Sunday, 29 April 2007

Review: Amazons Attack!

Amazons Attack! issue 1: “Chapter 1: The Last Full Measure of Devotion” by Will Pfeifer (writer), Pete Woods (artist), Brad Anderson (colourist), Travis Lanham (letterer) and Matt Idelson (editor), DC Comics, June 2007, 22 pages of strip, US$2.99

Yes, it’s a swizz. The cover says “first issue of six”. It’s only when you get inside that you find that it is a continuation of a story already begun in Wonder Woman and that the next issue is not Amazons Attack! 2 but Wonder Woman 9.

Having said that, the story is not as incomprehensible as some have made out. The Amazons seize Washington DC in reaction to the capture, torture and interrogation of Wonder Woman by the Americans. They are being goaded on by Circe the Enchantress, who has a confederate impersonating Sarge Steel, Director of the Department of Metahuman Affairs. It seems reasonable to infer that it was this false Sarge Steel who captured Wonder Woman, but this is not spelled out. Nor is it clear how it comes to be, given that her captivity was the trigger of the invasion, that Wonder Woman is walking around freely on the last page. Had this been a self-contained mini-series, I wouldn’t have been too worried by these omissions, but now I can't assume that they will be dealt with in issue 2, which is annoying.

Will Pfeifer keeps events bowling along at a fair old clip, and lays hints about the motivations of various characters adeptly enough. If this were the 1950s, we might expect the continued emphasis on how much the Amazons hate men to lead to a resolution in which they discover the joys of heterosexual love; but surely not in the 21st century?

Pete Woods is the star here, handling, as deftly as he manages character interaction, the spectacle of vast Amazon armies, huge Cyclopes (clearly influenced by the trolls in the Lord of the Rings films), the destruction of Washington landmarks and flights of both winged horses and USAF jets.

Overall, an entertaining enough issue, but part of an irritating publishing strategy.

Amazon Atrocities
The Amazons’ behaviour in this issue has been controversial – particularly the callous killing of a small boy and his father at the beginning. Ragtime, for one, thinks they are acting completely out of character. And they are certainly different from the society that William Moulton Marston dreamed up all those years ago. Compare and contrast:

On the other hand, this is the first appearance by the Amazons since Infinite Crisis rewired the DC Universe, so past continuity is presumably not binding.

Ragnell, on the other hand, thinks that Amazons are primarily warriors and would behave this way, and Steven Padnick agrees, reminding us that the Amazons “learned their combat strategy and tactics three thousand years before the Geneva Conventions”.

True enough, but even if they didn’t think they needed international treaties to enforce them, all societies have had rules about what conduct is acceptable in war. The DC Universe Amazons have generally been characterised as Greek in civilisation, and worship Greek gods. The Hellenistic writer Polybius, idealising his ancestors somewhat, wrote that they thought “that there was nothing glorious or even secure in military successes unless one side killed the enemy drawn up in open battle … For that reason, they made public announcements to each other about wars and battles in advance …”

When the Athenian army sacked the city of Melos in the Peloponesian war and slaughtered the civilian population, it caused uproar back in Athens. Thucydides believed that the generals were justified, because the city had refused to surrender before the Athenians began their siege, and it was necessary to punish that defiance. But the demand to surrender had to be made first.

It seems fair to say that, if an Ancient Greek heard that an army had appeared in a city and killed unarmed non-combatants, including children, with no declaration of war and no chance for the city to submit, he would have regarded that as an act both immoral and impious – that is, likely to incur the retribution of the gods. But if he was then told that it was an Amazon army that had committed this atrocity, he would have been less surprised – the Ancient Greeks were dreadful misogynists and had, after all, dreamed up the Amazons in part to (literally) embody non-Greek behaviour.

So my carefully considered conclusion about whether Amazon brutality is appropriate to this comic is: I dunno, guv. Let’s see if it makes sense in the context of the story

Random thought
When Black Lightning first appeared, he wore a false afro as part of his super-hero disguise, presumably also intending to look more “street.”

So is it too much to hope that this …

… is a bald wig?

From the comic under review plus
Wonder Woman “Villainy Incorporated” by William Moulton Marston (writer) and Harry G Peter (artist), Wonder Woman issue 28, March/April 1948, reprinted in Wonder Woman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, DC Comics, 2007


Matt said...

Man, that would be something to see, wouldn't it?

Some fire-baddie throwing flames in Black Lightning's direction, and suddenly we see his old afro begin to peek out from underneath his bald head


Ami Angelwings said...

That's a good point about how Greeks would behave in battle :D

I totally agree with you! I just think that ppl seem to think that in the old days, there were no morals or respect or nething, that it's something we as a modern western civilization came up with :\