There may have been someone out there more excited than me to hear that DC was launching (or re-launching, maybe) the Sensation Comics title as a digital first, but I’m totally not making it a competition, because we can all like the same things at different levels, right, pals?
Still, after the New 52 retcon of Wondie’s origin and her cringeworthy romance with Kal-El, a digital first starring the Maid of Might, outside continuity and free of the n52 tarring brushes, seemed heaven-sent. Even better, Gail Simone, author of my favorite Wonder Woman arc of all time, was penning the first two issues?
I’d been a big fan of the digital firsts for Superman and Batman, and I love Wonder Woman with a pure, true, eternal love, but the creative team for issue #1 (words by Gail, art by Ethan Van Sciver) cemented this newest endeavor for me, so last week, I opened my digital delivery with the kind of unfettered glee normally reserved for small children on Christmas morning. And here’s what I saw:
(Warning: Here there be spoilers.)
What looks the entirety of Gotham’s Rogues Gallery encroaches on us in a giant clusterfuck of WEIRD, while someone speaks over the action. Gotham’s villains, the text boxes allege, hate each other as much as they hate us (so, the heroes?), and thankfully don’t work together, which is why Gotham is only ever tottering on the brink of being a smoldering ruin, rather than actually falling into smoldering ruins.
Naturally, this is when the bad guys opt for togetherness, because goodness knows strength in numbers ALWAYS works out for them.
And, wouldn’t ya know it, now that the villains have finally figured out that there is no “I” in team” (although there is a ME, so…maybe they’re just not great at Boggle?) and have started tearing up the streets, Batman is out of town and incommunicado, leaving the hapless Bat-fam to deal with the influx all on their own and finally introducing us to our narrator, the observer, whose clinical-yet-passionate grasp of the situation should have given her away before…
Ethan Van Sciver mentioned in an interview that he considered this one-shot to be a part of Gail’s previous Wonder Woman run, and so drew Diana in the same fashion as those books, but this? This is Birds of Prey Oracle. Everything about her is familiar, from her hairstyle to her glasses to the teal and blue colorscheme, and I actually had to pause for a second on this panel, just to get the lump out of my throat, because Babs.
Anyway, Babs decides she needs a “strict disciplinarian” (GIGGLE except, also, is that a nod to WW’s sometimes bizarre S&M-esque roots?) to come save the day, and flips through her Rolodex of available heroes in a montage I have to admit I found totally amusing because it is basically a ROLODEX of HEROES and decides on one she knows Batman would disagree with. At this moment, Babs — showing that stubborn, spirited streak I love so much about her — and I are both in agreement about how much say Batman should have in anything, so she makes the call to bring in the “big guns.”
Those guns are indeed most impressive.
Let’s pause for a second here to discuss the art and coloring for the book. Ethan Van Sciver’s art is full of motion and power, and this particular image of Diana — romance-comic hair flowing, muscles defined, limned in flame — is my Diana. She’s intimidating and approachable all at once, decisive and serene. She’s calm, with a hint of determination in the angle of her eyebrows and her closed and ready fists. She’s ready for a fight, but she’s not attacking. She’s wreathed in fire, but untouched. She’s a princess. And the colors — they’re saturated and brilliant. Not the jewel-tones and clear lighting of The Circle or the following arcs, but strong and vibrant.
I may have needed another moment with this page.
Okay. I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay, except for the villains of Gotham, who get some Amazon-style justice rained down upon them, and it is a thing of considerable beauty.
See, here’s why I love The Circle and why I was so excited for Diana to have her own out-of-continuity book and especially for these first issues to be helmed by Gail Simone: Gail knows how to ping each of Diana’s multiple characteristics, but rather than making her seem scattered or inconsistent, Gail molds each side together into a single glittering, multifaceted diamond. She gets inside Diana’s head. We travel along the story, pulled by her voice, and we see things from her perspective when she says she fails to see what the big deal is with the Gotham criminals. Diana is a princess, and a miracle herself, and she has fought gods and monsters. All of this petty squabbling in Gotham seems beyond her, but she comes anyway, fights anyway, because Diana is also a friend.
And who doesn’t love her narrative concession that Bruce has the best nemeses?
But the best — the thing I was sure would come, and wasn’t disappointed by — the best comes in Issue #2. Joker blows a building and endangers civilians, and Diana — as would anyone — wrestles for a moment with rage. She’s filled with monstrous anger, the desire to strike back, to hurt. “Every bone in my body wants to punish them,” she tells us, grim. She knows that’s Batman’s M.O., the way he stays aloof from vulnerability in the face of the complete lack of humanity that smothers Gotham. She fantasizes, briefly, about visiting the rage of gods and demons upon them, and it’s pretty brutal.
The rage isn’t the best thing. I’m getting there.
See, even Oracle agrees, encouraging Diana to “think like [Batman],” and she’s certainly given the opportunity to when she’s accosted by Catwoman and Harley Quinn, both hanging out on the sidelines, waiting to see how this whole thing will play out. It’s all set up for Diana to take them down —
But she doesn’t. She’s an Amazon. She doesn’t attack the women. She enlists them.
I think this might be one of the keys to Diana: her view of sisterhood, and the bonds it creates, lasting well beyond those of blood or creed or nation. She’s teamed up with villains before — when she and Giganta attacked Achilles together — and it never fails to send shivers down my spine, because Diana has an almost immeasurable depth of compassion and forgiveness and unconditional love. She can fight side by side with an erstwhile petty thief or a masked criminal, because they have a greater cause to fight together. She can swallow away the dark impulses, the want for vengeance, and use a weapon which lights the way rather than breaks apart: the truth.
So. Sensation Comics #1 and 2, final thoughts?
This was so, so satisfying. From the art to the action to the storyline, these two issues brought me straight back to the world and mind of a beloved character. She was tested, and triumphant, using her methods and no one else’s. It was a wild ride, and I have no idea what to expect from next week’s installment, but I’m pretty damn excited to find out.