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Fiction’s Fearless Females: Wonder Woman

Nancy and I, as well as six other bloggers, continue to celebrate Women’s History Month with this latest installment in our #FictionsFearlessFemales series! Each post written thus far has featured a female character from mass media such as movies and TV shows. Green Onion started us off, with his excellent post about Ellen Ripley, from the Alien movie series. Nancy followed with her phenomenal ode to Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. Then, Michael over at My Comic Relief penned a loving tribute to Amy Pond of Doctor Who. Man, I remember following Michael for our Great Chris Debate series too, and wondering how I could possibly top his post! (But, perhaps vainly, I assure you, dear readers… I didn’t feel that way this time ;D)

I know, I know… you guys are all are on tenterhooks wondering who I picked…

My post features Wonder Woman! The character was created by William Moulton Marston in 1941. Marston is also renowned for his psychological work and for creating the polygraph lie detector test. He wanted to create a new kind of superhero who didn’t use violence to solve problems, like the male superheroes who dominated the market at the time. He based his new character and her appearance after two women in his life: his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and their polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne. Thus, Wonder Woman was born.

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Marston, pictured with Holloway and Byrne. Note the silver bracelet on Byrne’s wrist, which was the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s own bullet-deflecting bracelets! (Source)

Raised on a utopian island populated only by women, Wonder Woman was the miracle child of the Queen Hippolyta: sculpted from clay and blessed with life by the Greek pantheon. The overjoyed queen named the child Diana. She grew up worshipping the Greek gods and training in the art of war, but is also taught to only use violence as a last resort. Her world is turned upside down when a plane crashes on Paradise Island, and she rescues a man from the wreckage. The Amazons nurse him back to health, and learn that the man – Steve Trevor – is an intelligence agent for the United States of America, and that he needs to get home to report vital information to his superiors to turn the tide of World War II in the Allies’ favor. Queen Hippolyta holds a tournament to grant one Amazon the privilege of returning Steve to his homeland and to preach the Amazon ways to Man’s World. Diana triumphs in the tournament, garbs herself in the colors of Steve’s home country, and escorts him home to aid the fight against the Nazis.

Wonder Woman broke the superhero glass ceiling, so perhaps is a role model by default, but she has many other qualities of one. Marston based her upon women of the ’40s, who were asserting their worth and independence during WWII and going to work to keep the country running while young men were away at war. In the early comics, Wonder Woman disguises herself as Diana Prince, and works as an army nurse while she’s not doing her superhero thing. Marston, also an outspoken feminist, designed the character also to be “psychological propoganda” for the newly liberated girls and young women of the ’40s, whom he believed could – and should! – use their feminine strengths to run the world (Wikipedia). In fact, the seventh issue of Wonder Woman, published in 1942, has the famous “Wonder Woman for President” story; even that early on in her history, Wonder Woman was doing what no one thought women could do!

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Cover for Wonder Woman #7 (1942). Source: MyComicShop

Wonder Woman was a hit when she was released, with both girls and boys. By a fan vote early in her publication, Wonder Woman was inducted as the first female member of the Justice Society of America (All Star Comics #12, 1942), as their secretary. Of course, they expanded her role as time went on, but she had to start somewhere, right? =P Though Marston passed away in 1947, he continued to write Wonder Woman until his death, and DC has published her stories continuously since then (save for a brief hiatus in the mid ’80s). She is a flagship character for the publisher, alongside Superman and Batman; together, they are known as the Trinity. Notable writers and artists who have worked on her title are George Perez, Greg Rucka (Down to Earth, The Hiketeia, and Rebirth), Gail Simone, John Byrne, and J. Michael Straczynski.

Not only has her comic book been long-running, the character has appeared not only in other DC comics, but in multiple mass media. Perhaps the most recognizable incarnation of the character before the DCEU was the TV show, starring Lynda Carter, that premiered in 1975. Wonder Woman was also in the cartoons Super Friends, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, and DC Superhero Girls, to name a few. I’d even say that after the unprecedented, genre-redefining success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, there is sort of a Wonder Woman Renaissance going on: not only this character, but other female superheroes are stepping into the spotlight and claiming their space.

