Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary 100pp Super-Spectacular #1 review

Marking eight decades of DC’s Amazing Amazon, here’s another giant anthology. Is it a thing of wonder?

Michael W Conrad and Becky Cloonan begin with a character piece, as Steve Trevor shows Etta Candy a film he’s put together in tribute to the recently departed Diana. It includes tribute comments from fellow heroes, daring rescues, supervillains… and an excruciating conversation with Lois Lane about authenticity. Honestly, it’s pure Paltrow meets Markle Hollywood nonsense. Steve’s portrait is pretty shallow, painting Diana as a total paragon, and perhaps that’s the point. We’re promised a continuation in the next issue of Wonder Woman… maybe we’ll meet the new girlfriend we’re told the supposedly devastated Steve has. I trust Conrad and Cloonan, they’ve been doing superb work on Diana’s monthly series. Jim Cheung seems to put more effort into drawing a nice Diana than he does Steve and Etta… mind, the current Etta model is such a bizarre reimagining of a classic character, who’d want to draw her?

A typically pretty Young Diana story by writer Jordie Bellaire and artist Paulina Ganucheau has the tween Amazon chat to Nubia at Doom’s Doorway about weighty expectations. I was counting the panels until someone mentioned ‘my truth’ and yup, there it is. I’m so sick of this modern cliche – there’s the truth, and then there’s opinion. Feelings. Interpretations. But Diana should be concerned with The Truth, not versions of it.

As I start to suspect this issue is going to be all earnest messages, Amy Reeder comes through with Fresh Catch, which spreads the Gospel of Diana, but with humour and heart. It’s Golden Age-inspired joy with an authentic Etta Candy and her Holliday Girls helping Diana out of a tricky situation. Reeder’s words and pictures pop off the page, while Marissa Louise ensure the bad guys are suitably colourless compared to the good gals.

Diana’s wisdom is a quality sorely neglected down the decades – well, it’s tough to write. Mark Waid manages it in a story spanning the Bronze and Silver Ages, pencilled by the incomparable José Luis García-López, working with inker Joe Prado. Fellow JLA-ers are constantly asking Diana for advice, what’s a Wonder Woman to do? Expect delight.

Writer Tom King and artist Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner take us back to Wonder Woman’s Mod era as Lois Lane sets Diana up with her hopeless workmate Clark Kent. King captures the vibe of the time while giving us a delightfully gauche Clark and super-hip Di. Shaner channels his inner Mike Sekowsky for Di, while nodding towards DC’s Romance books of the time. Plus, the final panel of the perfect page below gives us a fantastic facial expression for Clark that was never on Curt Swan’s famous style sheet.

All this, and not one, but two classic Lois Lane cover references in a single panel.

It’s the zillionth battle between Diana and the Cheetah, and this time a teacher and her pupils are caught in the middle. Will Barbara Minerva help save everyone? Diana takes a gamble… With so many Wonder Woman anthology comics over the last decade, it feels like we’ve seen this tale a fair few times, but writer Vita Ayala’s script is peppy, while Isaac Goodhart draws a stunning Diana.

And did you notice that ‘KRAK!’? That’s the unmistakable hand of veteran letterer John Workman.

There’s another Golden Age callback, from writer Steve Orlando, as Diana, Hippolyta, Artemis and Nubia discuss the coming annual invasion attempt from Saturn. Will the experience of Hippolyta and Artemis help Diana – who in this continuity has never dealt with the pesky Saturnians? Daft as their names are, it’s enjoyable to see Saturnette and Mephisto Saturno again, and it’s always good to have some Laura Braga art.

The mythological roots of Diana chime in an encounter with Demeter. There’s action, a moral quandary and even a bit of philosophy in a sharp short from writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Marcia Takara.

Finally, it’s the far future and the people of Earth are looking to the stars. While Diana is sad that people have worn out the world, she’s inspired by their optimism, their ability to look outward. Writer G Willow Wilson and artist Meghan Hetrick provide a nice message of hope to go out on.

