A year-and-a-half ago I stopped reading comic books. I was in the middle of landing a new job in a new city. Reading comics fell by the way side. When, finally, I was comfortably situated in my new surroundings I dropped by my local comic book store only to discover that pretty much everything I used to read was either canceled or renumbered. They were also all refashioned with this queer “New 52” logo. I get the attention of one of the employees so I can ask what the f happened.
Flashpoint. Geoff Johns. Co-Publisher Dan Didio.
Being a DC Man, and Vertigo practically a husk of its former self, I dejectedly left the store empty-handed, cursing under my breath the dastardly shadow G-off Johns once again casted on my life.
Flash forward a year or so in the future. Its my day off and all of my favorite television shows have had their season wrap-ups. Sure I could work on all those writing/design project I keep meaning to finish but why the hell would I want to do that. On a whim I decide to head back to the comic book store. Once there I decide that I am going to buy the corporate spin and see this as an opportunity to start reading books that I would otherwise never read due to sprawling cumbersome mythology.
Wonder Woman. Check.
So my initial prejudices are: Cliff Chiang, fuck yeah. Azzarello? ugh I hate 100 bullets. I have to say I pretty much stand by my gut reaction (at least 80%, okay maybe 70ish %). The Art is phenomenal, at least on the Chiang issues. His action sequences have such an incredible vitality to them. There are quite a few through-out the run, though the first issue’s fight sequence between Wonder Woman and Hera’s minions really stands out. Unfortunately the fill-in artist happens to be Tony Atkins of Jack of Fables fame. Let it suffice to say than I never read Jack for the art. His saving grace is the fantastic job done by colourist Matthew Wilson, who bring a consistency with his muted colours that this run has really benefited from. I think colourist are severely undervalued by fandom, along with inkers, but in my opinion they really can make or break a lot of artwork. Francis Manapul for instance; as good an artist as he is, what really shines is his pallet.
As for Azzarello… okay, don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed the run and I am in all likelihood going to buy the next issue. I actually bought all the issues at once and read the whole run in one go. You may be asking if it kept me pretty captivated, what’s the problem? Well, as soon as I put the book down and reflected on the story I realized that something felt off. There was something I didn’t like a-midst an otherwise pleasant experience and I wonder if the month or so between issues would have nursed that feeling into a more general disinterestedness.
The problem with the story for me is that it paradoxically manages to be both a cliché Wonder Woman mythology story (packaged with all these modern representations of Greek legend) as well as its inability to be a distinctly discernible Wonder Woman story. I know I began this review with the admission that I have never been the most knowledgeable about Wonder Woman so if you want to accuse me of speaking out of my ass… Well hell — touche sir.
The story so far is Zeus has gone missing – or rather has stopped existing somehow – and the Greek Pantheon is preparing for some Game-of-Thrones-ass dynastic struggle. At the epicenter is a mortal woman named Zola who is carrying Zeus’ unborn demigod-baby. Wonder Woman gets dragged into all this as she discovers that the story about her mommy fed her about being made of clay and given life by the Gods isn’t actually true… She’s actually one of Zeus’ many scattered demigod children. So, on the one hand we have all these Wonder Woman fixture: there’s Zeus, there’s Hera, there’s Themyscira, there’s Queen Hippolyta and her Amazons. Nonetheless it seems to me as if you change the costume, give her a new name, this book could totally be a creator-owned Vertigo series. And it would be a pretty good one. With the exception of Zola, who is more of a MacGuffin than a character, and Strife, who smells a little to much of Sandman’s Delirium for my nose, the story has a fantastic supporting cast. The real breakout star is Hermes, who manages to be goofy, intimidating, and slyly aloof all at once.
I think it all comes back to the problem with Wonder Woman as a concept. All those fixtures that I just mentioned are in fact borrowed from Greek myth. So who is Wonder Woman, this character who has this inseverable tie to this self-contained mythology when she is extracted from it and placed in the context of the DC superhero mythology. This story hasn’t given us an answer yet. Maybe it will. But probably not soon as Wonder Woman is trapped in the underworld, soon to be married to her Uncle Hades. Although I understand comic book writers’ preoccupation with origin stories, especially in the midst of a line-wide reboot, I’ve come to the conclusions that they are traps. Look, for the most part the larger strokes of a lot of the big characters’ origins are set in stone. No matter what quirky spin you give to it, I will always come into a Batman comic knowing his family was killed in front of him, Superman is an alien raised in Kansas, Wonder Woman is an Amazon. What other stories you got?