Best Shots Review: WONDER WOMAN #750

"Wonder Woman #750" preview
Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Wonder Woman #750
Written by Steve Orlando, Gail Simone, Mariko Tamaki, Greg Rucka, Kami Garcia, Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Marguerite Bennett, Vita Ayala and Scott Snyder
Art by Jesus Merino, Colleen Doran, Elena Casagrande, Nicola Scott, Phil Hester, Riley Rossmo, Laura Braga, Amancay Nahuelpan, Bryan Hitcher, Vicente Cifuentes, Ande Parks, Romulo Fajardo, Jr., Hi-Fi, Sunny Gho, Trish Mulvihill, Ivan Plascencia, Jay David Ramos and Mike Spicer
Lettering by Pat Brosseau, Dave Sharpe, Deron Bennett, Rob Leigh, Gabriela Downie, Joshua Reed, Wes Abott, Clayton Cowles and Tom Napolitano
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Credit: DC

Reaching 750 issues is no small accomplishment, but Wonder Woman #750 is particularly impressive because writer Steve Orlando, artist Jesus Merino, and a murderer’s row of guest creators remind us just how much Diana of Themyscira deviates from the superheroic norm. While Batman and Superman have traditionally embodied simpler themes like revenge and hope, Wonder Woman’s comic book exploits have always taken a more counterintuitive track by comparison: namely, forgiveness and compassion.

Yet those drives are often seen as reactive or conflict-averse, and that has spawned a number of different takes on the Amazonian princess over the years, ranging from her World War II patriotism to her spy chic era to her dalliances as a spy and a secret agent. And in that regard, this anniversary issue illustrates feels true to Wonder Woman’s history, even if it makes for a more challenging - if perhaps not as inherently emotional - read as a result. But while I’m not sure this will necessarily win new converts, for diehard fans of Princess of Paradise Island, there is a lot to like about Wonder Woman #750.

Credit: DC

All the way back to William Moulton Marston’s inception of the character, Wonder Woman has talked about submission and love as two sides of the same coin - yet as guest star Silencer said just one issue ago, when you’re dealing with a crazed Cheetah targeting innocents so she can slaughter Hera herself, it can sound like a naive sentiment for adults. But Steve Orlando keys in on some of the most important sentiments that Wonder Woman represents - in a society that believes in capture and punishment, it’s so easy to dehumanize our enemies rather than to see them as flawed people worthy of forgiveness and rehabilitation.

(Of course, to chime in for the Silencer, it might be easier to think that way when you’re an immortal, bulletproof demigoddess rather the spouse or child of somebody getting mauled. But I digress...)

When you cut away the perfunctory superheroic brawling - ably rendered by artist Jesus Merino, who occasionally channels George Perez’s densely paneled artwork - that relationship between Diana and Barbara Minerva winds up becoming the real meat of this story. Can you reach out to the core humanity of someone who has hurt so many? (Do they even deserve it?) Meanwhile, longtime readers of the series will also pick up on a sharp, deeply feminist take coming from the Cheetah, whose bloodlust belies a greater point - how can Diana consider herself her own woman if she’s locked in the service of what is essentially a divine patriarchy?

Sure, the execution is imperfect - side characters like the Silencer feel awkwardly shoehorned in, Hera feels underdeveloped given the lengthy build-up to get her here, and Merino occasionally struggles under the weight of carrying so much storytelling - but the core concept, while not quite as visceral a thrill as some of the other superhero titles on the stands, feels particularly appropriate for Wonder Woman as a character. Personal choice and submission might feel like opposite ends of the same coin, but Orlando makes both themes work. The main narrative ends with some moments of fan service - particularly the histories behind Diana’s new sword and shield - and eventually veers into a B-movie cliffhanger, but like Diana’s cracked bracers, I’d argue the narrative transcends the sum of its flaws.

