Ravingnerd’s Best of 2017: Best Reads

My nightly festivities got in the way of me getting this post out Yesterday, so you’ll have to figure out the best reads of 2017 today instead. I will be focused on individual series’ and not characters nor specific issues. Some have performed so well they have landed on the list with just a few issues. I have already spoken about several of these series’ in recent posts, so several of these should not be a surprise. So here we go!

There will be mild spoilers sprinkled throughout, so Black Alert is up!

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10. Super Sons was one of the longest awaited books of Rebirth. We sadly had to wait more than 6 months after Rebirth’s launch, until just after the first of the year, to get this book. Needless to say, this book has been every bit as good as we thought it would be. What isn’t to love? A team up with the lovable Jonathan Kent and almost as lovable Damian Wayne. What could go wrong? Well nothing really. Jonathan has the powers of Superman while Damian is a little jerk who is up for anything. This book is very similar to Tomasi’s Superman story. It features the perfect balance of light hearted humor and fun to add into the action. It helps that Damian and Jonathan balance each other out very well. Jorge Jimenez’ art is perfect for capturing the raw energy that both Sons’ have and it often feels like they could burst off the page.

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9. Grass Kings was Matt Kindt’s latest attempt to prove to the comic industry that he is one of the best writers in comics. Period. Together, with fantastic water colors from Tyler Jenkins, Matt is able to do what he does best. Write a compelling and fascinating mystery. Kindt’s name needs to be up there with Brubaker as one of the greatest mystery writers in all of comics. Books like Super Spy and Red Handed are some of the most brilliant reads out there. This time around, we get a newer kind of mystery from him. The Grass Kingdom is a land unto itself. It appears to exist outside of Federal jurisdiction, or at least that is how they operate. This, of course, hasn’t gone over with others. Including the villainous sheriff of the next county. The mystery in this book is three fold. What is the mystery behind the Grass Kingdom, why does it feel off? Who is responsible for the string of murders that have plagued the land for a decade? Biggest of all, who are we supposed to really trust? If you are looking for a thrilling and beautiful read, this is the perfect book for you.

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8. Star Trek: Mirror Broken is an odd duck as far as Star Wars comics goes. I generally shy away from IDW’s Trek line, as it normally bothers me more than anything else. This book, however, does not. Mirror Broken, as the name suggests, is set in Star Trek’s Mirror Universe. Seen in the shows throughout the series in TOS, DS9, and Enterprise. There is an established time line that details the fall of the Terran Empire (it’s fine, they were pretty terrible). Mirror Broken shows us the TNG crew for the first time in the Mirror Universe. Believe it or not, none of them are particularly likable. Noticeable differences include Borg augmented Data, Barkley with a spine, and a psychotic Wesley Crusher (no he still isn’t likable. Scott and David Tipton helm the book better than they have some of their previous Trek books, and the interiors by JK Woodward are nothing to scoff at. This is absolutely worth the read for Trek fan out there. We also get to see Captain Jellico, and even in the Mirror Universe, I just love him.

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7. X-O Manowar is easily the best book that you are not reading. Matt Kindt has taken the flagship Valiant property and turned it into a space opera epic for the generation. It Aric, Vandal with alien super armor. Has turned his back on Earth and his suit. Instead leading a simple life as a farmer on a foreign planet. When war comes, he is conscripted to fight. Yet he quickly realizes that he is in an army of ‘undesirables’ and that his unit is designed to fight until they die. The higher ups have no interest in their survival. It is up to Aric to not only win the day for his squad, but save as many people as he can. Heroes never seem to be able to escape being heroes, do they? The art by Tomas Giorello is also stunningly perfect. It is dynamic, and his wide shots of the alien landscapes range from beautiful to terrifying. This book should have made a lot more waves than it did, but you are hearing it from me. It is awesome. Valiant has also followed this up with Ninja K, another spin on one of their classic super heroes. With their feature film debut close at hand, these books should be must reads for anyone who is excited to see Valiant in film.

