Review: Wonder Girl #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Joelle Jones
Art: Joelle Jones
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Yara Flor returns to her native Brazil to learn about her heritage. It doesn’t take long for her to show that she has the makings of a hero, but her journey will not be easy.
If you’ve read her Catwoman, you know that Joelle Jones is an excellent artist and storyteller. Jones had a fairly difficult assignment with that book, charged with chronicling Selina’s adventures while not treading on Tom King’s Bat-Epic that was running concurrently in Batman. And, while most of fandom was crushed when that wedding didn’t take place in the much teased and subsequently notorious Batman #50, Jones made us care about Selina on her own terms and helped us almost forget her relationship with the Bat- even if Selina didn’t. It should come as no surprise that Jones now has the daunting task to lead us through the origins and history of person who may have already become the future Wonder Woman.
The “Future State” event that ran in January and February introduced future versions of familiar characters and attempted to move the DC Universe forward in time. It’s clear that despite what they told us, this is the remnants of 5G, Dan Didio’s brainchild that was supposedly abandoned. Now branded “Infinite Frontier,” DC continues to give us a new generation of DC characters, and not only in the “Future State” branded which has continued in some new titles (The Next Batman, Future State: Gotham), but also in some of the regular continuity titles like Superman and Action Comics which appear to be transitioning Jon Kent into his father’s role. One need look no further than the solicitation for July’s new Superman title. DC claims that “Future State” is only a possible future for the DCU, but they are putting a lot of effort into the characters introduced in “Future State.”
This brings us to Yara Flor, our protagonist. Let’s pretend you don’t know anything about “Future State” or her future role as Wonder Woman. For Wonder Girl #1 to really work, Jones has to make Yara interesting and entertaining one its own merits without relying on the promise of what’s to come. That promise may be the draw, but for it to work it can’t rely on that. And, that’s exactly what Jones and colorist Jordie Bellaire do.
Yara is a young woman who’s looking to discover a past that’s been hidden from her. She knows she’s Brazilian, and she has hazy memories of what precipitated her immigration to the United States when she was very little, but it’s out of context. The reader of course gets a little more than Yara does, but not much. The important thing here is that Jones focuses on character and hooks the reader with that. It’s not what may happen that’s interesting, it’s this young woman’s journey of discovery. It’s this young woman stepping out on her own as an adult (yes, she’s 18 and an adult despite the title being Wonder Girl!). This is an awesome opportunity for young women to find a relatable character, and for older readers to perhaps see their children in Yara.
Yara shows her innate heroism, but she also sounds like a real young woman in search of her identity and past. She also interacts with the others on the tour bus in a way that sets her apart from the average? person her age. Her maturity shines through as she isn’t interested in the same things the other young people are.
Additionally, Wonder Girl #1 doesn’t rely on pre-existing Amazonian mythos to drive the story. Sure, there’s a connection, but with Yara Flor, we are getting Amazons that are essentially new and unexplored. The provides the promise of some great world building as Jones reveals Yara’s past and Brazilian Amazonian culture.
Jones gets it done on the art chores as well. Yara is clearly a young character. She’s drawn like a real person of her age. It’s refreshing to see that in a medium that is known for its hyper-idealized depictions. Bellaire does a fantastic job on the colors as well, choosing interesting hues especially in the opening sequence as Yara recalls her hazy memories of her time in Brazil as a child. Bellaire also does a nice job in differentiating the different Amazon tribes with unique color schemes.
My favorite part is the sequence that closes out Wonder Girl #1. It hits all the right notes in multiple ways. Firstly, it takes what is a basic story and elevates it to the next level, especially for those readers who have no real familiarity with Yara and her destiny. Secondly, Jones’ pacing of the last few pages make what should be a fairly quick event feel drawn out in order to heighten the tension and anticipation. The musical notes are a brilliant touch, both visually and storywise. It’s unclear at this point what they mean, but they deepen the mystery of what’s happening and they add an auditory element to a visual experience.
Lastly, when Yara comes face to face with the being that has lassoed her, it’s clear that things have just gotten real. This is no longer a sightseeing trip, or even a visit to a home she’s never known, it’s something way beyond any of that. The colors again play a role as Bellaire perfectly transitions her descent from above the water to deep in the sea. It’s a beautiful sequence in all aspects. Oh, and of course Yara’s mysterious abductor adds a whole new level to the mystery.
Finally, all should be commended for consulting Brazilian comic professionals Bilquis Evely and Joe Prado. One assumes this was to bring a sense of authenticity to the look of Brazil in the comic. Evely also does the variant cover for the issue so it’s going to be tough to decide which one to get if you don’t get both.
Positives Bonus Section
This wasn’t a book I had intended to pick up or read (see Negatives below). However, there are things that happen in life that seem to come together, things that have a relationship. The name of the bus driver Yara meets in Wonder Girl #1 is Joao. Now, I’m not familiar with many Brazilian/Portuguese names. However, when I read this name I immediately thought of someone- Joao Gilberto, the legendary Brazilian Bossa Nova musician. He’s probably most known in the United States for his teaming with Saxophonist Stan Getz in the sixties and their seminal Jazz album, Getz/Gilberto. What’s so amazing about this is that this is the album my daughter has played in the car the past two weeks on the way to school. Sometimes there are confluences that are unavoidable. It’s obvious Wonder Girl #1 is a comic I was SUPPOSED to read. Now, if Yara ends up hailing from Ipanema…!
There are times when comic companies attempt to tell readers what they should like, or naming a “breakout” character before the character’s hit the printed page. “Future State” didn’t do a good job of giving the reader real reasons to check out the books other than the fact that there were no other DC Comics published those months. For the most part, the characters seemed to come out of nowhere, with DC saying “You should like this…because…!” That’s not to say there weren’t some good issues during “Future State,” but for the most part if felt like an interruption of what was transpiring in the monthly comics. It may have been a disservice to Yara Flor to introduce her this way instead of allowing her character to built from the ground up and then launch her into her own series instead of being told- “like this!”
This stems from what seems to be DC ignoring that other generation of heroes- Conner, Cassie, Tim and Bart. Why aren’t they the future in “Future State?” There’s a missing step from the present day to “Future State.” DC would’ve done well to incorporate this into the road to “Future State.” It would be nice to see how Cassie’s story relates to Yara’s if it does at all.
Wonder Girl #1 is a great start to a new series. There’s so much potential in the character of Yara Flor and the Brazilian Amazons. This issue is just the start, but Jones and Bellaire indicate that the are capable of exploring Yara’s story. There’s so much in this issue in both content and execution, and it all goes back to character and world building. Go ahead and prepare to plot down your fiver for this book. It doesn’t matter if you have any interest in Wonder Woman or not, Yara Flor is her own woman and there’s an interesting and exciting journey to be found here.