So; Wonder Woman #196-200, Greg Rucka’s first few issues on the title, I think, with art by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder.
Wonder Woman publishes a book filled with wisdom. We don’t get to hear much of that wisdom in detail, but apparently she thinks peace is good, eating meat is bad for the environment, and you should support your local U.N. The comics, in other words, are kind of like listening to World View, except with all the actual information about world events replaced with platitudes and remarkably poorly rendered, unstylish art. It can also be distinguished from World View because it has less action. Wonder Woman wanders around to signings and readings while a shadowy, nefarious organization attempts to…ruin her reputation! Like in Legends! Remember Legends! Except, this time, instead of Darkseid, we’ve got some blandly blond executive type and Dr. Psycho. Not the Marston version with ectoplasm and kinky hypnotism. No, this is a tedious, latter-day version who does nothing for five issues and finally is unleashed at the end to…start a mild riot, which the police break up by themselves without even Wonder Woman’s help. That’s because Wonder Woman is engaged in a by-the-numbers slugfest with Silver Swan. Who apparently is the tortured, mind-twisted Vanessa Kapetelis, the teen Mary Sue from George Perez’s run on the title. I presume the obligatory desecration of Vanessa isn’t Rucka’s fault. Still, it does suck that every minor character, no matter how innocent, has to eventually show up as a super-villain. It sort of makes you think that the people writing this stuff don’t actually have more than two ideas to rub together.
Who the fuck wants to read this crap? Whose idea of a hero is a NPR commentator in a swimsuit? Rucka just seems endlessly fascinated by how busy WW is; how she’s racing from one do-gooding enterprise to another. The supporting characters are mostly her staff, because, damn it, social secretaries are fascinating. The series often feels like a journalistic puff piece from a fashion magazine or something; it’s like WW is Angelina Jolie. And I know that lots of folks like to read about Angelina Jolie and her doings, sure. But Jolie exists; why do you want to invent her? I can understand the appeal of Twilight; I can understand the appeal of Superman; I can understand the appeal of the Marston Wonder Woman, who was fun because she had amazing adventures and exciting powers. But Wonder Woman as ersatz, earnest celebrity? For God’s sake, why?
In fact, to see how wrong-minded this approach is, you don’t have to go any farther than the back-up features in WW #200, an annual sized volume. A short story by Robert Rodi with art by Rick Burchett called “Golden Age” essentially retells Rucka’s story in the style of Marston/Peter. And — despite the fact that artist Rick Burchett disgraces himself in trying to imitate Peter, and despite the fact that Rodi is unwilling to fully embrace Marston’s bondage fetish — the result is delightful. We ditch the leaden plot, and instead rush blithely from enjoyably ridiculous complication to enjoyably ridiculous action feat. WW refuses to endorse Veronica Callow’s perfume, so Callow builds a super-robot which imitates WW and performs numerous evil deeds (painting a moustache on the statue of liberty! kissing Steve Trevor!) WW despairs as her friends turn against her…but then, with the help of Etta Candy, she uncovers the dastardly deeds…and convinces the robot to turn to the good! And at the end the goddess Aphrodite appears and turns the robot into a real girl. WW sum up by noting that she defeated the robot with “my powers of persuasion! That’s all any girl needs to be a Wonder Woman!” By this point, anyone willing to satirize Rucka is okay in my book…and, as a bonus, we also get to see one of the Amazon kangaroos, lost for many years in the seas of continuity.
This is one of the only bondage scenes in the story (the villain is tied up at the end. Artist Rick Burchett gets Peter’s stiff poses, more or less, but Peter’s fluid linework not so much. The motion lines for the spanking for example, are uniform weight, simple boring strokes, clumsily positioned. No way would Peter draw them that way.
Again, this doesn’t actually read like it’s by somebody who really understand, or likes, or even read the Marston/Peter run that closely. Having WW’s friends turn on her and the anxiety about kissing Steve — that’s way, way Silver Age. Marston’s WW would never cut and run back to Paradise Island…and no way would Marston’s Steve reject a kiss from WW. But that’s neither here nor there; the point is that this is silly, action-filled fun, with the central messages (persuade, don’t fight! women power, yay!) presented with tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but still with less pomposity and greater clarity than in Rucka. If they published a WW comic like this now, I’d probably have to buy it, even if the art did suck this badly.
(There’s also a moderately entertaining silver age story called “Amazon Women on the Moon” which is about what is says (by Nunzio Defilippis and Chistina Weir with actually competent art by Ty Templeton). And then there’s an adequate retelling of the Perseus legend by Greg Rucka. And hopefully that’s the last Greg Rucka I’ll read for quite some time.)
For those who want more Rucka-bashing, I made fun of the Hiketeia here.