Friday, 21 October 2016

Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary: The Legend of Wonder Woman #8 Review

Title: The Legend of Wonder Woman #8
Story: The Legend of Wonder Woman Chapters 22-24
Characters: Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), Etta Candy, Steve Trevor, Thomas Byde (Duke of Deception)
Creators: Renae De Liz (writer/artist), Ray Dillon (artist)
Publication Date: July 2016
Available In: Print | Digital

Summary: Having lost her powers to Zeus following her fight with the Duke of Deception, Diana must now find a new purpose again. Accompanying Etta Candy and Steve Trevor to the Paris Opera House for a Holliday Girls performance, Diana decides to assist with their show, even allowing a 10-year-old Alfred Pennyworth to assist her. After the show, Steve and the other Allied pilots are called to initiate an attack against the Axis powers and seize a new atomic weapon in their possession known as 'the Titan.' Diana knows that if the Titan awakens, Steve and the rest of the Allied pilots' lives will be in danger.

Deciding not to leave anything to chance, Diana takes matters into her own hands by 'commandeering' the only plane available for her to fly. Using the skills and knowledge she acquired from Steve about aviation, Diana takes an experimental plane on its first flight, and together with the Holliday College girls, she goes to the aid of the allied forces. Once there, Diana finds the Duke of Deception one step closer to reviving the Titan by completing its heart with the Baelytus. Without the power of the gods to assist her in her mission, can Diana still be Wonder Woman and prevent the Duke of Deception from ending the world at the completion of a Titan's heart?

Review: This review is hella late, and that's because this issue arrived at my shop two months late. I don't know what kerfuffle happened with Diamond Distribution that delayed the release of this issue to my shop, but it's enough to say I got issue #9 before I even saw issue #8. However, despite these undesirable circumstances, perhaps, the late shipment wasn't entirely a bad thing. After all, today is Wonder Woman's 75th anniversary and the United Nations declared today 'Wonder Woman Day'. The UN even made the iconic DC heroine their honorary ambassador for gender equality, and that's pretty significant.

The fact that this came from the UN--a much larger public organisation than DC Comics--is testament to the importance of Wonder Woman's narrative and message. It's definitely a tremendous honour DC Comics won't ignore and I hope this means the company will do mass celebrations of their most iconic heroine every year like they do Batman Day. But most importantly, the UN endorsing Wonder Woman Day also says how much progress we've made as an entire world, and how much more progress we have yet to make. In a year that saw Donald Trump rise to power as a direct consequence of white resentment and nationalism in America, and in this same year, we saw right-wing media and politicians deceive British citizens into voting to leave the European Union for the same exact reasons, we need Wonder Woman more than ever. And just less than three weeks before the US presidential election, what better time can there be to remind everyone of Renae De Liz and Ray Dillion's contemporary masterpiece, The Legend of Wonder Woman?

Picking up with issue #8, this chapter is one of my favourite instalments of the miniseries. From the artwork to character work, everything about this issue is marvellous in every respect. Without question, my favourite segment of this chapter art-wise is the Paris Opera House scene. I cannot imagine how long it took Renae De Liz to illustrate the interiors of the Paris Opera House with the complex architecture that it has, including the paintings on the ceiling. She doesn't miss a single detail and her pencils are supplemented with Ray Dillon's inks and colours, which are equally rich. Dillon does the Opera House significant justice by giving the interiors the golden colour they're known for, and even illuminates them to really make this magnificent building come to life. The way he coloured these scenes reminded me of the 'Masquerade' scene from the 2004 film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. (Maybe that scene from the film was the inspiration?)