Credit: DC

Although I’m not sure it necessarily justifies the $9.99 price tag, the back-up stories for this issue are largely successful throughout, even as many of them show that Wonder Woman has had a far more varied characterization than the other marquee heroes of the DC Universe. Out of all of the stories, my favorite might have to be writer Vita Ayala, artist Amancay Nahuelpan and colorist Jay David Ramos’ story featuring the Silver Swan. Sometimes with a character like Diana, it’s easier to suss out her character through the eyes of someone else, and Ayala deftly balances Diana’s seemingly conflicting directives of protecting bystanders while trying to meet her adversaries halfway by telling the story through the Silver Swan’s perspective. Nahuelpan and Ramos are a dream team, as well, evoking the Dodsons but with a bit more depth and texture to the rendering. Honestly, if this team were hired to take on Wonder Woman full-time, I would not be upset in the slightest.

Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, meanwhile, remind us all why they’re the O.G. Wonder Woman creators with their story “Never Change.” Focusing on Diana and Cheetah’s doomed friendship - cursed by Barbara Minerva’s own self-loathing - it feels like the perfect shot and chaser to Orlando’s main story. Seminal Wonder Woman writer Gail Simone reteams with artist Colleen Doran to bring back fan-favorite character Star-Blossom, this time bringing in this pint-sized hero’s equally adorable parents along for the ride. While I don’t know if the team necessarily recaptures the lightning-in-a-bottle of Star-Blossom’s debut, thanks to Diana’s jarringly weird upbringing encroaching onto things, it’ll likely pluck at your heartstrings all the same.

Credit: DC

Meanwhile, while Mariko Tamaki’s narrative might feel a little thin, you can’t deny that Elena Casagrande absolutely crushes their story together. I get where Tamaki is coming from - the idea of a government interrogation turning into an outright interrogation of Diana’s seemingly futile mission to stop the forces of War - but like many of Wonder Woman’s other stories over the years, it’s easy for that sort of philosophical treatise to turn into word salad rather than something that engages with readers emotionally. What feels visceral, however, is the expressiveness that Casagrande gives Diana as she carries someone out of a burning building, or as she pulls a smarmy government agent by his shirt.

Perhaps the most counterintuitive story of the bunch might be from writers Shannon and Dean Hale and artist Riley Rossmo… but while they thumb their noses as the rigid formality of Themyscira’s characterization over the years, it’s a surprisingly charming affair. Rather than present Wonder Woman as an unattainably perfect demigoddess slumming it with us mere mortals, the Hales throw in some of that human messiness into the mix, as even Diana gets to experience an overwrought mother kvetching over why her daughter never calls or visits. Like Rossmo’s distorted but expressive artwork, this story is probably the most acquired taste of the bunch, but I’d say that they might be onto something - a way to make comic book Diana just as endearing and appealing as her cinematic counterpart.

Credit: DC

That said, some of the other stories don’t quite hit as hard. Kami Garcia and Phil Hester’s story about Diana trying to find her path feels a bit like the runt of the litter, bouncing around Paradise Island a bit too placidly to hook readers or give Hester much to do visually. Fans of DC Comics Bombshells will love Marguerite Bennett and Laura Braga bringing back the cult classic team, but those who haven’t read the series will be lost given the wordy retrospective. In terms of sheer Q-rating, Scott Snyder and Bryan Hitch are perhaps the heaviest hitters of the bunch. While their execution is solid on a technical basis - beyond a few hiccups in Hitch’s rendering - I’d argue their Roosevelt-centric narrative almost feels more like a Captain America story, and beyond cinematic synergy, we don’t really get enough fallout from the story’s continuity tweaking to justify the shift in time period yet. It’s not a bad story by any means, but the concept sticks out a bit.

Batman has "Year One." Superman has All-Star. But Wonder Woman has never been quite as simple or as straightforward with her characterization - and perhaps it’s fitting that her 750th anniversary issue follows suit. While she was born on Earth, Wonder Woman’s central tenets at times feel more alien than anything a boy from Krypton could espouse - while Superman is aspirational on an individual basis, Diana Prince feels aspirational on a global scale, bringing a style of crimefighting that feels so different from anything else the DC pantheon has to offer. In that regard, Orlando, Merino and company are fighting uphill, telling a story that on a market level has to adhere to Big Two standards will slipping in counterprogramming that at times feels subversive. But as a result, it makes Wonder Woman #750 a book that is for patient readers only, even if some of the bigger fireworks occur in this anniversary issue’s back pages.

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