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Raider Grudgematch: Battle of the Needless Relaunches
by Doom and Scarecrow
Wonder Woman #1 vs. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1
Relaunches. In the comics world, most relaunches aren't made with the expressed purpose of bringing back an old hero or a much-loved book. Instead relaunches are used as a cynical marketing ploy because a #1 of something sells better than a #442 of something. For the most part Marvel has been subject to the most criticism for this operating procedure, often restarting books for no apparent reason other than to inch sales up for a brief period of time, as seen in Wolverine #290 becoming Wolverine #1 or Avengers reverting to classic numbering to raise sales for an issue #500 only to change into New Avengers #1 within 4 months. However, in the recent aftermath of Infinite Something Or Other, DC summarily cancelled and brought back The Flash, Wonder Woman and Justice League of America, with plans to do the same to JSA. Since neither JLA or JSA have returned yet, Scarecrow and I will pit Wonder Woman #1 against The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1 in an attempt to find out which sucks the least. Because let me tell you, neither approach is 'good' in any facet.
WONDER WOMAN: An issue long decompressed fight scene. Donna Troy has taken over for Diana as Wonder Woman, and tries to save Steve Trevor [Deputy Secretary of Defense] from some old Wonder Woman villains while spouting a lot of exposition about Diana, herself, the origins of the villains, and every other character in the book. It gets annoying pretty fast because who the fuck really needs to know the origin of someone who controls cheetahs. The real Wonder Woman shows up and starts beating down Cheetah and Giganta. But then she wants to kill them too! SHOCK HORROR WHO WOULD EXPECT AN AMAZONIAN WARRIOR TO CONDONE KILLING?!?!! Alas, the real Wonder Woman is really midget crazy man Dr. Psycho in disguise, and Donna Troy gets beaten like Chuck Finley. In the end Steve Trevor [who incidentally looks like a woman] turns out to be Human Target ripoff Nemesis, who works for the FBI or something. He's informed by Totally Not Nick Fury that he has a new partner - secret agent Diana Prince, who wears the worst secret agent outfit possible. Secret agents typically blend in with their surroundings in order to be secret as opposed to wearing white and several belts of Rob Liefeld/Jim Lee pouches. I know it's a throwback to those days in the 70's when they tried to make her more feminist by stripping her of all her powers [don't ask] but why throwback to a shitty period in a character's history? You don't see people clamoring for the AzBats costume.
THE FLASH: Basically Bart Allen being depressed and mopey. Since the announcement of the relaunch, DC editorial has played a pathetic game of "Make everyone think the guy who is going to be the Flash is anyone except the guy who's obviously going to be the Flash". Pretty much the issue consists of: Jarring POV changes between Jay, Barry and Bart that are highly disorientating, the introductions of Bart's roomate who comes off as a teenaged Joey from Full House who speaks in colloquialisms that were dated in the 80's and the obligatory Flash Minority Girlfriend Ver. 4.0. Also, our Protagonist-Formerly-Known-As-Kid-Flash has aged 4 years, which is obviously just so the infamous "Drunken Flash" character can finally be revived. I apologize for the abbreviated description, however, it was difficult enough listing what I did above. I feared I had developed A.D.D while reading this issue since every time I picked it up I seemed to end up playing with pocket lint or pretending my air conditioner was an old-fashion television and twisting its dial changed the imaginary channel, both of which were more entertaining than this title, by the way.
DA WINNAH: The Flash. Boring, yes, but not aggressively stupid like Wonder Woman.
Secret Agent meets porno meets Jim Lee!
WONDER WOMAN: Well, there's of course Donna Troy Wonder Woman herself, who's given the personality of "I am Wonder Woman now". Apparently no one likes her, even DC, so the Wonder Woman on the cover doesn't even share Donna Troy's Wonder Woman costume. Silly DC, trying to trick people by making them think Donna Troy isn't in the comic. She gets her ass kicked routinely in the comic, the only part I liked. The villains of the issue, Cheetah, Giganta and Dr. Psycho act as plot devices of "We want to see Diana" more than characters with a significant personality or characterization to them. Dr. Psycho in particular gives midgets everywhere a bad name. Diana shows up for one page and doesn't convey anything about herself other than terrible secret agent regalia. None of the characters are given a chance to shine or even display any semblance of 'character' because the issue spends too much time on meaningless, drawn own fights and exposition about stuff no one will give a shit about after reading it, because no one wanted to know about Donna Troy beforehand anyway.
