The basic thrust of “Wonder Woman: Futures End” #1 — Wonder Woman’s leading the souls of the dead (thanks to Hades) to fend off Nemesis — is an interesting one, with Charles Soule clearly using Brian Azzarello’s idea of making Wonder Woman the god of war to its logical conclusion. But it’s the actual execution of this story idea that makes it Rags Morales who’s doing the heavy lifting here.
Morales’s pencils are attractive; having just re-read the “Forgotten Realms” comics he drew back in the early ’90s, it’s amazing how far he’s come since then. When Wonder Woman appears on page 2 to attack one of Nemesis’s minions, look at how well Morales handles the moment. You can see the set in Diana’s shoulders as she rams the spear through her enemy; with the bracing of her arms, you’re shown definitively that these creatures aren’t just gleaming energy but actual flesh and blood. The look on her face is also great; she’s determined but you never get the impression that she’s enjoying this. There’s no trace of a smile, merely bared teeth and a cut on her cheek. Even the bystanders below her are reacting appropriately, looking startled and amazed as she jumps in to rescue them from within their trench.
The whole book looks good; you really get the impression that this is a brutal, nasty war. I also like how well Morales takes the odd character design of Hades and brings him to life here; with the melted candle over his head and eyes, it would have been easy for Cliff Chiang’s reinvention to look comical in another person’s hands. Instead, Hades continues to look eerie and slightly off-putting, which makes me feel that it’s right on target.
The book stumbles a lot, though, when it comes to the actual script. The soldiers from the past speak in language that I’m sure is supposed to instantly signal that they’re from different eras; instead, it just sounds stilted and stereotypical. I wish that Soule had abandoned that particular concept here, because it’s on the very first page and it almost instantly throws the reader out of the story when they start speaking like refugees from a Renaissance Faire or Disney’s Epcot. The other characters aren’t as bad, but there’s a lot of expository dialogue that also comes across a little stale. Soule is trying to set up how the rest of the world is rolling along, but it doesn’t come across quite right.
“Wonder Woman: Futures End” #1 doesn’t fall down on the job, but it certainly stumbles a few times. The book looks great (even with multiple inkers), but this first half a two-part story (concluded in “Superman/Wonder Woman: Futures End” #1) doesn’t have quite the punch that its setup promises.