Spotlight Sunday 2.18.18
One last-minute vote in the final Weigh In broke a tie, and so there are spoilers ahead for…
Wonder Woman #40
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino, Carmen Carnero
Cover: Jesús Merino
If I’m honest, I was hoping that it would remain a tie, in which case I would have opted to write about Action Comics #997, in part because the final issue of Wonder Woman/Conan comes out next week, and I’ll be writing about that one way or the other, as it’s my intention to wrap up the storylines that fell under the Bonus.
Mostly, though, I just didn’t want to write about this issue because I did not particularly like it or the storyline it provides the conclusion to, and it makes me mad.
I could forgive it for just being mediocre, but it does such a disservice to some beloved characters that it actively makes me angry. The latter point would be something I could accept if it weren’t for the former. A good story that treats characters for whom I have a fondness might be forgivable, but a mediocre one? Feh.
This storyline features the reintroduction – and “Rebirth” debut – of some old friends of Diana, and an old enemy, the Silver Swan.
The original Silver Swan was a ballerina who, while tremendously skilled, was overlooked and less successful than she felt she ought to have been because she was unattractive. She strikes a bargain with the god Mars (at that time, Wonder Woman largely went with the Roman names of the gods rather than the Greek), who transforms her from the ugly duckling she had been into a beautiful – and deadly – swan, in exchange for her vow to destroy his enemy Wonder Woman.
Years later, in the new continuity that arose after Crisis on Infinite Earths, a new version of the Silver Swan debuted. This one was a woman who had been born deformed as a result of being exposed to radiation while in the womb, and as a young woman fell under the sway of an unscrupulous scientist who performed experiments on her that transformed her from…well, you get the idea. Eventually, she saw through the man who was manipulating her and she gave up her villainous ways.
The third Silver Swan, and now also the fourth, was a young woman named Vanessa Kapatelis.
While Vanessa was a young teen, her mother, Julia, met a wondrous young woman named Diana, whom the rest of the world would soon come to know as Wonder Woman.
As an expert in the history and culture of ancient Greece, Julia served as something of a mentor to Diana and a bridge connecting her from the world she knew to this strange new world she found herself in. Soon, Diana became something of a member of the family with Vanessa – or Nessie – filling the role of younger sister, and both characters were important parts of Diana’s adventures during the iconic post-Crisis run of the series launched by the legendary George Perez.
But being friends with Wonder Woman isn’t exactly an easy life, and Diana’s various enemies exploited the cracks in Nessie’s psyche, and eventually, through cybernetic implants, Vanessa became the new Silver Swan.
Fortunately, Nessie eventually recovered, and her cybernetic implants were removed and she was able to get on with her life.
Until now, anyway.
In the “Rebirth” continuity, Diana never had that relationship with the Kapatelis family, and neither Julia nor Vanessa have been a part of Diana’s life up until now.
The new versions were introduced at the start of this arc, with Vanessa being a casualty of a battle between Diana and a supervillain called Major Disaster. As a result of the conflict, Vanessa is left unable to walk. While Vanessa is hospitalized, Diana visits her regularly, and the two become best friends – at least, as far as Vanessa is concerned. Being stuck in a hospital bed leads Vanessa to resume her once-abandoned interest in art – she had set the dream of being an artist aside to pursue her dream of being a dancer – and she illustrates the adventures of a fictionalized version of herself called the Silver Swan, who works as Diana’s partner.
Some doctors approach her to discuss a possible treatment involving nanotechnology that might allow her to walk again, and, in time, the treatment shows signs of success. However, while she is overjoyed to be able to walk again, however haltingly, Vanessa is considerably less happy about how infrequent Diana’s visits have become.
All of this happened during the previous storyline, in which Diana was preoccupied with her quest to find her brother, and then with fighting Darkseid, so it wasn’t a matter of just blowing Vanessa off, but Vanessa doesn’t see it that way, and after her mother dies in a car accident, her mental state worsens.
She becomes enraged after seeing a news report about Diana saving a local family, and argle-bargle nanites, creates some kind of cybernetic armor for herself, based on her original Silver Swan designs.
