Most people, I suspect, only remember the latter half of Bill Messner-Loebs’ run, the part where Artemis became Wonder Woman and it was drawn by Mike Deodato Jr. That’s a shame, because it was the first half that I thought was much more interesting. After an initial storyline involving Diana stranded in space, Messner-Loebs brought her back to Earth with Themyscira missing and Wonder Woman declared legally dead and penniless.
At the same time, Lee Moder took over on pencils, and Messner-Loebs and Moder told a story about a very different sort of superhero. Instead of worrying about Earth-shattering villains, it was a down-to-earth, much more human sort of comic. Readers were incensed, and focused far too often on a single issue where (in order to get any sort of money) Wonder Woman briefly worked at a fast-food restaurant.
It was, of course, a good comic and slightly ahead of its time.
It’s nice to see this particular era revisited, rather than the Artemis stretch of Messner-Loebs’ run. A comic about Wonder Woman teaching and inspiring a group of teenaged girls might not sound like the most riveting of subjects, but Messner-Loebs reminds us here why he used to be in demand as a writer. (And having written two of the “DC Retroactive” comics this month, is it too much to hope that DC might give him more comics work soon?) This is a pleasant, cute comic; Diana pushes the girls to become active and to become leaders, while at the same time she also learns how to give and take without pushing them too hard.
Moder’s pencils look great here; I’d forgotten how expressive his characters were, and their cartoonish poses are perfect for the script. The girls come across awkward, and Wonder Woman looks inspiring and regal while still human. It’s the latter that ultimately seals the deal on Moder’s art being perfect for the story; seeing the expressions of humility and understanding flicker across her face as she works with the teenagers brings Messner-Loebs’ script to life perfectly. My only complaint about the art is the cover; it’s the weakest piece from Moder and I feel like it doesn’t give you a good idea of what’s waiting for you inside.
There’s a sly sense of humor running through the comic (Wonder Woman playing Barbies is particularly funny), the icing on the cake here. The reprint isn’t bad either, although as the first part of a multi-part story it’s a little odd to be the one included. (One of the Messner-Loebs/Moder issues seems like it would have been a stronger fit.) Still, “DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman – The ’90s” is a pleasant blast from the past. It’s nice to be reminded how much fun those comics were.