There are a lot of comics out there, but some stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This,” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week we are looking at Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s post-apocalyptic heavy metal jam, “Wonder Woman: Dead Earth”. Come with me as we see the perfect type of book that Black Label allows creators to do, and how much fun it is to watch it happen. Be aware there might be slight spoilers.
Who is this by?
This comic is published by DC’s still relatively young Black Label imprint and is by acclaimed creators and collaborators Daniel Warran Johnson and Mike Spicer. The pair have worked on numerous independent comics in the past that have covered plenty of genres. From the horror-tinged “Ghost Fleet”, to the action-oriented high fantasy of “Extremity”, and the touching ode to friendship filtered through metal guitar jamming “Murder Falcon”, the creators have done their fair share of highly-approved comic books. Now they’ve turned their eyes to the Big Two, to one of the greatest superhero characters of all time, and the results are pleasing.
What’s it all about?
Daniel Warren Johnson brings a post-apocalyptic flavor to our favorite Amazon with his story in “Dead Earth”. In the first issue, we’re thrown into the thick of things with Diana as she’s discovered by a pack of scavengers on the run from demonic mutates referred to as Haedra. One thing I love about these stories is when uncovering the mystery of what kind of apocalyptic scenario took place before the book’s event is intertwined with the main plot. The scavengers have lived for generations, to the point that the most current one only has a vague idea of what happened and that it was referred to as The Great Fire. The drive of the plot is showing how Diana navigates this new world with her superhero ideals still intact, trying to be as genuine and as loving as she can in a world that is wrought with cynicism. Plus, she battles old enemies in Roman-style colosseums and crosses great stretches of continents to fight Gothic-as-heck suits of armor that look like they could have come straight out of Dark Souls.
What makes it so great?
This could easily have fallen into the trappings of being a typical post-apocalyptic story, and still have legs because of Johnson’s art. This could have also easily gotten away with also being a post-apocalyptic superhero story, but no. Johnson makes this series a must-read because it’s undoubtedly a Wonder Woman story. Diana inspires the characters in this story to greater things because of her uncompromising, unflinching love of every living thing. Johnson makes sure to make a big deal out of this, which really makes the post-apocalyptic setting a great way to juxtapose Diana’s kindness and hope to a place completely desolate and removed from it. It does also help that we get some fun little Easter Eggs every now and then that reminds us that this is a DC book. Seeing Batman’s costumed corpse in the first issue is fun, as well as seeing Cheetah’s role in this story and how she has stayed alive so long.
As good as the writing is, however, Johnson’s art is absolutely stunning and hard not to salivate over. Every character design on display here is a great mishmash of that wasteland-aesthetic with the bright, candy-colored palette of superhero comics of all ages. Diana’s costume herself is a great example of this, and I love the extra touch that she adds by sporting Batman’s old utility belt, giving her a strong connection to the memory of heroes gone by. On top of that, there’s just plenty of beautiful set pieces on display here. Seeing the Wasteland as an immensely sparse setting yet sprawling with creepy mutates is a riff on the genre that this series displays, yet even the flashbacks to the days of Themyscira and some of the more natural areas are rich and lush with life and beautiful architecture. Some of the murals that Johnson paints into the walls of Themyscira do an insanely good job at storytelling that writers wish they could do with such brevity.Continued below
The action also totally slays in this series. Johnson has the sheer, raw energy of some of the best Shonen Jump artists out there. Every character moves as they’ve just spent all of their energy into a last-ditch attempt, with facial expressions that combine anger, sadness, eagerness, but most of all just good old effort. The Haedra have fantastic monstrous energy about them, especially when they storm the final human outpost. Johnson renders each one with a fast-moving, almost malleable form, which makes them all the more impressive and terrifying. Also, rarely have I seen modern comics handle brawls and sword fighting with the amount of kinetic energy that Johnson does, especially with faceoffs like Diana and Cheetah, and Diana and the Dark Souls-as-heck Nubia.
How can you read it?
“Wonder Woman: Dead Earth” is published on a monthly basis by DC’s imprint Black Label. You can find it digitally on Comixology, or in print quite easily due to it being a recent release. It’s also only on its second of three issues, which means it’s easy enough to catch up on but you’ve gotta jump on it now before the final part of the saga comes out! This is a unique, auteur DC comic that deserves to be read.