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The indomitable Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman from the iconic ’70s TV show (Source).

Wonder Woman was written to be a different kind of superhero, as mentioned above: one who used love, compassion, and understanding to resolve conflicts instead of violence. The nuances depend on the individual story, but overall, the Amazon code preaches peace through submission to a loving authority; love, acceptance, and compassion to all; and diplomacy always before violence. Wonder Woman, therefore, is first and foremost an ambassador; spreading the Amazon ways to Man’s World. Greg Rucka’s run beginning with Down to Earth (linked above) in particular highlighted Diana’s ambassador role: in his story, Themyscira is recognized as a nation by the UN, and Diana becomes their official ambassador. She publishes a book during this time too, over which public opinion is polarized. There is a passage in which she’s on a talk show, and though the host and other guest try to heckle her, Diana responds calmly and patiently. Not everyone is receptive to her message, but that doesn’t mean she won’t try to get through to everybody.

There is an interesting dichotomy explored in many of her stories about Diana’s role of princess and ambassador versus her role as a warrior. The Amazons are a race of warrior women, and yet, they do not seek war. In George Perez’s run (linked above), the mighty Hercules travels to the Amazon’s home to conquer it. Queen Hippolyte meets him on the battlefield, garbed in armor, but speaks to him first. She gives him a chance to surrender before actually crossing swords, after she realizes there is no other choice. Diana is very much the same way. Later in Perez’s run, after she discovers Valerie Beaudry, the Silver Swan, is only the villain because her husband brainwashed her into doing it, seeks her out and tries to reason with her. It’s unlikely Wonder Woman ever strikes first – and if she does, it is only to protect innocent lives.

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Wonder Woman can be threatening, but she chooses not to be until there is no other alternative (Source).

My favorite quote about Wonder Woman comes from Gail Simone. In her introduction to The Circle (linked above), she writes:

“When you need to stop an asteroid, you get Superman. When you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But when you need to end a war, you get Wonder Woman” (AZ Quotes).

This quote speaks volumes about the character. Wonder Woman is arguably the best of the DC trinity at shutting down conflict, because she doesn’t use physical force to do so. She tries to negotiate first. She tries to see the other side of the story and offers compassion and understanding. She offers help, if help is needed, and asks for peace. Only when all other methods have failed does she resort to violence. At this point, after she’s exhausted all alternatives, she doesn’t hesitate to do whatever needs to be done – including taking a life, should the situation call for it (it only has once in her entire career!).

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This controversial page, from Wonder Woman #219, is just before Wonder Woman kills Maxwell Lord to free Superman from his mind control. This was shocking to fans, but made sense for her character. She asks four times how to free Superman from Lord’s control, and only kills him after it’s clear there is no other alternative. Neither Batman nor Superman would have killed, it’s true, but Wonder Woman is versed enough in the ways of war to know that the cost of one life is worth the continuation of many (Source).

The reason I personally love Wonder Woman so much is because of her unbreakable commitment to compassion, love, and trust. She sees the good in people, even villains, and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. She accepts everyone as they are, but knows when someone needs help, and is the first to offer it. She loves and trusts everyone she meets, unless they give her a reason not to. She opened herself to new experiences, to a whole new world, simply because she wanted to learn about it. These are incredibly powerful messages, not only to women, but to everyone.

I am not naturally this way – I am inclined to distrust and see the bad in people first – but I strive to emulate Wonder Woman, and do the same she does. I try to be compassionate and open to new experiences and ways of thinking, as she is. In this divided world, we can all stand to exercise a little more understanding and compassion in our every day lives.

