Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Wonder Woman #80

Wonder Woman #80, "It's Never a Good Day to Die," Cover Date November, 1993
William Messner-Loebs- "chief surgeon," Steve Carr and Deryl Skelton- "residents," Aaron McClellan- "head nurse"

Wonder Woman 80 Cover Bolland

We begin in a hospital, where Etta Candy sits the wrong way on a chair in silent vigil over Wonder Woman, injured in the events of issue #79. Suddenly, the floor falls away from Etta, and she finds herself surrounded by a pink mist, as her Uncle Dave appears, in overalls. Their reunion turns bitter pretty quickly, when Dave is critical of his wife's weight, then admits to having murdered a 13 year old girl after apparently molesting her. A shaken Etta realizes something's not right and asks who won the 1968 World Series (The Detroit Tigers, in a crushing game 7 over the Cardinals), and when "Uncle Dave" admits to not being a fan, Etta realizes it's an imposter. Etta asks "who the hell are you," and Dave transfigures into a big dragon in a pretty cool scene, saying "You'll be sorry you asked." Suddenly, a golden lasso wraps around the dragon's neck. Wonder Woman wrestles the dragon, saying it's representative of Diana and Etta's "combined fear." Diana tells Etta to use her dream gun, and she fires a few rounds into the dragon, waking her up from her dream.

Wonder Woman 80 Etta Candy
Etta, you're too old to sit like that unless you're having a "rap" with someone.

Back in the real world, Etta finds a conscious Diana, and calls her melodramatic. She informs Diana that Mayfly has been captured and has been naming names on her assassination hires. In one of those glass prison cells you see in all movies, Mayfly, sans costume, meets with her attorney, as apparently hired by Ares Buchanan. The attorney is able to give the charging instrument to Mayfly (via a guard), and Mayfly notices she's charged with an assassination she didn't do, but then pauses and smiles enigmatically. After the attorney leaves, a suddenly supercharged Mayfly breaks through the walls holding her, with speeds greater than the Flash. We get a narration voiceover from attorney Donna Milton, who says she told Mayfly the truth, but not the whole truth: her sudden power upgrade comes with a lack of control, as the super-charged villain tries to get her bearings. An unable to slow-down Mayfly eventually crashes into a glass window, and we see blood on the glass. Milton grins as she throws away her brunette wig, all the while going on about how great Ares Buchanan is, and how "warm and tingly" she feels after she arranges for the deaths of his enemies. After we cut to a post-coital bedroom, Donna thinks back on her first murder, as in law school she killed a rival for a professor's affections. She later left the professor to work for a crooked D.A., and then traded up from there to a small-time fence who had suddenly entered the big leagues. She also lets it slip that she's secretly carrying Ares's baby, and plans to use the kid as leverage to better control him.

Wonder Woman 80 Etta Candy Dragon

Back at the hospital, Etta answers a call from the cops, informing her of Mayfly's death. The cops at the scene, meanwhile, say she died before she had a chance to hemorrhage. Somehow, though, she had time to carve "Ares" into her arm before dying.


We still have the art team from last issue that I was not kind towards in my review of Issue #79, but this issue is in a lot of ways a big improvement. It's still narratively sort of a fill-in, as very little of note actually happens. It's mostly about wrapping up Mayfly and establishing a little bit more of the "mystery" of Ares Buchanan (which is obviously not a mystery to anyone with a functioning brain), as well as going more in depth with Donna Milton as his ice-cold second in command. The only "action" in the issue is Etta and Diana fighting some kind of dream dragon, which feels like it's only there because Brian Bolland drew WW fighting a dragon on the cover. That said, I like the decision to write-out Mayfly in service of a larger villain (although making her more powerful than Flash seems pointless), and I like the slow-burn of setting up a big Ares/Wonder Woman confrontation. Milton's characterization as a sort of ice-cold status climber is kind of a neat mirror to the way we normally see evil and power portrayed in comics.

Wonder Woman 80 Mayfly

Carr's art is actually pretty solid here. The coloring and inking isn't always great, but I really like the "Uncle Dave" transformation scene, especially the two "in-between" states between man and dragon. It's a really neat visual "effect" and it works great here. Carr's style is at times a bit cartoony, but he does a nice job expressing people's emotions. He barely draws Wonder Woman, and she seems a bit off-model, but it's a dream sequence, and he does a nice job with Donna, Mayfly, and Etta, so it works out.

Wonder Woman 80 Donna Milton Math
Based on his math skills, he's obviously an attorney.

All in all, this is a big step-up from the previous issue, and is pretty effective as a fill-in. The only head-scratcher that compares to the multitude of head-scratchers from the previous issue is how Mayfly, who should've been a fine red mist, managed to carve a name in her arm before dying. Also, for the record, I hate cute-sy credits like the ones in this issue, so I kept them as they appeared. That's why there's "head nurse" and "chief surgeon" credits.

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