Readers return to Valhalla, home of… Wonder Woman? Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad and Travis Moore continue to spin a mythological mystery that effectively incorporates elements of Diana’s mythology and challenges her character. What had once seemed like it might be a silly tie-in to Death Metal might become a hallmark modern Wonder Woman story.
Wonder Woman: Amazing Amazon, or Valiant Valhallan?
Cloonan and Conrad truly kick off the investigation into the mysterious happenings in Valhalla, whether it’s the disappearing Valkyries or the dying Yggdrasil. Each step reveals the details of a carefully crafted world, both steeped in canonical Norse lore and inherently tied to Diana’s own mythology. There’s a balance they’ve found which makes this world feel natural, completely in-step with what readers would expect from these disparate elements.
It’s this careful crafting that allows for genuine surprises along the way. Cloonan and Conrad draft a classic Wonder Woman villain for a guest appearance, which when made feels both revelatory and fundamental: a completely organic part of the story. This also proves to in short order be one of the characters strongest modern portrayals. Cloonan and Conrad are able to convey the characters core themes, as well as their relationship with Diana efficiently, and thus provide readers with a complete understanding of one of Diana’s classic villains in simply a couple pages.
Conversely, the usual suspects of Norse mythology are brought to life here with such a charm and wit that it’s hard to not enjoy one more visit with culturally saturated gods. Whether it’s how they play into the overall mystery, or the way they shape the book’s commentary on figures of power, each brings something worthwhile to the table. It’s also the use of Nidhogg, the serpent who eats at the bottom of the world tree and is destined to consume the world, that gives the book its most threatening villain.
Much of Nidhogg’s presence and villainy must be attributed to Moore’s work here. The way Diana and Ratatosk are framed against him to emphasize their size difference in every panel they share is an effective way to convey the threat he poses. This is further emphasized by the choice to outfit him in spikier, more angled scales, as well as Tamra Bonvillain’s excellent purple and green color scheme. It’s a solid example on how ageless villain tropes still work when done with the utmost craft and skill.
This issue consistently displays the positive qualities of Wonder Woman #770, which made Cloonan and Conrad’s first script so great. The pacing continues to be some of the best in comics, and the teasing of the series overall mystery continues to be tantalizing. Cloonan and Conrad smartly diversify the ways in which they tease the mystery, as opposed to repeating the, “die then see the mystery man,” story beat over and over.
Sadly though, their biggest flaw is also still present in this issue, in that they still don’t have a strong grasp on Diana’s voice. She’s often using colloquialisms which feel off putting for a princess, and failing to show the intelligence which her character canonically should possess.
It’s a small nitpick, but it happens consistently. It’s not that her character is wrong, either, because she’s consistently standing up for the right things and staking her claim as a compassionate heroic figure. At times she could be a little more radical, but the depiction is often on point. It’s just the voice.
This criticism is minimized in impact by Moore’s elegant, heroic interpretation of Diana. From the beautiful new costume that debuted in the previous issues, to the posing that often strides the line between regal and adventurous, there’s a power Moore imbues her with here that makes her feel like she is consistently in control, despite often having fun and humorous moments.
The book as a whole is dripping in atmosphere because of Moore’s deep shadows and harsh designs. Each page wears its Northern European influences on its sleeve, and revels in the duality of fire and ice present in a snow covered winter forest. Bonvillain’s work makes the best use of this too, as most scenes are drenched in a threatening, warm orange, or a cold, distant blue.
The art defines the experience of this book. While Cloonan and Conrad craft an exciting script, there are things the writing simply can’t do. For example, the surprised reaction of Diana’s classic villain when the two first encounter each other, which sets the stage for their whole interaction has to be credited to Moore and Bonvillain. The same can be said for readers’ first impressions of characters like Odin, and Nidhogg.
The whole team brings out their A-game for the second issue of Infinite Frontier’s Wonder Woman. While the issue is still hurt by small issues present in the script, it can’t be denied that this is the most exciting Wonder Woman story in years. It’s entirely possible that the next issue of this series could be perfect, and there are few series that can be consistently said about.
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