Amazon Family Reunion: Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #4 Review

WWBW04-Cov-A-Staggs.jpgAlright, let’s start with the most obvious reason this issue is the best so far — Diana takes Jaime to Paradise Island! In previous reviews I’ve gushed over how this series elevates the feel of two iconic 70s TV series to the epic scope made possible by the comics medium. By that metric, Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #4 is a home run! (Kangas!) Every page is a delight, with homages and cameos abounding.

The chapter begins with Diana (Wonder Woman), Jaime (the Bionic Woman), and Max (the Bionic Dog) soaring over the Atlantic Ocean in Diana’s invisible plane. Diana contacts Paradise Island using her Mental Radio, activated by the ruby in her tiara, to announce their arrival. She compares the communication device to the one implanted in Jaime’s arm, drawing parallels between the mythic fantasy of Wonder Woman and the science fiction of the Bionic Woman.

Answering Diana’s call is a character not seen since the original pilot episode, The New Original Wonder Woman — Rena (Inga Neilsen!) Rena is Diana’s red-headed Amazon sister who was with her when she fatefully discovered Steve Trevor washed up on the shore of Paradise Island during World War II, the event which led to Diana leaving for America to become Wonder Woman.

Upon their arrival, Diana and Jaime are greeted by the Diana’s mother, the Queen  (played on ABC by Carolyn Jones and Chloris Leachman and on CBS by Beatrice Straight. (The “close-up” model for this version is Carolyn Jones, but I could swear the profile is based on Beatrice Straight.) Guest stars pop up everywhere on Paradise Island — and we learn the fate of several of Wonder Woman’s friends and foes. I won’t spoil them for you here. (Seriously if you’re a fan of either TV show and you’re not reading the comic, close this review and march yourself down to your local comics shop right now or download it here.) We also meet a few Amazons who look a lot like some real world women, including the granddaughter of Wonder Woman’s creators — Christie Marston!

As they explore the island, Diana and Jaime swap origin stories. Diana describes Paradise Island as a haven for women who needed to escape the oppressive forces of Man’s World. Jaime wistfully suggests she might have benefitted from such island restoration after receiving her bionic upgrades. During the discussion, Jaime realizes that both women have faced robot-building enemies in the past, and that it happened not far from Paradise Island. It’s time to investigate. Also, the team grows by one Amazon.

Meanwhile, the villainous cabal CASTRA reveal their plan to invade Paradise Island with an army of Fembots to steal the Amazons’ feminum, a unique metal they intend to use to construct an indestructible army of androids. Discovering CASTRA’’s secret headquarters, the gals find themselves in fistfight with the Fembots, which does not end well.

This series started strong and this chapter is the best so far, adding even greater emotional depth as Jaime comes home with Diana to meet her family. Mangels has constructed a universe where mythic fantasy and science fiction are beautifully integrated. Wonder Woman’s presence accentuates Jaime’s courage and heroism, while Jaime’s highlights Diana’s humanity. At every turn, each character’s world adds dimension to the other.

While Mangels’ story delights, Judit Tondora’s renderings of real actors in a comics universe astound. In some cases (as with Carolyn Jones), Tondora gives new life to the deceased, rendering them effectively immortal. This is the series I’ve always wanted but didn’t know was possible. I never want it to end.

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Heavy Machinery: Wonder Woman Meets The Bionic Woman #3 Review

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Cover by Glen Hanson

When last we left our heroes, they were out at sea, atop a cargo ship that had just fired off a stolen missile!

Now, SPOILER ALERT! I’m going to reveal super secrets of the this issue!

Click here to get Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #3 from Comixology.

To stop the missile, Jaime (who once posed as a stewardess) pilots Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, despite her inability to see the invisible controls and questions Diana’s choice of timing for a costume change. Giving chase, Wonder Woman lassoes the missile from the plane’s wing and throws it off course with some Amazon acrobatics. We’re off to a delightfully goofy high-stakes start!

Meanwhile, the terrorist group CASTRA has freed Wonder Woman’s very very old foe, Captain Radl (John Saxon), from prison. During Wonder Woman’s World War II adventures, Radl and his Nazi team had invaded Paradise Island before being defeated by Wonder Woman and her younger sister, Drusilla (Debra Winger). The Amazons wiped Radl’s memory, but it returned during his incarceration.

Now we learn the full scope of what Diana and Jaime are up against. CASTRA consists of Wonder Woman villains, Captain Radl, Dr. Solano, and his companion, Dr. Cyber (aka Gloria Marquez), and Orlich Hoffman, who have joined forces with the Bionic Woman’s adversary, Dr. Carl Franklin, creator of the deadly android femme fatales known as Fembots, and his robotic “son”, Carl Mark II. The series of expository monologues in where we learn this info is punctuated by Hoffman, who comes dangerously close to breaking the fourth wall, once again bringing the self-aware charm that is a signature of this comic.

