So as it turns out, DC/WB can make a good movie. Just in time too, because I would have hated to see Wonder Woman’s big screen debut end up as anything other than a total success (both critically AND box-office wise, this time). While we had already gotten a tease of Gal Gadot’s take on the character in BvS, it was nothing compared to her enchanting performance here. There’s a lot to play with the character in her origin story- wonder and delight, naivete, anger and frustration, steely resolve -often within seconds of each other and Gadot doesn’t stumble once. It certainly helps that she’s backed up by a stellar supporting cast. Chris Pine brings more than a bit of his Kirk-esque roguish charm to the role of Steve Trevor a role that ended up being much more important than I expected. He’s essentially Obi-Wan to Diana’s Luke in a lot of regards and has a pretty fully realized character arc, which is especially impressive because it would have been much easier to relegate him to a parody of brutish masculinity. Speaking of the supporting cast, Diana and Steve’s squad was one of the most pleasant surprises of the movie. Charlie’s PTSD, Sameer’s forgotten dreams of acting, and the Chief carrying weight of his people’s history all left an impression in a way that I didn’t expect. The action delivered on every level (well, except for the end but I’ll get to that in a minute) from the German assault on the beach at Themiscyra to the urban war zones to the actual climax of the movie, the trench assault across no man’s land. Despite missing the mark on nearly everything else in the DCEU, they have universally nailed the fighting styles of the heroes and this movie is no exception. The grace and drive with which Diana fights is depicted perfectly as she moves seamlessly between hand-to-hand, sword and shield, and the glorious use of the lasso.
Honestly, the only bad thing about this movie was the villain and here’s where I’m gonna get really spoilery. Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery is such that with the WWI setting, Ares was really the only choice. And that would have been fine- had we gotten any time at all to maybe get to know the character outside of the legends passed to Diana by her mother. Of course that was necessitated by the ‘surprise reveal’ that Ares was actually Professor Lupin (I only know British actors by their roles in Harry Potter) and not Ludendorff. The ostensible climax of the movie was robbed of almost all its power feels hollow and pointless because the villain is someone we’ve never been introduced to AS the villain. Not to mention the laughable CGI in that scene, only offset by the very-Frank-Miller-inspired sequence where Diana is overcome by Ares’ influence and tears through German soldiers in a stylish and frenetic manner. Frankly, the movie would have been a lot better off focusing on Dr. Poison. Elena Anaya displayed more pathos and passion in her scenes than any villain in any comic book movie since the Dark Knight. Still, a meh villain is something that’s plagued every Marvel movie other than GotG2 so it’s clearly a problem we can live with.
So with the higher profile that comes with a good and successful film debut, where should fans new and old alike turn for another fix of the Amazonian princess? Well, Wonder Woman Annual #1 would be a darned fine start. Comics that manage to completely distill the essence of characters that have existed for decades are few and far between. There’s Marvels, New Frontier, Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale’s color series and Long Halloween. While this issue probably won’t stand alongside those on a multitude of must-read lists, it nevertheless delivers the same feeling. The issue is comprised of four short-but sweet stories that give a perfectly well-rounded look at Diana. The first, from the current series team of Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott tells a story I’ll never get tired of- the first time Wonder Woman meets Batman and Superman. It’s sweet and laugh out loud funny and hopefully the start of a movement to get Scott drawing Justice League because WOW is it pretty. The second story, and the one that probably does the best job of defining Wonder Woman’s place in the larger DCU finds her fighting off an army to stop King Shark from being executed for crimes he’s innocent of. Writer Vita Ayala hits the nail on the head tonally and artist Claire Roe brings a Risso-like grittiness to the story and the action. Michael Moreci and Stephanie Hans deliver an eye popping and tear-jerking story that I won’t spoil and the issue ends with a light and cute kaiju encounter with some super fun art from David Lafuente. If you’re at all a fan of the character, this is an absolute 100% must-read and if you know anyone who doesn’t read comics but loved the movie, you’ll probably want to get them one as well.