Review: Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2
The lead story in Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2 deals with the actual end of the DC Universe, and it’s brilliant, poetic work from writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad and artist Jen Bartel. We get to see the final battle between Superman and Darkseid, and it’s epic as hell. However, it’s not the center of the narrative, which is Wonder Woman traveling the universe looking for signs of life and hope and trying to avoid the Undoing. Except for the ending and little glimmers, this whole issue is Diana staring into the abyss and trying to find purpose in a world that doesn’t need saving anymore and is truly in its death throes.
In the first issue, Jen Bartel demonstrated that she could operate on an epic scale in both linework and color palette, and this extends to Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2. Her punches have true power and weight behind them, the lasso finds the truth in the last few characters it entangles, and the contrast between light and shadow in her color palette is operatic, especially in Wonder Woman’s final moments as well as Superman and Darkseid’s. There’s a kind of glow in her trail as she flies across the void of space, past the ruins of the Daily Planet or Brainiac’s ship, that is in direct opposition of the black tendrils of the Undoing. Cloonan and Conrad don’t go deep into The Undoing’s backstory, but they’re the inevitability personified and wipe out the whole Legion of Superheroes in a single page that establishes their universe ending threat level. They’re like “The End” on the last page of a story, and the final pages of Immortal Wonder Woman #2 definitely take on a metafictional quality and set up yet another myth cycle.
Cloonan, Conrad, and Bartel definitely use the lead story of Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2 to deal with weighty philosophical issues, like the purpose (or purposelessness) of life and the effects of revenge, especially when Spectre comes into the picture. The whole Ragnarok/Twilight of the Gods vibe carries through from the previous issue, but with the Undoing, not Darkseid, being responsible for the end of the universe. In the big picture, he’s just a god, not an unknowable cosmic force. These themes and ideas as well as the general scale of Jen Bartel’s visuals truly makes this story feel like it’s a kind of modern mythology instead of using gods from various pantheons as window dressing, comic relief, or public domain action figures.
However, Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Jen Bartel don’t forget what makes these myths and legends endure, and that is these heroes’ flaws and recognizable emotions. (For example, young queer people are making Tik Toks about Achilles and Patroclus just like Alexander the Great was writing fan fiction about them two millennia ago.) Bartel does a wonderful job showing Wonder Woman’s emotions throughout the story with many close-ups of her crying, and those tears floating in space to make these panels even more tragic. She also differentiates sad tears like when she witnesses Superman’s death from happy ones like when she finds the Spectre, the last living being. However, Wonder Woman isn’t all sadness in Immortal Wonder Woman #2. There’s a lot of anger too, especially in her last fight, against the Undoing as Cloonan and Conrad’s narration reveal her last thoughts about how she’s a contradictory figure: a warrior, yet peaceful. This ties into the conclusion of the two part storyline, which is quite satisfying, primal, and touches on the nature of immortality in a very cosmological way.
Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2’s second story, “Nubia”, definitely plays second fiddle to the lead story with writer L.L. McKinney continuing to cram a six issue miniseries’ amount of lore and exposition in six issues. However, she and artists Alitha Martinez and Mark Morales and colorist Emilio Lopez do show Nubia being a hero and kicking ass against the likes of Grail and Circe, who Grail has summoned to get the last artifact: Nubia’s tiara. This artifact is magical, and Grail is more into science so she needs an assist from a sorceress of her own. However, little does she know, that this crown is imbued with magic from the Yoruba goddess, Oshun, and it only strengthens Nubia. But, of course, there is a price, and Nubia still owns Aunt Nancy a favor. McKinney definitely leaves plenty of plot threads and potential supporting players and goddesses on the table for future stories.
But for most of the pages of “Nubia”, McKinney, Martinez, and Morales focus on the task at hand: a battle royale between Nubia, Grail, and Circe. Grail and Circe definitely underestimate their opponent so it’s quite vindicated when she breaks free from their control in an iconic full page image, and then throws, kicks, and punches them in a double page spread. Instead of going the stiff pinup route, Martinez and Morales use the spread to showcase Nubia’s speed and strength using borderless panels for her battle with Grail and the bordered panels for her fight against Circe. The choreography is gorgeous in this sequence as McKinney, Martinez, Morales, and Lopez are all on the same page and cut to the best moves. For example, Nubia ducks under a magic blast from Circe and switches opponents to throw Grail with her super strength before delivering a gut punch to the sorceress. Alitha Martinez’s layout choices give a real flow to the action while Mark Morales accentuates details like Nubia’s shoulder muscles when she hurls Circe into the sky, and Emilio Lopez uses bright primary colors during intense moments like when Circe and Grail struggle to take Nubia’s crown off.
Although, these characters are highly powered, the fight has a personal feel to it culminating in Nubia reinforcing the fact that she’s Wonder Woman, an Amazon warrior, and you can’t take important artifacts from her. L.L. McKinney gives Nubia some great one-liners to show that she’s becoming more confident as a hero and coming into her own as a “Guardian”. The flashback with the different gods might be a little text-heavy, but seeing Nubia break free from a villain who is literally staring her down and saying “Submit” is well worth it. But she doesn’t get a chance to celebrate in the epilogue of this story, and Martinez and Morales draw her with tense body language while setting up another potential arc down the road. I’ve really grown to enjoy Nubia’s courage and determination as well Alitha Martinez’s fight choreography, and I would definitely like to see more stories with this creative team. Having a Nubia limited or ongoing series would also give L.L. McKinney an opportunity to pace out some of her worldbuilding elements as well as her protagonist’s connection to Yoruba mythology and Akan folklore plus the magical/superheroic side of Atlanta in the DC Universe.
Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2 wraps up with two very different takes on the iconic DC Comics superhero. Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Jen Bartel tell an archetypal self-contained story of life and death, hope and despair, and finding purpose when there’s nothing to live for starring Diana Prince. Plus it really captures the range of emotions one would feel before the inevitable end of the universe. In the second story, L.L. McKinney, Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, and Emilio Lopez cram in lore, exposition, multiple villains, and one kick-ass fight scene to lay the foundation for future stories featuring Nubia. It’s like a two-hour pilot screaming for a series order whereas the lead story is a beautiful elegy with career-best interior art from Jen Bartel, who masterfully depicts both the cosmic and human.
Story: Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, L.L. McKinney Art: Jen Bartel, Alitha Martinez with Mark Morales
Colors: Jen Bartel, Emilio Lopez Letterer: Pat Brosseau, Becca Carey
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review