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I want to be Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman when I grow up! Please? Please??? (Source)

Wonder Woman is one of, if not the most, important fictional female characters in history. She was the first superhero in an industry dominated by male characters. She showed us, has continued to show us, that not all conflicts have to be resolved using violence. Diana Prince might have super strength and the ability to fly, but I think that her greatest power is her heart, and its’ boundless capacity for love and empathy. We might not be able to attain her superpowers – but we can strive to fill our own hearts with her ideals, to fill the world with a little more love.

Kathleen

Next up will be Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Jeffrey of The Imperial Talker and last, but certainly not least, will be Kalie of Just Dread-full. We absolutely can’t wait to share the rest of this series with you guys! Please keep checking back in the next few weeks to see more of fiction’s fearless females, and follow the hashtag on Twitter!

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Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 6): Children of the Gods

A lawyer mysteriously shows up at the site of Wonder Woman’s latest victory over Giganta. He reveals to Diana and Steve that Hercules is dead. Furthermore, he has left a will, in which Diana inherits everything. It is at Hercules’ remote cottage that Diana discovers that she has a brother. A twin brother named Jason. Hercules helped train him to use his godly powers, and leaves Diana coordinates to where he lives, so she can meet him. While Diana is overjoyed to have found her brother, she is worried too. Grail, the daughter of Darkseid, is murdering demi-gods – such as Hercules, herself, and yes, Jason –  to steal their power and feed it to Darkseid, so he can recover his full strength after the events of Dark Nights: Metal. She is nervous about leading Jason into a trap, not realizing that one is being set for her…

This one occurred after Dark Nights: Metal, which I haven’t read, so Jason came out of left field for me. Been meaning to, though, because it looks suuuper cool. It’s incredibly interesting, and a little jarring, that they introduced a sibling for Diana, and a boy at that, after the canon for so long has been that Diana was a miracle child when she was born. On the one hand, it does add a deeper layer of intrigue for the Amazons, who are no strangers to keeping secrets, for the queen to have been given birth to twins instead of one child, and one a boy at that!

On the other hand, it sort of rubs me the wrong way that he is a boy. I admit, I suppose it wouldn’t have worked if Jason were a girl =P But this arc has spent so long thus far establishing Diana as a woman in her own right, that doesn’t need a man in her life, just chooses to have one… thrusting a brother on her whom she feels compelled to meet and love after all this time seems… off. It almost goes against what the writers had established over the last five volumes. I was much more interested in the Grail and Darkseid plotline myself.

There was a lot more action in this volume than in past, because the story has finally moved away from the deep introspection of Rebirth WW’s beginning volumes. The art was well suited to the change of pace. Though there is a lot of action, the lines are clean and crisp, and the panels uncluttered. The colors are also bright and eye-catching. One detail I really enjoyed were actually Grail and Darkseid, how their eyes lit up: there is a halo of color around their eyes whenever they show great power. Hoping the next volume tones Jason down a bit.

– Kathleen

Robinson, James, Carlo Pagulayan, Sergio Davila, and Emanuela Lupacchino. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 6): Children of the Gods. 2018.

Top 5 Wednesday: Independent Ladies

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the topic is: favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest.

Princess Leia from Star Wars

Princess Leia was getting shit done before a certain flyboy and scoundrel came into her life! She was a member of the Imperial Senate and a member of the Rebel Alliance when she was just a teenager and later became a General of the resistance. Her romance and later marriage to Han Solo were fit in between her amazing adventures.

Wonder Woman from the Kingdom Come storyline

When a new generation of heroes was failing and an impending apocalyptic event looms, Wonder Woman comes out of retirement to retrieve Superman who was in seclusion to save the world. The two of them, plus Batman, put everything right again and only after that does a romance between Diana and Clark develop. Loved the epilogue of this story!

Tyleet from the ElfQuest saga

Tyleet is a favorite character of mine from the ElfQuest series who is kind, patient and steady. As a second generation of the Wolfrider clan, she was single for hundreds of years before she unexpectedly “recognized” (when two elves are drawn together to create a child) an older elf Scouter. Despite her subsequent pregnancy Tyleet remained true to herself and in helping neighboring tribes of humans. Scouter learned to help her instead of stopping her from assisting those he had previously viewed as the enemy.