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6. Superman has been one of the best books on the shelf period. Peter J Tomasi is the hero we need, not the one we deserve. Having written almost 2 and a half years of the best Superman you could ever imagine. His secret? Having fun! Sure things can get dark, but he is always able to bring things back. Case in point with his “Road Trip” arc from early in the year. After dealing with Manchester Black in a very dark and serious arc before, the Kent family could really use a rest. And that is exactly what they got. Yet instead of flying, Clark decided to do things a little more by the book. He rented an RV. The 3 issue story arc features the Kent’s going to various different monuments and historical markers, and interacting with people along the way. Central to the story is Clark teaching Jonathan to be a good, kind person. It may sound odd to say, but I think the best Superman stories are the ones that don’t feature big, all out brawls. It is the ones that focus on the underlying humanity Clark has. It is why stories like Injustice and Batman VS Superman are so hard for me to get behind.

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5. Doomsday Clock. Do I really need to say more? The long awaited resolution to the Rebirth premise is finally at hand. Only 2 issues in, the story is more glorious than anyone could have imagined. Rather than deep diving into the Watchmen/DC Crossover, we take things a step back and find out how things have been going in the Watchmen universe. Not well. Rorschach’s journal told the world the truth of Ozymandias’ deeds, and united the world against him. Sadly, this also brought back the animosity between nations that Adrian had desperately been trying to avoid. We get a chance to see several fan favorite characters again plus the addition of a few new ones. The story has yet to really get going, but Geoff Johns knows what he is doing. What makes this series exceptional is Gary Frank’s art. Instead of relying on modern comic art methods, Frank is doing things differently. Gone are the overdone splash pages, or large comic images, and in its place are traditional 9 panels. This does not diminish Frank’s gorgeous art at all, it instills it. Every single frame can be poured over, and new readings will find new insights. Plus the classic feel to the book, is the perfect presentation for the Watchmen event we have all been waiting for. I know there are several people out there burned out on Watchmen due either to the film, Before Watchmen, or any number of other things. If you are one of those people, I get it. I was too. But the opening of this series should have everything you need to get you hooked in seconds. Trust me, and take the plunge.

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4. Batman by Tom King has been an interesting book to figure out. At the start of its launch, it just seemed off. While everyone was positively abuzz about King taking over the title. Yet the book released to an underwhelming presence. In comparison to the other fantastic launches the rest of the Rebirth line had, Batman got lost. Yet 2017 is truly the year of Tom King. With his story arc “The War of Jokes and Riddles” and “Super Friends”, King has successfully made Batman one of the hottest books on he shelf again. Featuring the brilliance Mikel Janin on art, the War of Jokes and Riddles was the Batman epic of the year. Focusing on an untold story from early in Batman’s tenure, similar to Scott Snyder’s year zero. Joker, who is unable to laugh, is desperately trying to find something ‘funny’. On the other side is the Riddler, who’s motives are to kill Batman, thus answering the ultimate Riddle. In the process the villains of Gotham draw a line down the middle, and enter into a messy and bloody conflict. The messy conflict sees Batman do something we don’t normally see him do. There are a number of surprises and fantastic moments sprinkled in across the way that I won’t spoil. Tom King follows this dramatic and dark story arc with one of the most fun two part stories I have ever read. In “Superfriends” Clark, Lois, Bruce, and Selina go on a double date. The issue is to delightful to spoil, so go get on it.

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3. Archie’s “Over the Edge” and “Heart of Riverdale” broke my heart this year, and deserves a high spot on this list. Mark Waid has a way of weaving comedy and tragedy into the same book, and has never shied away from pulling any emotion punches with this book. These arcs cranked those emotions up to a ten. I after nearly every issue I was left devastated and near tears. Yet this wasn’t due just to the darkness and tragedy that Waid just threw in my face. It was also due to how well he was writing the characters. They were as devastated as I. Yet how did they handle these dilemma’s? They bought guns to appease their vengeance. Just kidding! If you wanted that, go watch Riverdale. As for me, I will stick to the heartwarming melancholy that I get on a monthly basis from this book. Pete Woods’ art highlighted the energy and emotion of the Over the Edge arc. Audrey Mok took over for the Heart of Riverdale arc, and here sweet and personal style is perfectly suited for the subject material. Warning before you read, not everyone makes it out of this one alright. So bring tissues.

