While it's nearly impossible to think about this comic without considering the context of the Allan Heinberg delays or the folly of "Amazons Attack," Gail Simone has brought some life into this series and deserves to be considered on its own merits. Of course, the difficulty here is not wondering how "Wonder Woman" #19 compares to pre-Gail Simone issues, but the question of whether or not her issues seem well-written just because the others before were such a mess. Certainly her work fares well when compared to what came before, but does this most recent issue succeed on its own? Is it a good "Wonder Woman" comic? Is it a good comic?
The answer is: yes, on all three counts.
Simone propels Wonder Woman into space. By removing the character from the Earth-bound, Themyscira-centric setting, Simone isolates Wonder Woman's strength as a hero. Here, she's not a symbol for some kind of social movement or a representative of her Amazonian people. In fact, she's been brought to the Khund homeworld as a warrior. But she's a warrior with a conscience, a warrior who wants to prevent war if possible, yet isn't opposed to using force when necessary.
In "Wonder Woman" #19, Green Lantern Procanon Kaa wishes to destroy the Khunds out of revenge. The Khunds, Jim Shooter creations from the pages of Silver Age "Adventure Comics," have come to represent aggressive violence in the DC Universe. Simone uses the Khunds, Wonder Woman, and Procanon Kaa to create a kind of war triangle. The Khund Emperor is willing to destroy his entire planet to keep it from defeat at alien hands, Procannon Kaa is perfectly willing to let the Khunds be destroyed -- and he'll even help the enemy -- which violates his oath as a galactic protector, and Wonder Woman wants to bring peace. Wonder Woman doesn't sit back and try subtle diplomacy, and in one effective sequence, Simone shows that Wonder Woman earns the respect of her enemies through her martial skill first, then puts out her hand for peace. She beats down a Green Lantern, but not out of malice, and it's a moment that shows both her physical and moral strength. Simone seems to understand the character of Wonder Woman as well as anyone.
Bernard Chang has a bit of trouble with some of the faces (Wonder Woman's profile doesn't always match her forward-facing look), but he is suitably dynamic for the Khund sequences and when the setting shifts back to Earth for a bit of the Tom Tresser b-storyline, his use of six and eight-panel grids capture the sterility and inactivity of the Department of Metahuman Affairs effectively. I don't know how long he's going to remain on this series, but I like what he's been doing so far.
The only part of the story that didn't make any sense to me was the final scene of the issue, in which a character is awarded a Green Lantern ring to create a kind of truce. I'm not a Green Lantern scholar by any means, but I've read my share of stories involving flying bald guys passing out power rings, and I don't remember any other time when a new Green Lantern was created the way Simone shows in this issue. But that's a minor concern in what ends up being a clever conclusion to a well-written story arc.
Simone isn’t trying to do anything revolutionary here, but she is telling the type of straightforward Wonder Woman tale that we haven't read in quite a while. And it's nice to see.