Officer Dana Cypress from the Revival series

Inexplicably, twenty three people come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin.Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. Officer Dana Cypress, a single mother and daughter of the sheriff, is asked to head the unit looking into this phenomenon. A problem arises when she discovers her younger sister is one of the “revivers”. She meets a scientist who is there to study the undead, and he becomes a love interest, but it is completely secondary to her solving the mystery.

Faith Herbert aka Zephyr of the Harbinger Renegades

Faith is a kick ass heroine! Not your typical scantily clad model type superhero chick, she transcends that stereotype and it becomes a non-issue. In this series, Faith has taken a break from the Renegades to discover herself. She still fights crime, but works as a journalist as her alter-ego. A new romance with another hero Archer is hinted at but her friendships remain a priority. She is a worthy adversary of any super villain, with promising future story lines.  You go girl!

I love how all these women are examples of how a woman can remain true to themselves while in the midst of a relationship. Women should be partners with the men they love and not subvert who they are.  These five examples of independent ladies are fantastic role models!

-Nancy

Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2)

Diana is back in Man’s World, preaching the Amazon way of peace and love. There are many who believe in her message, and receive it well, but there are many and more who think it’s unnatural – even dangerous. The US government has decided Diana Prince is a threat. They’ve discovered a weapon left on Paradise Island during World War II that could neutralize the Amazons – and Wonder Woman herself. All they have to do is pull the trigger…

I loved Earth One Wonder Woman when I read Volume 1, and I still love it now. The character is updated and challenged for modern times here. It’s heartbreaking how real her story feels: a woman, standing up and sharing her ideas on how to make the world a better place, only to be questioned, ridiculed, and labeled a threat by the men in power. There is an excellent passage in which Diana is questioned why anyone should listen to a a message of peace through loving submission spoken by a privileged princess. This one made me think, and I do love books that make me think.

Just as in the first volume, the art is excellent. The characters are solidly drawn and wonderfully expressive. There are still panels which are surrounded by the Lasso of Truth, or lightning, or other motifs; where I remember the first volume overdid these a bit to the point where it was hard to read, this volume did a better job of balancing them out. There are many Easter eggs once again to past incarnations of Wonder Woman’s character and story arcs, which are delightful for long-time fans to pick out.

Earth One definitely isn’t your mother’s Wonder Woman. That’s what I like about it 😉 This will challenge your perception of this DC staple in today’s world. As ever, looking forward to the next volume.

– Kathleen

Morrison, Grant, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn. Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2). 2018.

Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 5): Heart of the Amazon

After travelling the world, working with the military, bringing peace to all, Wonder Woman could use a little down time. The perfect opportunity arrives when Etta’s brother is getting married, and Etta could use a plus one. When a bomb is uncovered at the reception, however, it looks like business as usual. There are some who think that Diana’s blood – her Amazon DNA – could make them strong, make them a hero. There are others who think that her blood could cure countless diseases. And still others want her blood to make an army. Whoever they are, they used Diana’s friends to get to her – and Diana is out for blood herself.

This is the first volume that Shea Fontana wrote. I didn’t find it quite up to par with Vols. 1-4, which Greg Rucka wrote. Those are undoubtedly some hard shoes to fill, but I just didn’t find the same emotional resonance in this volume as in Rucka’s work. This volume is a lot more action-oriented. I found myself struggling with the DNA plot point – Diana’s powers are blessed upon her by the patrons, not as a result of any superhuman gene. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to WANT her DNA. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief for this one. The artists varied from issue to issue – which is really just a personal nitpick as the art was all great =P My absolute favorite continues to be Jenny Frisson’s variant covers. They’re! Just!! So!!! GREAT!!!! I LOVE THEM!!!!!

Also included in this volume are stories from Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman Annual #1, which features this gem:

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Yes. Diana, Princess of Themyscira, playing fetch with a Godzilla-type creature. My heart can’t take it 😭

– Kathleen

Fontana, Shea, Mirka Andolfo, and David Messina. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 5): Heart of the Amazon. 2018.

