Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wonder Woman #15 (April 1988)

Wonder Woman. The Amazing Amazon. One-third of DC's "Trinity", their Big Three heroes. She's been given spotlight on this blog before, as I reviewed Wonder Woman #58 (September 1991) back in June.

First appearing in All-Star Comics #8 (October 1941), Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston and Henry G. Peter. Marston, a psychologist by trade, had already helped lead to the invention of the polygraph, or "lie detector". He saw potential in comics as a medium, and wanted to created a new type of superhero. His superhero would use love to fight evil, instead of guns or fists. His wife Elizabeth suggested that this new superhero be a woman.

Sadly, cancer would claim Marston's life in 1947, and he wouldn't get to see just how big, and how beloved Wonder Woman would become. The character would become a major icon, despite her never getting as much of the treatment in other media that her two compatriots in the Trinity, Superman and Batman did.

In 1986, as part of DC's massive reboot/house-cleaning event known as Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wonder Woman's old canon was wiped out and given a fresh start. A new title with Wonder Woman was launched, with George Perez, Len Wein, and Greg Potter at the helm. This new title was a hit with fans and critics. Wonder Woman would get rebooted yet again with the New 52, and her origins would get wrecked again in DC Rebirth, but despite that, she's endured and become one of DC's most beloved heroines. And Perez's work on the Amazon Princess has stood the test of time, despite numerous reboots and constant futzing with her origin, thank you New 52 and DC Rebirth.

I also picked this issue for another reason. Recently, comic legend Len Wein, who many know for co-creating Wolverine and Swamp Thing, had passed away. As I was picking a comic to review, I pulled out my copy of Wonder Woman by George Perez Volume 2, and found his name in the credits. I felt it was the cosmos telling me to do this comic as a bit of a tribute. Wein has edited and written many characters in his long career. I think almost every major character in the Big Two of comics has been touched by his pen in some form, and this is just one issue in a very large body of work in comics and television. Goodbye, Mr. Wein. You will not be forgotten.

And with that, let's look at Wonder Woman #15!

The cover is really awesome. I think it's one of those covers that only George Perez could pull off. You got the new Silver Swan front and center, letting out her sonic scream. The negative space created by the white of her costume is used to highlight several characters, and the bottom features three images of a screaming Wonder Woman holding her ears. It sells the idea of the Swan being a dangerous new threat to the Amazing Amazon. The lines used on Wonder Woman give it a bit of a horror vibe.

"Swan Song"
Writer: George Perez (Story), Len Wein (Script)
Penciller: George Perez
Finisher: Bruce D. Patterson (pages 4-22)
Letterer: John Constanza
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Karen Berger

The story begins with Wonder Woman riding on a beach.

She notices a storm in the sky, thunder booming and lightning flashing, the whole nine yards. She looks up and sees a face and hand form in the clouds. Wonder Woman flies up to check it out. The storm begins to dissipate, and a light shines. She looks up and sees...

Huh. Evidently Zack Snyder was not the only one with use Jesus imagery when it came to Superman. She takes his hand, and the two are about to kiss...when Diana wakes up. Yup, Diana was riding around in dreamland. She picks up a Daily Planet newspaper and remarks that she hears Superman's name and sees him everywhere. Evidently, the princess of the Amazons has a bit of a crush on the Man of Steel. Huh. Superman/Wonder Woman shipping was not a new thing. Go figure.

Night has fallen over the city of Boston, Massachusetts, as we look in on the offices of  Ogawa Electronics. Normally, these offices are rather quiet at night, but this night is an exception. A hacker has found his way into the building, and is after some information.

He's after some project called "Silver Swan". A guard enters the room, worried that his fellow guard hasn't come back yet. He pulls out his gun, and the hacker takes the guard down, fleeing the scene. However, it did appear the hacker found what he was looking for.

Meanwhile, at the offices of Diana's publicist, Mindy Mayer, Mindy is being shown a poster...that she and some people are evidently standing on.

Yeah, this panel is weird. I was genuinely confused about it. Is that a mural? A giant poster? A projection? What are they standing on? Was it so big that they had to put it on the floor? What's going on here? Mayer is thrilled with the creator, Skeeter LaRue's, efforts. She takes him to her favorite watering hole to celebrate. This leaves LaRue's two assistants, Deni and Steve to talk amongst themselves.

Deni is furious that Steve lets LaRue take the credit for his ideas. Steve responds that there's no point in speaking up as Mindy never listens to him since LaRue joined up. She then states she's like to kick LaRue, but then Steve advises her to let it go, as LaRue can't have Mindy's ear forever.

The scene then shifts to Boston's Chinatown. There is an actual Chinatown in Boston. A woman is waiting at a phone booth. Phone booth. Don't see much of those anymore. She's waiting to meet her friend, someone named "Val". The woman wonders why she was sent a note by Val to meet her in Chinatown at this hour. She then sees headlights turn on, and hears a squeal of tires.

Realizing that the car's driver is trying to kill her, the woman flees for her life. She runs to an alley, where the car's tire gets shot out, causing it to crash. Despite this, the driver survives, and tries to shoot the woman. The driver hears someone calling out in what I think might be Chinese, but then gets shot. The woman thanks her mysterious savior, but...

The scene switches again to Wakefield. Diana prays to Eros, asking for some clarification regarding her feelings towards the Man of Steel. Vanessa Kapatelis finds her, and asks her what she's doing. This scene sets up that there will be a fair in Diana's honor tomorrow, and Vanessa thinks Diana is praying to steady her nerves for it. Diana was praying in Themysciran, whose language is an offshoot of Ancient Greek, and Vanessa doesn't know much of it. Her mother Julia was of Greek heritage, and was able to speak the language, which helped her become Diana's first friend in Patriarch's World.

