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- Published on Amazon.com
Gail Simone's first twelve issues on "Wonder Woman" followed a specific formula: a four-issue arc of major significance, followed by a two-issue arc telling smaller stories. With two such cycles completed, she now dives into the biggest and most ambitious arc she has yet attempted on the title. "Rise of the Olympian" spans eight issues, twice the length of any previous story, and aims to tackle aspects of the Wonder Woman mythos that were severely mauled by the previous writers of the franchise in "Amazons Attack!". This story was also marketed heavily as an entry point for readers, alongside such works as Grant Morrison's "Batman RIP". It would be nice to say that Simone achieves an unqualified success here, but that is not the case. "Rise of the Olympian" has flaws fit for its ambitions. Spoilers follow.
Befitting its size, there is quite a lot going on here. Too much, in many ways. For most of the story, there are two separate strands at work that really don't seem to have much in common beyond their occurring at the same time. In one, which occupied Diana's time for most of the story, she confronts the new villain Genocide, a creation of the latest iteration of the Secret Society of Supervillains. This strand features, for the first time in the run, a couple of pre-existing major Wondy villains, the Cheetah (Barbara Minerva) and Dr. Psycho. They are mostly well-used, though what seems like an opportunity to rebuild the Cheetah into the scheming mastermind she was initially characterized as before rot set in is ultimately not to be. The big flaw in this story, and it's a fairly major one, is Genocide herself. Simply, the character doesn't work. She's built up as a Doomsday-level threat, but the story never really conveys this by her actions. Instead, characters talk about how threatened they feel...a lot. It gets extremely annoying, as Simone tells rather than shows.
The second strand, and by far the better of the two, features the return from "Amazons Attack!"-induced idiocy of the Greek Gods and the Amazons, Diana's people. It's perhaps not ideal that Diana herself is not featured in the most interesting plot thread until the very end of the story. The stage here is given over to Zeus, Queen Hippolyta, various other gods, and the newly-created Olympians, led by the demigod Achilles (not the mythical figure, seemingly). More than anyone, this is Zeus's show. Entrusted with ushering in a new era of peace and protecting the Amazons, he quickly ends up on a warpath of good intentions that leads where such things usually do. Diana's pact with Kane Miohai in "The Circle" finally comes home to roost. The titular Olympian (Achilles) and his people really don't do much in this story; mostly, foundation is laid for the future.
The climax, where these two threads merge due to the designs of Ares (showing a bit more planning skill than he has in the past) is a mixed bag. Ares "dies" in a way that is obvious to the reader that he isn't dead, but the characters all accept that he is far too easily, which defies all logic. And the ending status quo, with Diana renouncing the gods and the Amazons, is frankly a bit wearying. After four years of this (since "Infinite Crisis"), the prospect of Diana returning to her proper place being dangled and then jerked away is not at all appealing. On the plus side, Simone finally makes some moves towards sweeping away the worst parts of the Heinberg reboot, such as the annoying Nemesis relationship (in a way rather unflattering to Diana). The art from Aaron Lopresti is lovely throughout (I particularly like his armour designs for Donna and Cassie), though a bit lacking in the brutal edge some parts of this story seem to be hinting at, which probably plays into its diminished effectiveness.
An important story in Diana's life, but a middling one.