Wonder Woman: Black and Gold #1 – AJ Mendez, Nadia Shammas, John Arcudi, Amy Reeder, Becky Cloonan, Writers; Ming Doyle, Morgan Beem, Ryan Sook, Amy Reeder, Becky Cloonan, Artists
Ray – 9/10
Ray: After massive successes with their first two anthologies, DC’s color-themed books are turning the focus on their most iconic female character. The creative teams in this issue are more lower-key than the other volumes so far, but have a lot of talent packed in. How are the first five stories?
First up is “Mother’s Daughter” by AJ Mendez and Ming Doyle. I’m not familiar with Mendez’ work before this, but Doyle is always amazing, and this is a more offbeat take on Diana’s mythology. Featuring an older-looking Hippolyta who has an odd relationship with Diana, it focuses on Diana returning to Themyscira to tend to her sick mother—only to come down with a mysterious illness herself. At times, it veers towards vaudeville, but ultimately there is a sweet message about the bond between the two amid the over-the-top dialogue.
Next up are Nadia Shammas and Morgan Beem on “What Doesn’t Kill You.” I’m not familiar with either creator, but they obviously have a great grasp of Diana’s history. Diana enters a labyrinth of the dead to find a missing woman, but instead soon finds herself confronted by the spirits of some of her deadliest enemies. I was particularly interested in this story revisiting the controversial Medusa story. By the time the true villain is unmasked, the story’s built to an excellent emotional catharsis that celebrates Diana’s unique method of seeking justice.
John Arcudi and Ryan Sook have more DC experience, of course, and “I’m Ageless” calls back to Diana’s lost years in World War II. But it also asks a bigger question—as an immortal, how does Diana view mortality? When Bruce—being his usual dickish self—asks if she can truly invest in the lives of people who are like Mayflies to her, a flashback illustrates that in many ways, she does more than most people can. Ryan Sook’s art is at its best here, simple and brilliantly detailed, and the last few mostly wordless pages deliver a real punch.
The final two stories feature solo writer-artists, starting with Amy Reeder. “Golden Age” is a funny, over-the-top action romp as Wonder Woman and Etta Candy foil a trio of bank robbers. Etta is at her boisterous best—a far cry from her current ultra-competent military personality—and Diana seems to be having fun in the tone of a classic serial. Actually, the biggest inspiration here may be the unique Batman ‘66, as many of the sound effects seem to evoke that show’s combat. It’s a dose of pure fun in a pretty serious streak of stories.
Finally, it’s Becky Cloonan closing us out with “The Wager.” As Diana interrogates a cold-blooded, skeptical criminal who doesn’t believe that her lasso can do what she claims it can, she tells him the bloody origin story of the tool—one that lets Cloonan show off some mythological chops in her art. This is the most intense story of the volume, and that makes sense when you see who shows up at the end. But in a story that mostly portrays an extremely gentle take on Diana, it’s also good to see her cut loose.
Overall, an offbeat collection of stories, but with some real gems in here as we get off to a very good start.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.