I have definitely been enjoying Sensation Comics starring Wonder Woman. Like many great fictional creations, Wonder Woman is a character who is open to different interpretations. Throughout her 73 year history she has played the roles of warrior, hero, feminist, diplomat, peacemaker, and goddess. Sensation Comics, with its diverse selection of creators presenting stories of Wonder Woman set throughout the different DC Comics continuities, or outside of continuity altogether, are able to examine Diana’s various aspects, and take numerous interesting & different approaches to the character.
The covers for Sensation Comics #3 and #4 really epitomize this. Ivan Reis & Joe Prado’s intense image for issue #3 depicts a fierce Wonder Woman engaged in close combat with armored mythological beasts. It very much captures Diana’s role as a warrior. In contrast, issue #4 features a vibrant, beautifully serene image of Diana gracefully gliding through the clouds. This one is by Adam Hughes, who was the regular cover artist on the Wonder Woman comic book from 1998 to 2003. This piece certainly demonstrates that Hughes is much more than merely an artist who draws sexy women, that he is an accomplished illustrator who can create powerful, evocative images.
The first story in Sensation Comics #3, “Bullets and Bracelets” written by Sean E. Williams and illustrated by Marguerite Sauvage, postulates a world where Wonder Woman is not just a superhero but also a rock star headlining a band. There’s an interesting scene after her concert ends where Diana is approached by a man who shouts “Slut! You’re corrupting our children! Go back to where you came from!” A second man then yells back “Shut up, man! Some of us like the way she dresses! She’s hot!” Diana, clearly annoyed at both of them, responds “I hate to break it to you both, but I dress this way because I want to, not to provoke or impress you.” Wonder Woman has a lot on her mind and, instead of accompanying everyone on the tour bus, decides to go for a walk. She encounters two young girls who are huge fans of the band, and joins them for a bite to eat, learning about who they are.
Williams and Sauvage’s story is a nice one, well written and beautifully illustrated. Sauvage’s Diana is very beautiful, dignified and human. Williams’ script examines how Diana is a role model for many young women, a figure of female empowerment. As I saw it, this story is examining the idea that women should not feel that they need to exist as an adjunct to men, fulfilling the roles expected by them. And, really, that is true of all people, women and men. We should primarily be happy with ourselves first, with who we are, before we set out to try to impress or please other people, be they our significant other, relatives, employers & co-workers, or society at large.
The second tale in #3 is “Morning Coffee” by writer Ollie Masters and artist Amy Mebberson. Early one morning in London, the larcenous Catwoman raids the vaults of the British Museum. The police call in Wonder Woman, who is currently living in the city. Diana, who hasn’t yet had a chance to grab her daily cup of joe, is mildly perturbed at having to deal with this. Easily catching the cat-burglar, Diana is left to watch over Catwoman until the properly equipped authorities arrive to transport her back to the States. Diana takes custody of Selena and brings her along to a local café, hoping to finally get her caffeine fix. It is there that the second part of Catwoman’s scheme goes into effect, much to Diana’s consternation.
The story by Masters is charming and fun. His tale fits perfectly into the 10 page long space allotted to it. Mebberson’s artwork is very cute. She gives the characters some really fun, comedic expressions and body language. One thing I have noticed about the stories from Sensation Comics, as well as the other digital-first titles that DC publishes, is that the art is designed primarily to fit on a computer screen. 10 published pages equals 20 pages on the computer. This limits the storytelling choices available to the artists. Sometimes I think there are artists whose strengths are not nearly as well suited to strong layouts, and given the confines of the digital format they do not do work that is as strong. Mebberson’s work, however, fits perfectly in with this format. She clearly knows how to lay out a story, and the flow of action & narrative is unhindered by the requirements within which she is working.
Split between Sensation Comics #3 and #4 is a humorously bizarre story written & illustrated by Gilbert Hernandez. “No Chains Can Hold Her” has Wonder Woman battling the robot armies of the alien Sayyar, who has joined forces with the Justice League’s old foe Kanjar Ro. The two extraterrestrial tyrants manage to take mental control of Diana and pit her against Supergirl. Also drawn into the mix is Mary Marvel, who is accidentally yanked through an other-dimensional portal.
