A lot of gratuitous splash pages and guest stars galore pad out a tentative new start in “Wonder Woman” #36 by writer Meredith Finch and artist David Finch. Wonder Woman’s new role as The God of War from the previous run isn’t really addressed here, save for it being mentioned by Diana herself. The Justice League looks somewhat intimidating, at least, even if they seem to be little more than window dressing for the issue.
“Wonder Woman” #36 starts off well enough from a distance, with a series of panels alternating between weather-related relief and disaster, and a minimally worded narrative that introduces a pending and moderately compelling mystery. Meredith Finch stumbles through the rest of the issue, though, with a clumsy transition to a rather pedestrian shower scene. It’s the kind of introduction — the first glimpse readers get of the character under the custodianship of the Finches — that will likely polarize readers. Whether viewed as titillating or gratuitous, it’s an awkward moment, as the scene reads as though Wonder Woman wasn’t quite ready for all the new readers showing up at the door.
Once she’s dressed and arrives for work, her first appearance in costume is part of an unnecessary double-page spread featuring the Justice League, which tries, but fails, to look impressive with the heroes standing in action figure poses, and needlessly stretches out the story, diminishing Wonder Woman’s own dramatic entrance. Diana herself looks a little too much like a Wonder Woman Barbie fresh out of the package. In fact, David Finch’s spread is largely wasted, because there is next to nothing happening in the scene, which comes across as style over substance.
A little more substance would have benefited the scene on Paradise Island, which existing readers won’t have any trouble picking up on, but will have newcomers scratching their heads. The heavy exposition two pages before the end of the story goes a long way towards catching readers up, but would have done the job twice as well with half the words, and about fifteen pages earlier. Diana’s diatribe about juggling the various elements of her life would have also made good story elements had they been shown rather than told; instead, her wordy rant about her current state of mind will simply have readers checking to see if she inadvertently tied herself up with her own lasso of truth.
Swamp Thing’s appearance is even more superfluous than the Justice League’s, with no valid reason to appear other than to take a kick to the face, in another over-sensationalized double-pager. Just as Wonder Woman acts like no god, Swamp Thing doesn’t act much like an avatar of The Green, spouting “Star Wars” lines like, “I felt a massive disturbance in The Green.”
David Finch and inker Richard Friend throw in a few noticeable oddities that detract from an otherwise attractive and crisply drawn issue. Diana’s face really does look like Barbie’s in many places, most prominently on the cover, and she’s rendered this way in enough instances to make for a legitimate distraction. Aquaman has two distinct likenesses: mouth open, and mouth closed. There’s also an unintentionally pseudo-creepy baby in one panel. Sonia Oback’s colors are the selling point for the cover, though, and add a rich flavor to Finch and Friend’s pages throughout that keep readers from lingering on the linework for too long.
“Wonder Woman” #36 is an uneven and underwhelming debut, reading more like a last-minute filler issue of “Justice League” that tries to go for splashy thrills in lieu of all of the available characterization, and fails to bring anything fresh expected from a new creative team.