Wonder Woman by Mike Deodato (2016)
Reprints Wonder Woman #85, 90-100, 0
Written by William Messner-Loebs
Art by Mike Deodato
Not many collections I’ve reviewed spotlight the artist, but in my journey through Wonder Woman’s post-Crisis career, we have reached the era where things get weird. These comics were published in the mid-1990s when Image Comics had a profound effect on the industry. Image was founded by a collective of artists who left the big two companies and created imprints under this single umbrella. They were people like Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, and Rob Liefeld, who had very distinct and oft-criticized art styles. Deodato is very much a student of these artists, and it shows in his work, which we will get into later.
The series was still written by William-Messner Loebs, and he is continuing his storylines from earlier. The Sazia and Longo crime wars have erupted all over Boston, one of the key storylines in the collection. Before we get to that, though, Wonder Woman discovers that the Amazons and Themyscria have returned to the material plane after Circe’s curse sent them to the Underworld. Diana finds her mother Hippolyte extraordinarily hostile, and the island co-populated by the offshoot Bana-Migdhall Amazons. Through a series of mystical flashbacks, Diana learns about her mother’s betrayal of a sister, which led to this split. A new tournament is declared after Hippolyte declares Diana’s mission in Man’s World as failed.
The result is Diana’s displacement and the Amazon Artemis taking the mantle of Wonder Woman. This doesn’t dissuade the Amazon princess, who creates a new costume and continues fighting crime in Boston. Both women become embroiled in the gang war, where metahuman mercenaries are being sent out. The White Magician is fueling the conflict, imbuing these killers with demonic energies at great harm to himself. Artemis follows in the vein of contemporaries like the Azrael-Batman and The Last Son of Krypton as being proactive and murderous. There’s never any doubt Diana will reclaim the mantle; it’s just a matter of time.
Mike Deodato’s artwork is so confounding. There are moments where I genuinely felt classic comics artists like Gil Kane or Neal Adams being invoked. Those are rare, though, and most of the time, it verges on pornographic. Deodato renders women in a hyper-stylized unrealistic manner. Their clothing is absurdly minimal, especially during the Themyscria issues. Amazons all wear thongs that disappear in their asscracks, and they all wear straps and thin cloth that have their breasts exploding out. It’s not as over the top as it could be, but it’s really ludicrous after seeing the still sexy, yet feminine work done by George Perez and Jill Thompson.
William Messner-Loebs seems to be getting lost in the editorial decisions of the day. Narratively this collection is a mess most definitely not helped by sometimes incoherent artwork. Pacing is also a big problem, and the way the story cuts back and forth between Diana and Artemis is done very poorly. Diana remains the main character in the book after losing the Wonder Woman title, so the Artemis takeover never feels like a big deal. With Superman and Batman’s respective replacements at this time, you had multiple books over many months to tell the story, so it really felt like classic heroes were gone. Here it’s less than a year with one issue a month.
Artemis never gets even decent character development. Instead, she fights a series of bad guys with cringey names like The Chauvinist. It’s like Loebs sends her up against metaphors of things women and liberals see as evil. As someone who is exceptionally left-wing, I see this all as laughable liberal posturing. It’s pretty meaningless and doesn’t add to the story. It is also extremely at odds with the art style and how these women are presented in the most sexual manner possible. By issue 100, there is an overblown incomprehensible battle with The White Magician that has Artemis returning the mantle to Diana, surprising absolutely no one.
This collection is not a great read, but it does exist as a strange artifact of the period, a moment when a specific art style took over the industry. The result was some barely readable stories, where everything had to be “extreme.” It’s a shame it overtook Wonder Woman’s title for a year, but eventually, things calmed down. When we visit with the Princess of Power next, it will be the first of a multi-part series on John Byrne’s run. Keep an eye out.