On a quest for a magic key, Diana has allowed herself to be swallowed by Nidhogg, the snake that surrounds the World Tree of Norse mythology. She’s confident she can find the key and get out again, but hasn’t factored in the fact that when it comes to stomach acid, the bile of a mystical serpent takes some beating.
The surprising positive that emerges before Diana wakes – she’s in Asgard, where death is a phase – is that an old friend is so frustrated by her unwillingness to head to the ‘right’ Afterlife, they help out.
Diana wakes, escapes the proverbial belly of the beast, and is soon back with the Norse warriors who spend their days fighting and their nights drinking.
Diana’s Valhalla vacation continues in fine style in Wonder Woman #772, with page after gorgeous page of drama, mystery and humour. Diana’s memories of her earlier life begin to return, the identity of the Amazing Amazon’s shadowy friend is revealed – called it! – and there’s the DC debut of Norse sea god Njord, who has the most impressive hairdo this side of Marvel’s Medusa.
We also meet that shadow self from the cover, a delightfully leering dark Diana.
And, if you look closely, you’ll see that someone is stalking Wonder Woman and her squirrel pal Ratatosk.
It’s hard not to gush about the Afterworlds story by Michael W Conrad and Becky Cloonan, of which this is part 3. It’s a massively enjoyable romp replete with colourful characters, and seeing Diana plunged tiara-first into a mythology other than the familiar Graeco-Roman realm is hugely refreshing. And while Diana is mostly having a whale of a time, smiling broadly in the face of death after death after death, there is an element of self-discovery to her journey.
The artwork by Travis Moore is, again, beautiful – not pretty pretty, there’s plenty of gnarliness where called for – but it’s certainly a feast for the eyes (singular, if you’re Odin). The Asgardian creatures are real horrors, the Norse warriors terribly manly, and Thor – oh, how I love DC’s Thor. I wonder if I can persuade the creative team to pitch a mini, it’s not like Marvel owns the guy!
Tamra Bonvillain’s wintry palette makes the snow scenes and enchanted forest extremely enticing, it’s Diana meets Narnia, while the spooky reds for the encounter with ‘the God Queen of Asgard’, set against her blue skin, is seriously unsettling. And when Diana makes an entrance like no other, the greens are suitably sickening.
Pat Brosseau’s lettering is a tour de force of fantastic fonts, never showy for the sake of it, always sitting sympathetically against the art.
This chapter ends on a note of, appropriately enough, wonder – I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next.
The back-up strip, Young Diana, has really grown on me; suddenly I’m seeing the massive tonal shift between lead story and support act as a feature, not a bug. The tween princess, like the older Diana up front, is on a quest, to find a book of knowledge that’s gone missing from the library of Themyscira. And that involves…
…megaladons! Everything is better with megalodons. And again, there’s an element of learning for Diana, courtesy of writer Jordie Bellaire, who keeps things easy breezy.
Paulina Ganucheau’s storybook-style art is perfect for the fantasy setting, I especially love the Mykonos vibe to the architecture and, well, megalodons! Kendall Goode’s colours add an extra layer of loveliness, while Becca Carey has fun with a scene of Diana rambling away, giving us the Incredible Shrinking Font.
The chapter ends of a quiet cliffhanger, one that has me looking forward to seeing what comes next. With luck, the mystery manipulator, the person keeping secrets, won’t – for once – be the usual suspect.
I haven’t mentioned the cover by Moore and Bonvillain but what is there to say – just look at that beauty!
I hope the current Wonder Woman creative team sticks around awhile, this is the most fun Diana has been in years. Anyone for an Annual?