Wonder Woman #54 // Review
Wonder Woman #54, written by Steve Orlando, with Raul Allen and Patricia Martin on art and colors by Borja Pindado, is part 3 of The Enemy of Both Sides arc, but it almost feels like the start of a whole new story. Previously, Wonder Woman, Artemis, and Aztek teamed up to stop the dark god, Tezcatlipoca, and rescue the hero of the Bana-Mighdall, Atalanta. Now, they travel back to Artemis’ home to return Atalanta to her people, but it’s not the happy reception they expected.
While the basic premise of this story is strong, the execution by Orlando leaves much to be desired. As stated above, this feels less like a continuation of the previous issue and more like the start of a whole new arc. Gone is the threat of Tezcatlipoca and his natural enemy Aztek, instead replaced with a whole new antagonist in the form of the Bana-Mighdall’s Queen Faruka II, and a whole new plot of bringing Atalanta home, only to be confronted with a warmongering new leadership. You would be right in thinking that that seems like a minor issue, but it’s really only the beginning of this issue’s problems. Not only does the story change gears completely mid-arc, it also feels like a continuation of a previous story that Wonder Woman readers are not privy to. Orlando supposes that you know all about the Bana-Mighdall, which have only recently been referenced heavily in Red Hood and the Outlaws. The secondary villain, Rustam, gets the same treatment. He has history in the Justice League and Suicide Squad books, but just gets wedged into this story with little-to-no explanation of his history or powers. Clearly, Orlando is very knowledgeable about these characters and their history, but he doesn’t take the time to catch the audience up properly.
On the upside, Orlando continues to demonstrate his superior understanding of Wonder Woman’s character. Even when angry, she is not quick to violence. Throughout the issue, no matter how bad things get, she is playing peacemaker. At one point, she is literally physically ejected from the city, and still comes back to negotiate peace. It takes a lot to drive Wonder Woman to violence (or it should), as shown in this issue, but once she gets there, anyone opposing her is in big trouble. That’s the most important thing any Wonder Woman writer should remember when taking on her book, and Orlando has the firmest grasp on the concept of anyone since the great Greg Rucka runs.
The art by Allen and Martin is beautiful this issue, but their storytelling ability has room for improvement. Often, their action comes across as stiff, or downright confusing from panel to panel. Again, their style looks great on Wonder Woman and her world filled with Greek Gods and warrior women, but they might be better suited to covers than full stories. Pindado’s colors, on the other hand, are amazing. There is such a unique feel to this chapter of the story thanks to Pindado, and the work really gives the Bana-Mighdall city a look all its own. Hopefully, DC has plans to continue using Pindado on future issues of Wonder Woman, because the colors really work well for this book.
In the end, this was the weakest chapter so far of the current arc. It’s just disjointed and out of place, leaving the whole issue feeling messy and rushed. Maybe there were constraints with the amount of room Orlando had to tell his story, especially with a new permanent writer coming on after him, or maybe he just doesn’t like exposition, even when it’s necessary. Either way, the story was hurt by the abrupt changes and new characters being wedged in. With any luck, Orlando will regain his footing next issue, because his run has been pretty solid up to this point.