Now here’s a cover that’s hard to resist. After years of Wonder Woman, warrior princess, here’s Diana, Disney princess.
Mind, she’s very much a modern Daughter of Walt, standing up to bullies when she finds herself in Fairyland. It’s the latest stop in a tour of mystical realms that has so far seen Diana have a brilliant time in Valhalla – she’s currently kinda sorta dead – and a less fun stopover in Olympus. The visit to the latter saw her learn of Janus, whose female aspect has split off from the immortal watchman and embarked on a campaign of godslaying. I don’t remember the details but I’m very much enjoying the ride.
This issue couldn’t have an artist more fitting to a story full of faes – Jill Thompson, whose fantasy art has gained quite a following since she was Wonder Woman’s regular illustrator in the early Nineties. She went on to spend time on Sandman and it’s that Vertigo vibe she works here.
Diana and talking squirrel pal Ratatosk find themselves in the realm of Elfhame, only for the Norse messenger to fall foul of local delicacies.
Worse, they’re soon captured after Diana is accused of killing the recently departed Queen. While Ratatosk is spirited away to be locked up with stolen Earth children, Diana is – of course – tucked away in a tower. But she does have someone watching over her. Or maybe under.
The puddle being akin to a magic mirror, Deadman is soon usurped by an evil queen.
Diana is unperturbed, though she is momentarily shocked when a new friend reappears unexpectedly.
Well, I never expected to see Siegfried again, following his adventures with Diana in Valhalla, but here he is, summoned by Ratatosk and looking quite the Prince Charming. But that’s Wonder Woman as written by Michael W Conrad and Becky Cloonan for you – full of surprises. By the end of this issue Diana has defeated her various fairy foes and found herself in a very different – but familiar – fantastic realm.
The characterisation of Diana is terrific. There’s no angst about being dead – hey, she’s been there, done that, back in the John Byrne days – instead, Diana leads with her wit. This is the first time Diana has had a sense of fun since the Gail Simone days, 15 years ago or something. She’s smart, knowing the rules of fairyland before Deadman tells her, and adapts quickly when her latest magic lasso, borrowed from the valkyries, begins chatting to her.
Is Diana worried about forcing her will on people? If memory serves, for years Diana’s lasso has only been used to get people to tell the truth/look into themselves. But we’re in the New Frontier era – it’s even referred to in the dialogue – so she should have a sense that she’s been doing this since the Forties. And even if not, today’s Diana is first and foremost a warrior, used to forcing her will on people with violence – a rope is at least more gentle.
It’s excellent to see Siggy again, he has that Errol Flynn/Fandral the Dashing quality. And I’m finally starting to trust Ratatosk – his reaction to being a human was loads of fun, with Thompson’s bawling bairn just perfect.
Plus, I love that the fairy folk ‘sound’ British, with phrases such as ‘cack-handed’ and ‘arse over tit’. OK, a sprite was cut off before he could finish the phrase, but we know where he was going.
Said titchy fairies really do look great as depicted by Thompson, who’s working in full colour. And the bigger folk look fine too.
Gwyn really does look to have stepped straight out of Vertigo’s Books of Faerie, I wonder if Morpheus or Tim Hunter are lurking among the trees.
And I love that when we get a peek at Diana’s feet she’s wearing her Bronze Age boots… there you go, a New Frontier nod!
The last couple of pages are drawn by Cloonan herself, with colours by Jordie Bellaire, and they do a fair approximation of Thompson’s style.
As do Travis Moore and Tamra Bonvillain, whose visuals kicked off the current storyline, on the glorious cover. How cute are the evil fairies, and well done to DC’s production department for getting one to perch on the logo.
Letterer Pat Brossseau excels, with lovely combinations of colours and fonts. I’m particularly pleased to see some word balloons have colourful backgrounds – I’ve liked this technique since its use in the earliest days of Marvel Comics, when people would speak in yellow or pink or blue bubbles. Unless there’s a story reason to keep things dour, I’m all for brightening up the pages.
Next issue looks to be another winner, with a different kind of fish out of water tale to those we’ve had of late. And given that while this book is listed as being published monthly, it still seems to be on the recent fortnightly schedule, I won’t have long to wait.
This issue also features another entertaining, nice-looking Adventures of Young Diana chapter, with more secrets coming out and the ultimate one being… one we’ve seen in Wonder Woman many times. Were I to pose the question: ‘Who has been keeping secrets from the Amazons?’, I think you’d get there pretty quickly. Still, since this strip from Jordie Bellaire – here writing – artist Paulina Ganucheau, colourist Kendall Goode and letterer Becca Carey looks to have been created for the younger market, readers of a collected edition won’t have been here. At least not so often.
This is proving to be one of the best Wonder Woman runs in quite a while, I hope you’re enjoying it too.