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Thursday, July 30, 2020 

Mariko Tamaki's Wonder Woman run may retain Max Lord as a villain

Newsarama/Games Radar has two interviews with the artist and writer now taking over WW's solo series. First is artist Mikel Janin, and it looks like Max Lord remains as villain instead of tongue-in-cheek anti-hero co-star as he was in the past 30 years. At the beginning, it's stated:
July 28's Wonder Woman #759 marks the beginning of a new era with Supergirl Being Super's Mariko Tamaki and Batman's Mikel Janín starting their run on the iconic character. Wonder Woman is picking up the pieces from her battle with the Four Horsewomen, all while a familiar threat waits for her on the horizon - but as an ally: Maxwell Lord. Diana really can't catch a break, can she?
I'm getting the feeling already that Newsarama's staff want Max to be a villain. It may sound like good news here that he's an ally, but later on:
Nrama: We've been teased that there will be new villains introduced - tell us about the new designs you've come up for these villains and any other characters.

Janín: Well, we have Max Lord, who's an old foe of Diana's, and we have an amazing new character that I can't say much yet about, but she'll be very important in future issues.

I had the opportunity of doing the designs and it was a lot of fun. And a bunny, we have a bunny, which is always great.
And if they really are keeping Max in the criminal role he was thrust into 15 years ago, then I think they should go hopping down the bunny trail to some other profession. A terrible disfavor was done to a character who, even if he wasn't a saint, was no brutal or murderous criminal either when he debuted, and if the direction started by Winick/Johns/Rucka in Countdown to Infinite Crisis is still canon, then neither Janin nor Tamaki are good news for DC. Now, here is Tamaki's interview, where again:
Tamaki and Janin will be pitting Diana against new villains like Liar Liar but also pairing her with some ages-old enemies as allies - such as Maxwell Lord. [...]

The aforementioned Maxwell Lord might be one seeking revenge, as the last time he saw Wonder Woman it was just before she killed him to break the villain's mind-control over Superman.
Putting aside the change to villainy for a moment, that storyline, written by Greg Rucka, IIRC, proceeded to see the Man of Steel and Batman both turn against her, with no gratitude over the likelihood that WW's termination of Max may have prevented Superman from killing innocent people with his own hands, and leaving him with a terrible stain of shame. All that mattered was that a villain who murdered Blue Beetle in Countdown was put to death, and it all made it seem as though a criminal's life matters far more than a hero's. But again, let's not forget that, while it's bad enough changing an established villain like Dr. Light into a rapist out of the blue, it's worse when you turn established co-stars on the side of good (Lord and Jean Loring, for example) into murderous villains or worse. And Tamaki said:
Nrama: With this new volume of Wonder Woman how did you want to make this iconic character your own?

Tamaki: I generally don’t think of these characters as “mine” in any way. I try to think of a story I’m both interested in and equipped to tell. I wanted to write something that interrogated the concept of justice, to get into some murky waters as far as what it means to be a hero. They gave me Max Lord to work with so it all sort of came together.

Also, they paired me with some amazing artists including Mikel Janín, Carlo Barberi, and Steve Pugh, so I am lucky for that.
It doesn't sound like she's contradicting the earlier impression Lord's still a villain. And if he still is, then she's a huge disappointment for keeping the narrative in place. Besides, who's to say she doesn't consider them "hers" to force bad politics on? The higher echelons certainly do.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the new villains and mystery you’ll be introducing in your first arc?

Tamaki: The new villain is a character named Liar Liar. She has a completely understandable but very messed up relationship with the truth. She is a strange little creature and she was very fun (though sometimes not so fun) to write. The storyline mostly revolves around the manipulation of reality.

I think that’s all I can say without diving into spoilers.
Say, I wonder if the new villain is a metaphor for conservatives? No wonder they'd keep things under wraps.
Nrama: You’re known for your queer narratives in comics, will we see your run dive into Wonder Woman’s queer roots?