We then look in on a cottage in Massachusetts, where the strange woman in Chinatown wakes up, having a bit of a headache. She wonders if she had a dream, but then finds that one of her hands is handcuffed to the bed. The man who shot her welcomes her back to the waking world, and apologizes for the headache. It's an unfortunate side-effect of the tranquilizer dart he shot her with.

The man is named Solomon, and he explains that the woman, a Miss Maxine Sterenbuch, was deliberately targeted. He hands her an envelope containing proof. Sterenbuch is confused by this, and he explains that she was targeted by the Silver Swan, aka Valerie Beaudry.

Sterenbuch thinks Solomon is insane. The Val Beaudry she knew would never do this. She explains the two of them were old friends. When Maxine was 15, she found an ad in a magazine looking for a pen pal. The two started exchanging letters over the years. Maxine's narration does give the impression that her feelings for Val were deeper than simply friendship, despite her never seeing Val's face.

The two did eventually agree to finally meet face-to-face, but she never showed. Maxine tried to find her, but it seemed that nobody in town knew her. The two eventually lost contact, and Maxine found a job working a boutique in Boston. However, Val would call her and arrange a meeting after seven years. Maxine would finally see Val for the first time.

However, something wasn't quite right. Val had a boyfriend, a Henry Cobb Armbruster. He wasn't a pleasant man, and he basically told Maxine to shove off. Maxine noticed that Val seemed nervous around him. Maxine and Val would meet on the sly, but Val was showing signs that she was abused. She also noticed that Val wished she could be as beautiful as Wonder Woman. Maxine explained she got another letter saying she was leaving Armbruster, and wanted to meet her in Chinatown.

Solomon explains that it was a set-up. He also explained that the reason why it happened was to prevent Maxine from learning something about Valerie, mainly...what she actually looked like.

Yeah, you can get why Val was reluctant to send Maxine a picture of her back in the day. Maxine is shocked, wondering how she ended up looking like that. Solomon explains that it's a five year old picture. Val's parents were exposed to nuclear radiation, causing her to be born mutated. When that photo was taken, she was the subject of an experiment code-named Silver Swan. Solomon then shows her a video.

The old man in the tape is Solomon's father, a scientist on the project. The transformed Valerie, using sonic disruption powers she developed, is seen wrecking the lab and killing Solomon's father. Valerie Beaudry has become Solomon's Moby Dick, as it were.

Dawn has risen over the city of Boston. Henry Cobb Armbruster is awake. But he's not eager to greet this new day. He's angry over the assassin's failure and Maxine's vanishing. Armbruster's...colleague, a Mr. Choi, asks if the Silver Swan can deal with Wonder Woman. Armbruster is certain of it, as the Swan despises Wonder Woman and is all too eager to take her on.

At an Air Force base, Etta Candy is getting weighed, and she's managed to lose 35 pounds. Good on her. She says she still has to lose 20 more to reach her target, but Steve Trevor assures her she's within acceptable parameters now, but her effort is to be commended. As an Air Force brat myself, yeah, they do go on about weight parameters in the service. Etta notices a flyer for the Wonder Woman Fair in Boston, and notes that Steve will be there. She wonders how she can compete with the Amazing Amazon.

At Boston Commons, the Fair is in full swing! Rides, stalls, kiosks, and ridiculously expensive junk food! Steve Trevor is there, and he wishes Etta was with him. He runs into Vanessa Kapatelis, who introduces him to her prospective boyfriend Barry. However, Barry seems to be more interested in seeing Wonder Woman.

A woman who is working for a charity is confronting Skeeter, saying she feels that this fair should be about helping needy children, not feeding Wonder Woman's ego. Skeeter counters that the point of the fair is to make money, and it's a big success at that aspect. Honestly, I could imagine Wonder Woman wanting the charitable aspects of the fair emphasized.

A woman approaches a podium, and introduces Princess Diana. We get a brief glimpse of Solomon and Maxine. Solomon says he can sense the Silver Swan is here, but Maxine tells him she hopes he's wrong about that.

Wonder Woman makes her big appearance, to the joy of the crowd.

Diana flies towards the podium, but a low humming is heard in the air. The cast look around, and...

A sonic blast destroys the giant poster of Wonder Woman behind the podium. The perpetrator makes herself known: Valerie Beaudry, the Silver Swan.

Solomon tries to make his move, but gets a gun put to his head. Diana tries to talk to Beaudry, but the Silver Swan is having none of it. She lets out a sonic scream that hurts Diana's ears and wrecks the Ferris wheel. The story ends with Diana watching the wheel collapse in horror.

This comic is really enjoyable. Perez and Wein juggle multiple storylines with ease, and they come together in a epic manner with the Silver Swan's attack. The post-Crisis Silver Swan's origins here have a tragic and horrific aspect due to the character being born hideously mutated, then abused and experimented on. It's a much darker nod to the Ugly Duckling, with aspects of Moby Dick thanks to Solomon's vengeful crusade.

The art is...interesting. You see, Perez himself only did the first few pages of the comic, while doing the layouts for the rest. Patterson's job just seemed to be "clean up the rough pencils so they'll look pretty for printing". As a result, the art for the main story is still very Perez-esque. The angles, the faces, all still retaining Perez's essence. As a result, the main story's art is not jarring at all. Fantastic.

Next time, we return to Earth-712, and the Squadron Supreme facing new problems...

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