Wonder Woman is called to the Justice League satellite, where she hears that several small villages have been wiped out by unexplained environmental phenomena. While she investigates one of the villages, the Amazon leaders on Paradise Island struggle to accept an influx of male Amazons left over from years of oppression that Diana had recently freed. In a Thailand village that was destroyed, Wonder Woman encounters the environmental avatar Swamp Thing and interrogates him aggressively.
Normally when I write a review, I like to give an overview. The thing is, in this instance, I don’t have much to work with because not much happens in this issue. Three long sentences is pretty much the entirety of Wonder Woman #36 by the new creative team of Meredith and David Finch.
In order to articulate my thoughts on this issue properly, I have to tell you what Wonder Woman means to me. She is the premier female superhero. There’s no replacing her. Wonder Woman represents the ideal of gender equality in its purest form, showing that women can be feminine and badass simultaneously, blowing to pieces the false dichotomy between the two. She personifies compassion, strength, and peace and is an icon for female empowerment.
So, imagine my astonishment when in this new creative team’s inaugural issue, Wonder Woman gets virtually embarrassed by Swamp Thing after pointlessly punching him and accusing him of destroying a village with neither a reason nor evidence to suspect him other than there only being vegetation remaining in the vicinity. After Swamp Thing wraps her up in vines and all but tells her “bitch, be cool,” Aquaman comes in just in time to break it up. The next scene shows Aquaman talking to her like she’s an overly emotional child while she clutches a teddy bear. I seriously don’t even know where to begin with this.
There was NO GOOD REASON for the Wonder Woman/Swamp Thing scuffle. If I had to venture a guess, it was to show an action scene because no other scene had any action in it (aside from the environmental disasters which are clearly the work of a villain). Cyborg tells the league that only vegetation remains. It’d take Evel Knievel on the U.S.S. Enterprise to make the jump from that to “Swamp Thing must’ve murdered them all, let’s go stabby his face!” Not to mention, Diana knows Swamp Thing from previous encounters and one would think she knows him to be a hero or at least a person who is not capable of wiping out entire towns full of people. Plus, she goes into a fist-fight with a being who she knows can regenerate his body after every blow and has control over all plant life…IN A FOREST. What’s next? Picking a fight with Popeye in a spinach factory?
The Wonder Woman/Swamp Thing fight should never have happened. The writer could’ve had the same dialogue occur in exactly the same fashion without it being a fight. She could’ve taken a more authoritative tone, but the fight itself was unnecessary and, as I said before, embarrassing for Diana. I’m all for Wonder Woman kicking some major ass, but this issue could’ve opened with her stopping an armed robbery or something like that.
Speaking of the opening, it shows close up panels of Diana taking a shower (specifically washing her shoulder, hands, leg, and arms). While some might consider this a bit salacious (and perhaps if otherwise constructed, it would’ve been), I didn’t really find much there to be titillating. Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I don’t find isolated body parts to be sexy in and of themselves. However, I can understand the sentiment and agree that it should’ve opened with something other than a shower scene.
Finally, the scene with the Amazons arguing about the A-male-zons (a nickname for the purposes of this article) seemed to come off as very straw feminist, or what the writer thinks is straw feminist. Now, one could make the argument that when your society is indoctrinated about the evils of men for centuries, it’s only natural that some would bristle at the notion of integration, forced or otherwise. However, this comes off as what a man would think a feminist would say. It’s unsettling in how wrong it comes off and I can see the setup for what David Finch had said in an interview with Comic Book Resources, that Wonder Woman is more of a “humanist” than a “Feminist.” (As seen here) Even taking the issue of feminism out of the equation, the story stutter-steps clumsily through its plot points with weird pacing and poorly placed action and dialogue.
David Finch’s rendering of Swamp Thing is a stellar piece of work. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it in the Swamp Thing monthly. Also, while it’s all just a one-page exposition dump, I can say that Meredith Finch’s writing of Diana being stressed out by the weight of her responsibilities is somewhat understandable. Unfortunately, it looks bloated and rushed together for both exposition and development and it still doesn’t excuse her behavior as written. Wonder Woman, as Aquaman stated, is never a “punch first, ask questions later” kind of person. Could’ve fooled me from her debut in Justice League.
I know it’s the first issue of a new creative team’s run, and I’m curious to see where it goes from here, but as it stands now, the Finchs’ Wonder Woman is continuing a trend of lackluster portrayals DC has provided the preeminent female superhero. To be fair, though, it’s not as bad as Superman/Wonder Woman #13.