Review: Wonder Woman #781
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan and Vita Ayala
Art: Marcio Takara and Skylar Partridge
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Diana is back on Earth, with so many things to do! Dr. Psycho is back with a new plot, and Diana wants to return Gram to Sigfried’s resting place. What will be neglected?
There are many elements that go into a great comic book. With mainstream superhero comics, there is a limitation on what one can do. That’s not to say sometimes there aren’t innovative elements that move the medium forward. However, it can sometimes be more challenging to be great within the accepted limitations. Wonder Woman #781 is just that type of book. This is not to decry the issue as lacking, but rather as a model for writing great mainstream superhero comics. Very often one thinks of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans or Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, and Steve Lightle’s Legion of Super-Heroes from the ’80s as examples.
If there was anything about “Afterworlds” that made you feel uncomfortable, I’m sure Diana was more uncomfortable being dead. There’s a real sense in this issue that she was in a completely different place (literally!) when she was dead. Wonder Woman #781 depicts Diana exactly as we expect her to be, but also as a real person with a genuine personality. Between her conversations with Etta Candy and Deadman, Diana’s character is perfectly conveyed. If Etta is her old best friend, it makes obvious sense that Deadman would be her new best friend. Bonding over their shared experience with death is perfect.
The issue also follows up on Diana’s encounter with Dr. Psycho in Asgard and sets up an interesting new confrontation with Diana. You will recognize a real-world analog here and it is masterful. It is not only interesting, but it fits with one of the long-standing themes of Diana’s character- feminism. The elephant in the room is Diana trying to convince herself she’s not avoiding Steve Trevor. We know there’s an enormous history between the two, and we are teased wonderfully. Diana’s concerns feel genuine and draw the reader in. It’s authentic, believable, and moving.
The art is perfect in communicating all the emotions the characters are feeling and making the non-action scenes just as exciting. Tanaka is a fine addition to the artists who have been working on the run. Tamara Bonvillain shows why she’s one of the best as she creates the sunset at Steve’s place and makes it warm and inviting and sets the scene beautifully preparing the reader for the sudden shift in tone as the scene progresses.
The second feature in Wonder Woman #781 is “Road to the Trial of the Amazons.” Much like what was done in Detective Comics, this storyline is leading into an upcoming mini-series. This first chapter begins in a startling fashion that ends up satisfying. The reader ends up feeling that he or she is also joining the Bana-Mighdall along with the former Mabel Jefferson. Skylar Partridge does a particularly good job of depicting each of the characters as individuals. She seems to have made a significant effort into making each Amazon and potential Amazon distinct. It’s hard not to feel invested after this first chapter. And, with the monsters at the gate, well…you won’t want to miss the next issue.
It’s hard to imagine any negative one could find in this issue- a printing error? An old-school spinner rack crease?
Wonder Woman is back on Earth and Wonder Woman #781 is quite literally a perfect superhero comic. The villain plot is interesting and linked to a relevant theme both in the story and in the real world. The issue is character-focused and you care about the relationships. The various story threads fit into the larger story that’s being told. There’s even a mysterious cliffhanger that dares you not come back for more. Shame on you if you’re not reading Wonder Woman!