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2. Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy is easily the second best book of the year. Originally slated as the 4th arc of Scott Snyder’s All Star Batman, DC wisely gave Murphy free reign of this book. Set in an alternate universe, where the Joker eventually goes sane. As Jack Napier, he not only sees the lunacy of his actions, but the havoc that Batman has reeked across Gotham. He sets out trying to not only fix the broken and corrupt political system of the city, but to stop Batman himself. With Alfred clinging for life with an illness that Bruce cannot cure, he has gotten more and more savage. This story helps beg the question, what is Batman without Alfred? If the death of his parents broke an 8 year old Bruce, what would the death of his caretaker, friend, mentor, and surrogate parent do to him? The answer is nothing good. On top of this brilliant premise is the twist that has propelled the 3 issues of the series out so far so high up this list. There are two Harley Quinn’s. The original Harley is Harleen Qunizell, who legitimately fell in love with Jack (Joker) and was driven away at the height of his madness. Taking his place is a manic woman obsessed with Joker’s madness. The original wears her jumpsuit she debuted in, while the new favors a look more like her appearance in Suicide Squad. As a reader the devolution of Harley in comics has long been a point of contention with me. Seeing my issues with the character addressed so quickly and effortlessly was not something I had expected, but I loved it. This book still has another 5 issues to go, and Sean Murphy has barely cracked the surface of what he is going to do.

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1.  Mister Miracle is without a doubt, the best series of the year, and is Tom King and Mitch Gerads at their finest. This series clocks in at just 5 issues of its 12 issue run, and has been a smash hit since day one. The story so far sees the titular hero thrust into a war between the New Gods and the forces of Darkseid. While it is made clear early on that absolutely nothing is at it seems, the curtain has yet to be pulled back to reveal the full extent of what is happening. The war has taken several turns so far, including the death of High Father. This has led to Orion becoming the new leader of New Genesis. Most recently he ordered the death of Mister Miracle under the accusation that he was corrupted by the Anti Life Equation (he may be, we don’t know). The book has managed to nail down a very dramatic and action packed story, and sneak in brilliant moments of comedy and heartwarming tenderness as well. Something Tom King has proven very deft at. Gerads art is a credit to this book. Able to pull off a captivating and brilliant read every issue, while also making things fuzzy enough to make the reader confused an unnerved. This is well worth a pick up if you haven’t gotten to read it yet.

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Top of the Stack

Hey everyone! This post is delayed mostly because there really weren’t that many great books that came out this week. Normally I could go on and on about books like Action and Detective, but they both had sub par issues this week. I figure there is enough negativity in the world right now, so I won’t critique these books. Instead I will focus the few books this week that I liked. So with that done, I’ll get to it!

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Mister Miracle #5

This book is hands down the best book on the shelf. Period. Tom King is able to embrace the bombastic and wild style that Jack Kirby brought to his books. In doing so, he is able to nail down the New Gods in a way few have since their creation. Mitch Gerads art is also perfect for the book. Able to make a page feel warm, yet unsettling. Heart warming, yet creepy. By sticking close to a 9 panel per page layout, the book has a classic feel to it which helps to add to both the overall enjoyment. Additionally it helps him sow seeds of distress that remind the readers that there is something sinister we haven’t seen yet. This issue is the best of the series so far. I have longed to get an issue that is just Scott and Barda exploring their relationship, and we get it in this one. I have long loved their love for each other, and this issue has it all. It has Barda, who is as strong as Wonder Woman, be more vulnerable then we have ever seen her. She spends the book with a smile on her face, but a heavy heart. The execution of Scott weighing heavy on her mind. Scott is much more relaxed, and seemingly at peace with the decision. We see them spend the last two days together. They do everything from enjoy a carnival, to eating at a diner, and some creative love scenes. With the book far from issue 12, we knew Scott wasn’t headed for the chair this early. The issues conclusion left one of the most dangerous women in the universe on a quest to protect her husband from a neurotic Orion. Yet sadly, I have to wait another 30 days to read the next part of it.

