Titled “Mother’s Milk,” this issue left me with very mixed feelings. I love the whole concept of the series and this issue does a fabulous job at highlighting the altered aspects in their reality, but I struggled reading it because of the messages that I fear are being conveyed. Wonder Woman is now Wonder Wife and Shade has been split into different parts, which each represent a different emotion and they all help manage the people’s feelings in the city including Wonder Wife’s. The analogy to the emotional labor women are expected to do is beautifully clear. Unfortunately, many other things make this a wrong step in the right direction. It is perfectly acceptable to reject the “wholesomeness” of the past, but we must be careful of what might be lost in such a broad gesture.
Before I go into my feminist rant, I want to highlight why this issue is still very good. We can immediately feel how comfortable Cecil Castellucci is writing Shade. The way in which each of the Shades expresses herself is perfectly logical if that is the only emotion she is capable of feeling. This is shown not just in the words they are given but also in Mirka Andolfo’s art. Their body expressions match perfectly and it would be quite clear what emotion each Shade is showing even without the helpful colors. More than that, these are feelings that most women have had in their lives. There are also some great lines that Castellucci puts in such as when “Haps” points out that Steve Trevor is a full-grown man and therefore fully capable of getting whatever he needs himself. The pacing of the issue is also well done with just enough little trickles of weirdness seeping in between the cracks before the full reality bending reveal. Andolfo routinely steals the show with her impressive visuals in these moments. I love the flow and the lines she uses as their world becomes more and more of a disjunction. These moments are often creepy and unnerving with the inclusion of things like flies and maggots. This plays perfectly off of the idea of the cleanliness that a perfect housewife is supposed to maintain. The little glimpses of Wonder Woman are perfect with one of my favorite moments being when Wonder Wife casts the shadow Wonder Woman despite the problematic reason she suddenly feels empowered. Marissa Louise too does impressive work that supports these shifts in reality and keeps Wonder Wife looking just as glorious as she should.
Okay. My main problem can be summed up in just one word: milquetoast. If “Every woman plus every woman equals Wonder Woman,” then a housewife is a part of her too. Describing the construct as milquetoast, while clever, continues the demeaning message given throughout the issue and makes it seem wrong for women to make the choice to run a home. We fought for the chance to make that choice. It also gives the implication that it is somehow inherently wrong to be submissive, which Wonder Woman would strongly disagree with. She is simply the wrong character to use for this kind of story. Also, while the idea of the appliance babies is genius, if we are to see everything in the construct as inherently wrong, as it appears we should, this is again a misstep. Appliances were freeing! Women did treasure them and we still do. How many people want to beat meringue by hand? Or clean a carpet without a vacuum? I know I don’t! Yes, the marketing of these items did reinforce gender roles, but that is not the full picture. Similarly, Tupperware was huge! Those parties were a lifeline and a real opportunity for empowerment to some women. This is yet another example of the devaluing of what is seen as women’s work. I assume that the creators were focusing on telling women that they can be more than a housewife, but pairing that message with the over-sexualization of lactating breasts and then devaluing the role as a whole obscures any message they are trying to convey.
The issue also features an Eternity Girl backup story by Mags Visaggio and Sonny Liew. Continuing what Garry Streicher did with the character, we see our titular character being given the soul of an aborted infant, thus bringing her back to life and setting her up for a series that stems from this crossover event. I particularly enjoyed Todd Klein’s choice to make the narration appear to be the ripped pages of a book, which captures the feeling that this is a revamped older tale. There isn’t much to go off of in these two pages, but it already feels epic. I love how creepy and gay Visaggio had already made it.
If you can make it through the problems in the main story, this really is a delightfully trippy and well done issue. The visuals are on point and the pacing is perfect. This is fantastic in the best possible ways and it really does try to make a strong statement about women being more than what some may think. This is especially pertinent in the era they are invoking. In the time we are now, we would do well to remember that there is a little bit of Wonder Woman in every woman too. Even in the housewives who love their appliances.
(W) Cecil Castellucci, Magdalene Visaggio (A) Mirka Andolfo, Sonny Liew (CA) Frank Quitely