All the colourists and letterer do fine work, while editors Brittany Holzherr, Bixie Mathieu and Mike Cotton deserve credit for putting together a better-than-average celebration. It even includes a handful of pin-ups, with standouts by Nick Robles, David Marquez, and Nicola Scott & Annette Kwok.

Hitting many periods of Wonder Woman history, this special is, overall, a pretty great read. It has a couple of standout stories, plenty of good reads and no real clunkers. Plus, a great cover by illustrator Yanick Paquette and colourist Nathan Fairbairn. That’s my Diana!

6 thoughts on “Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary 100pp Super-Spectacular #1 review

  1. I loved Goodhart’s art too! I think he was the only one to equal Cheung and Lopez’s. Reeder tried something new and I respect her constant growth, I don’t think I’ll warm up to this style.

    The only story I liked was Waid’s. I’m not a fan of everything Waid does (I hated his Avengers run but I’m usually not that negative reading a book of his) but the man really thinks about the world he’s writing about. I believe he created the Speed Force and I recently learned it was him that came up with the idea that Reed made the Fantastic Four celebs like he did because he wanted to give his friends a cool life in exchange for the one his actions deprived them of!

    And when did Nubia stop being Diana’s sister or at least peer? I don’t normally read Wonder Woman stories so I guess I missed that. Also, I wish they had stuck with Amazons going on high sea booty calls to increase their population. Delete the murdering the baby daddies and it’s perffect!

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    1. I really don’t get the high esteem in which Cheung’s art is held, as I say, some pages are great… but others just don’t hold up. I prefer him with an inker. And yes, Waid was the Speed Force’s dad, and did come up with the FF business – I referred to that in my FF #35 review, which you were kind enough to read! And this issue is the first time I’ve seen Nubia not be Diana’s sister. I’d just ignore it!

      You need an invite to an Amazon shindig!

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  2. A good issue, though I was sad that none of the modern writers I have most enjoyed on Wonder Woman make an appearance. Bridges may have been too deeply burned with Greg Rucka, but Gail Simone? And Phil Jimenez, on words or art? Ah well, at least the Azzarrello era is equally neglected.

    A handful of quick thoughts adding up to an overlong comment (sorry):

    I really like Mark Waid’s take on classic characters, and honestly, I spent my entire ten bucks to get new Garcia-Lopez art. Money very well spent.

    On the first story: I only rejoined the monthly with Cloonan/Conrad’s run. Did Diana die somewhere? In that 10-issue run so far, there has been no recap of how she died. Is death in the DCU so short-term it doesn’t even need to be shown on camera?

    The King/Shaner story is fun. Am I just a jerk for stopping cold at the idea that Lois set up a blind date but didn’t tell either Clark or Diana the name of the person they’d be meeting? “Just look for a square with a bouquet” and “Just look for a six-foot-tall knockout”? It’s preposterous writing to create an easy moment of inexplicable surprise.

    Goodhart’s art was great. Interestingly, to me it has a distinct Mike Deodato flavor, without being too, you know, Deodato-y.

    I’m interested in the upcoming Nubia series. In the Young Diana story, she’s the “champion,” and that means she gets solitary guard duty? Long enough to master an instrument, with no instructor, not even a YouTube video? And later, she boasts of saving higher dimensions. Looking forward to this new take …

    Fun note: On the standard cover, as you’ve included here, I believe that’s the artist, Yannick Paquet, between Diana and Yara.

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    1. I was also disappointed by the lack of Gail Simone and Phil Jimenez, I had a wee whinge when the contents were announces. It’s a huge oversight if they weren’t even asked… and I cannot imagine they’d not be here, if asked.

      Diana died in the Dark Knights Metal series, it was a gentle affair, she wandered off with some creator gods, or something. It didn’t feel serious. And it looks like she’s just decided she’s alive again, in the last issue. Ah, comics.

      Weren’t blind dates a big thing in the late Sixties/early Seventies? I saw a tweet from Tom King yesterday mentioning that the same set-up occurred in World’s Finest #204, when Diana and Clark were paired by a computer dating service. I have that in a cupboard somewhere, I should have remembered. How embarrassing!

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