I've recently become interested in the world of comics (beyond Sandman, my only real exposure to this medium), partly due to my discovery of a whole pile of excellent feminist blogs that focus on science fiction and comic fandoms. So last week I plunged into a variety of comics, including Wonder Woman, X-Men and Teen Titans.
Firstly, Wonder Woman: Down to Earth . This is a recent Wonder Woman comic by Greg Rucka, and given that the Booklist review on Amazon describes it as an "inventive attempt to make [Wonder Woman]... relevant to current readers", I imagine that it has departed somewhat from previous storylines. Wonder Woman is an ambassador from Themyscria, which seems to be a planet populated by Amazons. She spreads a message of peace and tolerance and in Down to Earth comes up against a group of people who claim she is destroying "family values". Sound familiar? I really enjoyed this, and it's very suitable for a reader who has no knowledge of the characters or their history. I had a couple of "um, what?" moments, like the appearance of Silver Swan, but overall, it was a very fun read, and I really loved the art.
I went on to read Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia , which was a shorter, self-contained story, and much darker than Down to Earth. The cover has Wonder Woman's booted foot on Batman's head, which looks very cool. (I must say that prior to this comics reading, I had no idea that superheroes had so much to do with each other. They all live in the same cities and everything. I had previously thought that they were all self contained stories.) In The Hiketeia, Wonder Woman is bound to protect a young woman who is accused of murder. It's a very touching story, and I really enjoyed it because Wonder Woman seemed much more human. I could see the difficulties she had. Again, I loved the artwork - the aforementioned stomping on Batman's head scene is especially fabulous.
After Wonder Woman (and I'm definitely going to explore the rest of Greg Rucka's stories with her), I grabbed Emma Frost: Higher Learning from the library. It's an X-Men offshoot, although given that my only contact with the X-Men universe is through the movies, I'd never actually heard of Emma Frost (and this slim book only covers part of her school years, so I'm not entirely sure about the full extent of her powers.) Higher Learning was OK. The story was a bit melodramatic, Emma's crush on her school teacher was offputting (she can hear him thinking things like, "she looks so sexy", which was disturbing), and I hated the way she was drawn - even when she's devastated about something, she looks vulnerable and gorgeous, all lips and eyes. Gah.
Still in the X-verse, I grabbed Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men - Gifted , which I loved. I had high hopes for it, given that I'm a big fan of Whedon's storytelling, and wasn't disappointed. All the characters were great, I loved the banter (even mid-battle) and I even enjoyed Emma Frost's character, despite thinking that I'd hate her after reading Higher Learning. The artwork was excellent - I loved it (and wondered how much it had been influenced by the movie characters, especially Wolverine.) Gifted has the Cure storyline which was used (in part) in the recent X-Men movie, and it does it with much more depth and style than the movie. It ends with some tantilising teasers for the next volume, which I can't wait to read.
I'm not quite sure why I picked up something called Teen Titans: The Future is Now , because it doesn't really seem like my thing at all. It wasn't half-bad, but I don't think picking up something that's Volume 4 in a series is a great idea - I found all the characters a bit hard to keep track of, and there were too many references to past events for me to really get into the storyline.
Runaways: True Believers is also Volume 4 in a series, but from the description on the back it seemed like an easier point to break into a storyline. It was fairly easy to get a handle on what had happened before, and everyone's relationships to each other, and it was a fun, tight story.
I think out of all of these, Astonishing X-Men and Wonder Woman were the ones I enjoyed most, and I'll definitely be getting more volumes of these.