“From the Belly of the Beast” (Wonder Woman #772 Review)
“Afterworlds Part 3”
Writer: Michael W. Conrad and Becky Cloonan
Artist: Travis Moore
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover Artist: Travis Moore and Tamra Bonvillain
Variant Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Back-up Story: Jordie Bellaire, Paulina Ganucheau, Kendall Goode, Becca Carey
Last Time: Trapped in an afterlife that shouldn’t have been hers, and with no recollection of who she once was, Diana found lost souls trapped in an endless cycle of battle, death, and rebirth on the fields of Valhalla. When her newfound friend, Siegfried, wasn’t returned to life by the Valkyries, Wonder Woman sat out on a quest to bring him back, and to discover the mysteries behind who she is, why she was brought here, and what has imperiled this realm.
Her quest brought her to the great serpent Nidhogg at the base of the world tree, who told her that the Key she sought to access the Fortress of the Valkyries, was within him. Hatching a plan, Wonder Woman stowed herself inside a great egg and tricked Nidhogg into swallowing her. Now, in the literal belly of the beast, Wonder Woman must not only find the key but also find a way to escape with her life. Getting in was one-thing…getting out…might be another story.
In This Issue: When an issue begins in as perilous a situation as this, it feels almost impossible to provide any adequate breakdown without delving into at least a few spoilers. Yet, I also feel it fair to assume that no one expects said situation to truly last, so I feel it’s not a spoiler to say that it doesn’t. There is a great deal more to this issue than simply the resolution of that daunting predicament, and a great deal more answers are revealed.
As Diana’s journey progresses, she learns more about herself, more about this world, and we see her interacting with several characters we’ve met in previous issues in new and surprisingly fun ways. This issue might cover the most amount of literal ground in this arc so far, and the world is ever-expanding. It’s maintained by the issue’s finale which seems to set the stage for a confrontation unlike anything we’ve seen thus far.
It’s also worth mentioning that this story continues the back-up tales of young Diana that we had seen in issues #770 and #771, but unfortunately my review copy did not have that back-up so I can not talk about it’s contents within this review.
The Breakdown: To say that this issue felt the most substantial of the run so far feels good. To put Diana in a Norse setting felt like a stroke of genius, to me, and I was worried that we wouldn’t get to see that setting used to it’s fullest. Fortunately, I can say that I’m greatly satisfied with how the setting plays out in this issue, especially considering it features a team-up that I think anyone reading will be very pleased to see.
We also get one very important answer to a question we’ve all been asking since Wonder Woman #770, and I was very happily surprised by it. One of my biggest criticisms of the “Infinite Frontier” initiative has consistently been that if you’re going to promise us an “Infinite Frontier” but deliver us a very narrow, very confined world…then I don’t get the point. There is a great deal of the DC universe, and a great many, MANY characters whose roles and status post-Death Metal remain unknown to us. I’m very happy to say that we see yet another familiar face in this issue, and even though they weren’t who I was expecting their appearance felt natural and it made me smile. The DC universe is starting to feel a bit more like it should, and I’ve missed that.
Speaking of feeling like they should, Diana gets her biggest moments of growth so far in this issue, and that has been long-overdue. I know previously, both in my review for #771 and in my editorial about the promise of this series as a whole, I spoke of my concerns and of my distaste for stories that feature memory-loss. Because if you really think about it, it can offer writers this easy “Get out of jail free” card. It’s a tool that can allow one to mimic character growth by having a character learn about who they are, and yet, at the end of it, achieve a neutral net growth by simply returning the character to where they were prior to the arc’s start. It’s the equivalent of running on a treadmill: there’s action, there’s effort, there’s the illusion of forward motion, but, at the end, you’re right back where you started.
This issue took steps to make me think that we’re going to get more than that. There’s a few lines in here, one moment in particular, where Diana has this second of self-reflection that leads me to believe that, by the time we see Diana back full-and-proper, she will be a different character than the one we first encountered in Infinite Frontier #0 when she first set out on this quest and that made me very pleased. She’s not back to herself just yet, but she’s getting there.
I started with a fair amount of concerns for this run, and it’s good that every issue that goes by seems to be taking a little more of those away each time.
The art remains breath-taking, for the most part—I do wish that we got to see more of the setting; there are many establishing shots of characters that leave the setting out of the background almost entirely and it can leave a reader wanting, especially when the setting is as cool and as unexplored as DC’s Asgard—but I have to take a moment to talk about the color work.
Color can really affect the tone of any page, and to see the colors shift and to see the contrasts in setting and adversary portrayed by the spectrum in the page is great. There’s a moment with foul, undead monsters where the pages and characters glow with this sickly green and the sky turns a piercing red, and towards the end, upon the discovery of something majestic, they are bathed in this soft violet playing so into that otherworldly and godly feel. I don’t think we often times appreciate how much colorwork can play into our experience of a scene, but this book continues to be a great example of how it can.
What I Hope Comes Next: Without giving away too much, I will say the note we leave off on here is the most exciting one I think we’ve seen yet…and yes…I know she was literally eaten by a demon snake last week. I think that we are going to get some truly spectacular interactions next time, and I’m excited to see what comes next because we know from solicitations that June’s #773 issue looks to be the last set within Valhalla so I expect some level of finality, and that gives me a lot of hope. I hope the unaswered questions get resolved, I hope we’re finally told what is happening on Olympus that is so urgent, and I hope that we, after four months, finlly get our Diana, our Wonder Woman, back all the way.
It’s a lot to ask, but I have confidence in this team, and I’m looking forward to talking about that issue when it lands. Because I feel that whether this arc sinks or swims will depend primarily on how this all sticks the landing.
My fingers are crossed, and I am all in.
Summary Building on the strengths of the previous issues, this Wonder Woman run gets better with each passing issue, and despite some nitpicks with the art and some questions that remain unanswered, it has consistently been one of the more enjoyable Infinite Frontier offerings.