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Port of Earth #2

I am a sucker for a good sci fi story, and this is one of them. The story follows an Earth that made contact with an alien consortium in the not so distant future. The aliens were not after peace, or war, or anything like that. They needed an intergalactic gas station. Their ships are powered by water, and Earth has an abundant supply of it. So an agreement was made. They give us some advanced tech while we let their ships fill up. Not enough to hurt the environment, just enough to get them to the next stop. The story is set several years after this bureaucratic first contact.  The story follows two agents of the Earth Security Agency. Tasked to guard the facility from unauthorized humans, or escaping alien entities. This issue picks up with them hot in pursuit of an escaped alien. A powerful being from a race the humans have not had the displeasure of meeting. Zack Kaplan is weaving threads of sci-fi, action, and alien horror. All excellently drawn by Andrea Mutti. If the story keeps up this way, Image will have another hit on its hands. I am hoping that this book finds an audience, as it truly is one of the best Science Fiction stories I have read in a long time.

Sadly, that’s about it for this week. I hope you will check these books out, if you haven’t  already. In the mean time, what are you reading?

On The Stack

It’s Wednesday, and before I get my stack of new books, I’m here to detail the best books of the week before.

5. Ghost Rider #1 was a rather brilliant book, I have already sung the praises of this first issue, and will let you read it here. That being said, it was definitely one of the best things from last weeks stack.

4. Aquaman #29 continues what writer Jeff Parker has been doing with Aquaman. When Johns left it was easy to thing Aquaman could fall by the wayside, and become a forgettable title. Yet Jeff Parker has managed to spin an impressive yarn about a more human Aquaman ever since stepping in. It is a thrill to see, and this issue proves that Parker has a lot more going on.

3. The Wake #7 made me realize I missed the book since the last issue. Murphey’s art stole the show, as we see our characters caught by the villainous government. What’s fascinating about this book is once the plot shifted, it feels like the government and people are the bad guys. The Merfolk are no longer the primary villains, though they are there. I am excited and fascinated to see where this book goes as it heads towards its conclusion 3 issues from now.

2. Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #6. Rogues Rebellion was the tie in that could. While much of Forever Evil has been stellar, the Rouges centered limited series was the best tie in of the bunch. It perfectly grasped the concept of the Rogues, and seeing them embark on their own small heroic journey of sorts was excellent. Seeing where they go without Captain Cold and Heatwave (who’s dead?) will be interesting. Seeing if Mirror Master can continue to lead the team will be fascinating as well.

1. Afterlife with Archie #4 was one of the most emotional books I have ever read. In just a few short pages, we are forced to feel immense sorrow as Archie not only loses his dog (who has heartbreaking internal dialogue) but also as he realizes that he can’t save everyone. This book continues to thrill at every turn, and this issue made the book feel all the more real.

In other news, I was extremely underwhelmed by Silver Surfer #1. The art was excellent, but the story was forgettable and slow. I hope it can pick up from a poor first issue, as I need to see Allred’s art on a monthly basis.

Until the next time,

Rn

Live and Let Die

Now that I’ve spent some time covering why all I got out of reading and blogging, lets discuss some current events. Today’s topic in particular are the announced titles being cancelled from DC and the impending launches to go with it.

We already knew that Teen Titans was getting scrubbed, yet there was more shocking news of cancellations to go along with that. The most shocking and perhaps most horrifying to comic fans is the cancellation of Nightwing. One of DC’s most consistent and better sold books, something is definitely going on with the character to drive the cancellation of his book. Either he’s changing face and name to try to protect himself after Forever Evil or he isn’t making it out of Forever Evil (but I’ll discuss more on that at a later date).

The other books were predictable. Both Stormwatch and Suicide Squad had been given new creative teams to avert looming cancellation. Unfortunately for them, the quality of each just wasn’t enough (even though the recent Suicide Squad has been sensational). Superman Unchained too seems to be getting ended all too soon.

What’s more important is the titles taking their place. Aquaman and the Others, Secret Origins, Sinestro, JLU, and Batman Eternal are not only staffed with great creative teams, but bring together some of the best concepts of the New 52. I will personally be giving all a shot, and titles like Batman Eternal and Sinestro are most likely getting added to my pull list permanently.

