Michael W. Conrad and Becky Cloonan enter their second arc on Wonder Woman, focusing on the Greek pantheon with artist Andy MacDonald. Diana and Ratatosk have made it into her correct afterlife, yet everything is in disarray and no one knows why. What will be the next development in this grand mystery of the Infinite Frontier era?
Conrad and Cloonan return with their signature strong pacing, which effectively makes this issue feel significantly fuller and longer than it is. The story feels rewarding to get through, and there are significant developments which completely re-contextualize the series’ mystery. However, it is clear that there is much more on the table that the readers are not privy to yet, and the assumption might be that other elements of the series might come back around to tie into those developments.
There is even a surprising return character from a previous issue, which readers probably wouldn’t have predicted. This is of course tied into the reveal of the series’ supposed villain — a character who Cloonan and Conrad should be applauded for pulling out of the cupboard and placing them in a situation that allows them a lot of exciting possibilities.
Throughout, there are actually a good handful of characters who are either introduced into interesting stories, or given developments that beg exploration. Ratatosk in particular is framed as being a little more hip to what’s going on, and it makes them a character who seems important to watch going forward.
The most interesting development in this issue is undoubtedly the change of setting. Accompanied by a change of artists, Diana and Ratatosk find themselves on Mount Olympus in what seems to be the most Hellenistic sense. That simple detail would seem to wane some interest from the change, as readers have seen marble columns and toga Greek gods before, and creators like Azzrello and Chiang have delivered much more interesting depictions in recent years.
It doesn’t help that MacDonald lacks the skill and creativity Moore presented throughout the series’s Norse arc. Environments lack some of the originality, and strong tone which the series has presented thus far. So the choice to lean toward Hellenism isn’t helped by its depiction.
Additionally, the story centering around the destruction and disappearance of the gods lends to the already present feeling that readers have been there before.
Then in true series fashion, Diana’s characterization often straddles the fence. At once she shows a bent towards reformative justice when she witnesses the punishments of those in Tartarus, yet she’s just come off partaking in a fairly violence oriented solution with the norse gods. She’s confident at times in her knowledge of the world around her, and yet she seemingly isn’t aware of what Helheim is. This is all compounded by it being incredibly unclear what Diana does and does not remember since her spell of amnesia.
Lastly, MacDonald just doesn’t contribute to the series what Moore did, and it’s hard not to compare just an issue later. He doesn’t quite have a mastery of form, or facial expressions. Largely, things are depicted jagged, and awkwardly.
When these issues subside though, it’s apparent that his style lends itself quite well to Olympus’s Hellenistic style. The strong lines and simple paneling gives the storytelling a sense of classicism that definitely works. Particularly in one scene later in the story, MacDonald delivers a depiction of a fire and brimstone Tartarus that would make one feel meek in its presence.
Overall, if readers have kept up with this series thus far, it is exactly what it has shown itself to be. There’s excellent pacing and fun characters, but it’s bogged down a bit by confusing characterization at times. This issue in particular is a bit of a step down in the art department, but would seemingly make up for it in the strong revelations it presents.
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