(Warning: Contains Swears and Spoilers)
Back in November, The Mary Sue published an article entitled, “The New Creative Team On New 52 Wonder Woman Turns The Comic Into An Utter (Sexist) Disappointment.” As a lifelong fan of Wonder Woman, although admittedly not a big comics reader, I was appalled to read that Wonder Woman now carries around a teddy bear for comfort and that the new creative team had generally infantilized her. I posted a link to the review on my Facebook feed, which soon filled up with comments that echoed my outrage.
One reader told me that the review was overblown, that the reviewer, Molly Jane Kremer, had taken images out of context and was reacting as if she had “an axe to grind.” He urged me to read the issue myself and decide.
At the time, I was at the third convention in a month promoting my debut novel, Mr. Wicker, and I was exhausted, but I promised that reader I would eventually review the comic myself. In fact, since that time, DC has released two more issues. So, I bought all three — #36, #37 and #38 — so I can see if the problems ever existed at all.
Unlike Kremer, I’m not a Wonder Woman comics reader. I was unaware of the great comics that have come out in the last 10 years. So, I’m not influenced by expectations from previous writers. I even put aside the Mary Sue review and came at these fresh.
Holy Mother of Hell, It’s So Much Worse Than That
I don’t know how much of what follows was the result of editorial direction, artifacts inherited from previous writers, or too many hours watching Nora Ephron movies, but, sweet Jesus, Wonder Woman is a mess. And not just her, but the Amazons, Superman, the plot – everything.
Kremer’s review starts with the sexism of the shower scene. Wonder Woman definitely seems sexualized in that scene, but that’s just the beginning. In the New 52, she’s no longer just a demigod, daughter of Zeus, but a true god. The God of War, specifically. Why does the God of War need to take a shower? Did she get sand in her crotch as she was slaughtering ISIS in Syria? Get a bit of pit sweat battling Putin in the Ukraine? Seriously, a god doesn’t need a fucking shower. By definition, she isn’t human. (Or, if she is, please refer to the sweet Jesus comment.) This isn’t merely sexism. It’s…dumb.
And then the story goes totally cuckoo banana pants.
“Why is everybody so mean to me, Teddy?”
After Aquaman extracts her from a “punch-first, ask-questions-later” fight with Swamp Thing, they take a little flight in his (?) jet that’s leaving mile-long carbon turds in the sky. As Aquaman questions her, she clutches a teddy bear. Is it Aquaman’s teddy bear? Or her teddy bear? Where did it come from? I have no fucking clue. It is inexplicably in his jet. She buries her forehead into it like a pouty teenager — in fact, she looks about 16 years old throughout the comics — as she explains that she’s stressed out because she has so many responsibilities. She has to be Queen of the Amazons. And in the Justice League. And the God of War. It’s not fair!
Wonder Woman is having a crisis because she can’t have it all. Can I tell you how incredibly tiring that is to read? I don’t want to read this. She’s a god, for pete’s sake. This “you can’t have it all” business is just a throwback to the shit we’ve been told as a gender forever to hold us back. It doesn’t make me empathize with Wonder Woman. It pisses me off. I want to see a woman with all this power and position actually using it, rather than whining about it every other panel. I want to see her problems ensue from embracing her strength rather than denying it.
Anyway, she decides to go home to Themyscira, which is when she discovers that her mother, who had already been turned into a clay statue, has crumbled to the ground like a crusty cow pie. And thus ends Issue 36.
“Did Your Jewish Mother Write This?”
The next issue starts with the Amazons bitching that the Queen isn’t there as they are being attacked by giant eagles. I thought they were badass Amazons. Silly me. They can’t fight giant eagles. Oh, and everybody hates men, but Wonder Woman is unpopular because she’s fighting for men’s rights. Okay, then!
One of the most incomprehensible sequences in all the three issues happens next as Superman spars with Wonder Woman using bo staves.
Yes, the Man of Steel. Is sparring. With a bamboo stick.
I stared at these panels, wondering who the hell these people were. No, this was definitely Superman and Wonder Woman. Sparring. With sticks. At the gym. Now, I personally train with bo staves. There is no way the strongest people in the world have not shattered those sticks on first impact. And why at the gym? Why aren’t they in the Himalayas throwing boulders at one another? Is that not romantic enough? Would we not see enough of her ass? Have no fear, because there’s plenty of that in this book. (And only one panel of Aquaman’s fine bummage. Am I perhaps not the intended audience is for this comic? Hmmm.)
Wonder Woman then goes home and gets bitched out by the Amazons for not being around when the giant eagles attack again. Wonder Woman learns that the giant eagles used to belong to Ares, but surprise! They’re your birdies now, baby!
