It's Wonder Woman and the time-displaced Valda versus the latter's mighty foe, a giant chromium bull!
Wonder Woman must work double-time not only to stop the rampaging beast, but also to stay Valda's hand from committing more violence and destruction than is necessary!
Elsewhere, though, an unseen foe of Diana's is gathering the Horsewomen of the Apocalypse!
Wonder Woman is, in part at least, defined by her heritage as an Amazonian warrior. Too often, that aspect of her character has been magnified in a way that’s been inconsistent with who she’s supposed to be in her heart (see: the execution of Maxwell Lord). Upon taking the reins of this title, though, one of writer Steve Orlando’s main goals has been to lift high her heart and commitment to life above all else. The two-part “Iron Maiden” story, concluding this issue, is a deliberate attempt to contrast Wonder Woman with another, more brazen fighter in Valda, and play off of their differences. Valda is all action, victory over all else. And while of course Wonder Woman is firmly committed to defeating the raging chromium bull-monster, her first priority is the safety of the ordinary citizens around her.
To that end, she initially tried appealing to Valda’s sense of morality, but had little success breaking through her warrior’s code. So instead, this issue Diana made a competition out of who could protect the most people; Valda responded to the challenge exactly how Diana expected, and together, they cleared the streets of Boston of bystanders who might have been hurt or killed in their battle. It’s a clever twist on standard superhero fisticuffs, one that highlights well what differentiates Diana from her tights-and-flights peers.
Valda herself is something of a blank slate, as her true role in this story is to stand as a counterpoint to Wonder Woman’s worldview. Diana sees her younger self in the time-lost warrior, and seeks to reach out and teach her a better way, especially when she learns of Valda’s struggles to emerge from her mother’s shadow. Valda isn’t exactly unlikeable or anything, just underdeveloped. Perhaps it’s asking too much of Orlando to go whole-hog with her in just two issues; hopefully, now that she’s learned some lessons from Diana, she’ll return again in the future as an ally.
Narratively speaking, “The Iron Maiden” is more about crafting a counterpoint and metaphor for Wonder Woman than plot mechanics. Readers never learn why Valda and the chromium bull are time-displaced, or what their epic battle is really about (beyond the standard “angry creature must be stopped” of it all). Interestingly, she does let slip that she’s the daughter of Frankish king Charlemagne, lending a bit of real-world historical gravitas to the character. A mystery for another time, though, as both Valda and her bull disappear without explanation once Valda delivers what appears to be the killing blow.
For all her good intentions, though, Wonder Woman is still a point of contention for the city of Boston, and takes a dressing-down from her neighbor/kinda-police-ally Nora for “allowing” Valda to escape instead of facing justice for the men she murdered last issue. Diana bravely faces her down, coolly stating that the preservation of life was her utmost priority. This does little to sate the simmering tensions between the Amazonian and the city of Boston, but for now, Nora accepts that this explanation is enough.
Max Raynor’s art is confident and kinetic, pleasing to the eye and capable of moving the story ahead at a brisk pace as needed or slow down for reflection as necessary. He may not be a superstar yet, but his is a name readers should have on their radar. The two-page spread highlighting the scope of the bull and the destruction he’s causing is especially impressive. He also does a good job of conveying a sense of space; the fight isn’t just happening in a random void but a real place, with real consequences. His Wonder Woman holds herself strong but not stiff, proud but not arrogant. But there’s also a softness to her that shows her beauty in the truest sense of the word – no cheesecake poses for this artist. He’s better than that. And as his career rises, readers would do well to recognize him for the talent he is.
Though somewhat slight in plot, Wonder Woman #753 works for what it is, contrasting Diana with a warrior of a more hack-and-slash mindset in a way that winningly showcases her strengths. This is a great time to get in on this title!
Wonder Woman #753: Steel
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 6.5/106.5/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 8.5/108.5/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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