THE FLASH: The "characters" featured aren't so much characters as they are either boring stereotypes (yes, they couldn't even go through the effort of featuring offensive stereotypes, I know) or walking aborted points-of-interest. Bart can be explained by the phrase "I'M NOT FUN ANYMORE, DEAL WITH IT, FANBOYS." Jesus... then there's the aforementioned roommate. Oh, man... he's like Slater from Saved By the Bell or every character Keanu Reeves played pre-Matrix or any other shameless, slacker-asshole type from the 80's to early 90's. Oh, right, then there's some Hispanic chick (Asian Flash girlfriends are so out) from S.T.A.R. Labs who makes it her quest to find out what happened to Bart for no apparent reason.
DA WINNAH: Wonder Woman, as it showcases characters we already know and loathe, whereas The Flash desperately struggles to attain a decent supporting cast for Bart Allen, but fucks up because everyone knows Griffen, the asshole roommate, will end up taking over the mantle of Reverse-Flash. He even has blonde hair! It's like if in Season Six of Smallville, Clark befriended Dom "Doomsday" Sday, captain of the football team.
WONDER WOMAN: There are not many DC characters more idiotic and worthless than Donna Troy, except for of course Jimmy Olsen. Initially serving as Wonder Woman Jr. in Teen Titans, eventually Donna Troy became a continuity nightmare so freakish no one knew what the fuck to do with her character, that and no one liked her because she was a boring bitch. For some inexplicable reason, Phil Jiminez brought her back in his mystifying idiotic The Return of Donna Troy miniseries, to which the fandom issued a round of apathetic yawns. Some crap about her importance to the Universe, etc., her involvement in the painful History of the DCU segments in 52, and now One Year Later we find her as Wonder Woman. She lacks all of the qualities Diana had to make her Wonder Woman: grace, valor, an American flag on her ass, neck snapping of villains...if there's any person for Wonder Woman worse than Donna Troy, I don't know of them.
THE FLASH: Seeing as how Bart didn't technically pick up the mantle in this issue, this is a bit of a hard category. Then again, it's obvious Donna Troy is just a lame-ass temp for the position as opposed to anything actually permanent, so I suppose Bart wins by default, in this case. However, some comic fans have disliked (read: violently loathed) Bart from his inception as a character so you can imagine how pissed they are that he's now actually becoming The Flash. I never really had a problem with him, and I actually began to find him quite tolerable in Johns' Titans relaunch (one that fared much better then these two, just in case you wanted to know). It was basically an unsaid rule of Flash history that dictated that he would succeed Wally, although I do agree it was much too soon. It's ironic that when Wally took up Barry's costume that fanboys were arguably even more upset then they are now, yet Wally now is more revered than his predecessor. It's quite possible the same situation could arise if DC sticks with this change and doesn't back down due to fanboy firebombing threats.
DA WINNAH: The Flash. Bart Allen could've become a traveling rodeo clown/ventriloquist dummy with a hankering for anal sex and he'd still have more competence in his little finger than Donna Troy.