Back at sea, Wonder Woman and Jaime have CASTRA’s hired henchmen all tied up, but discover that some of them are actually Fembots (…er, Masc-bots?) Anyway, they defeat all but one, which escapes overboard after a battle sequence studded with stars and bionic sound effects. Assuming that the robot sank to the bottom (and inexplicably not going after it), the super partners check in at the IADC, where Jaime calls her parents, inspiring Diana to pay a visit to her own mother.

Then it’s off to the OSI to visit Dr. Rudy Wells (Marin E. Brooks), the bionic surgeon, who is examining a captured Fembot (er, Manbot… whatever.) The Fembot creeps Jaime out, which perplexes Diana. After all, Diana points out, Jaime is part cybernetic herself. Dr. Wells points out that though there are technological similarities the Fembots are computers and not at all sentient. (And for the record, the Fembots creep me out, too.)

The discussion of human vs machine is interrupted by fan favorite, Max the Bionic Dog! Diana smiles into his eyes and the two become instant friends. With the new team formed, the two women and their dog leave the OSI. And as they do, Rudy finds himself at the mercy of a team of Fembots!

Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #3 is a balancing act well-executed, combining action, exposition, and an exploration of the Bionic Universe while retaining its sense of nostalgic fun. Again, Andy Mangels balances wit and action, keeping the story moving, remaining true to the star characters, and using the supporting cast to deepen our understanding of them. I love this series.

Click here to get Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #3 from Comixology.

Sisters in Arms: Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #2 Review

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First, a disclaimer: I am much more familiar with Diana Prince than Jaime Sommers, so my reviews of this series slant heavily toward Wonder Woman.

Also, SPOILERS GALORE!!!

Click here to get Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #2 at Comixology!

Now, onward!

Andy Mangels picks up our story with the funeral of IADC director Joe Atkinson. Right away this issue improves on anything that would have aired on television in the 1970s, with cross-cultural sensitivity on full display. Eve, a presumably gentile African-American IADC agent, has coordinated the Jewish service, hoping that she “got everything right. For Joe.”

At the shiva gathering in the Atkinson home, Joe’s daughter, Elena (played on TV by Eve Plumb, famous for her role as Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch), confirms that Joe is well and truly dead, as evidenced by his autopsy to which Elena’s traditionalist mother strongly objected. Jaime tells her boss, Oscar (a non-practicing Jew), that she feels uncomfortable and out of place.

Diana Prince excuses herself just before Wonder Woman coincidentally arrives, greeting Elena in Hebrew with a traditional prayer of mourning. THIS is Wonder Woman! She is a citizen of the world — Human-to-human connection, meeting others where they are. It’s truly a beautiful scene and conveys a profound mutual respect among all the characters.

Jaime asks Wonder Woman to meet her on the roof, where she confronts the Amazon, telling her she knows that Diana Prince and Wonder Woman are the same person. Unsurprised, Diana trusts Jaime to keep her secret and their friendship continues to deepen — sisterhood, trust, mutual respect. So. Very. Wonder Woman.

Now onto the the action:

A mysterious hooded woman checks the manifest of a weapons transport ship while a sailor explains that the cargo is loaded. (If you look closely at the manifest, it’s actually a page from a Wonder Woman TV script. I love Andy Mangels.) Fans of the TV series will recognize the woman as Gloria Marquez (played by Jessica Walter) from the CBS Wonder Woman pilot, “The Return of Wonder Woman”, who seemingly perished at the end of the episode. Here were learn that she survived and has been upgraded to supervillain status — as a fabulously 70s cyborg, Doctor Cyber! Again, Mangels masterfully combines the feel and pace of the TV series with the scope of a comic book.

Doctor Cyber contacts her partner, Doctor Solano (Fritz Weaver), who has also not been seen since his apparent death beside Gloria. It seems Solano and Gloria have teamed up with Bionic Woman villain, the Fembot-building Dr. Franklin (John Houseman).

Back at the IADC, Jaime tells Steve Trevor that Wonder Woman has given her a way to contact her, a fact that miffs him. (Jealous?) Diana suggests he just be grateful for the time Wonder Woman does spend helping him. It’s delicious to see Diana have a woman who is her equal and her confidant. Steve tells the duo that a ship containing experimental missiles is on the loose and it’s their job to track it down.

Before they set out in the freshly-washed invisible plane, Jaime takes a moment to ask Diana how she changes identities so quickly. At that, Diana spins into Wonder Woman, telling her that it’s a sight seen by almost no one. Somehow this scene is both grand and intimate. Jaime is quickly learning more about the Amazing Amazon than anyone in Man’s World. Though Diana is nearly always smiling, it starts to make me wonder if she might be terribly lonely without anyone to trust. As they fly off, they leave Diana’s car in the lot.

“Do you leave a lot of cars behind,” Jaime asks.

“More than you know,” replies the Amazon. If you watched the show religiously, this is hilarious.

The final act of the book is action-packed. While Diana and Jaime kick butt on a cargo ship in the Atlantic, a dangerous foe is freed from a prison near Washington D.C. — an old enemy who vexed Wonder Woman in the 1940s, a man who knows way too much.

Oh, and one of the experimental missiles is launched. Things have gone from bad to worse.

