Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Artemis' Rules of Engagement

Issue #22 showed some of Artemis' history and it makes me see the start of the series a little differently. It explains why Jason made such a big impression on her.

I also saw a review that thought Artemis was out of character and I wanted to weigh in.

First let's get down to how this issue made me see past issues a little differently.

Keep in mind that it still took Artemis a little while to warm up to Jason due to her problems with letting her guard down. But at the end of the first arc, despite having her own extremely important mission, she agreed to form a team with him. This all started when they first met and fought. A situation that's a little similar to the one in #22.

There's the boss and his employee doing the grunt work. Much like Lex Luthor once called the shots with Artemis it appears that Red Hood is working under Black Masks' orders. She might not know either of them but her time with Luthor makes her suspect the worst. Some of her lines about what Black Mask might be capable of sound like she might be referring Lex too. When Jason hits her with his tazer it leaves Artemis stunned, she's left unable to fight back kind of like the unarmed prisoner. Only Jason doesn't kill her and Artemis figures out the situations are different. She immediately tries to separate Jason to speak with him alone.

Noting that he's using his body to shield her from gun fire Artemis says he's more noble than she first thought. Noble is a term she wants to apply to herself  (mentioned in #22) but memories of her past actions keep her from doing so. She asks that he drop the act and he sums up what he's doing. Artemis makes a point of saying rules of engagement are important on the battle field. Probably more so given her own past and she wants to confirm that he's not making the same mistakes she did.

And later on she sees with how Jason interacts with Bizarro that he's compassionate. She likely sees Bizaro as a monster because Luthor made him and knows how danger a weapon he'd be. This might also play into why Artemis was so insistent that they do something when Bizaro started doing questionable things. She doesn't want him to turn into Luthor or repeat her own mistakes. When Bizarro refers to Jason's mission as a crusade she's quick to point out crusades are bloody affairs. A nice little detail of her trying to keep him in line.

As for Artemis being out of character.

Let me go over some of her pre-Rebirth history first. I think I mentioned how Artemis is seen as the other side of the same coin as Diana. That's the thought process with how she was created. Their pretty much named after the same goddess only with different names, the Greek and Roman versions. They had Artemis being the more impulsive one and making choices Diana wouldn't.

That's why Artemis has been seen as more antagonistic in some stories. In Flashpoint she played a big part in starting the Aquaman vs. Wonder Woman war. Not quite villainous (it's debatable) but close enough to the image. Her time as Wonder Woman had her being duped due to being so naivé about the world. When she was stuck in hell after she died she just put up with it including her ignoring a demon being tortured until Diana went to her aid.

Around OMAC Project she was one of the Amazons that was for the creation of a super weapon and personally used it to kill OMACs. Diana pointed out that innocent people were trapped inside but Artemis defended her actions since they were being attacked.

The reviewer said Artemis wouldn't take Luthor's crap. Well there's a few things to consider. We don't know how Artemis responded to his "third-rate" comment and we don't know if he paid for her services yet. If not then attacking him would make all of that killing pointless from her POV. If he's in a position of power over her then Artemis knows she can't get what she wants by bad mouthing him or attacking. It's the same situation when she discusses Bizarro with him.

In Artemis Requiem Diana can't understand why Artemis is putting up with things. If she's not in a favorable position it might not be wise to face the problem head on. I don't like her putting up with Lex's crap but I understand why she did. In story I think this happened after she lost Akila (*1) for the first time and is trying to survive on her own. Artemis is already in a dark place and I can totally buy that leading to her making some bad choices.

While I don't think for a second that anything in Amazons Attack was in character Artemis allowed Hippolyta to go on with her war against America even though she knew it was wrong. Artemis previously never had a problem telling Hippolyta off and had nothing to gain by putting up with it.

As I said elsewhere Artemis seems to rationalize her actions throughout the series. She tries to push past her guilt over searching Bizarro's room by reasoning that she didn't lie to her team about where she was going. In the same scene she tells Jason that he relies on labels too much. This all fits in with what she says in her narration on how she likes to think she's a certain kind of person but her memories tell her otherwise.

Killing the lab experiments wasn't murdering innocents at the time. It was making a statements to the people stealing Luthor's work. When the prisoner brings up his son Artemis puts the blame back on him for being a criminal in the first place. She probably assumed all of them deserved their fate for similar reasons.

Artemis hasn't previously been written in-depth with the possible exclusion of her creator. (*2) Some wrote her more mature than others, she's been reckless, been on the verge of starting a murder/suicide pact (I'll get to that one in a review) and usually in the background. Lobdell has written Artemis as a rounded character and I can totally see this as part of that story. There's been hints of it in the way she's acted. You'll note for example that when Bizarro was dying she didn't react the way Jason did to Luthor's callous words? She even carefully chose her words to make sure Jason didn't connect the dots even though he's picks up that something is off. (*3)

Working for Lex Luthor is also a nod to other Amazons working for him, most notably one version of Mercy Graves. Another Amazon named Hope also worked for him as a body guard. Which is why Artemis' chosen surname is now Grace.

I don't mind Artemis having shades of grey. Honestly it's satisfying to see her finally being fleshed out more.

*1 This mercenary time period could take place at two separate places in the timeline. First when Artemis leaves her people after Akila was chosen. She seemed to live close enough to Bana-Midgall to see a rider make it through the sandstorm which seems to imply she didn't travel much. Artemis seems past caring about her Amazon roots in the flashback so I'd put the scene after Artemis was forced to kill Akila along side Diana.

*2 We got some information in her introduction and Artemis Requiem but it wasn't much. In the latter's case the detail of her growing up poor didn't fit with the Bana-Mighdall being mercenaries and weapon manufacturers. Granted canon flip flops with them since DC didn't know whether they wanted them to be evil or not. Amazons Attack brought this weapon makers part back.

*3 Jason seems to be under the impression that she's a fan. He's said how odd he finds her reactions twice.

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