WONDER WOMAN: Allan Heinberg's Young Avengers has been pretty good, but we really should remember that this is a guy who cut his teeth in Hollywood writing for the fucking O.C. and Sex and the City. I understand why he's writing Wonder Woman given those credentials - all three properties skew towards women and catty homosexuals, but his writing here...completely bland and without any sense of logic to it. Anyone could've written "big fight scene with three Wonder Woman villains for 20 pages with stupid meaningless flashbacks serving as exposition because DC doesn't want to bother with those pesky Marvel recap pages". It's paint-by-numbers comic book writing. I even like decompressed storytelling when it's done right, like in Moon Knight #1, where we see Moon Knight in action and get teasers as to what's happened to Moon Knight with some mystery still left in it. With Wonder Woman #1 we have "Where is Wonder Woman? Oh, she's a secret agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. now. Okay." You'd think a storyline entitled "Who is Wonder Woman" might contain an air of mystery to it, but I guess not. Heinberg stated he loves Donna Troy in an interview but apparently he loves her in the same way I do - loves seeing her on the wrong end of an ass-kicking. For being a seasoned superheroine with years of experience as a sidekick and presumably some time as Wonder Woman, she sure does suck and make mistakes only a retard or Arsenal could make. She can't even win fights against a really tall woman or some cheetahs. Pathetic, especially if she's a Harbinger who knows everything like those confusing miniseries appearances said she was. Heinberg does little to keep this issue from being insular like all other DC comics - only a comic of interest to pre-existing devotees of the characters with nothing to do with anything otherwise.
THE FLASH: Back when it was announced that The Flash was going to be relaunched after Infinite Crisis, there was much fan-fare concerning who would be at the helm of this new series. When the writer(s) were finally revealed to be the creators of The Flash TV show my first response was "there was a Flash TV show?" followed by a begrudging acceptance of the fact that this title would not be nearly as good as it was back in the Waid/Johns' era for quite some time. Actually, though, it wasn't nearly as earth shatteringly bad as I anticipated it would be. No, it was simply just boring and utterly forgettable. Case in point: I had forgotten there was an antagonist featured up until I just started typing this paragraph due to the simple fact that he appears in about three panels and his reveal is hilariously confusing. It turns out he's a "THEY TOOK OUR JOBS!" type who works at the car manufacturing plant where Bart and his idiot roommate (right, did I mention how hilariously bad his dialogue is?) work. I actually liked the character some bit and hope he returns since his actions lead to Slater-Keanu's face being doused in ridiculously dangerous chemicals. Best part of the entire story, by far.
DA WINNAH: The Flash. I must note one of Allan Heinberg's other jobs was co-writing JLA with Geoff Johns, who he shares a studio with. Geoff Johns collaborated with Phil Jiminez on Infinite Such-And-So-On. The conclusion? Geoff Johns is a fag hag.
WONDER WOMAN: The Dodsons provide the art, and provide the T&A especially. The Dodsons are oft criticized for their art being nothing but "masturbatory sexy time explosion inducing trash", and I don't usually agree with that judgment, except in this case. I can't really blme them because Wonder Woman lends itself to cheesecake art, when the only prominent males in the book are green-skinned guy and a midget. Cheetara even changes from "furry fetishist dream come true" to "sexy woman in leather" to up the sex factor for the obviously sexually normal people who read Witchblade. The layouts Dodson comes up with serve the story well enough, but I can't help but notice the focus of many of the layouts is firmly entrenched in the tits of whoever's on that particular panel or page. Their design skills don't impress, if it wasn't art by editorial in terms of designs for Donna Troy, Cheetara or Giganta, as Donna Troy looks like a cross between a transvestite Roman centurion and Diana's old costume, and the villains evoke the 90's when every new female villain looked the same, with tired leather get-ups neither original nor cool or imposing. It's by no means Rob Liefeld or Michael Turner artwork, but if I wanna masturbate I'll get real porn, you know what I'm saying?
THE FLASH: I was pretty surprised at the quality of the interiors after seeing the completely acceptable cover and realizing that Ken Lashley was doing interiors (whose pencils I find to be pretty damn good). Of course, then I opened the book, which is to say I pressed my page down key and actually saw the art. Pretty much, whoever colored and/or inked this book should be shot. The coloring is so oversaturated that I was scared of being temporarily blinded. Everything is this crazy neon-laced uber-shade that makes the entire book look like either someone thought they were working on Legion of Superheroes or it was set in a clichéd, futuristic Hong Kong (or current Tokyo, either one's good).