So that’s April. But what about May? Well, if you are clever (and I am) you can begin to project what May looks like. Most the aforementioned titles are coming in to replace books like Green Team, Vibe, Katana, and Dark Knight. Though the New 52 is not set on the “52”, they will need to launch at least a few new titles to get close to their normal 47-50. One of which is Future’s End, which inexplicably starts in the end of Stormwatch. Another title we can be sure to see is a relaunch of the Teen Titans. I’m positive DC will try to push a new team and title as soon as possible. Nightwing’s end would suggest that another Bat title isn’t far away either.

Looking at context clues from the last few months and April’s solicitations, two characters could be poised to take center stage. Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman. With Lex’s impending status as leader of the Justice League and his presence in the upcoming Superman arc, Luthor seems set to get his own title. It seemed likely long before April, and the recent round of solicits only indicate greater plans for the worlds super-man. Wonder Woman too will be all over the place. And while it is hard to believe that she’ll have a book outside of her own and Superman/Wonder Woman, it shouldn’t. Superman is the star of no less than 4 books a time, and Batman’s in pretty much everything. It would only make sense for her to have a greater presence in the DCU. With the world in shambles, Wonder Woman could be just the character needed to help rebuild the universe and inspire heroes, gods, and mortals alike. I could easily see Wonder Woman in a title focused on the Greek Pantheon or as the leader of her own team (I mean, Aquaman’s doing it).

And as always there is my normal wish list of DC books. Cyborg, Captain Marvel, Steel, Milestone, and relaunched Wildstorm book are all on my personal wishlist for various reasons.

So what’s next? Any bold new predictions for the future of the DC Universe?

Until the next time,

Rn

 

Evaluating an Event

In my return to the land of the living late last week, I discussed where I have been what helped get me back into the industry. One major aspects of my fall from monthly reading of comics were the continuous events going on. At the time my pull list consisted of multiple Marvel titles, including Uncanny X-Men, X-(Wo)Men, New Avengers, Avengers and others. Then Marvel launched Infinity. At the same time, they launched into Battle of the Atom. Both of those events consumed all the titles listed above, trying to keep track of where the story was in each title would have forced me to read other titles. Rather than do that, I found myself distancing myself from each of those titles. While I am normally not a stranger to events, I ignored both of these thanks in part to them taking place simultaneously. Not only that, the event Inhumanity launched almost immediately after that. The over saturation of events forced me to back away from some of my favorite titles.

Yet, the real reason I found myself dropping the books was due to the lack of consequences. We knew well before Infinity was over that it would lead right to Inhumanity. We didn’t have to worry about real consequences of a “cosmic” event like Infinity. Earth would survive and so would all of our heroes. The sense of drama was dramatically lost in the shuffle, and while Hickman is masterful at large frame plot lines, he couldn’t quite write in the stakes to this book. Additionally, having the aftermath and fallout of an event be another event seems like a terrible idea. Rather than do that, a title should go back to its roots and feature the individual character or characters of each of the books reeling from the drama.

While controversial, I will plug in Forever Evil. Much like Marvel, DC is no stranger to events. While Forever Evil is far reaching and more expansive then it needs to be, the core of the event feels like it has real stakes. We have no idea how the world will be saved, and in addition to that, we know that the world will have to be different. Dick Greyson has been outed as Nightwing, Cyborg lost most of the rest of his humanity, Captain Cold was made human again, and so much more. There are real consequences for characters of varying importance. I have had a chance to talk with numerous consumers who have said as much. Since I started work at my local comic book store, the event that has gotten the best reception has been Forever Evil. While we normally sell more DC books than Marvel, customers that pick up Marvel almost exclusively have begun to pick up Forever Evil.\

While I admit I am personally biased, a fact frequent readers know well, there is a clear problem with the saturation of events in the comic industry. Both Marvel and DC are guilty of perpetuating extremely long event series and forcing too many writers to sacrifice their stories so that they can tie in with an event. Hopefully we are at an end of it. Hopefully The All-New Marvel now will have the ability to grow on its own post Inhumanity and hopefully DC will truly explore the consequences of Forever Evil.

Now I ask you all, have you been finding modern event comics as uneventful as I have?

Until the next time,

Rn

Continuing the Evil

Hey there everyone! As I am still finishing up school, the past few weeks have been dominated by mid terms, papers, and other uspeakable academic related horrors. That being said, I am hopefully back on track to providing you daily commentary on all things nerdy.

