Amazons Attack ended Wednesday, and I got a look at the last few pages even though I dropped the miniseries long ago. A number of readers have proclaimed that “Will Pfiefer killed Wonder Woman” and I’ve taken it upon myself in my personal blog to tell them (in a few admittedly not very polite posts) that they are overreacting a bit. The usual fighting has commenced, and it leaves me thinking about exactly why I dropped the miniseries. Strangely enough, it wasn’t for any of the more prominent criticisms.
(Yes, I am about to nitpick this miniseries after I just spent two days telling people they were overreacting to it.)
I started out happy that Hippolyta was back to life, and looking forward to seeing the issue play out. The continuity didn’t bother me because despite Jiminez’s reform storyline, the two tribes of the Amazons were still in character. The Themiscyran half (Hippolyta’s tribe, these are the benevolent peacekeepers who spent 3000 years on the island) of the Amazon population was very very used to following a monarchy and the Bana Migdall half (Hippolyta’s sister Antiope’s tribe, a group of bloodthirsty Egyptian Amazons that moved onto Themiscyra sometime during either Perez or WML’s run) was extremely bloodthirsty and had continued to be so. Hippolyta actually did, and still does, come off as better than she did in the William Messner-Loebs run. There was, as always, the serious chance of mind control or magical manipulation, but the series had all of the setup of a classic “Diana intervenes and makes peace between her birth-home and her adopted home” plot. The writing wasn’t very good in either the main Wonder Woman series or the Amazons Attack miniseries, but it had the beginnings of an interesting plot.
Except in the first few pages of the second issue, I lost all interest in buying the rest of the book. It had nothing to do with how the nameless Amazons were written, or how Hippolyta was written, or even how Diana was written. It actually came down to a few background characters.
The first two were in the first issue, the two male tourists in Washington DC. Pfiefer showed us a sweet little scene of a father teaching his son, and then had the Amazons kill them both mercilessly. I’ve actually defended this scene in the past, because it could have been both in and out of character. There was still a mind control option, and it also had me thinking back to the Perez era where the Banas were shown to be in the wrong because they were so brutal towards men. Pfiefer didn’t differentiate between the two tribes, but not every writer handles their exposition in the first issue. The Amazons intended target in this issue, the President of the United States (a man, just in case you doubted it), was saved by Black Lightning.
What got me here was the second issue. In the first few pages of that issue, a fighter pilot is getting chastised by her superior officer over the radio for not paying attention to the radio. You can tell the pilot is female, because of a lock of blonde hair that hangs over her forehead and later when we get a look at her breasts beneath the flight suit.(I’ve seen women in USAF flight suits by the way, and that uniform does not have that sort of definition around a female chest.). She gets hit in the throat with an arrow (yes, an arrow breaks the glass and goes into the cockpit) and pulls the ejection lever. You can lands in front of a group of Amazons. In a blatant violation of the Law of Armed Conflict, the Amazons execute her. The Justice League shows up after the pilot dies Two pages later, the Jefferson monument is falling on a tourist. This tourist is a woman wearing pink and purple, with a feminine haircut. She gets saved by Green Lantern, who gives her a winning smile and a joke about how fragile she is.
I dropped the story there. At that very page. I found out the rest through friends spoiling the events and the clerk in the comic book store showing me the last few pages to see if I’d get angry. (I find out a lot through the guys in the comic book store pointing stuff out to see if I get angry. I’m apparently as entertaining in person as I am online.)
I can see, for narrative purposes, no one saving the tourists in the first issue. But that fighter pilot? The JLA had to arrive just two panels too late to save her? What was the point of that? Why couldn’t she be saved too? Why is only the “good woman” saved?
I’ve touched on this before, but the bottom line is that two issues into this we see two people who are subverting gender roles (a caretaker father, a military woman) murdered brutally. On its own, that probably wouldn’t bother me. Its that the people who were fitting into their assigned gender roles (Male world leader; female innocent bystander who wears pink and cries for help) were saved by superheroes. The symbolism was just plain bad. It seemed too much like they were punishing people for stepping outside the box there. (No, I don’t think this was on purpose, but I’m a little freaked out by the idea that they can conform to existing social roles so perfectly without meaning to — that woman was even wearing pink for heaven’s sake!)
And the actual storyline in the foreground just wasn’t good enough to overlook the unsettling messages in the background. It can’t be refuted at the end because where women and men belong is not an idea that was brought up verbally in the story, but one that was put there in the plot. The universe supports this setup. It was part of the rules of the story. I don’t want to read “Be a good little girl and a handsome man will save you” stories, especially not when I pick up a Wonder Woman event. That’s not what Wonder Woman is for.