“Down to Earth, Part 3”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Drew Johnson (p), Ray Snyder (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
The Down to Earth storyline continues with the Amazons worried about Ares appearance on Themyscira, Wonder Woman’s staff trying to figure out the best way to deal with Darrel Keyes and the general fallout from her book, and Wonder Woman herself searching for her missing friend Vanessa Kapatelis.
This is a bridge issue consisting of a number of well-paced set-ups. I have greatly enjoyed Rucka’s “Down to Earth” storyline so far and this issue helps put everything in place for the big finish to come. As with Hellblazer 189, this storyline, starting with issue 195, has been an excellent opportunity to get into this book with the young lawyer Jonah, new to Diana’s staff, standing in for all of us new (relatively speaking) to the current world of Wonder Woman.
As we are in the middle of a story here it is appropriate we hit the ground running. Io, scared by the sudden, and supposedly impossible, appearance of Ares on Themyscira and the fact that the sword he touched did not vanish, as all weapons do on the Amazonian island, runs to inform Phillipus and Artemis. Meanwhile in Olympus Ares “accidentally” bumps into Zeus while holding a copy of Diana’s new book. He uses the opportunity to slyly note that of all the Gods Diana mentions her book, none is more so written about that Gaea, the earth mother. This ruffles Zeus’ feathers, but the story moves on to New York where Jonah, Rachel and Peter from Diana’s staff debate how to handle the growing problem of Darrel Keyes and the group “Protect Our Children” who are increasing their attacks on Diana for the beliefs espoused in her book. Peter plans to debate Keyes in a crossfire-style show to try to stem the rising criticism. We are then off to Buenos Aires where Wonder Woman looks forward to finally seeing her friend Vanessa Kapatelis. She soon finds out Vanessa is gone and has been for some time. The doctor in charge of her care was threatened with the lives of his family and so he kept quiet when she was kidnapped. Wonder Woman leaves him to think on his cowardice, obviously bitter over the loss of another person close to her. Back it is then to New York where Garibaldi ends up skewering Keyes in their debate. This is the first real stumble in the issue. It’s a little too easy for Peter, deflating much of the tension that had been rising with this situation. The theme of how superheroes would interact in the real world of people’s prejudices and fears is a powerful one to explore. Rucka seems ideally suited because his writing grounds Wonder Woman in the real world so effortlessly, from her staff meeting in the kitchen, or walking with their kids to dealing with book publishers and the everyday folks you meet at book signings. Like the current run of Green Arrow under Judd Winick, Rucka also excels with Diana’s supporting cast. To be honest in this book I wanted to see more on the front in New York then what Diana was doing down in Argentina. But the debate, as I said, was a bit too pat. If you’ve ever watched Crossfire on CNN you know no one ever seems to win those things. However, I strongly doubt this is over yet and I trust Rucka will get back on track.
The story closes with two interesting points for the next issue. Artemis comes to tell Diana of Ares visit and Diana promises to go to Olympus the next day to see what is going on. And Veronica Cale heads to Argentina to purchase one Silver Swan from a Mr. Ballesteros. I’m afraid my continuity gap is showing here as I suspect, but cannot be sure that this Silver Swan is Vanessa Kapatelis, Wonder Woman’s friend. Along with Dr. Psycho this makes for an interesting menagerie that Ms. Cale is building. But again it is all set-ups for the next issue. The Artemis visit does represent another bit of a stumble. So bouncy is the storyline as it puts all the pieces in place that, as Wonder Woman orders her crepes from Ferdinand and chows down with a smile you’d forget that she just came from finding out her friend was kidnapped three months ago. When you have so many balls in the air it can be hard to dwell on any of them.
The artwork compliments the writing wonderfully in this storyline; both have such a smooth, quiet rhythm ideally suited to lots of dialogue and multiple characters. This is one of my favorite characterizations of Wonder Woman herself in quite some time. Like Alex Ross’s rendition the aim here seems to be to make her more natural looking, rather than as another X-Men babe from 1992. And the palette of colors, especially the reds and blues, is very rich complementing the script and artwork nicely.
Overall Rucka’s characterization of Wonder Woman has been excellent. Recognize this issue for what it is; the set-up for numbers 199 and 200. As such it is well-paced, bouncing back and forth between multiple fronts with a natural ease. This is comfort food Wonder Woman and there is a good team in the kitchen making this work.
P.S. What’s with the cover? Makes Wonder Woman look like one of those short-skirted ensigns from 1960s Star Trek.
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