Comic Analysis – Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia by Greg Rucka

I’ve read a great deal of comics in my life. And with the many I have read, I’ve come across many iconic stories for some of my favorite characters. For Batman there’s classics like The Long Halloween, Year One, The Killing Joke. Superman you have Birthright, Kingdom Come and The Death of Superman. Yet for Wonder Woman, stories that automatically come to mind are not easy to think of. I can recall the many writers who have penned stories for Diana, but nothing on the line of must read stories. Well I have finally read one and it’s the best Wonder Woman story I have ever read.

Greg Rucka became the regular writer on Wonder Woman in 2003, but he first wrote her in 2002 with this graphic novel that was meant to present the perception of Wonder Woman, her impact on those around her. It gives readers a common scenario for characters. What do you do when you are caught in a no-win situation?

If you are looking to read this story, the graphic novel is out of print by itself, but you can read it in the first collected volume of Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka as seen here.

Now onto the story. I will try to to spoiler beyond general plot points.

Hiketeia, is a ritual where an individual submits themselves to another for safety and protection. The ritual is enforced by the Erinyes, or Furies who make sure the oath is not broken. This ritual is taken very seriously. As the person who is responsible for the supplicant must allow no harm to come to them and they can not exit the arrangement. Only the supplicant can break Hiketeia. One day a young woman named Danielle arrives at Diana’s door. Danielle is on the run from Gotham with Batman in pursuit. Danielle submits herself to Diana’s protection and Diana accepts. Once Wonder Woman discovers the reason for Danielle’s flight, she is placed in opposition with Batman who wants to bring the woman to justice.

This places Diana in an untenable situation. She is the ambassador to Themyscira and has made this world her her home and that includes the rules and laws that go with it. However, she obviously has connections to her homeland and its culture. She also knows that the Furies are right there to ensure that the contract is upheld. Then there is Batman, whose only purpose is to see Danielle brought to justice for her crimes. The situation becomes even more dicey when Diana learns why Danielle did what she did. This places her in conflict with Batman that leads to this killer moment.

I’m used to reading stories where Wonder Woman has to exercise patience in Man’s World due to where she came from. Yet for this story, it’s the conflict that makes it far more exciting and entertaining. She isn’t faced with a question of what’s right? Once she learns of what Danielle did, she knows what should happen, but she’s bound by ritual that is strictly enforced by an entity that takes vengeance for breaking oath.

It’s the most conflicted I’ve ever read Wonder Woman. In this story she is forced to be many things at once. Friend, ally, protector, combatant, harboring a criminal (I’m sorry I can’t think of a better word than antagonist, but Batman is mostly the antagonist of this story). I found it fascinating and the conclusion was satisfying because it’s the only way a story like this would end. It’s the first story featuring the character that I’ve read that really captured Diana the individual, not the superhero, not the goddess, not the princess, but the person.

I’m genuinely excited to read more of Greg Rucka’s first run on Wonder Woman. I’ve read his work during the Rebirth initiative and loved every page. I strongly recommend The Hiketeia to be read by everyone. And please DC, make this an animated film!

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The Predator- DeaconsDen Reaction

The Predator is the fourth entry in the sci-fi/action series. This installment is directed and co-written by Shane Black who returns to the franchise after a having a supporting role as Hawkins in the 1987 original. How did I feel about it?

I was hopeful that with Black at the helm, there would some bit of the original film in its DNA (pun intended, you’ll understand if and when you see it). I’m not familiar with Black as a director, his only directorial work I’ve seen prior to this was Iron Man 3. I’m more used to seeing films Black has written (Lethal Weapon, Long KISS Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout). The thing about The Predator is that Black has picked 20 lanes to drive the series mythology into new directions, but it doesn’t ride in any lane well. So many paths come out of the main story. It’s a bit scattershot. I do know that Black does incorporate comedy elements into his work and The Predator is no exception. It is the most comedic Predator film, but most of the time the humor comes across like his character Hawkins in the original. It’s funny, but it’s not funny.

A positive about the film is that once the Predator is on the loose, it’s a ton of fun. There’s a b-movie charm to The Predator that invokes gory sci-fi of the 1980s. It’s nowhere as smart as it’s 3 predecessors (yes I said 3! Predator 2 is a fine movie) and it doesn’t really want to be, which is fine, but it needed to be somewhat more focused. It’s fine for being this type of movie, but for a film in the Predator series which has quite a bit of respect behind it, it’s lacking.

The Predator is a mixed bag that does warrant its mixed reception. As someone who grew up on 80s era cheaply made films, this does try to mimic that aesthetic, but between the humor that doesn’t always stick the landing and the unfocused plotlines, if Shane Black is to continue with the franchise, he needs a bit more work to successfully merge his stylings to the concept. I have no problem watching this again, but to me it does exonerate all the complaints about Predator 2 and cement that as a fine sequel to a great film. The Predator is still entertaining. Not top tier popcorn fun, but fun nevertheless.

