superheroes


Collects Wonder Woman (vol 3) issues 33-39.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

This collection has two story lines. The first is a two-part story “Birds of Paradise” where Diana finds out that Genocide isn’t dead but someone is hiding the body in Tokyo, in a metahuman fight club. She asks the Black Canary to show her the ropes and together they go to the fight club, undercover. In the second one, several story lines get a conclusion when Diana confronts Achilles and eventually Zeus.

The first two issues are campy fun. Diana and Dinah dress up as slutty wrestlers to hide their identity. Dinah says: “We look like high-end trashy hookers in a Tarantino nightmare… Perfect!” However, they don’t find Genocide. Instead, they find Dr. Psycho and Director Steel and the goddess of violence who wants revenge.

When Diana returns home, she has a talk with Tom. Earlier, she admitted that she doesn’t love Tom, but she wants to have children with him. So, Tom breaks up with her. Luckily, Diana can vent her frustration on Giganta but then she and Giganta have a bonding moment over their dissatisfaction of their love lives and they team up to take down Achilles’ peace party. Achilles threatens Hippolyta and Diana backs down. But then Diana realizes that she must confront him and heads to Themiscyra.

Zeus is going to retire the Amazons. In order to do that, he resurrected some of Greek mythology’s greatest heroes, including the Argonauts. He also created Achilles to be the king of the Argonauts and the Amazons. Zeus is apparently the only one to be surprised when the Amazon are very dissatisfied with that. Hippolyta agrees to step down because that’s the will of her gods. However, Alkyone, the villain from Simone’s first WW story, agrees to marry Achilles, legitimizing his rule. Alkyone was the captain of Hippolyta’s guard but she hated Diana so much that she (and her three loyal Amazons) tried to kill Diana when she was an infant. The four were imprisoned. Why Achilles would think that they somehow represent the Amazons, is beyond me. However, Alkyone is a great villain and her actions are understandable. Since this is a superhero comic, it all leads to a huge fight between Diana and Achilles, with the Argonauts and Amazon caught in the middle, choosing sides.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this collection. The first two issues were campy fun but didn’t really add to the story line much and the whole retrieving Genocide’s body was forgotten in the second issue. I loved the main villain in the second issue; Diana agreed to make amends to her and no doubt her choice will come back to haunt her. I’m happy to see Tom go but was baffled with Diana wanting to settle down and have kids. I guess that’s supposed to show her “human” side, make her more relateable. But I don’t remember anyone else taking this angle with Diana. And she seemed to have misled Tom a lot, which was very out of character for her. I liked most of the conflict Zeus created and the Argonauts ended up not so villainous, after all, which was a nice touch. I’m glad that Donna also got her chance to shine and that the conflict between her and Diana was resolved. A good, solid ending for Alkyone’s story that started in the Circle. She’s one of the best WW villains.

One more Simone collection to go. I must confess that I enjoyed Birds of Prey much more. Also, Simone’s collections aren’t stand alone. Definitely start with the Circle to get the most out of the stories.

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Collects Wonder Woman (vol 3) issues 26-33.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

Simone changes the status quo of the Amazons and their gods in this story. The Hollywood story at the end of the previous collection was a comic breather and now the story is much grimmer.

The Greek gods return to Earth. Apparently, they’re aliens. Darkseid and his underlings have fouled Olympus and on top of that humans, and even the gods’ supposed champion Diana, have abandoned them. The gods are unhappy to say the least. But Zeus has a plan. A terrible plan.

On Earth, Director Steel’s paranoia grows. He sends agent Diana Prince and her team to a mall which has been destroyed by a new superbeing called Genocide. However, Steel claims that he has another job for Tresser who stays behind. However, as soon as Diana is gone, Steel tries to arrest Tresser. But Tresser escapes and is now a wanted fugitive.

Meanwhile, the villains in Secret Society are scheming against Wonder Woman. Cheetah has convinced Dr. Morrow to create something even he’s afraid of.

When Wonder Woman fights Genocide, she realizes that Genocide is or was a deity. Genocide has an aura that makes people despair and she kills a lot of people. She defeats Diana, beating her near to death. Troia and Wonder Girl are called to help her but Genocide continues her rampage to the DMA itself.

This is an intense and grim story. The Greek gods almost literally stab the Amazons in the back when Zeus creates a new group of elite soldiers to serve him, intending to replace the Amazons. They, the Olympians as they’re called, are trying to force the world to become peaceful. Which never works.