I am a huge fan of Gilbert Hernandez’s work with his brother Jaime on Love and Rockets. It is fantastic that they have been able to sustain a successful three decade long career on a creator-owned title. Having said that, I do enjoy when Gilbert or Jaime make the occasional foray over to Marvel and DC, because it is so much fun to see those mainstream superheroes filtered through their independent sensibilities. I fondly recall Gilbert’s offbeat six issue stint writing Birds of Prey in 2003. So I’m happy to see him on a Wonder Woman story.
Hernandez’s writing on “No Chains Can Hold Her” is rather minimal. That is very much in line with his work over the last several years, where his main concern has been less with crafting complex plotlines than it has been in creating a particular mood or atmosphere. Hernandez’s art on this story evokes both the work of Wonder Woman’s original Golden Age artist H.G. Peter and well as the Silver Age house style of DC, with Supergirl and Kanjar Ro drawn in their early 1960s incarnations. Mary Marvel has a Bronze Age look that evokes a bit of Kurt Schaffenberger. Much as they did in the 1970s, Mary and rest of the Marvel Family, along with their adversaries, even reside off in their own separate reality, Earth-S presumably.
Hernandez endows Diana with an exaggerated muscular physique reminiscent of his Love and Rockets character Petra. Certainly it is miles away from some of the contemporary DC artists who unfortunately draw Wonder Woman with the body of a supermodel. Hernandez’s approach is an interesting interpretation of the character that suits the tone of his story.
Following on in issue #4 is “Attack of the 500-Foot Wonder Woman” by writer Rob Williams and artist Tom Lyle. Diana is teamed up with the Atom, Hawkman and Hawkwoman against the shape-changing Thanagarian criminal Byth, who is wrecking Gateway City. So that she can combat Byth, who has transformed into towering lizard creature, Diana temporarily grows giant-sized with the Atom’s assistance.
This story was a bit underwhelming. It felt very rushed, and Williams would no doubt have benefitted from an additional 10 pages to give it room to unfold more naturally. I have not seen new work from Lyle in quite some time, so his return to the comic book biz is welcome. His art on this story did feel a bit cramped, though. I think that he may have been constrained by the aforementioned digital-first format. When you have a giant Wonder Woman fighting a Godzilla-like monster, BIG is the way to go. But between the short length of the story and the half-page format, Lyle isn’t allowed to go too large with his layouts or do any splash pages. Given the constraints I think he did the best work he could. This story wasn’t bad. It certainly had potential. But it could have been stronger, both in terms of writing and art, if it had been longer.
Rounding out Sensation Comics #4 is “Ghosts and Gods,” written by Neil Kleid and illustrated by Dean Haspiel. As with the Hernandez story, “Ghosts and Gods” is an insanely entertaining mash-up of a number of different eras and styles. The Golden Age incarnations of Wonder Woman and Etta Candy team up with Silver Age character Deadman to retrieve the Purple Healing Ray that has been stolen from Paradise Island by Bronze Age villain Ra’s al Ghul. Yes, really! All that was missing was Etta enthusiastically shouting “Woo Woo!”
Kleid’s story is a fun, exciting romp. The art by Haspiel is fantastic. As I’ve observed in the past, Dino has always been great at evoking different artistic eras in his work, and he successfully renders these various characters interacting with each other. Haspiel is also a superb storyteller who very much knows how to lay out a page. He clearly had no problems working within the digital-first format, and the action flows very smoothly. I guess my only complaint (if you can call it that) is that this story wasn’t longer. It was so enjoyable I would have been thrilled if had gone on for another 10 pages.
Despite a few minor hiccups, Sensation Comics #3 and #4 were very good. If you are one of those readers who is dissatisfied with the current approach DC has towards the character of Wonder Woman then Sensation Comics is certainly a recommended alternative. There really is something for everyone is this series.