Wonder Woman is queen of the Amazons, on-call with the Justice League, and the latest God of War all at the same time in the series’ seventh volume. As the subtitle suggests, she is torn between these roles over the course of the story. War-Torn represents the sheer amount of potential contained in Wonder Woman’s New 52 incarnation since the end of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s solid run of the character. The status quo going into the book has Diana of Themyscira leaning into multiple leadership roles at once. Do wife-and-husband creative team Meredith and David Finch (with colors by Sonia Oback) have what it takes to rein in all these different threads?
In aggregate, yes. Considering the story as a whole, I liked how Wonder Woman’s role throughout the book changed depending on what others needed her to be and how her priorities were always linked to the consequences of her actions. A dormant alien race sleeping underground is shaken back to life after a villain Wonder Woman threw deep into the earth in a previous book rampages through the Earth’s mantle. Themyscira’s queen, Hippolyta, is dead, making Wonder Woman the Amazons’ new leader at a time when men are being allowed on the island for the first time, causing all kinds of tension and insurrection in the ranks: warbirds hone in on the island, pets of Ares the God of War acting out of loyalty to their new master—you guessed it, Wonder Woman. Plus, a challenger to the throne is magically born. How many fires does one woman have to put out anyway?
How Wonder Woman handles these challenges will likely draw as much confusion as admiration from readers. When Wonder Woman sees Swamp Thing at the heart of a mass disappearance, she assumes he’s a villain and kicks him in the head, shown in a particularly beautiful two-page spread from David (he employs a fair number of impressive splashes and spreads, for that matter). She shouts in that moment, “What vegetative injustice was worth so many lives?! Can you possibly believe that plants are more valuable than humans?!” Aquaman rides away with her and observes that he’s never seen her so angry before, to which she replies, “Really?! It surprises you that the senseless deaths of thousands of men, women, and children angers me?” It surprises me that death and mystery causes her to recite such stilted dialog and act so irrationally. This is followed by Wonder Woman admitting to the extreme pressure of her multiple roles, and there is the suggestion that being the God of War makes her a lightning rod for conflict.
The central conflict I sensed throughout the book is whether Wonder Woman kills as a matter of course or strives for the high ground. At one point, she tries to kill a creature partly responsible for a mass death, then feels remorse for losing herself. Later, she uses her lasso to end a fight with her usurper while urging empowerment and justice, saying, “At the heart of Amazon culture there is only one word that defines who and what we are… sister.” It’s more than a little weird to me that Wonder Woman needs to be reminded not to lose herself to the bloodlust of war, but her eventual redemption and clarity of purpose is pulled off well enough that I’m okay with the arc as a whole. Some moments could use sharper writing and deeper characterization, but taken on its own terms and not compared to what came before, the book holds up. Wonder Woman shines when she subverts expectations of violence and bloodshed to find more honorable means of resolution, but I can understand having to put some strife in her life to keep her compassion from becoming an omnipotent force. A chapter in the back by Meredith and artist Goran Sudzuka, colorist Ive Svorcina, and letterer Tom Napolitano fills in the backstory of one of the villains. A cover gallery shows off some amusing variants, as well as the pencil versions of David’s covers.
I’m not sure how to address the art in this book except to say that David just about saves the book at every turn with his lavish details and spectacular creatures (bless those inkers for keeping up with him). The underground aliens look like half-rotted corpses, and David renders Ares’s warbirds and a two-headed dragon with such presence that I could almost pluck them right out of the page. The occasional nitpick could be made, with Wonder Woman sometimes having a different face in a panel or Superman half-saving a school bus by placing it on what appears to be a crumbling bridge over a rushing river, but his work is otherwise consistently meticulous and works well for a world of mythological beasts and Amazonian swords and sorcery. I greatly prefer Sudzuka’s version of Themyscira and Wonder Woman though, both of which look much stronger and full of purpose than David’s soft-featured “cute” Amazon queen. An early two-page spread of the Justice League standing together shows off a drastic difference in treatment between the five statuesque male members making stoic expressions next to Wonder Woman standing on the end, pouting like a baby doll.
Sonia Oback’s color work suits each scene and utilizes different lights. Oback’s colors go a long way toward ensuring that each scene feels distinct: action at night is bathed in subdued blues but highlighted in red when blood is spilled; fire in firepits crackle on the page; faces are shaded according to shape and angle from the light, with Batman’s cowl being particularly reflective; morning and evening sunlight bounces through windows and over characters’ shoulders with the care of a studio lighting crew; and fluorescent bug creatures glow in a cavern like creepy indigo fireflies.
This collection of Wonder Woman issues begins in a period of transition and by the end it still feels pretty wide open in terms of what could come next. Having gotten hold of Wonder Woman‘s warlike tendencies, I want to see if and how the Finches intend to follow up on her return to grace and perhaps continue to break new ground. Despite the new creative team and direction (and lack of “New 52” on the cover), many story elements are nonetheless tied to events from the six previous New 52 Wonder Woman books, and I would recommend readers start at the beginning.
Wonder Woman: War-Torn, vol. 7
by Meredith Finch
Art by David Finch, Goran Sudzuka
DC Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: N/A