If you like Wonder Woman, you’re probably super-excited about her new ground-breaking Digital First series (available as a floppy on the heels of its electronic release like other Digital First titles). Similar to Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman, which preceded it, this will be a proving ground for new and varied stories and artistic teams working outside of current New 52 continuity. Although Wonder Woman made her debut in All Star Comics No. 8 in 1941, she was first featured on the cover of Sensation Comics No. 1 the following year and was the star of that particular series for more than 100 issues.

While many of the DC titles are laboring under the effects of never-ending plot syndrome, still weaving tales forecasted to last well into 2015, or trying to wrap up events set into motion back in 2012, Sensation Comics promises to give us at least a single one-and-done adventure every issue starring Princess Diana. In this inaugural issue, we get the bonus of a story about her coming to Gotham to answer a distress call from Oracle after the infamous Gotham rogues manage to stop quibbling with each other long enough to blow up the Batmobile (presumably with Batman in it), along with a red-suited Nightwing and an unidentified Robin. With the Dark Knight family out of commission and Gordon presumably on holiday, Diana goes “Gothamazon” for our delight.

Print issue No. 1 collects the Digital Firsts 1 & 2 (and probably 3). For your extra shekels, there’s a second story here not yet available digitally (which is kind of exciting) by Amanda Deibert and Cat Staggs. It’s fun if you’re a fan (but there’s no Batman in it, so I won’t be focusing on it here).

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What do you wanna bet that’s one ticked off Amazon?

The Good

Where this comic succeeds is that it delivers pure, unapologetic old-style comic-book good guys (or in this case, gals) fighting familiar and fun villains. If you enjoy superhero cartoons or remember the days of more straight-forward, less convoluted story telling, this will definitely appeal to you. And while it’s never “fun” to see Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair knowing the tragedy that put her there, having Oracle back is likewise great. The fact that this is really kind of a Wonder Woman and Oracle Team-up is also great.

Gail Simone writes these characters comfortably, and while nothing is going to really challenge you here, it’s a good one-shot equivalent of a popcorn short.  It’s highly entertaining to see the old villains interact with one another, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m always happy to see the Joker (with a face, no less!). Aside from the villain cameos by Penguin, Riddler, Ivy, Man-Bat, and Mr. Freeze, you’ll also see Catwoman and Harley Quinn. Batman does also make an appearance at the very end. It’s almost too much for a single comic book issue, but the fact that all this is shoe-horned into 20 short pages is more fun than frustrating–Simone manages to pull off kitchen-sinking this without it feeling too much like a lazy character dump truck overturned on the highway.

Some especially light entertaining moments involve Oracle consulting the equivalent of a superhero Rolodex to make her choice of who to call, Catwoman and Harley being reluctantly roped into giving an assist in the rogue roundup, and a nice (somewhat grisly) fantasy sequence during which Wonder Woman lays waste to all the villains in a manner I’m sure a lot of fans wouldn’t mind seeing for real.

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Do you really think Wonder Woman would do this the Bat way?

The Bad

There’s been a lot of discussion around the internet about the treatment of Wonder Woman in her own title and in film and by male artists who would objectify her. I don’t totally dismiss that discussion because it’s a topic worth talking about, but I also just like enjoying comics and I’m okay if the artwork here is a lot of posturing and the laws of gravity don’t apply to certain endowments.

Where Ethan Van Sciver shines is in the close-ups of Diana’s face: she’s angry, she’s beautiful, and she’s serious about the work before her. She has an intensity that’s both refreshing and a little frightening. Occasionally there’s a picture that doesn’t look the best (page 14 has an uncharacteristic weirdly proportioned profile).  And page 12 is draw by Marcelo di Chiara in a style that isn’t bad, but doesn’t quite match (most of his prior work has been in drawing comics for a younger audience and that’s apparent in the playful way he renders his figures). It leaves one to wonder whether it was a last-minute re-draw, a test for a potential new artist, or some other curious editorial anomaly.

But if you’re wondering why I have placed all these particular comments in the “Bad” section, just to be clear: it’s not because i think there’s something terrible going on here (to the contrary), but because it’s an area of controversy for certain people. And depending on which side of many possible fences you might be leaning, you could either find this awesome, thrilling, and sexy, vaguely disgusting, or potentially you’re nonplussed by the whole argument.  I certainly welcome the dialogue in the comments below!

I will add that Wonder Woman’s costume, however, is kinda distracting throughout. She’s got briefs, she’s got hot pants, she’s got short shorts, she’s got French-cuts. Which is it, Van Sciver? Pick a pair and stick with ’em! Otherwise, as I said before, the Amazonian princess looks great; never cheap to my eyes and always powerful.

The Ugly

The book suffers from a really vague plan by the villains that might be a heist (I can hear some fans crying foul against the overall plot), but I personally shucked it off as, again, a deliberate throwback nod to old-tyme comic book bank-robbery storytelling. Nonetheless, there’s some logic here that feels circular or doesn’t entirely make sense–and the ending resolution may have some feeling a little eyeroll.

Because you can’t fight Gotham’s rogues unless you think like Batman. Oracle says: “Think like him.” Catwoman and Harley agree that Wonder Woman should fight them with fear. But does Wonder Woman arm herself with fearful ferocity and take her Amazonian army forward to sweep up Gotham for good? She’s a destroyer of gods and monsters, so she certainly ought to be able to not only strike fear into the hearts of the likes of Cobblepot and Two-Face and a (somewhat whiny) Man-Bat, but end their shenanigans once and for all.

No, Wonder Woman decides that fear really isn’t the way to go. Fear has no effect on Gotham’s gnarliest rogues because they thrive in the darkness and are fearful fear-mongers themselves. So what does she do? How does it all wrap up?

Spoiler

Wonder Woman puts away her god-cleaving sword and lassos the whole lot of them (sans Joker who is conveniently not on hand at the moment) because Truth with a capital T tames the wild beasts. Tames them with–wait for it–fear. Not monster-in-the-dark fear, but the real stuff. Their insecurities and their grief. I’m not sure how that’s different from how Batman regularly deals with these whack jobs, but there you have it.

As for the Joker, well, a side-bet with Harvey about refraining from killing people for the day is pretty much the only thing that saves Wonder Woman (and the rest of Gotham) from the Joker. The bet itself, I buy. But Joker honoring that bet because it means he gets to “win”?

Not sure that’s how it ought to play out–feels like he would much rather revel in double-crossing Two-Face (just like he always does), if only just so that he could make a bad pun about it. Also, has the Joker become so outrageously powerful that Wonder Woman can’t deal with him without him handing himself to her on a platter?

All that quibbling aside, this was good entertainment, beautifully brightly colored by Brian Miller of Hi-Fi, and I think fans who aren’t looking for an Earth-shattering comic book experience will really dig it.

Recommended If…

  • You want neither the unending sprawl of the long-arcing current Bat titles, nor the newly-sprung sprawl of Multiversity.
  • A great big pile of Gotham rogues is a party for the pages and watching Wonder Woman clean up Batman’s neighborhood sounds like a nice change of pace.
  • You’ve missed Oracle.
  • You want two Wonder Woman stories and will pay an extra dollar to have ‘em.

Overall

Classic superhero Wonder Woman fights classic Batman villains including Mr. Freeze, Man-Bat and Joker, and teams up with Oracle, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn to bring order back to Gotham while Batman is temporarily sidelined. Sound like a fun ride you want to hop on? It’s pretty much exactly that–so if you have some lingering bucks after buying all of your other great books this week, consider picking up Sensation Comics as palette-cleanser. It’s a fun first issue and no knowledge of any known continuity is required!

SCORE: 8/10