“Another responsibility you have neglected,” a crone lady lectures her. “Your excuses are as thin as your commitment to the Amazons.”
At this point I turned to my Jewish boyfriend and asked, “Did your mom write this?” The guilt is being layered on this character so heavily, it’s laughable.
I’m purposely neglecting some subplot where the crone lady is growing her own replacement Amazon queen in a cauldron like a sea monkey but with elephant tits. This will come up later.
“Our areola armor has failed! What shall we do?”
Issue 38 opens with hundreds of Amazons getting slaughtered by a hydra because no one is wearing anything except nipple armor. Or giant clit armor. But it’s okay! It’s just a dream so that Ares — or her subconscious — can bitch her out for being a shitty God of War.
Meanwhile the Sea Monkey is now fully grown and armored, not with titty armor but the real thing. Strangely enough, she actually looks like a warrior, unlike pretty much everybody else in these comics.
Although, just like everybody else in these comics, she carries a really, really shitty sword. I mean, these things are totally cracked everywhere. They look like they’re about to fall apart. I guess the way to depict a really cool sword is to make it look really shitty? I have no idea.
Drowning in guilt, Wonder Woman decides to go have a cuppa cawfee in some café with her bestie. Yes, the God of War, Queen of the Amazons, and Justice League member is getting some advice with her caffeine fix. Her friend warns her that she’ll “become Ares — violent and dangerous.”
The only thing Wonder Woman is in danger of at this point is estrogen poisoning because I swear that’s what’s steaming in her cappuccino.
“So, you’re the God of War now.”
Near the end of Issue 38, Batman says this to her when they’re hanging out in the Justice League jet as Superman is investigating some wacky shit happening in a volcano. (Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that whole villages have been disappearing into the ground.) I don’t know what happened to Aquaman. Maybe he’s back in his jet cuddling his teddy bear, or rubbing it against his crotch to get off because it’s soaked with Amazon sweat. At any rate, Batman thinks she’s about to become a liability because she’s the God of War.
I didn’t realize that the Justice League was a knitting club. I thought they fought for justice, dealing with extraordinary conflicts as they arose. Otherwise, why would you need superheroes? Couldn’t a God of War on your side be an asset? And why wouldn’t Wonder Woman, of all people, be able to handle it? Is it because she’s a woman? I don’t think Batman is implying the latter, but the former question certainly hangs in the air.
At the end, the crone introduces the well-armored, hot-ass Sea Monkey to everyone, proposing that she take over as Queen.
I would totally vote for her because she looks like she could actually survive a fight.
Yeah, It’s Dumb, But Is It Sexist?
Holy hell, yes. But like I said, as someone who honestly doesn’t know much about the series or what this team was dealing with, I don’t want to point fingers at anyone for these problems. All I know is that, if this were my first exposure to Wonder Woman, I would think that she was a hot mess of a young girl wallowing in Woody Allen self-pity. I would also think the Amazons were the most incompetent, poorly equipped warriors in existence. They look like a bunch of Victoria’s Secret models with crap swords. And we all know how I feel about that.
Dear reader, I agree with Kremer. Wonder Woman is infantilized, and not just from the teddy bear and the painfully vacant look in her eyes. Her entire race is demeaned.
I know Wonder Woman is much better than this. Maybe I will seek out the stories that Kremer recommended. Maybe I should write some of my own.
Lord knows, I know my way around rope. And blades.
The entire 52 reboot is such a trainwreck, from Starfire the amnesiac slut to Catwoman the accidental underwear model to Wonder Woman the hormonal adolescent goddess. I remember reading that she was going to be rebooted as some angry teen living on the streets and I just thought, “Nope. Nopenopenopenopenope.” Wonder Woman has always been an *adult* who was mature, had a career, grew up in a tough and harmonious matriarchy, and who sure as hell didn’t whine. She’s been that way even through the worst of the jingoistic bondage fetish stuff in the Golden and Silver Ages, but now we’re going to make her a weepy superbrat? What the hell?
I think this is a classic case of the writers and publishers trying to find a “new” audience by placating the same old audience. If comics as a medium are going to survive, methinks it’s going to take a while to supplant the self-indulgent white male nerds who just want to relive the medium’s glory days, even if that shuts out a huge new set of audiences that would be happy to read comics if…you know…those comics spoke to them in any significant way.
And no, “Just read manga” is not the answer.
If you ever get a chance, read Alan Moore’s “Promethea.” It is what Wonder Woman always should have been.
Cool. I will. Thanks!
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