The Great Chris Debate! Part 4: Chris Pine

This week, Michael of My Comic Relief, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Kathleen, and I went head to head – trying to decide which cinematic superhero Chris is best! Michael supported Chris Pratt, Kalie choose Chris Hemsworth and Kathleen went with Chris Evans. All three shared heartfelt but misguided treatises as to the superiority of their Chris. While all three are excellent writers, they all fell short (and they secretly know it). Clearly the best was saved for last, which quite obviously is Chris Pine.

To say that the public is blessed with such four outstanding Chrises is an understatement. People come in with their own preconceived notions of what they find attractive, sexy and funny. All of the Chrises fit into those categories, but it takes a truly superior Chris to rise above the rest. So let’s wrap this up for once and for all, as I prove my Chris is best.

As if we needed an introduction to the best of the Chrises, but here it is, announcing it himself:

Continue reading “The Great Chris Debate! Part 4: Chris Pine”

Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Godwatch

Veronica Cale, leader of Godwatch, is definitely not a Wonder Woman fan. She’s watched Diana on the news, read about her in the papers, and thinks she is a sham. It doesn’t help that two of her gods, Phobos and Deimos, sons of Ares, have stolen her daughter’s soul. They’re holding it ransom until Veronica can lead them to Themyscira. Veronica sacrifices much in the journey, in developing the technology to get there. But to save her daughter – Veronica will do just about anything.

Rebirth WW does a lot of skipping around in the story. I can see why they utilize that method – revealing hidden truths and all that – but it’s not ideal for light reading. I really had to pay attention! That said, I loved that they went in a slightly different direction in this volume and made Veronica Cale the focus. You see her make the descent from a woman who just wants to save her daughter to a villain, and neither you nor her realizes until it’s too late. Cale is an excellent foil for Diana. I’m kind of a sucker for villain stories like this, and I enjoyed it very much.

Bilquis Evely’s art is lovely in it’s subtlety. The focus is more on expression as opposed to great detail. The color palette gets more muted and darker the more you read, echoing Cale’s descent into villainy. My favorite part had to be Jenny Frison’s covers at the back, though… I can’t get enough of them!!!

– Kathleen

Rucka, Greg, Bilquis Evely, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Godwatch. 2017.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! Hope you’re all having great dates ;D

This past weekend, as those of you also residing in the Midwest know, was a nightmare! All the snow we got on Friday made my work close, which was awesome, but left me at home shoveling and throwing snowballs for the dogs. It also almost left me without a Valentine’s day date – it was doubtful my fiancé would be able to come visit, but he managed to on Saturday after the weather blew out. We spent that afternoon out and about playing PoGo and it was the best time we’ve had together in a while. Sunday, though, we stayed in, baked, and watched this movie we didn’t get to catch in theaters.

Professor William Moulton Marston is being interviewed by the Child Study Association of America about the moral integrity of his creation: the comic called Wonder Woman. As he defends the themes and images in his work, he also reveals his life story and the inspiration behind the character. In 1928, Bill and his wife, Elizabeth Marston, are teaching at Harvard University and developing the lie detector test. Olive Byrne, daughter of Ethyl Byrne and niece of Margaret Sanger, becomes their teaching assistant and helps them develop the test. The three become close, and it’s soon clear that their feelings for one another go deeper than any of them expected them to. Once their relationship is revealed, the Marstons are fired from Harvard. Adding to their struggles is Olive’s pregnancy. How can the three possibly rebuild their lives after their scandal, let alone build a family together?

I’ve read The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, so I knew already about the man behind Wonder Woman and his family. I would say a good bit of the film was built from speculation because, due to the taboo behind polyamory and discussing sexuality at the time, there probably wasn’t a lot of primary sources from the subjects of the film to draw from. Still, the story is crafted well, and I was able to suspend my disbelief easily enough to enjoy it.