Diana faces her most difficult challenge yet when she not only fails to stop Genocide but must lead her friends against the murderous being while grievously wounded. Genocide is a very good villain to challenge WW and more than worthy addition to her rogues’ gallery. It’s also great that she’s not as sexualized as female villains tend to be. Her face isn’t shown, her hair is short and spiky, she doesn’t have a cleavage; in fact her skin isn’t showing much at all. She’s scary and not in a sexy way. However, I can’t help to think that there should have been some more dramatic way to tell her origin, at least to the readers if not to Diana.

The ending is mostly satisfying with some emotional drama and mostly likely a new direction for Diana.

Collects WW (vol 3) issues 20-25.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

Ends of the Earth story line runs the first four issues. It’s a bit on the strange side. First issue starts with Diana in a foreign, wintry land fighting wolves. She ends up in a tavern, looking for fabled hero Beowulf. Then we return to the beginning. Department of Metahuman Affairs’ agent Diana Prince is promoted. She’s expected to lead a team of six agents. Diana is quite flustered because she feels that she hasn’t earn a promotion, quite the contrary. But then a strange man with omnious red glowing eyes (I can think of only one time when that’s been a good sign) confronts Diana in her own office. He asks Wonder Woman to kill the devil. Diana uses her lasso on him, but that’s a terrible choice. It turns out that the man, who calls himself only Stalker, has no soul and so ensnares Diana’s soul (or mind). Apparently, he sends Diana to another dimension. There, Diana needs to find the heroes Beowulf and Claw to help her defeat the demon Dgrth.

For the rest of the story, Diana and Beowulf journey in a couple of other worlds. Diana’s soul is diminishing and so her compassion is leaving her and she becomes more and more violent and cold. Eventually Diana, Beowulf, Claw, and the Stalker confront the demon.

Meanwhile, DMA’s director Steele recruits agent Tresser, Diana’s partner and love interest, into spying on Diana and agent Candy. Steele (quite right) suspects that they’re Amazons and that they’re looking for more info in preparation for the Amazon’s next attack (which of course isn’t true). Tresser manages to find out that the giant intelligent gorillas are in Diana’s apartment. It’s gorillas vs Tresser!

By the fourth issue, Diana has returned and it’s now time for Tresser to meet her mom, Queen Hippolyta. Of course, they did meet briefly during Amazons Attack when Tresser was almost killed… However, Hippolyta seems to accept Tresser. Then Diana goes to Hollywood! People are making a Wonder Woman movie and they want Diana’s endorsement. Of course, this being a superhero comic, an old WW villain is involved.

I’m a fantasy fan and Diana, more than any other superhero, has a mythological roots, so I quite enjoyed the short romp in these Hyborian-like fantasy worlds. We even get some philosophizing about what it feels like to loose your soul and what it means to live without one. However, I thought Claw was Conan and I wasn’t familiar with the other characters. Turns out that they are some older fantasy character. I’ve no idea why Simone chose to use them or if it was some weird editorial decision. Also, another enemy is left loose to plague Diana later.

The final two issues set in Hollywood are fun. The movie is a horribly twisted version of Diana’s life but considering that she’s a real person, I’m not sure if they could have done it with Diana objecting. I enjoyed Diana’s two advisers, Rhanda and Tolifhar. They’re giant white gorillas. With briefcases. Once again, Diana shows both her warrior and diplomat sides. This shows how very, very badly a WW movie could have gone wrong.

Overall, this was an uneven collection even if it was fun for me.

Collects WW (vol. 3) issues 14-19. Par of WW’s second relaunch, after Heidenberg and Picoult’s issues.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Ron Randall, Bernard Chang

Simone is one of the best WW writers and she shows it right at the start. The story begins after the Amazons Attack story where Queen Hippolyta was, apparently, confined to one island away from the Amazons.

The first story, the Circle, runs four issues. Each issue starts with a flashback of four Amazons whom Hippolyta chose to be her personal guard. They’re fanatically loyal but when Hippolyta tells about her plan to get a child, they decide that the child will tear the Amazons apart for the simple reason that many Amazons want a child (or children) but they can’t have them. So, their jealousy will grow into bitterness and anger. So, the four decide that they can’t allow their Queen to succeed.

In the present time, the four are imprisoned on the island where the Queen is held. She asks them to repent but instead one of them warns that the dragon (as they call Diana) must be destroyed before she destroys the Amazons.

Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd is gathering an army of intelligent white gorillas. Apparently, he’s been telling them that all humans want to kill them and they have seen poachers. Diana offers them an alternative, to find out more about humans. So, the gorillas move in with Diana in her agent’s apartment.