Tamaki: My own queer roots are always showing, I think. This story doesn’t delve too much into Wonder Woman’s past but it gets into her history a little, in that the only way to look at your present is by understanding your history.
They sure must've been very enthusiastic to ask a PC/LGBT pandering question like that. I don't know if her run will actually explore lesbianism,

Since we're on the topic, I couldn't help notice CBR's giving their all to backing up the notion of depicting Max Lord as a villain, and to make matters worse, it makes WW look bad:
As a warrior trained on Themyscira by her fellow Amazons, Wonder Woman will exercise lethal force if absolutely necessary to defend the greater good; a very clear distinction in direct comparison to Batman or Superman's approaches to heroism in the DC Universe. Even as recently as the current crossover event Dark Nights: Death Metal, Diana Prince has crossed the line to save the day. However, one of Wonder Woman's most controversial moments took place 15 years ago in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis: The murder of supervillain Maxwell Lord.

[...] Using his mental powers, Max manipulated Superman into separately attacking Batman and Wonder Woman, with the Dark Knight suffering grievous injuries while Wonder Woman put up an effective fight against the uninhibited Man of Steel. Cornering Max as the true culprit behind the assault, Diana used her Lasso of Truth to learn that the only way to break the villain's control on Superman would be to kill him. Without hesitating, Wonder Woman effortlessly snapped Max's neck, restoring Superman's mental faculties while the murder was broadcast worldwide by Brother Eye causing widespread mistrust in superheroes. This move would similarly strain Batman and Superman's perception of Wonder Woman for a time before the three reconciled by the end of Infinite Crisis as they recognized Diana's actions were ultimately necessary.
Sure, maybe by the end of Infinite Crisis, there was a reconciliation, but it's still no excuse, and notice how CBR, despite hinting that this was a form of defensive action WW took, still make use of the word "murder". There's a difference between preventative action and outright murder, and to say it's the latter makes it sound as if WW's approach is all wrong. Which says quite a bit about what the people in charge of CBR for the past decade really think of the creations they're focusing upon. As bad as the article is, however, it does, alas, appear to confirm the bad news barely touched upon in the above interviews:
After being resurrected by the White Lantern at the end of Blackest Night, Max used his powers to wipe the majority of the Earth's population from remembering his descent into villainy while he regained control of the clandestine organization Checkmate and Brother Eye. After being defeated by the combined might of the Justice League and Suicide Squad years later, Max was imprisoned.

And now, Wonder Woman has become the official ambassador between the United States and Themyscira once again in Wonder Woman #759. As she relocates to Washington, D.C., she finds various civilians mentally controlled to endanger themselves. Tracing the disturbance to a maximum-security prison, Diana finds herself face-to-face against the resurrected Maxwell Lord once again.
So he was kept in prison until now, and continued of recent to maintain a criminal status? Well, I guess this says all we need to know about where this is going. It seems Lex Luthor's no longer enough to fill a role like this, and giving Lord mind control powers only takes a path similar to what Jonathan Hickman took with Moira MacTaggart in X-Men: turning Max into just another superpowered cast member, instead of a civilian co-star.
While having been introduced over 30 years ago, Maxwell Lord's status as both an outright villain and antagonist for Wonder Woman is a relatively recent development. Even with him alive, the character still represents the dark price Diana Prince has paid to keep the peace and underscored how far she is willing to go towards that goal -- lengths that many of the DCU's most prominent superheroes will not. Going directly head-to-head against Wonder Woman once more, Max resurfacing just as the superhero has become a diplomatic figure once again cannot be a coincidence. And with the character about to make his cinematic live-action debut going against Diana in Wonder Woman 1984, one of Diana's most insidious opponents seems set to challenge her in comics and on the big screen simultaneously.
And that's why I'm honestly not disappointed if the sequel movie's being delayed so long by the Corona pandemic. If Max is kept in the forced and contrived role of a villain he wasn't created as back in the late 80s, coupled with out-of-the-blue superpowers to boot, that's also reason enough to avoid the comics, and atop that, this serves as an example of failure to create new characters to fill the roles established ones are being forced into.

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Interesting that you automatically think a character with a messed up relationship to truth would be a metaphor for conservatives. While that is accurate with respect to the most prominent American Republicans right now, it is not applicable to conservatives as a whole, many of whom do not approve of radical right-wing extremism. You may be tarring with too wide a brush.

The decision to keep Max a villain - and he was always a manipulative conniver, even in the Giffen stories - was made by the publisher, not the creative staff, according to what they say In the interview. It is to firing with the new movie, apparently.

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