So back last February, when it was announced that David Finch would be taking over the Wonder Woman comic after the innovative, feminist run of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, I wrote a short rant bemoaning the choice. You can read that rant HERE, but essentially I took Finch to task for his past hyper-sexualized Wonder Woman. I did say that the book could turn out different once it hit the stands, but mostly I just ranted. Well, Finch has been on the book for six months now, so I thought I should revisit it and see how it turned out.
Initially, he pretty much gave us the Battle Barbie I was expecting:
Better than many of his past efforts, I’ll grant you, and probably reflective of the backlash some of that earlier work had earned him. I was far from the only, or the loudest, voice lambasting sex object Wonder Woman, of course. That debate has been heating up message boards for years now, and it seems to have had some small impact. Finch gave her a bit of muscle tone up there, at least. And he didn’t twist her around so we could see both her boobs and her butt at the same time. Also, there’s a refreshing absence of crotch-gap. But it’s still a far cry from the distinctive profile and bad-ass poses Cliff Chiang delivered in his run:
There’s really no comparison, I don’t think. Chiang established a nice warrior woman look for the character, and Finch came out of the gate still drawing her like a swimsuit model. Now, though, he’s gone and changed her costume, and his overall artistic approach:
So I guess that’s better. She’s showing no skin at all now, and she’s got a loin cloth thing that covers both her crotch AND her ass. So many of the worst offenses of sexist funnybook imagery are rendered null and void by this costume that I can’t believe DC Comics actually approved it. Even the pose and the anatomy are better on that cover. I am well and truly stunned, and feel I must retract my earlier cynical dismissal.
But not all of it. Because, as I said in the title, “better” doesn’t mean “good.” That face is still pretty terrible, for instance, a lifeless doll-like mask that betrays not one whit of personality. I mean, what’s that expression supposed to convey, anyway? Empty-headed confusion? Because that’s all I get out of it. And though the pose is certainly better than the swimsuit crap he was referencing before, it’s also pretty bland. It’s drawn from a dynamic angle, I suppose, but like the face, it does nothing to make Wonder Woman look like a character I want to read about.
It might help to look at a couple more Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman drawings to demonstrate why I’m so disappointed. First, a detail from the cover of issue 23:
That’s worlds better. That’s a Wonder Woman who’s a total bad-ass, and also sexy without being exploitive. I mean, you’ve got the whipping hair, the cocked hips… She could be sashaying down the runway. But that face is fierce! And even if she wasn’t toting two battle axes as she walks out of the mouth of a giant bearded skeleton, her body language would still tell you she ain’t somebody to mess with. Boo-yah.
Now, check out this fight scene:
I can tell volumes about her character there, just by looking at her. That’s a woman who knows how to fight, and carries herself with an effortless warrior swagger. She’s as distinctive in her look and attitude as any male character, and a far better feminist hero than what Finch is giving us. Even if she’s not wearing any pants.
And that’s why the new Finch version still rubs me the wrong way: in its attempts to be less sexist, it actually diminishes the character from what she was in the run that immediately preceded it. And that extends right down to the writing, which is now being handled by Meredith Finch (David’s wife). She’s not awful at it, but she ain’t great, either. It reads like bog-standard modern super hero funnybooks: passable but uninteresting stuff without much to recommend it to anyone. But her rationale for why Wonder Woman’s changing her costume really strikes me as disingenuous:
Oy. While that need to prove herself was certainly built into the Azzarello/Chiang run, it just doesn’t play in the grand scheme of things. I mean, who looks more like she’s ready to be a warrior queen? The chick standing blandly in her new thigh-highs and shoulder pads, or that bad-ass bitch holding the torch?
And that’s not even getting into the new costume itself. While I wouldn’t call it ugly, exactly, I would say that it’s too busy, combining too many elements that don’t work well together. Lose the shoulder pads and the kinky boots, and you’re onto something. You could probably lose the loin cloth, as well. Once again, I’d point to Chiang:
That’s the look she was supposed to have when the New 52 launched four years ago, before DC panicked in response to fanboy outrage over the pants. And, honestly… That’s a good, streamlined look. It honors the classic costume while getting rid of its more sexist elements. Of course, as Azzarello and Chiang proved for 35 issues, it’s really as much about how you choose to present the character as it is what she’s wearing.
So there you go. The Finches’ Wonder Woman isn’t nearly as bad as I feared it might be. But it ain’t good, either. They are to be applauded for trying to make the character less sexist. But now it would be nice if they could make her as entertainingly feminist as she was in the run that preceded them.