She then proceeds to viciously murder the family Diana saved to get Diana’s attention. They fight for a couple of issues. Jason, who’s finding that he doesn’t quite know how he fits into his sister’s life – he elicits a lot of “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” responses from Diana – joins the fray, and gets his throat slit by one of the Silver Swan’s razor-sharp wings for his trouble. Enraged, Diana cuts off Vanessa’s wing, there’s some kind of explosion as Vanessa screams, and all three tumble out of the sky, which is where this issue picks up.
Fortunately(?), Jason heals quickly, but the Silver Swan is nowhere to be found. Not able to think of where else she might be, Diana and Jason head to the hospital where Vanessa had been a patient, only to discover that Vanessa murdered everyone in the hospital, and used the nanites in her blood to hack into the computer network and erase every record of herself.
Jason heads home, only to be attacked by the Silver Swan. He’s saved by the timely arrival of Diana, who realized that if Vanessa wasn’t attacking her, Jason would be the most obvious target.
Diana and the Silver Swan – who becomes enraged every time Diana calls her Vanessa, insisting that Vanessa is dead – fight, Diana keeps her screaming so that she’ll be out of breath as she forces her into the ocean and holds her there until she passes out, at which point she reverts to her non-cybernetic form.
We get a wrap-up letting us know that Vanessa is in a coma from which she might never recover, and the doctors intend to study her so that they can study the nanites in order to help people in a way that doesn’t transform them into homicidal maniacs. And then one of the doctors, who, as soon as he said that he specializes in the mind, led me to say, “That’s Dr. Psycho,” looks at the specially-designed glass tube that Vanessa is in, and his non-matching reflection reveals that, yep, he’s Dr. Psycho.
It ends with Jason leaving a note for Diana telling her that he needs to take some time to find himself or whatever, but before he can actually leave, some weird energy blob thing envelops him and he disappears.
(I say don’t bother trying to find him again, Diana.)
Oh, and also in this issue Steve and the Oddfellows spend some time fighting the Female Furies as they go around investigating some of the places that Darkseid and Grail had been to because argle-bargle Apokoliptian energy something-something.
Like I said, it was a mediocre storyline, and it was stretched pretty thin across multiple issues, with the other sub-plots about Jason being a screw-up and Steve and his old pals going off on adventures and realizing that they’d be much better off if Diana were with them, not really adding enough to it to make it interesting.
And, like I also said, it made me mad. While there is precedent for Vanessa becoming a villain, it was originally a long, slow, process, and she was someone a longtime reader would be invested in and care about. Here, we get one issue to learn who this familiar but not-familiar character is and watch her quickly descend into villainy. And such gruesome, over-the-top villainy at that.
Granted, his presence at the end may indicate that Dr. Psycho had something to do with it, but his influence alone, in the old continuity, wasn’t enough to push Vanessa over the edge. The old Vanessa was a great POV character, one we could relate to as she struggled with her conflicting feelings about this goddess who had come flying into her life.
This Vanessa…I mean, if it had been some entirely new character for whom I had no pre-existing affection it would bother me less, and I could judge the story a little more impartially on its own merits.
What really bothered me, though, was the treatment of Julia. She played such a vital role in the comic in the past, but this version barely contributed anything, and seemingly lived only for the purpose of dying.
And she didn’t even look like Julia, for crying out loud.
Of course, the cherry-shaped turd on top of the whole shit sundae is Jason. He’s not interesting, and I don’t care about him, and he shouldn’t even exist. I’m not at all a fan of Diana having a father in the first place, so I especially don’t like the idea of her having a brother.
At least when Azzarello introduced the idea of her being Zeus’s daughter back during the “New 52,” he used it to tell compelling stories and made effective use of the dynamics of family ties.
Ultimately, though, the family I prefer for Diana is the one she made for herself back in the Perez era, a family that was destroyed here before it could ever form.
The art is…fine. Not good enough to make up for the story, but…fine.
That’s about the only nice thing I can say here.
(It probably would have been better if I’d written about Action.)
WONDER WOMAN BY GEORGE PEREZ OMNIBUS VOL. 1 – There’s a reason that, during the “Special Thanks” portion of the credits for the Wonder Woman movie that George Perez’s name came first and was set a bit apart from the names of the others whose work the movie drew from. Buy this, and find out why.
