Each week I highlight the ultimate Comfort Food Comic release. This is the comic that gets me the most hyped. The comic I’ll remember and revisit the most. The one that gave me that special feeling above all the other releases that new comic book day.
The Dish Of The Week for 2/19/20 is Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #2 by Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer & Rus Wooton.
Ahhh DC Black Label. It has been, no matter what your opinion on it, a mess. Series announced years ago have yet to debut, others are famous for Batdick, and then theres gems like Harleen. Ive often wondered why we needed this imprint and Wonder Woman: Dead Earth is really proving why. I think its an extremely smart idea for these major comic publishers to have an outlet to give hugely talented creators a blank canvas and let them run with it. Sure it may not always yield solid results, but when it works, like in this series, oh baby does it work.
So the previous issue weve set the stage that Diana wakes up in a far future flung post apocalyptic world, grabbed Batman’s utliity belt, met up with a clan, fought a wildly mutated Cheetah, then took down down the clan’s violent ruler and took over. Their next plan of action was to regroup and avoid the enormous monstrous creatures roaming the land called the Haedra, while making their way back to Diana’s Amazonian home, Paradise Island. It was a lot, but it was really cool and creative and Johnson really showed he had a tremendous grasp on Diana’s character. I liked it a lot but I wasnt madly in love. Issue 2, welp, I’ve fallen for you baby.
We open with a rad framing sequence for this issue of flashbacks to Nubia training Lil Diana (This tough big old Nubia is so cool). Diana shows off how damn strong she is in a fight and scares Nubia.
Johnson really gets sound effects in comics. Like the incomparable John Workman during Simonson’s thor run, he really brings it. I love when comics go all in on big huge SFX that become part of the scene. I think it really adds a lot and is something unique to this form of media. I like Spicer’s use of colors for them too. Rus Wooton really brings it on the lettering for this book too. The scratchy unique style melds so well with Johnson’s art. Its wonderful to see comic lettering be so symbiotic with the art. Just really great stuff
Later after learning of Diana’s origin from Hippolyta, Nubia comes to Diana with her trademark bracelets, explaining if she submits and wears them, it will make her weaker, but safer and keep her immense power in check. Diana puts them on and in the last panel says “I choose submission”. WOW. I think this is the absolute best modern take on the theme and trope of submission thats a baked in part of Wonder Woman stories. So many new stories try to incorporate this submission stuff that worked when William Moulton Marston created the character, and so many times it seems so forced and detrimental to the character. Submission isnt about putting Wondy in some silly bondage trap or some stupid story about Steve Trevor. Its about power and how one deals with it. This is such a good way of wrapping the theme of submission around Wonder Woman’s power and growth and everything about her really. It also really ties in the love and relationships between her and her fellow Amazons and the Gods. Its just brilliant. I love it so much. This is how you do Wonder Woman. This single page is one of the best ever produced in comics. Its better than year’s worth of Wonder Woman stories. Its SO GOOD.
One thing I really love about this book is how it feels like a manga series. Its dark, its brutal, the fight scenes are huge and graceful and given the big spreads and pages they deserve. It feels very much against the grain of regular superhero comics and I think thats a good thing. Its why it works. Its why DC Black Label can work. We need more experimental books and styles with these established characters.
If I had to describe this series it would be like if you took Kentaro Miura’s manga Berserk and smashed it together with Wonder Woman comics. Thats how cool and monstrous it gets. Just take a look at these pages of Diana driving a jeep off a cliff into the enormous Haedra monster, then stabbing into it to gain a foothold, pouring gasoline down its mouth then lighting it on fire from the inside. JESUS!! This is the type of Wonder Woman comic I want to read!! She’s cooler than Guts here. We need more comics with Diana handling business and fighting grotesque monsters.
But its not just empty action and big ole monster fights. As Ive said, Johnson just GETS Wonder Woman. One such sequence is when Diana is dealign with the clan leader she deposed. We get a wonderfulview into her mind on how she sees people and thinks even the worst deserve compassion and hope and even they can change for the better. This is my Wonder Woman
What sets this book apart though is what happens when Diana makes her way back to Paradise Island. So far its been a solid if not generic post apocalyptic tale but here is where it really got intense and really made me fall in love. We make it to Paradise Island but something is wrong…
Diana finds a mute, armored Nubia who sends her below to the catacombs. The pages are filled with an overwhelming sense of dread. Something is off, something is wrong. This isnt right. finally Diana is reunited with her mother.
OH DEAR SWEET LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We find out that the humans bombed Paradise Island. As they are the immortal Amazons, it didnt kill them, it just mutated them into all manner of horrible nightmares. The Haedra Diana has been fighting and killing? Her mutated sisters, sent out into Man’s World by Hippolyta to wreak their dark vengeance. Oh My God!! Now this is how you hook the readers. What a horrible, genius, twisted story this book has become. It hits hard.
Diana’s comrades try to get her off the Island but Nubia attacks them. Its here Cheetah shows up on a Pegasus. Holy shit, this comic is awesome!
Cheetah and Nubia have it out in a big battle where Nubia’s helmet is knocked off and we see here monsterish transformation as well.
Johnson not only gets Diana, he gets her relationship with Cheetah and Cheetah’s whole character too! The Cheetah/Wonder Woman dynamic is so fulfilling here. Johnson is just so darn talented. I expected this series to be a feast for the eyes but I didnt expect a masterclass in writing and one of Wonder Woman’s best comics.
Its here we end the issue on a really dour note as Wonder Woman hops on the pegasus with Cheetah, abandoning the people she was helping and turning her back on humanity. Wow, just wow. This whole issue basically justifies the entirety of DC Black Label line. I loved it so much. Wonder Woman as a dark seinen manga, what a concept! What an idea!! This is everything I could want out of comics. Daniel Warren Johnson is easily one of the best artists in comics today. The amount of skill just oozes off of every page. Im honestly in awe of the guy’s work. No page, no panel is wasted. Theres so much detail in every little line. Its amazing work.
If you’ll recall, in my Dish Of The Week article on Ant-Man 1, also colored by Mike Spicer, I extolled the virtues of how his bright coloring job really sealed the deal for me on the artwork for that comic. Im shocked to see he is also the colorist on this series which for the most part, is a deep, dark somber palette of colors to fit the mood. It really shows you his range and how skilled he is at matching the story and art to a specific color set that enhances everything about the comic. Look at the vast difference between these two pages. What an artist. What a colorist. God guys, colorists are SO IMPORTANT!