A bunch of Neo-Nazis want to make Hippolyta’s island their base and attack, expecting to overcome a single woman easily. While the Queen of the Amazons battles a large group of humans with modern weapons, Diana comes to save her mother. Unfortunately, the Nazis unleash the four Amazon prisoners.

The last story line is two issues long. The Khund are a space faring species who live to conquer others. When they came to Earth, the superheroes defeated them. Now the Khund are back and they have declared war of Wonder Woman. After initial battle, Diana finds out that the Khund almost revere her because of her warrior skills. Some also consider her part Khund. But now a Khund general has come to ask for Diana’s help against another race who is defeating them easily. Diana agrees to help them. Of course, things aren’t quite as they seem.

Meanwhile, Diana starts to officially court Nemesis, Tom Tresser. But now that Tom’s close to getting what he wants, he realizes that he’s not worthy of her. (And good riddance to him!)

This was a good start. I always enjoy seeing more of Amazons and Hippolyta, although I don’t like seeing them as villains. I can see how some Amazons could have reacted that way to their Queen being the only one who gets to have a child. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Amazons portrayed as mourning their infertility, so it’s clear to me that not all of them feel that way. Still, I was a bit disappointed that this story started by showing them yearning for motherhood rather than as fierce warriors.

I’m not familiar with the Khund so I can’t say if they’re in character here. But both story lines show excellently Diana’s compassion to her enemies and the second portrays her as a diplomat as well as a warrior, which was great.

Tom is in hospital for most of the stories, so he’s not fighting by her side. Instead, we are introduced to Simone’s Etta Candy. I really enjoyed Etta and Diana’s friendship.

I really liked Dodson’s lush art which fits Diana very well.

Collects Mr. and Mrs. X issue 1-6.

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Oscar Bazaldua, David Lopez

Rogue and Gambit are happily married and having adventures in space!! I love this comic! Do you need to know more?

Well okay. About half of the first issue is about the wedding and the various X-Men who have cameos there. Rogue’s mom Mystique also makes an appearance. Surprisingly, it doesn’t end in a fight. Instead, the happy couple goes to their well-earned honeymoon. However, they only get a few days of peace before Kitty calls them with a mission that involves getting their hands on a “package” before others can. Those others end up being Shi’Ar Imperial Guard…

Because Rogue and Gambit are on a spaceship, they’re the closest ones to protect the “package” from the Guard, Deadpool, Technet, and even Star Jammers. However, when they find out what it is, they’re not surprised that so many people are after it.

Rogues’ powers also evolve. For the wedding (and honeymoon) she must wear a power dampening collar which gives her a continuous headache. However, with her powers evolving, she must wear it all the time.

The final issue is back on earth, when they throw a party at Gambit’s apartment. Besides a lot of X-Men, they also get some unexpected gatecrashers and ominous warnings. The collection ends in a cliffhanger (almost literally) and I can’t wait for vol. 2 which, unfortunately, is coming out in August.

While Gambit and Rogue are mostly happy together, they do have some issues to work out as well. There’s also sexy banter, kissing, and staying together no matter what, so if that’s not you thing, stay away. Thompson does reference their previous problems briefly. I think it’s for the benefit of new readers (which is probably needed) but she doesn’t focus on them. Which is fine for me. I’m sure they’ll be popping up again. I must admit, though, that the Technet (and Cerise! Please tell me she’s coming back!) especially are probably unknown to newer readers; I’m a long-time Excalibur fan and so I enjoyed their appearance.

I’m mostly happy with the art. Bazaldua’s women look very young but otherwise I’m happy with him. Lopez draws the last issue but his style isn’t too different from Bazaldua, so the change isn’t jarring.

The first book in the Pandora Project trilogy. It’s also the fourth Vigilantes book, a historical superhero series set in 1960s US.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Publisher: Beautiful Fire
Page count: 329

Colleen Knight’s mother Tina leads a mob family. Colleen’s grandfather tried to make Colleen into a mobster as well; he even threatened to hurt Colleen’s lover unless she did was he wanted. That’s why Colleen left Karen without a word six years ago. However, now her grandfather is dead and she’s trying to distance herself from her mother’s job. Colleen is also afraid of her fire powers; she’s killed people before and now she’s trying to avoid it.

But when Tina asks a favor from Colleen, she can’t say no, especially when she’s asked to save another powered person. To do that, she goes undercover on a river boat, assuming the role of a mistress of a known playboy.

