Wonder Woman by George Pérez Volume 2 continues collecting the stories from the auteur’s landmark ’80s run on the world’s most famous female superhero.
First, Diana contended with the mysterious Silver Swan, a new take on an old villain. Then followed a trip to Greece to visit the family of mentor/surrogate mother Julia Kapatelis that brought Diana into conflict with mythical villainess Circe. The apparent murder of a supporting character provided the impetus for a comic book noir digression, followed by a major change in the status quo of the Olympian gods and Paradise Island taking tentative steps to engage the larger world. A series of vignettes depicting various moments in the history of the Amazons provided a brief respite. Finally, Hermes, in defiance of the other Olympians, returned to the world of humans, where he became a divisive presence before his arrogance led him into an ambush that required Diana’s intervention to set right.
Pérez, working with co-writer Len Wein, continued the course of steeping Wonder Woman as much in fantasy and horror as it was in conventional superhero elements. Classic mythology remained a touchstone, but the series also did rather well with its hardboiled detective detour and even a more conventional “superhero” plot like the re-introduction of Silver Swan still packed some solid twists that made the episode feel fresher than the usual “superhero fights supervillain” action.
Pérez and Wein had a strong grasp of what made Diana tick and continued to get mileage out of her adjustment to the modern world. Diana’s confusing crush on Superman played more like a genuine character beat instead of the reductive fan service it could have been, and the constant tension between Diana’s warrior ethos and mission of peace provided a potent dramatic engine for the action. Julia remained this era’s best contribution to the concept, providing Diana with a trusted confidante and surrogate mother. Vanessa, Julia’s daughter, was a frustratingly realistic portrait of a basically decent teenager whose moods and dramas could be maddening and relatable in equal measure. Old favorites like Steve Trevor and Etta Candy took a backseat for a lot of this stretch, but the writers did some interesting things with Hermes and the re-introduction of Circe was an unqualified success, one of the best makeover jobs of this era.
On the art side, Pérez remained at a peak. Working with several prominent inkers, including Bob McLeod, Dick Giordano and Will Blyberg, plus indispensable colorist Carl Gafford, Pérez did some of the best work of his long career on Wonder Woman. He adapted to the shifting moods of the narrative with graceful fluidity, essaying quiet character moments and fantasy spectacle with equal impact. The artist’s visual re-interpretation of Diana was defining for an entire generation. The new looks for old stand-bys like Silver Swan and Circe were brilliant bits of design work and Pérez was unafraid to adorn his cast in trendy ’80s couture that looks ridiculous now but still provide a rather accurate time capsule of the styles of the time. Several well-known artists, including Brian Bolland, John Bolton and Curt Swan, jammed with Pérez on the “Tales of the Amazons” collection from Annual #1, giving others a chance to work with the new visual status quo of Wonder Woman to good effect.
For fans of either Pérez or Wonder Woman, this is a collection worth picking up (after you’ve read Volume 1, of course).