My first experience with Daniel Warren Johnson’s comics work was probably his Image book, Murder Falcon, and my first thought was “Oh wow, he’s new Stokoe.” He’s got a very similar vibe – that immaculate attention to detail, the panels that bubble over with imagination, and there’s a wryness that I think is very subtle in both artists that people don’t appreciate as much because the other skills are so immediately apparent.
But after thinking about it, and pouring over these exclusive preview pages of Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #2, I think I’m leaning towards Geof Darrow being a better comparison. Dead Earth has a little bit of a Shaolin Cowboy feel to it, and Johnson does some things very well, and very similarly to how Darrow did them.
Dead Earth is what happens when you plop Diana of Themiscyra’s mythos into apocalyptian high fantasy. There’s questing and bastard gods. There are reminders aplenty of the world that came before. Everything feels huge and daunting, and that’s really where the Darrow comparison comes in. What Shaolin Cowboy does so well is make your perspective feel miniscule in the situation the page or panel is depicting. Johnson did that several times to me in the first issue, and he does it well again in this preview when the march to Themiscyra starts.
There’s also some expert level manipulation of the flow of information in this preview. It feels like a cardinal rule of comics, to have your panels lined up and symetrical, and to only break that rule purposefully. That happens here – the panel breaks and story lines change the reading flow in a way that tweaks the pace of reading, heightening the emotion.
Of course, the story is no joke either. Johnson is playing with some old DC ideas here – “Legends of the Dead Earth” was the theme for the 1996 annuals, looking at a time when humans had fled Earth and the heroes were nothing but a brief memory and occasional inspiration. If you do remember it, it’s probably for the Starman annual with The Shade telling the story of the Starman to a group of kids. Johnson takes that core concept and flips it around a little, putting Diana on the collapsing planet and making her take responsibility for saving the remaining humans. His inky art is a perfect complement for the grimy, run down world he’s building in the story. Everything feels broken, and it looks like a world in collapse.
Here’s what dc has to say about the book:
WONDER WOMAN: DEAD EARTH #2 written by DANIEL WARREN JOHNSON art and cover by DANIEL WARREN JOHNSON variant cover by DANIEL WARREN JOHNSON Determined to give the remnants of humanity refuge on the shores of Themyscira, Wonder Woman’s hopes are dashed when she finds the island paradise a shadow of its former self, with her Amazon sisters long gone and something unimaginable in their place.