it’s bizarre for a Wonder Woman comic to be dealing with it. And again, salad? I guess Wonder Woman doesn’t have the nutritional wisdom of Athena.

Wonder Woman 78 Etta Candy Flash
Well it doesn't deflect lasers very well.

The book does do a good job of introducing Mayfly as a threat and continuing to build up the Ari Buchanan subplot, so that’s a plus. I assume there’s some explanation of how having super speed works with firing guns, but I’ll buy it as long as it means food court tables deflect laser fire. Lee Moder’s art is effective even if it occasionally looks a bit sloppy. It’s certainly words away from the art style most associate with Wonder Woman of this period (Mike Deodato is the next regular artist). Also deserving of special attention is the awesome cover by Brian Bolland, which features Flash in the middle of eating spaghetti as a sniper puts Wonder Woman in their sights. It’s just the right mix of silly and serious, and looks great.

90's Fashion: Diana's acid-washed jeans (can't wait for her to turn them into cut-offs). Mayfly has what appear to be a row of pouches along her collarbone, along with an arm-band and what may or may not be a belt around her waist. She also has a radio antenna over her right ear and crosshairs over the visor covering her left eye, because symmetry is for suckers. She also has a giant gun, obviously.

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