WONDER WOMAN, VOL. 1: BLOOD (THE NEW 52) – I have problems with a lot of the core concepts introduced during this run, but if you’re able to get past them, the actual story is good; this was one of the few really good books to come out of the initial run of the New 52. Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, has kept a secret from her daughter all her life–and when Wonder Woman learns who her father is, her life will shatter like brittle clay. The only one more shocked than Diana by this revelation? Bloodthirsty Hera–so why is her sinister daughter, Strife, so eager for the truth to be told? Superstar writer Brian Azzarello creates a new direction for one of DC’s best-known heroes, with spectacular art by Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins!
WONDER WOMAN: THE REBIRTH DELUXE EDITION BOOK 1 – An incredible collection that marks the long-awaited return of legendary WONDER WOMAN writer Greg Rucka, featuring stunning art from Nicola Scott (EARTH 2) and Liam Sharp (GEARS OF WAR)—WONDER WOMAN: THE REBIRTH DELUXE EDITION BOOK 1 collects stories from one of the breakout hits of DC Rebirth. This series is a perfect jumping-on point into the world of Wonder Woman and the first hardcover collection of the new Rebirth series!
There is a lot I could say about Deadman #4, but a lot of it would be a retread of the things I’ve said about 1-3 in terms of just how bizarre the whole thing is, and how Neal Adams should stick to art. I could tell you about the plot – such as it is – that involves Boston’s dad somehow knowing that Cleveland was possessed by the spirit of his dead brother and thus fed a story filed with lies to Deadman (including that Boston’s murder was a warning to the Brand’s to stop trying to find Nanda Parbat) in an effort to trick him into going to Nanda Parbat, and then someone who Deadman thinks is Rama Kushna trying to force him to go after he refuses, and then him deciding to do it anyway because he just wanted to prove that Rama was willing to force him to go, or the bit after that when Boston leaves and Ra’s al Ghul shows up to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Brand and it turns out that the missing Brand brother Aaron is with him, and Etrigan tries to rescue him, but Aaron is there willingly and somehow manages to beat up the Demon.
But the main takeaway from the whole thing is that Ra’s al Ghul says – sigh – this:
“You are being sarcastic. Sarcasm takes away airline upgrade points.”
Because yeah, that’s totally something that he would say. Obviously.
I know a certain someone was pulling for Barbarella #3 this week, but it came up short. Fortunately, not all is lost, as this end-of-the-first-arc issue qualifies for a Bonus.
When we last saw our heroine, she’d been shot and left for dead on the floor, but while gravely injured, she’s alive enough to take out Pendrum’s robot assistant, and make use of the body loom in the room to repair the damage from her injury. As a bonus, the body loom changes her clothes back to her original outfit, and fully restores her original body configuration, reinstalling her kajigger in the process.
In a clever little sequence, Barbarella is able to reconstruct what happened while she was lying on the floor as the little talking fox introduced last issue repeats back much of what it heard Pendrum and Quire discussing
It turns out that the doomsday weapon isn’t so much a means of killing the Parosians as it is a means of mandatory, extinction-level assisted suicide that uses their own piety as its means of bringing their race to an end. Given that the body looms remove everyone’s sexual organs, reproduction happens artificially, in orbiting factories that manufacture childen. Pendrum’s plan is to shoot those down, and then introduce a virus – contained in the component that Quire unwittingly brought him – that will destroy the body looms, preventing the Parosians from reconfiguring their bodies and continuing their race the old-fashioned way.
Pendrum succeeds in the first part, but Barbarella prevents the second. Still, the end result is much the same as it would have been had the plan succeeded, and the war between Terra and Parosia comes to an end, as the Parosians use their still-functioning body looms to restore their kajiggers and whatchacalits and get to work on making a new generation, opting to make love, not war.
And that does it for this, the final reader-selected Spotlight Sunday. I can’t say that the Weigh In is gone forever, because who knows what might happen? After all, we’re talking comics here, and, in a refutation of half of the old saying, not even Bucky stayed dead.
Still, next week will see the beginning of a new era for the Spotlight, and I hope that those of you who have been stopping by will continue to do so, and that those of you who haven’t will start.
And thanks to those of you who voted in the Weigh In. I’ve appreciated it…even when it’s led to me having to write about comics that make me mad.
And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon! (If you do, we may be able to revive the Weigh In.)