Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #129 by Drew Barth
A couple years ago, DC dissolved their Vertigo imprint and started a series of replacements. Half a dozen pop-up imprints came and went with each maintaining that independent spirit Vertigo espoused.
There was also the Black Label. This was another branch of what Vertigo used to be: more adult-oriented superhero stories. Black Label comics were more distinct as they were physically larger than regular issues—DC would call these “prestige plus” comics. Three years later after the first Black Label book came out, how was this experiment? Besides the pile of Batman or Batman-adjacent books, quite good. One of which that stood out more than any other, however, was Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s Wonder Woman: Dead Earth.
Dead Earth sees Wonder Woman waking up in the Batcave with no memory of why she was there and on an Earth completely changed and ravaged by what survivors have called the Great Fire. Already thrust into battle with the newest scourge of the planet, the Haedra, Diana does what she can to help the survivors of this wasteland. But surviving isn’t merely enough anymore as she convinces those left to join her on the island of Themyscira, convinced that it has been untouched by whatever Great Fire had scorched the rest of the Earth. Her memory, however, is brought back and she begins to remember what had happened: the war, the nukes, and the fight with Superman that ended in his death. All this and the revelation that the Haedra are much more familiar to her than she first knew causes her to reevaluate what she had known about the world of man.
With Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, Daniel Warren Johnson is now one of the best action illustrators in comics. With series like Extremity and Murder Falcon, his lines pulse with a frenetic energy that feels barely controlled. This ominous style is used to great effect with Dead Earth‘s larger formatting. A couple extra inches of page allows for widescreen comics.
It’s hard to find a take on a long-running character like Wonder Woman that feels simultaneously familiar and wholly different. Johnson’s lines are the main attraction for a book like Dead Earth, but no one can discount his understanding of Diana’s character. Compassionate to a fault, but still human at her core, Johnson is able to bring out a side of Wonder Woman that isn’t always fully explored. As a result, Dead Earth is one of the crowning jewels of the Black Label line. But is there anything else just as good? Well, that’s The Question, isn’t it?
Get excited. Get big.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.