I was hesitant to get this volume for a long time. Firstly, I've heard a lot of complains about John Byrne's work on "Wonder Woman". Secondly, I've just read the bulk of George Perez's and Phil Jimenez's work on the Amazing Amazon and therefore, I consider myself a new fan - I can't bear the disillusionment should I come to hate her portrayal by Byrne. However being the completist that I am, I finally did. Here's what I think...
"Second Genesis" collects the first five issues of Byrne's tenure as plotter, scripter, penciller, inker and letterer of Wonder Woman. Yes, you read that right. This guy does it all himself. Only the coloring is done by someone else (in this case, the ultra-talented Patricia Mulvihill). And herein lies the problem. Byrne is no Eisner or Kirby but he sure tries hard! The end result is a little mixed. The work here is neither very bad but neither are they very good. I think many would agree with me that Byrne's best work were those in the past - X-Men, Superman and even She-Hulk.
The story: Diana moves to Gateway City and becomes a superhero there - much like all the other superheroic-guardians-of-fictional-cities that populate the DC Universe. This is clearly a move away from the more mythological-heavy tone of George Perez's recreation in 1987. While I love Perez's work, I wouldn't say that a change is necessarily bad. In fact, I'd say that the second half of Perez's run on the book was a little too slow-moving and often concentrated more on the book's supporting characters (Inspector Indelicato, Julia Kapatelis, Vanessa Kapatelis, Eileen, Lucy, and the countless Amazons like Menalippe, Phytia, Iphtime, etc. etc.) than on the title-character herself. And that's one thing that has been corrected by Byrne here. Diana takes centerstage in this story in a glorious fashion. And that's all I have to praise about Byrne's approach - it's good to see Diana on nearly every page and panel. The rest are all complains:
1) Darkseid's attack on Themyscira seems forced and his exit seems to abrupt. The whole thing felt a little pointless. I don't know whether this particular plotline is followed up upon much in the preceding issues (having never read them), but in this book alone, the reader is left feeling like there's no point to the whole thing. I mean, Darkseid murders 1,200+ Amazons and he just leaves? Where's the resolution to that?
2) I don't really like Diana's costume redesign. Byrne switched the star-spangled panties (?!?) with another pair that has only two stars in the front. Then he gave her a belt that is so big that it needed to be tucked into her golden WW bra! Yes, it really is like that - see for yourself!
3) Byrne's art almost always suffer when he inks them himself. DC should have hired another inker like Terry Austin or Brett Breeding and this work would've turned out better. In many panels, Diana looks too skinny and haggard. There is a difference between battle-worn and downright shoddy.
4) The new supporting characters introduced here are too similar to Perez's that you feel like Byrne is "redoing" Perez. Cassie and her professor mother is very much like Vanessa and Julia Kapatelis. Detective Mike Schorr is just another version of Officer Indelicato!
5) The foreword by Byrne himself is quite painful to read. And I'm saying that as a Byrne-fan myself for many years! You see, I buy this book primarily for a Wonder Woman story. And the foreword is really about "Let-Me-Tell-You-The-Epic-Story-Of-How-DC-Finally-Got-ME-To-Work-On-Wonder-Woman!" I find that quite laughable. Byrne is a comicbook writer/artist. What else would he be doing if not comicbooks? Wonder Woman is just another job - not an epic undertaking by any great stretch! But the way he described his taking the job was like it had to do with the fates being aligned and that it's got some cosmic significance. Seriously, I don't think even Leo Tolstoy would be saying this if he's been picked to do the book!
This book is recommended only for Wonder Woman completists and DC historians. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to someone that I'd like to introduce to the character.