Another thing I loved about this segment was Etta Candy's performance scene, which was equally gorgeous in illustration. De Liz puts a lot of character into drawing Etta and she really does come to life on the page. De Liz' Etta is so full of energy, you get a strong feel for the character in every panel she appears in and she's very posh in the way she presents herself. Even when she's swinging between moods at every second (from happy to annoyed to excited), she still presents herself with style, grace, and elegance, especially on stage. De Liz' Etta gives her stage performance her 200% (or her 'maximum effort' as Deadpool would put it), even when she is notified at the last second that she has five minutes to prepare for her show. This segment even introduced another iconic DC Comics character, Alfred Pennyworth (he was called Alfred Beagle in the Golden Age) as a child. In De Liz' story, she establishes his earlier roots in theatre before later becoming the famous Wayne family butler who assists Bruce Wayne in his activities as Batman.

Another segment where Etta truly shines is in the aeroplane scene where the girls decide to help the men in the war against the Titan. Though Wonder Woman tries to do the right thing and keep the girls safe from harm, Etta says 'no can do' and through sheer determination alone, she and the Holliday College Girls end up accompanying Diana to the battle field in the aeroplane that they 'commandeer.' This segment does provide some of the funniest moments in the issue, most notably when the girls get curious about what the plane is capable of. One of them even pushes a big red button on the control panel that causes the plane to go invisible, effectively reintroducing Wonder Woman's famous invisible plane that we haven't seen since gods know when.

I actually felt this was a very clever way to reintroduce Diana's iconic invisible plane and in an incredibly unexpected way. Originally, the invisible plane in the Golden Age was created by the Amazons for the purpose of escorting Steve back to 'man's world,' and the plane itself was modelled after Steve's after he crash-landed on Paradise Island. The ability of the plane to be invisible was testament to the Amazons' advanced technology. In De Liz' story,  the invisible plane turns out to be an experimental military plane that hasn't been tested. Diana had learned to fly this plane from Steve, and the Holliday Girls really put the plane to the test when they got curious what the plane actually does. Though the plane was effective in going invisible, it didn't actually hide its occupants, which made them very visible to anyone else flying. This produced one of the funniest scenes in the comic when another pilot flying next to them saw them in the air and thought that he was hallucinating as a consequence of drinking.

The rest of this issue sets up to the climactic battle against the Titan and even brings back Priscilla Rich as an ally of the Duke of Deception, who was introduced in the last issue. Priscilla still doesn't become the Cheetah (as she was known in the Golden Age) in this issue, but her villainy in this story coupled with her affinity for wearing fur does certainly foreshadow her future as a Wonder Woman foe. Given that we were just introduced to the character, we can't rule out the possibility of her return despite her apparent fate. Another character that returns in this issue is the Pegasus who seemingly escaped from Themyscira somehow. The winged horse itself was beautifully illustrated and coloured by De Liz and Dillon and has become somewhat invisible like the plane itself. Why the Pegasus is no longer fully visible does beg the question of whether or not this mythical horse is still existing within this plane of existence, or if it is caught in the crossroads of the supernatural and man's world following the fall of Themyscira. That part is left a mystery in this issue.

I would say the best thing about this penultimate issue is Wonder Woman attempting to reach Thomas Byde, the human being that the Duke of Deception took over. This is a pretty significant moment because Diana doesn't try to kill the Duke or attempt to resolve the issue with violence. Instead, she tries to get him to abandon his mission for Ares by using the lasso of truth to show him what truly happened to his little brother: it turns out he is still alive and that Ares has been using his pain in order to manipulate him into fulfilling his goals. This is the core of who Wonder Woman is and De Liz illustrates this moment beautifully. We don't see an angry Diana looking to unleash all hell on the Duke for attempting to destroy the world. Instead, we see an empathetic Diana who understands where he is coming from and tries to set him free from his pain as a way of getting Ares to lose his grip on him. This is exactly what Wonder Woman represents: love and empathy. Not anger, nor hate.

On the whole, this is a very satisfying penultimate issue that sets up for the final, climactic issue. Everything from the way the comic is illustrated to the way the characters are written to the overarching message of the story makes this a very satisfying read that gets you feeling pumped to see how the final battle will pan out.

★★★★★

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