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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals

Writer: George Pérez, Greg Potter and Len Wein
Pencils: George Pérez
Inks: Bruce Patterson
Colours: Tatjana Wood
Letters: John Costanza
Publisher: DC Comics

What’s it about?
Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals collects the first seven issues from the George Pérez run of the Amazonian heroine.  After the Crisis in the 80s, DC Comics decided to clean up their continuity, reboot most characters and get rid of all the alternate universes they started to have.

While Superman started simpler in a clean new direction under John Byrne in Man of Steel and Batman got edgier and more realistic in Year One under Frank Miller, Wonder Woman was left aside for a while.  Perhaps the editors weren't sure how to show Wonder Woman in a new light, or perhaps they thought they should portray her more realistically (by toning down the mythological aspects), or adapt her to the market (ruining a classic character with a tits and ass approach).

It wasn't until 1987 when George Pérez came onboard, revised Greg Potter's suggested pitch and kept everything WW in check that the Amazonian princess finally got a new start.
What is good about it?
This book started as a miniseries, which was expanded into a 5 years series and finally the modern on-going Wonder Woman series.  As such, it clearly has a distinct chapter feel to it.
The story is self contained, but develops enough threads to continue upon in the later volumes.
Pérez and Len Wein wrote a strong female superheroine whose reliance on others isn't a weakness - she can count on her supporting cast for her strength.

It's a really good starting point, and I personally jumped into Wonder Woman comics with this first trade not that long ago.

The story is about the return of the mythological gods into our world while the god of war, Ares, has other plans for himself (to rule supreme over both Earth and the magical Mount Olympus).  The characters aren't as 2-dimensional as other mainstream comics of the 80s. The Amazons left "man's world" and were reincarnated by the Gods on their own Island for a reason. The story may have fantasy tones, but is grounded around more serious subjects.

Silver age characters are reinterpreted for the reboot. Steve Trevor is back and has his own separate plotline that crosses over with Diana's situation near the end (this would be explored more in later issues/books). There's also a professor, Julia Kapatelis, who becomes a sort of mother figure to WW and introduces her to the world. And many more!

The story grounds Wonder Woman in reality, there are "political" aspects in this tale (a new civilisation makes contact with our western culture!), and uses Greek mythology and historical aspects to build this version of DC Comics "old Gods".

I couldn't move on the next segment without talking about Pérez art, which was a big part in building up the new universe of Wonder Woman. George Pérez is usually well known for his impressive group shots and ability to "give life" to hundreds of characters on splash pages.

Here, in this book, his art really serves to build up this fantasy-oriented universe and he really surpassed himself with all the details in the clothing, the Greek influence, the architecture, etc..

What is bad about it?
On the negative aspect, it may not be reader friendly if you're a newcomer to graphic novels or happen to be searching for some light entertainment. The story is really heavy on descriptions, old speech patterns (voluntary), internal narration, thoughts-bubbles, etc..

So, if you're used to more modern action filled books it may not be your cup of tea.

Also, and this might be subjective, but I find the 1987 coloring by Tatjana Wood a bit simple. It doesn't really do justice to Pérez amazing panels.  This collection from 2004 wasn't edited, everything is printed here as it was originally.  You can see what I mean if you check his more recent work on the Brave and the Bold for example, where his pencils are pretty much the same, but modern coloring techniques have changed a lot since then.
I'm pretty sure this above page in black and white would look a thousand times better.

What’s the art like?
I've already put up samples all over this post, but this might not give you an idea how he plays with the content, the story, to create his layouts.

So here's some personal favorites where he plays around with the medium, often at the start of issues/chapters or to show off different moods and tones alongside the story telling.

And he also created the unique look of the evil god of war Ares, a truly unique bad guy in superhero comics.  He's sadly one of DC's most underused bad guys. Anyway, he's a great example of Pérez art style:

Other information
Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Gods and Mortals
192 pg Colors Softcover
Priced at approximately £12.99
ISBN: 978-1401201975

It's a great starting point to follow Wonder Woman adventures.
If you liked this one and want more I recommend you to continue reading the collected George Pérez run with these:
Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Challenge of the Gods
Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Beauty and the Beasts
Wonder Woman Vol. 4: Destiny Calling

The later stories drawn by Pérez and then the following ones only written by him haven't been collected as of this day. Wonder Woman went through a lot of changes during the extreme 90s (some good, most bad) which never portrayed her quite as good as Pérez did.  So I suggest missing most trade paperbacks until Greg Rucka who brought her back in the right form in Wonder Woman: Down to Earth.
and then in the following collections:
Wonder Woman: Bitter Rivals
Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon
Wonder Woman: Land of the Dead
Wonder Woman: Mission's End

After Rucka's run there were a few very bad depictions of Wonder Woman, so we suggest skipping those as well and moving onto Gail Simone's run
Wonder Woman: The Circle
Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth
Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian
Wonder Woman: War Killer
Wonder Woman: Contagion

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