It’s hard to ignore just how much Wonder Woman #56 from writer James Tynion IV and artists Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. feels like a hard step on the brakes.
This is an issue laden with uninteresting, near boring exposition, telling rather than showing, and an issue’s worth of perfunctory posturing and positioning. It’s everything both Justice League Dark and the first issue of this “The Witching Hour” crossover series have deftly avoid being until now — a real sophomore slump.
What’s it about? DC’s preview reads:
“The Witching Hour” part two! The Justice League Dark barely escaped their first encounter with Hecate, but they know she’ll be coming back for the power inside Wonder Woman. But what if Diana could tap into that power herself to take on Hecate directly?
Unfortunately the issue seems to be more interested in asking what if we took an entire issue not really addressing that question so much as dancing around it with the answers to questions we already know, such as “what does Hecate want?”, “what’s happening to magic?”, “how does Wonder Woman feel about this?” and more, which Tynion IV seems more preoccupied with even though it was covered, and covered well, in the previous issue of this event.
It’s a disappointing delivery. One that focuses on the elements of this story that, while good, we’re already familiar with, and are only built upon at the very end of the issue when a benefactor comes to Wonder Woman’s aid — unlocking the full breadth of her new and terrible power in a way that could’ve done much more effectively and quickly. The labor of re-reading through those events, thoughts, loose prose and even overwhelming dialogue even when the end of the issue payoff is good makes this issue a complete and total narrative misfire that feels like its entire purpose is to get pieces into place — a totally perfunctory and transitory affair that feels uncharacteristic for Tynion IV and this story at large.
The art, too, is slightly underwhelming. Largely unrefined and lacking dynamism, the characters here are frequently unexpressive and plain looking despite the fantastic nature of their world and situation. Fajardo Jr.’s color does a good job of bringing a vibrancy to a pedestrian issue. And there are some fantastical and fun moments that really show the more engaging elements of this story, cast, and world as well as making the threats of that three-headed witch goddess that is Hecate feel present and looming, but they are unfortunately few and far between.
In the end, most things here fail to capture the imagination or the eye but, one may feel, predicated entirely on a compelling cliffhanger and the success of the issues leading into this issue, that this is merely a sophomore slump bowing down before great things to come. I, at the very least, want to believe the vision here is greater than some failed execution, and for now it certainly seems to be. Time will tell.