Wonder Woman #26-35

Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian and Birds of Paradise

Wonder Woman continues to be an underrated DC property and a very difficult character to interpret. While it's often claimed that her perfection makes her boring, she receives far less respect than male paragons Superman and Batman. Her original mission to bring "loving submission" to man's world elevates her above the conventional superhero M.O. of hitting bad guys, but also makes her a poor fit within a shared universe. The mission is a major stumbling block for most writers, so they tend to avoid in-depth exploration of the topic. And when the spotlight is shone on DC's more prominent superheroes, WW and her mission lose focus and she becomes just another colorfully clad crime-fighter.

Gail Simone has spent much of her run as WW writer building-up the character's in-Universe status as one of DC's greatest warriors. But the story arc Rise of the Olympian (Henceforth referred to as RotO) is her first extended look at her role as peacemaker/ambassador of Themyscira. But rather than address it directly, she approaches it through negation - Saying what WW is not. However her choices for opposites to define the hero comes across as a bit too transparent.

Wonder Woman #26 Rise of the Olympian: Introducing Genocide
Diana's opposite in RotO, the newly minted villain Genocide, is utterly annoying. A monosyllabic walking engine of destruction whose motivation comes from a preprogrammed desire to destroy WW and everyone close to her, she's more likely to inspire derisive laughter from some for her unoriginal nihilistic attitude and ludicrous appearance. This is character design at Doomsday or Carnage levels of bad: A throwback to the made-by-committee villains from the grim n' gritty early nineties.

What's particularly irksome is the clumsy execution of the action sequences. As a way of establishing Genocide's lethality, she mops the floor with WW in their first encounter and deprives her of her magic lasso. But the exact moment occurs off panel. This isn't much of a problem if it happens once. But a later moment when Genocide defeats the combined forces of WW's surrogate family and allies through paranormal means barely registers. It's explained during the fight scenes that Genocide utilizes a number of ambiguous magical powers. But while the artwork of et al. ranges from indifferent to pretty competent, it isn't evocative enough to make those battles look like anything more than regular superhero beatdowns, accompanied by the usual collateral damage. So the reader is treated to a lot of narrative text describing characters experiencing a sudden surge of negative emotions. Another problem with using a villain that's literally a distillation of true evil is that drawing direct comparisons between the fictional acts of violence perpetrated by Genocide to real world atrocities comes across as a cynical appeal for relevance that actually adds nothing of substance to the story.

Wonder Woman #32 Rise of the Olympian: Diana fights Genocide in New York
The b-story involving the sudden return of the Olympian gods after their kidnapping in Amazons Attack! feels awfully flimsy. Athena starts to waste away after losing all hope in the future of the Olympians (huh?). This causes Zeus to create the , which in RotO are resurrected mythological Greek male heroes, to replace the Amazons as ambassadors of peace. He also declares Achilles to be WW's replacement as champion. Predictably enough this zombie army under the command of an overbearing father-figure of a god completely fucks-up: Behaving more like conquering imperialists, they attack military vessels and bases in order to destroy their stockpile of WMDs. Their efforts to impose peace through force almost ends in disaster, and it's obviously calculated to contrast with WW's more measured disposition. If they're meant to represent the Amazonian mission gone terribly wrong, the impact is somewhat blunted by their complete lack of personality and unintentionally hilarious behavior like forcefully barging into the UN building to unilaterally declare world peace. Their existence is also rendered somewhat pointless by the later revelation that reports of Athena's death were greatly exaggerated.

Wonder Woman #31 Rise of the Olympian: Achilles rides into town and the UN
It's this kind of convoluted plotting that makes RotO a confusing mess: The creation of the Gargareans, the battle with Genocide, a late revelation of the true mastermind manipulating things behind the scenes, and a truly annoying time paradox, never quite cohere into anything logical. Rather than producing an epic tale, it feels as if Simone's ambitious goal to insert a little more gravitas into the proceedings have led her to turn in her dreariest WW arc yet.

One dubious effect of RotO is to alter the status quo in such a way that's entirely reversible down the line: This isn't the first time Diana has lost her royal status or been exiled from her Amazonian homeland. In the meantime she travels to Tokyo to deal with the fallout from the previous event. The plot is really just a pretense for WW to team-up with Black Canary and hit some bad guys. After the enforced solemnity of RotO, this story has Simone return to familiar form: Relishing in WW's fetish for combat, the patter of quips and one-liners, and the constant fan-pleasing insider-jokes. It's a lot more fun to read, even if the views expressed of Japanese pop culture are pretty dated to the eighties. But it's still disconcerting to see WW trash an intelligent human-like cyborg without a second thought when a few issues back she felt remorse for trying to destroy a barely literate mass-murdering golem.*

Wonder Woman #34 Birds of Paradise: Diana and Dinah aka Black Canary discuss Power Girl and Boob power ____
*Probably an example of this trope