Wonder Woman/Conan #1 Review - A Crow Without Mercy

The Concept:

Wonder Woman/Conan is a book made for a fan like me. My two favorite characters in comics might very well be Diana of Themyscira and Conan of Cimmeria, but for much different reasons. While Wonder Woman appeals to the idealism of my heart, Conan's brutal adventures get my heart pumping.

Diana and Conan are not quite two sides of the same coin, but perhaps inversions of each other. Both are the greatest warriors of their world, but where Diana is a wise and loving crusader of justice, Conan is a reckless, rolling stone of a mercenary. Both are passionate, but Diana's love and need for justice extends outward to the world and people around her, while Conan tends to turn his love and sense of justice inward, looking out primarily for his own happiness and well-being.

My first question about this pairing was who of them would be taken out of their element? Conan is not new to feats of heroism, nor is he without compassion. Diana, however, while consistently challenged by the trials of gods and villains alike, has never been in Conan's sandals: Diana has not lived a life of desperation, fighting for little more than her own day-to-day survival.

It makes sense then for this book to take Diana to the brutal, low-fantasy world of the Hyborian Age, and we've been blessed to have Gail Simone be the one to take her there. Not only does Gail love and understand Diana, but she also understands the innate pulp appeal of the sexy, but inescapably dark, sword and sorcery world of Conan. Gail is able to remain authentic and give both themes their just due.

The Story:

We begin with a slice of Conan's childhood, some of which was fleshed out from the notes of Robert E. Howard in Busiek's Conan: Born on the Battlefield, but now with a new element: a long-lost love, Yanna. Decades later as an adult, Conan thinks he sees Yanna again, this time not in in his homeland of Cimmeria, but in a gladiator's arena.

Conan is mistaken: it is not Yanna, but our favorite Amazonian princess. An amnesiac dressed in rags and strategically-splattered with mud, Diana been de-powered, enslaved, thrown to the fighting pits, and branded as the "Warrior Witch." Slavery is abundant in Hyboria, and Conan himself has been enslaved as gladiator in the arena; naturally, Conan detests slavery. I partly would expect then, that this alone could be reason for Conan to get involved, but instead, this case of mistaken identity seems to be his motivating factor in sneaking in to Diana's cell.

Diana does not immediately discount Conan's insistence that she is Yanna, but she does immediately feel a connection to Conan, perhaps even chemistry. Before they can escape, Diana's slaver Dellos captures Conan, and believing the two to be long lost lovers, declares they will fight each other to the death in the arena.

The Book:

The book is well-crafted. Lopresti's pencils deliver the sinewy physicality we expect to see in a Conan book, and inks by Matt Ryan enhance this wonderfully. Wendy Broome's colors expertly handle light and shadow, delivering the appropriate shifts to mood for scenes and characters. Saida Temofonte's lettering is innovative and effectively stylistic; all together, the book's team meshes perfectly.

Gail leaves us with a lot of questions but a few hints to what lies ahead. Diana dreams of Themyscira, feeling something about her true identity, even remembering that she is known as 'Wonder Woman.' We also get a look at two sisters of the Corvidae, raven-sorceresses (who remind me of Medusa's sisters, Euryale and Stheno, from Rucka's Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon). The sisters, who have been following Conan's exploits, stop to entertain themselves with Diana's arena spectacle, and I have to wonder if they're involved or even responsible for Diana's strange and unfortunate circumstances.

I also find Diana's de-powering and enslavement to be safe in Simone's hands; any other writer might give me pause, but Gail knows all too well about the fridging and exploitation of our heroines; it's not going to happen on her watch.

Also, Issue #3's cover teases a tryst between Diana and Conan, which I have mixed feelings about.

It's no surprise Conan would be interested in Diana; Conan is an absolute hound. Frankly, Diana is everyone's type, and I have a hard time pinning down what Diana's type is (maybe she doesn't have one), but Conan doesn't seem to be it. He's too sweaty. Still, it's not my business who Diana wants to roll around with, and if there's anyone who could make this pairing work, even if only for one wild night, it's Gail Simone.

In a comics world of world-shattering events and superhero reinventions, it's refreshing to indulge in a fun story that seems to be heading toward character exploration, rather than deconstruction. We have an attractive book and an intriguing start to this series and I'd encourage Wonder Woman and Conan fans alike to add this one to your pull list!

Adrian Martinez is a graphic designer, comic book letterer, hobbyist writer, and all-around geek living in New York City.