Karen Gray is a spy for a government agency, the Bulwark. She believes that she’s doing good work when she hunts down powered people, sometimes killing them. However, she’s been deep undercover for some years now, as the fiancee of David James, the son of a rich man and powerful man. Karen is given the mission to retrieved yet another powered person from a river boat.

When Karen and Colleen meet unexpectedly, they can’t trust each other and their history together, especially the abrupt break-up, comes between them. But when they find out that the powered person they both need to retrieve is a black child, the mission taken another turn. Colleen and Karen must band together, for a while at least.

Colleen is a black woman and Karen is white. Through Colleen, we see the bigotry of 1960s USA, especially because the river boat is in southern US. But Colleen doesn’t let other people’s attitudes stop her even if sometimes she must bow her head and hide herself. She’s fierce and fights for what she believes in. Karen has also had to fight hard to be accepted as an agent and when she must face the growing evidence that her job might not be what she thought it is, she must decide what’s more important to her: her career or conscience.

Regular people know about powered people and some are afraid of them. Some people, especially the rich and the powerful, want to use powered people as weapons, no matter what that powered person thinks of that.

This is a fast-paced story with twists and turns. The characters are believable and they struggle with both personal feelings and with larger moral issues. The fight scenes are detailed and great. However, the story (as Heinrich’s other books, too) are more bloody than comics; both main characters kill people, sometimes in rather grisly way, while fighting for their lives.

There are some references to DC/Marvel comics, in addition to the names of main characters. I personally got a kick out of Liefeld.

I’m not a romance reader but this time I didn’t mind how old feelings rekindled in Colleen and Karen. Neither has forgotten the other and both were deeply wounded by their break-up. Of course, in 1962 their romance must be a secret.

It’s possible to read the story as a stand-alone but I’d recommend reading from the start. Colleen was introduced in “Shadow Dreams”.

The book starts with a short story “Mizuchi” where Alice as Serpent and Marco as Shadow Master confront a girl who can control water. She’s killing people and the local police are overwhelmed. However, things become more complicated when Alice and Marco realized that she’s barely a teenager who is only killing men who belong to the local Chinese mob.

The book doesn’t quite end in a cliffhanger but the story isn’t finished.

Collects Wonder Woman vol. 4. issues 7-12. The New 52 relaunch.

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

The previous collection, Vol. 1: Blood, ended in a cliffhanger when Haades took Zola (and her unborn child, of course) to the Underworld with him. Now, Diana and her team of Lennox and Hermes must get her back. To do that, Diana turns to Eros and Hephaestus. Unfortunately, things go wrong and while Hermes is able to take Zola back to the world of living, Diana must agree to stay and be Haades’ bride. The rest of the team tries to get her back. Getting to Hell again isn’t too hard because some of them have been invited into the wedding, along with Strife. Fortunately, Diana doesn’t need anyone else to save her.

Then the plot kicks up even higher when Hera sends Apollo and Artemis after Zola and her unborn child.

I must say that the unusual way the deities look is really growing on me. I didn’t even blink an eye when we saw Eros with double pistols. Artemis actually looked pretty cool as a pure white woman. The god of the forge looks like an ogre which seems oddly appropriate. The other thing I found strange was that the deities called each other by their (currently) primary sphere of influence. Hermes is Messenger, Hephaestus is smith, Ares is War, Artemis Moon, Eris is Strife. However, nobody calls Hera Marriage or Women or Fertility for some reason. Most likely, because it doesn’t sound cool. Of course, each Greek deity has several spheres so calling them with just one is strange. For example, Apollo could just was well be Muse or Healing or Diseases, as Sun.

However, I don’t understand why DC wanted to change the Amazons even further. This time we’re told that three times in a century, the Amazons go to ships and have sex with the sailors. Then they kill the sailors. All girl children stay with the Amazons but the boys are given to Hephaestus as virtual slaves. If he doesn’t take them, they’re killed. And apparently not one Amazon has a problem with that? That’s damn cold and very strangely different because previously Diana was the only child on the island and the others were all immortal. Now, DC has stripped them of immortality and made them mortals and pretty strange ones at that. So, from (mostly) noble women warriors to cold killers of lovers and babies? Not good. Then again, DC has treated the Amazons pretty harshly in the past, from the whole strange Amazons Attack story line to periodically destroying the Paradise Island.

Except for that, I rather enjoyed the adventures in the Underworld with various Greek deities. Diana was able to hold her own against them. In the final issue, she suddenly got a weird power boost from nowhere which was very strange. The collection ends again in a cliffhanger.

Again I enjoyed Chiang’s artwork a lot.

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