The thing I have been meaning to discuss the most is the multiple spin off books that have come out of Forever Evil, as that is the comic event that is consuming most of my attention and money at the moment.

After a rather strong villains month in September, DC attempts to keep the pace with the rest of the Forever Evil brand in September, and so far it hasn’t been all that great. Forever Evil #2 was extremely well done, and I look forward to that more than any other book in the event. Arkham War #1 was nothing more than a long Bane monologue. We saw nothing significant happen, and featured very little of Arkham or of War. Though this is due to the nature of a set up issue, this issue still lacks much to be desired.

Additionally, Rogue’s Rebellion wasn’t sensational either. Though I enjoyed it much more so than Arkham War, this issue too felt more like staged rehashing than it did a new story. Majority of the issue is either nothing new, or nothing relevant. This issue did create a great dynamic between Captain Cold and the Mirror Master. I was shocked as to how well it was done, and glad to see at least two of the group were done arguing.

Justice League of America was also uninteresting. Though we see the fact that all of our heroes are trapped inside a sentient prison, nothing in the prison makes sense. We see Wonder Woman crying and ashamed, Superman attempting to reverse time, and Shazam destroying and murdering the city. All of this seemed like a far cry from the hereos we know best. And though the prison may be psychological it has yet to demonstrate why it can break our heroes so easily.

Perhaps the creme of the crop was Suicide Squad. The issue features two SS teams both believing to be hired by Waller, when one is actually working against her. This issue unites Deadshot, Harley, and Captain Boomerang and pits them against the combined forces of the Unknown Soldier, Steel, and Power Girl. The concept that these heroes and villains could potentially work together is enough to make any fan excited, but what was more exciting was the appearance of Steel. Steel is one of my favorite characters in DC’s arsenal, and has only shown up in three different series to date (this, Rotworld, and Action Comics). I am definitely excited to see where this goes in the future, and where Matt Kindt takes these characters.

Is there anything you particularly loved or hated out of the tie in books we’ve gotten thus far? If so, be sure to let me know.

Until the next time,

Rn

Ravingnerd Reviews: Superman/Wonder Woman #1

So like many people, I was extremely skeptical about this series. Charles Soule (one of DC’s new go to guys) teased that it would have romance and wouldn’t be an entirely serious action book. At the time of the announcement only Tony S. Daniel’s art was appealing about the book. Since then however, it was revealed that Doomsday would be the first villain for the book, which implied that it would have quite a bit more action than initially stated. All in all, I couldn’t not give this book a shot, so here is what I liked about it.

1. Tony S. Daniel’s art is top of his game in this one. Whereas his previous work in Action Comics wasn’t as great as some of his previous works, the splash panels and pages in this are gorgeous. Truly something to see.
2. The opening of the book implies a second villain involved in the series, one with more brains than brawn.
3. There are some tender moments between the two, but for the most part we see the characters as individuals and not as an “item”.
4. Despite her second book being with her boyfriend, Wonder Woman is definitely the best part of the book. Her dialogue and actions are mostly spot on for her character, and affirm that she’s a bad ass.

Rating before reading: 5
Rating after reading: 7

I hate to say it, but this book was a rather pleasant read. There are problems, sure. But those issues have nothing to do with the relationship of the characters. Though Soule teased an abundance of affection, the title characters don’t even share a kiss within the pages of this issue. Instead we see a stirring parallel as Diana and Clark go about there days. Clark trying to deal with Cat (his business partner of sorts) and Diana doing what she does best (fighting).

It was this scene that sold me on the book, my enjoyment hinged almost solely on the characterization and presentation of Wonder Woman. And while the book had its share of missteps where she was concerned, as a whole the book was true to form. She is a warrior princess/god. Furthermore Superman’s gift to Diana was an alien flower. Diana’s gift to Clark was a magical blade that could cut Superman. She didn’t give the sword to him, instead she promised to teach him how to fight. If that isn’t Wonder Woman at her core, then I don’t know what is.

So while I was skeptical at first, I found myself not only enjoying the issue as a whole, but enjoying the characterization of Wonder Woman by herself.

Until the next time,

Rn