For those who haven’t been in the loop, after four issues (plus a prologue in “Wonder Woman” #600) we’ve had a slight writer shift on “Wonder Woman,” as the remainder of J. Michael Straczynski’s planned year-long story is now being written by Phil Hester, based off of Straczynski’s notes and outline. And for those who haven’t read it? While this isn’t intended as a slam on Straczynski, I think this is already a big improvement.
Unlike the previous four issues of “Wonder Woman,” this new issue feels more relaxed and more human. The grim, slightly overwrought tone from those first few chapters is discarded and we start to get a feeling of just exactly who this new Wonder Woman is. It’s just little shifts but they’re important ones; we see her relationship with her guardians, what she does in her spare time, even what sort of music she likes. It doesn’t sound like much but for this story it feels huge. Hester’s turned Wonder Woman into someone who is still at her core the character readers knew for the previous 600 issues of her comic, but with enough changes that she’s definitely someone whose life has been transformed into someone slightly different.
It’s hard to say exactly how much or little of this was in Straczynski’s story notes (something only he, Hester, and editors Brian Cunningham and Sean Ryan will truly know), but this is enough of a huge step away from the previous four issues that it makes me feel like at least some of this is Hester’s tweaking of the story. Regardless of who decided to make this shift, it’s a good one. Up until now, the new Wonder Woman wasn’t a character, she was an outfit on an otherwise blank slate. Here she seems like an actual person. Sure, some of the bits feel a little trite (what is it with characters in Straczynski-plotted comics getting saved from domestic violence these days?) but none the less, it’s a start.
There’s a whole horde of artists on board this month, but despite seven different people touching the book it’s remarkably consistent. It’s still easy to pick out Don Kramer’s pencils, which I think are the strongest of the bunch, with a smooth and clean feeling that flows nicely across each panel. Still, Eduardo Pansica and Daniel HDR do a solid pitch-in effort, keeping that overall look together. I suspect some readers who don’t look at the credits might not even realize the round-robin pencils and inks going on behind the scenes.
“Wonder Woman” #605 is an important step in the right direction for the title. A lot of the wind has gotten lost from the sails of this storyline, but if anyone can rally the readership back on board, it’s Hester. It’s a good start, and it makes me wish that he’d been on board from the beginning.