Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia

Wonder Woman: The HiketeiaWonder Woman: The Hiketeia by Greg Rucka (writer) and J.G. Jones (artist)

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsI’m a card-carrying geek if there ever was one, but there are a few areas where my fannish education has been a little spotty, one of them being superhero comics. It’s not for lack of enjoying them when I do read them; it’s more that the reams of backstory and frequent reboots feel a little daunting. Then, this past Christmas, I found a copy of The Hiketeia among the presents from my boyfriend, along with a Post-It note that read, ‘I’ll turn you into a comic book geek yet!”

The Hiketeia was, by all measures, a gateway drug that was right up my alley. Greek mythology, powerful female characters, cool art, and a plot centering on conflicting vows? Sign me up!

Writer Greg Rucka introduces the eponymous Hiketeia, a ritual by which a supplicant throws himself or herself on someone else’s mercy. The supplicant trades his or her freedom for the other person’s protection. The Greek gods take this ritual very seriously. If the vow to protect is broken, the Furies will descend upon the oathbreaker, and the results won’t be pretty.

Danielle Wellys is a young woman who has committed several murders, though for reasons that will inspire sympathy in the reader. She has done her homework on ancient Greek ritual and learned about the Hiketeia, which she invokes to bring herself under Wonder Woman’s protection. Wonder Woman quickly puts Danielle to work, and Danielle is surprised that her new mistress is more interested in making her useful than in humbling her.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews

Meanwhile, Batman is pursuing Danielle for her crimes. He’s as committed to his mission as Wonder Woman is committed to the Hiketeia vow. The Furies are lurking, too, just waiting for their chance to exact vengeance. The tale plays out like Greek tragedy, with the two superheroes’ conflicting duties bringing them into a conflict neither of them wants and no one can really win. The ending is a sad one, but probably the only way it could have ended.

Greg Rucka e JG Jones - Wonder Woman, The HiketeiaThe artwork by J.G. Jones is impressive as well. I particularly liked the Furies, who are a great mix of the archaic and the modern — think bag ladies with blood on their lips and snakes slithering out of their coats… The fight scenes are fantastic too.

I greatly enjoyed this dark, mythic graphic novel. It’s a standalone, and you don’t need a lot of background in comics to make sense of it. I highly recommend it.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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  1. I love the cover!!!

    • Definitely an eye-catcher, isn’t it? You see that and immediately want to know “what happened that led to this?” — which means it’s doing its job!

  2. Brad Hawley /

    Thanks for the great review, Kelly! This is one of my favorite stand-alone mainstream superhero comics. Greg Rucka had a run on the ongoing Wonder Woman series that is equally good: I highly recommend it.

  3. I never have been a reader of comic books, but I like the new trend of “superhero” novels. I read and really got a kick out of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer. Was a very fun read. I’ve seen a number of these type of books out there. Christ Strange has one (and I liked his The Man Who Crossed Worlds) that I need to read. There have been a few short stories in this same “genre” that I’ve enjoyed too.

    I don’t know that I’m really ready to try the whole comic book thing yet. Maybe as my attention span gets ever shorter…

    • I haven’t heard of these authors, but I look forward to checking them out. Thank you for sharing!

      As for needing to wait until your attention span gets shorter to read comics, I think that’s true only in part. Many of them don’t always take as long to read as a novel, but that depends on how long the comic or series is. For example, Sandman is quite long. But in another sense, comics require careful reading at the level of poetry. Sometimes they require more attention than a regular novel. I’ve found that my college students often find comics a quicker read than a novel. However, they often miss both major and more subtle details because comics operate on two levels simultaneously. I often find I read comics like Sandman and Watchmen multiple times. And still I am sure I am not catching everything. Unlike picture books that merely illustrate the text to teach kids to read, comics can provide images that relate to the words in a complex way, from the symbolic to the literal to the ironic and so on. My wife, also an English professor, rarely reads comics because she finds them far more demanding than text-only novels. I recommend as an excellent example Daytripper (see our review of this wonderful book). The book that really taught me to appreciate fully the complex art of comics (which looks like a deceptively simple and straight-forward art form) is Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, which I discuss in my nine-part essay on reading comics. This was the first essay I wrote for fanlit (you can find the link for it right under my bio on this site). My essay is aimed at an audience made up of people like myself about five years ago: I loved reading, was slightly interested in comics if they were not just ones written for kids, and was still fairly certain they had limitations built in that prevented them from ever being truly great art (an opinion I’ve obviously rethought!).

      Please do give some comics aimed at adults a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. (I think even Bill liked Daytripper!)

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