DA WINNAH: Wonder Woman, it's easier to masturbate to.
ONE YEAR LATERNESS
WONDER WOMAN: Very high One Year Laterness. For one, there's a new change unlikely to last more than six issues in Wonder Woman Donna Troy. We get the obligatory final page reveal of a mystery no one really cared about because everyone knows Diana will go back to being Wonder Woman in a few issues anyway [in fact, the preview for Justice League of America even has a Wonder Woman whom Batman calls "Diana"]. Diana now makes herself more Marvel-like, learning humility and working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury [he apparently has done more than just go underground after Secret War]. The adage DC has been following for their One Year Later endeavors goes like so: "Change the status quo back to the old status quo or change it in such a way that it can be and will be reversed in the span of 6 months". Let's see, Diana reverted to her 70's costume and status quo whilst still presumably having her powers, thus making it easy for her to change into the Wonder Woman gear again in time for Justice League of America....no more political aspects or mythological aspects of the series...Donna Troy a complete fuck-up, thus heralding Diana's return...seems quite One Year Later to me!
THE FLASH: A pretty decent level of One Year Laterness. You have a character who was previously a sidekick aged with the obvious and sole intent of raising him to "hero" status. A new cast of characters are shoehorned... I mean introduced that will most definitely not make it past the 20th issue mark. There's the sure-fire OYL sign of "the early issue fake-out, the late issue reveal" which is when at the beginning of the issue a character is shown doing normal heroics who we are supposed to assume is the new wearer of that costume but by the end of said issue the "actual" main character is shown. Both Wonder Woman #1 and Flash are excellent examples of this terrible strategy.
DA WINNAH: The Flash. It has a lower level of One Year Laterness, and that's a good thing.
DAN DIDIO ASSHOLISHNESS
WONDER WOMAN: At the DC Nation panel at the recent HeroesCon, Italian-in-Chief Dan Didio stated his intentions for the character of Wonder Woman. They were, in the words of industry hack reporter Newsarama, to "make Wonder Woman as important as both Superman and Batman in the DCU and the eyes of readers". It makes me wonder why the fuck DC doesn't use that approach for characters other than Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Oh wait, Martian Manhunter doesn't have a film deal, fuck him. If their approach for making Wonder Woman as important as their most popular, most capital-gaining characters involves Donna Troy being attacked by a bunch of cheetahs...DC doesn't what the fuck they're doing.
THE FLASH: At the same DC Nation panel, Didio gave his reasons as to why he felt it necessary to age and pass the Flash name onto Bart. "There was something very generic about The Flash, themes were being repeated", I guess Flash can only stumble onto a hidden city full of hyper-intelligent apes so many times! He added "Wally is gone but not forgotten". And thus, my biggest problem with this relaunch is illustrated. It's not so much Bart being The Flash that bothers, it's the lack of reason that does. Yes, Wally is gone... but to where?! In COIE when Wally became Flash, it was because Barry fucking disintegrated. Wally just ran off, he can (and could) come back at anytime, so there really is no reason for there to even be "another" Flash. At least not at this moment. And man, certainly themes won't be repeated when we have a sidekick taking over for a dead beloved hero, with a buddy who will end up as the new Reverse-Flash, an interracial love interest, and the "I don't feel I can live up to the mantle of the Flash" whininess. One Year Later, exploring old themes disguised as new themes!
DA WINNAH: Wonder Woman. In both instances Didio plays the Asshole card, but in The Flash's case, it makes even less sense than usual.
In a tight race between who sucks the most and who sucks the least, The Flash wins the 'least sucking award' narrowly, 4-3. While it indicates nothing about the quality other than it's better than Wonder Woman, it's something of an accomplishment because the buzz for the latter was much more positive. Thankfully, Donna Troy is confirmed as not being Wonder Woman for not much longer because of the new writer coming on in 4 issues. Yep, the right way to make Diana an important character - give her a book with rotating creative teams. We'll be doing this again when JLA and/or JSA relaunch in completely meaningless status quo un-changing ways.