Wonder Woman #57
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Published by DC Comics
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Mid-event issues are historically where many major comic storylines tend to enter a coasting state. When thought about from a craft perspective, events like this tend to have strong concepts to hook readers and clear end-goals to advance larger meta-narratives, opening and closing issues of events are disproportionately stronger than those in the middle. While writer James Tynion has elements in this story that feel creatively rich and exceptionally strong in terms of character work, Wonder Woman #57 is an issue that treads water until it can get to the story’s desired climax. Despite this, the art team of penciller Emanuela Lupacchino, inker Ray McCarthy, and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. elevate the entire issue, and as a purely visual item, this comic is utterly beautiful and filled with memorable panels.
Tynion opens the story with Diana on an otherworldly moon established by the art team with an unsettling mercurial slickness. The narration informs us of the ancient and almost biological disposition people have to the moon as a mystical entity, while Diana is informed that she is currently residing in the collective unconscious while witch goddess Hecate ravages the world using Wonder Woman’s body as a vessel and conduit. There is something interesting about the idea that, if you bury someone’s self deep enough it goes to a shared experience that is both ever-present and ancestrally mysterious.
Back in Nanda Parbat, meanwhile, Hecate runs roughshod while Constantine and Zatanna do their best to stay alive. While the former is pessimistic and accepts this as the end, Zatanna realizes that what is happening to Diana is simply a very intense form of possession, and that possessions can be solved with exorcisms. With Constantine being skilled in exorcisms, this gives the two a clear last resort plan. While it makes sense that Constantine will try to mystically decouple Hecate and Wonder Woman, and where that specific attempt ends up is interesting, the handling of this development is clunky. It feels strange that Constantine would forget something so rudimentary but potentially helpful, and the fact that Zatanna is the one that reminds him makes his characterization suffer. When it's posited that said exorcism may have resulted in Diana receiving a lethal overdose of magic, death still lacks its sting thanks to superhero comic tropes — while this cliffhanger makes sense in terms of structure, we've long been conditioned to not believe this moment will have much in the way of long- or even short-term consequences.
As mentioned, the level of brilliance on display by the art team is hard to overstate. Between the Witch Moon scenes, Hecate commanding Wonder Woman’s body, and the possessed Black Orchid’s brawl with Swamp Thing, there is something striking on nearly every page of the book. Lupacchino’s pencil work displays a strong understanding of how perspective and composition can be used to further a narrative, with the size and positioning of Zatanna and Hecate showing exactly who is control at any particular moment in the sequence. At first, Zatanna is seen as tiny compared to the massive, energized Hecate — but by the time the sequence is concluded, Zatanna suddenly takes over the focus of the art.
McCarthy’s inking is at its best in the moon scenes. As they are largely devoid of color, they rely on strong ink lines and shadowing to convey depth and mood. There is a fantastic amount of delicacy in subtle elements like the liquid aspects of the moon, and the slight blending of the solid and liquid matter all colored and textured similarly elevates the scenes and gives them a more uncanny feeling. As for Fajardo’s coloring, the maximalist approach and wide-ranging palette make the panels with mystical elements feel genuinely magical, and like those components could zap out of the page. What’s less apparent, though, is that these colors are used without feeling like anything is simply thrown together or arbitrary. There are more colors and shades in this comic than most comics, but it never feels like anything is clashing or that it is losing its visual identity, and that is in large part due to how Fajardo handles lighting throughout the issue.
Wonder Woman #57 is a weak link in a strong overall story, one which opened with aplomb and which, if the ending of this comic is any indication, will end explosively. This will not be the issue that people remember when recalling this storyline, but it does serve the purpose that it obviously had — to get all of the magical power into Diana. The clumsier aspects to the story are definitely a drawback, but the art team is so on point that it's easy to overlook that. This is still a good comic, suffering primarily from the promise of a later, great comic. At this point, readers are likely all in on The Witching Hour as an event, and so this isn’t going to make or break anything for the creative forces behind it. This is a difficult issue to use as a jumping-on point as it isn’t very forgiving on readers without context, but if you have been following, you’ll likely enjoy what’s here while you wait for time to be up on The Witching Hour.