Gaming Gallery 7 – Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man is an action/adventure game from Insomniac Games for the PlayStation 4. You are placed in the shoes of Peter Parker as he does whatever a spider can around New York City. Like most games of this generation, there is a photo mode and it just may be my favorite one yet. Here are some of my shots I’ve taken throughout the game so far.

Selfies:

Shots around New York:

Like many games with photo modes, it’s so easy to get caught up in capturing these moments. This is one I highly recommend!

A Simple Favor – DeaconsDen Reaction

This one, took me by surprise. I expected to enjoy A Simple Favor because it seemed like the type of mystery-thriller I’m accustomed to enjoying, but I legitimately loved this and it is the second time a film with Blake Lively has become one of my favorites of the year (the first being The Shallows).

A Simple Favor is directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters) with a script by Jessica Sharzer based on the nice of the same name by Darcey Bell. It stars Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively and Henry Golding.

Stephanie Smothers (Kendrick) is a single mother with a Vlog dedicated to cooking, is investigating the disappearance of her best friend Emily Nelson (Lively). Emily had asked Stephanie to pick up her son after school (the simple favor) and never returned. From there, whatever can happen will happen.

There are quite a few elements that make A Simple Favor a great fun time at the movies. One of these is the perfect casting and chemistry of Kendrick and Lively. Their conversations with each other in the first third of the film is a blast to watch because you have a fusion of Kendrick’s awkward yet adorableness and Lively’s liberated and assertiveness. The combination of the two is undeniably potent.

Now you might be able to telegraph the beats that come along with a film like A Simple Favor and while I feel that is certainly by design, the ride is what you are here for. You basically have a modern Hitchcockian comedy-thriller. When it wants to be funny, it is hilarious. If the film decides to take itself seriously, it absolutely does and you manage to switch gears with it just as easily. Anything you know about a noir film and those tropes and cliches are present but it is not trying to reinvent the wheel. It just wants to have you enjoy the wheel and it certainly entertains. It gets twisted and even slides to the dark side for a moment, but it all works and never felt disjointed.

With all the focus now on major tent pole films, I adore the opportunity to enjoy experiences like this that take something familiar and just manage to give you something new with something old. A Simple Favor is simply fun.

Comic Review – Batman: Damned #1

Batman: Damned is the first original release from DC Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics. The purpose of this imprint is to showcase stories that are not part of main continuity and are more flexible in matters of content. This line is meant to have mature stories and subject matter. The line will consist of original limited series and previously published material.

Batman: Damned is written by Brian Azzarelo and illustrated by Lee Bermejo. The two have collaborated previously on the tiles Luthor and Joker for DC, now they create their vision of a Dark Knight tale. This is a three issue limited series. Issue one was released on September 19th 2018.

Batman: Damned is the story of Batman as a suspect in the death of his longtime nemesis The Joker, who was found dead on a bridge in Gotham City. Batman’s path will cross with supernatural detective John Constantine to solve this mystery in a combination of crime and occult.

The moment I pick up my physical copy of the book, I was instantly impressed with the quality of the book as a whole. It has a nice cover design and the paper quality is good as well. I wish it had a hardcover like the 2-part, The Dark Prince Charming, but I’m sure that is a reason those books cost $12.99 at release and this one $6.99. Just a preference and not a complaint at all. I like the larger format as it reminds me of the prestige format of titles like Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. While I’m certain this will read much better once it is collected, I am excited to read these individual issues since this is the physical format it will initially be available in.

Now to speak on the book’s content.

Batman: Damned is a very atmospheric book. It might be easy to say that because it’s almost second nature to visually interpret Gotham City, but Bermejo’s art is outstanding. If you never read Luthor or Joker (I haven’t and will correct that soon), you are in for a treat from the jump. It’s sharp, it’s beautiful, it’s horrifying. Gotham isn’t just a city, it’s almost an otherworldly dimension. Since the supernatural factors into this story, that is probably intentional. His rendering of familiar DC characters who I won’t spoil is outstanding. The book is worth it for this artwork alone in my opinion.

However, I have to admit I wasn’t overly thrilled with Azzarello’s story for this first issue. It isn’t bad by any stretch, but I found it a little thick to get into what he was setting up besides the death of the Joker. There is some good material that takes a look at Bruce Wayne which is always interesting to me, but I guess I’m unsure of what the book is going to ultimately be about. It could be a combination of the crime elements, supernatural and psychological, but with it being only 3 issues, I was expecting just a little forward motion.

Overall, I will say issue one of Batman: Damned is still a quality purchase for me. Beautifully drawn, but hopefully issue 2 will move things along and make the direction a little more clear for me. However I’m still on board with this story and what DC Black Label can offer. And I can’t wait to see Azzarello and Bermejo’s take on one of my favorites, Harley Quinn.

Rating (3.5/5)