September 23, 2010

Getting Graphic: "Wonder Woman: Love and Murder" by Jodi Picoult

Wonder Woman: Love and Murder
written by Jodi Picoult
illustrated by Terry Dodson, Drew Johnson, and Paco Diaz
published by DC Comics (2007)
ISBN 978-1-4012-1487-6

It's rather remarkable that nearly every major superhero in comic books has received a major motion picture adaptation in the last ten years except for one conspicuous exception: Wonder Woman. Why is that, I wonder. It surely can't be because the character is female. Jennifer Garner stank up the screen as Elecktra, and Halle Berry starred in the even worse Catwoman, so why is it ... Oh. I think I just realized why Hollywood doesn't want to give Wonder Woman a chance. Crud.

At least the comic books are good, and even attracting notable novelists to take a turn at the helm. Sometimes you have to question the wisdom of letting a non-comic book writer jump into the captain's chair, but in Jodi Picoult's case she did a bang-up job. I say this because, as a guy who isn't a regular follower of any comic books, I found I was easily immersed with the story as it unfolded despite my lack of familiarity with nearly all of the characters involved.

The introduction lays out the groundwork. Wonder Woman is lying low as her alter-ego Dianna Prince, working with the Department of Metahuman Affairs (basically an agency that polices the superheroes and supervillains of the DC universe). She killed a villain working with a covert government agency, which traumatized her heroic sensibilities and now she's doing some soul-searching--and avoiding the authorities as they hunt what is perceived as a rogue superhero in Wonder Woman.

So while Dianna Prince tries to get by with her chauvinistic partner, Nemesis, avoid being found out as Wonder Woman, and still save the day when duty calls, things become all the more complicated when an old enemy, Circe, reappears with a master plan to wreak havoc on Wonder Woman, the Justice League of America, and basically the world at large.

While I thought the back-and-forth between Wonder Woman and Nemesis got a little hammy on more than one occasion with the whole love/hate flirtation, all of the other interactions between characters seemed to come well and felt relatively organic. Picoult seemed to understand each character's motivations and history and brought it all out in many scenes. The witty barbs got a little tiring midway through, but that kind of banter is par for the course with superhero comics, I find. I guess some levity is needed when the world is in peril.

The artwork was crisp and seeing cameos from other DC superheroes like Batman was a nice addition. If I had to take a shot at any of the visuals, it would have to be some of the poses struck by Wonder Woman. I cannot think of any point at which a character should look so ridiculous, and a scene where she visits a museum at night and stares at her own effigy was particularly weird because of her frozen, mid-karate chop posture.

The book ends off on a climactic note and leads right into the next volume, which I will now have to hunt down so I can find out what happens next. I don't think Jodi Picoult writes that volume, however. Too bad.

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