This issue of Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman is every bit as enjoyable as the first, but the tone has darkened. We begin with the emotional impact of death which provides the backdrop for the superwomen’s budding friendship. It has all the fun and action, and also brings humanity and gravitas. This series is a gem. I can’t wait to see what future issues hold!

Click here to get Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #2 at Comixology!

A Beautiful Friendship: Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #1 Review

Besides offering story that reads like a big budget feature film crossover team-up, Mangels and Tondora successfully capture the spirit of two iconic television shows that changed the landscape of 70s television by placing women in lead action roles. They bring to life Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Lindsey Wagner’s Bionic Woman — the bravery of the characters, as well as the the longtime friendship between the two actresses.

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You know, the comic book is a pretty incredible storytelling medium. It can portray landscapes, action sequences, and disasters a TV series simply can’t manage with a typical budget. In Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman #1 from Dynamite Comics, writer Andy Mangels and artist Judit Tondora take full advantage of what this under-appreciated medium has to offer.

Besides offering story that reads like a big budget feature film crossover team-up, Mangels and Tondora successfully capture the spirit of two iconic television shows that changed the landscape of 70s television by placing women in lead action roles. They bring to life Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Lindsey Wagner’s Bionic Woman — the bravery of the characters, as well as the the longtime friendship between the two actresses.

While I am intimately familiar with Wonder Woman (I can identify an episode by Diana Prince’s outfit before she spins into Wonder Woman.), my memory of The Bionic Woman is pretty spotty. I recall that it had female-bodied androids called Fembots and that Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, would occasionally show up. I watched thew show, and I liked it,  but it didn’t cement itself in my psyche the way Wonder Woman did.

One thing I remember about both shows are the sound effects. Oh, boy, do I ever remember the sound effects!! When those bionics would go into action or when Wonder Woman would leap to the top of a building or snare a thug with her lasso or hurl her tiara— those sounds occupy a happy place in my psyche, and it’s to this happy place that this first issue of Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman transports me.

And now a warning…

Here there be SPOILERS. I’m going to reveal everything that happens in the issue. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You can buy it here from Amazon/Comixology.

After a brief one-page recap of the origins of our heroes, we are thrust straight into action, as special agent Diana Prince, on her way to work at the Inter Agency Defense Command (IADC), witnesses an exploding building. Ducking from sight, the bespectacled spy spins into action as Wonder Woman! Tondora’s panels riff on familiar, iconic Wonder Woman imagery, including red, white and blue stars that conjure the whimsy of the TV show.

As the Amazing Amazon rushes to protect passersby from falling debris, she receives unexpected bionic assistance from Jaime Sommers, who just happens to be in Washington for a meeting. Wonder Woman instantly recognizes Jaime as a capable woman and a worthy ally, the kind of woman who runs toward danger and not away from it. The two join forces to put out the fire and evacuate the building, supported by chill-inducing sound effects!

With the morning disaster handled, Jaime moves along to her meeting at the IADC, for which she, like Diana Prince, is now late. Naturally, the two women had been en route to the same meeting. Upon their arrival, a male chauvinist dick called Inspector Hanson asks the two ladies what took them so long, “Did your makeup take too long to apply or did you break a heel?”

Diana tells him that while he was safely tucked away in the office, Jaime was out, y’know, saving people’s lives. IADC Director Joe Atkinson intervenes and suggests they keep their priorities straight and not fight among themselves. Diana and Jaime exchange a look of sisterly understanding that seems to say, “Can you believe the crap we put up with?”

With everyone finally present, Steve Trevor explains the urgency behind this meeting of the nation’s top security agencies. Someone is leaking intel to CASTRA, a new terrorist organization involving Bionic Woman foe, Ivan Karp. The paramilitary cabal is targeting government scientists and defense materials. The assembled team will investigate the matter.

Oscar Goldman (Jamie’s boss) and Jack Hanson will look into which scientists and projects might be compromised. Steve Trevor and his team will protect a mission that may be part of CASTRA’s scheme. Diana and Jamie are assigned to protect a scientist suspected of being CASTRA’s next target.

In one of my favorite moments, Steve tells Diana “It will be just like having Wonder Woman by your side!” To which Jamie replies, “Is that a joke, or does he really not know?” Jamie obviously has her number, but when Diana evades the question, she drops the matter. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

From here on, it’s nonstop action. Steve’s team is ambushed. Diana and Jamie are late to the party, but manage to capture a couple of the men who had taken a room of scientists hostage. And all of it is a distraction from an assault on the IADC, where Eve, who never saw a fight in the TV series, kicks some butt to defend the agency. The issue ends with the IRAC computer hacked by a mysterious hooded figure and the death of a beloved Wonder Woman character.

Wonder Woman Meets the Bionic Woman is Andy Mangels’ love letter to both heroines. His passion for the TV shows is palpable and contagious. The comic balances action, character, and whimsy beautifully, which makes for maximum fun. I don’t know how this would read for someone who isn’t familiar with either series, but if you are a fan of either show, this is an absolute must-read. That this team-up is possible forty years after both shows have been off the air, featuring the same actresses captured in their youth, is truly (pardon the pun) wonderful!