One of the things that surprised me the most was the emphasis on Elizabeth and Olive’s relationship rather than either of the women with Bill himself. Though he is part of the title and one of the main characters, Professor Marston was almost a secondary character in his own film. Thinking back now, it seems as though we the spectators were watching the film unfold mostly through Bill’s eyes. Many of the scenes place him in the background, with Elizabeth and Olive in the spotlight. Sometimes we see them from far back, as if we were Bill watching from the corner of the room. We are spectators too, but we are also Bill the spectator, watching these two powerhouse women fall in love with each other. I certainly hope it opens the door to more romance movies with same-sex or polyamorous couples in the future!

To the eye, every detail was perfect. The costumes and sets were fantastic. To both casual fans and diehard Wonder Woman fans, there are tons of cameos to pick out. The soundtrack was also very good, especially in the romance sequences.

It was an enjoyable film. There is a greater emphasis on the women who inspired Wonder Woman than on the creator himself, which opened the door to a romance film between two women. If Diana wouldn’t be proud of that, I don’t know who would be! It’s crafted well, from the costumes to the music. For reading with your viewing, I recommend either The Secret History of Wonder Woman or Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley to learn more about Bill, Elizabeth, and Olive, and how their dynamic shaped Wonder Woman!

– Kathleen

Robinson, Angela. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. 2017.

Forever Evil

The Justice League is no more! Instead the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 in the multiverse have managed to “kill” most of the heroes and round up all the villains, so as to take over the world. The Crime Syndicate consists of doppelgangers Ultraman (Superman), Super Woman (Wonder Woman), Owlman (Batman), Power Ring (Green Lantern), Deathstorm (Firestorm), Johnny Quick (The Flash) and Atomica (Atom) with their Sea King (Aquaman) not surviving the trip over.

After busting dozens of villains out of jail, this group of seven demand obedience from the motley group in front of them. They explain that the strongest should survive, and the way the former heroes have been protecting the weak of the planet was wrong. Ultraman declares “Aeternus Malum”, which roughly translates to forever evil, to his new army. Thrilled to be allowed to act on their base instincts, this new secret society go out and create deadly chaos all over the world.

But not all is well within the crime syndicate. The seven argue endlessly among themselves, and fear that the creature that destroyed their previous world will find them here. We discover Super Woman is pregnant and secretly telling both Ultraman and Owlman that they are the father, so we know she is planning on playing them off one another in the future.

In the midst of the lawlessness and disorder, Lex Luthor takes stock of the situation and takes action. He has a powerful secret weapon that he had been working on for years, and puts it into play. We also discover that not everyone from the Justice League is gone. A certain someone, who often fights dark impulses (you have to know who I’m referring to!), joins forces with Lex and some other surprising villains to take down the syndicate.  The conclusion reveals who the mole in the Justice League was to allow the syndicate to take over, and Super Woman has another surprising disclosure.

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This was an extremely dense story, one that took me time to go through. While I have been reading more DC graphic novels recently, I still had to look up many characters to find out their backgrounds and how they connect into one another. There were some inconsistencies and some holes in the story that were distracting, but I felt as a whole, it was a very strong story. It made me think- can someone who has been evil for a long time, change? Does his/her new good actions erase all the bad they have done in the past? On the flip side, can someone who has been good but then makes a horrible choice, does that negate their past good deeds?

The artwork was fantastic. It took real skill to illustrate the 100 or so characters in the story. There was an amazing four page spread of the syndicate with the villains surrounding them, that I wish had been a pull out, so we could see the whole cast of characters at once. Despite this four page spread, there were hardly any other two page spreads, but there were occasionally one page panels. With black borders, the rich coloring stood out, and every panel was drawn with precision.

This New 52 crossover event was definitely successful. Not only was it a fun read, but the ending leaves some open story lines that can be built upon in the future.  I’m definitely interested in knowing what awaits the villains that survived and how that will affect the Justice League in the future.

-Nancy

Johns, Geoff, Davis Finch & Richard Friend. Forever Evil. 2014.

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