Thursday, November 17, 2011

DC New 52 Review: Wonder Woman #1-3

Wonder Woman #1-3
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chang
Cover Price: $2.99

In a nutshell:
A darker Wonder Woman tale that plays with her origin

I wouldn't call this a horror story, but the story takes fantastic elements and interprets them in a horror setting. The Greek Gods in this story aren't as bright and shiny, they're very creepy and their presence is our world is quite startling. Paradise Island feels a bit like the island on Lost. Everything is a bit darker and Wonder Woman seems to be the most human of the characters we have met so far. In this story we discover a shocking twist about her origin, or at least it's shocking to Wonder Woman. It's hard to be shocked by twists like this in comics anymore and while Wonder Woman is one of the three big icons at DC, her iconic status is more associated with recognition rather than an intimate knowledge of her backstory. We know that Superman came from Krypton. We know that Batman's parents were murdered. But even as a comic fan I rarely think about the fact that Wonder Woman came from clay and it never seemed that important. Apparently Zues, king of the gods, likes to cheat on his wife and he has a number of illegitimate offspring. This pisses off Zues's wife Hera (I can't really picture Wonder Woman saying "Great Hera" after this story) and Hera is very jealous so she tries to kill these offspring when she can. Apparently Zeus is too busy being a slut to get involved in all of this. Zeus's latest conquest was a human young woman and Hera sends her minions to kill this girl whom Wonder Woman ends up protecting and bringing to her mother on Paradise Island. In the course of this Wonder Woman learns some shocking things about herself.

Why did I pick it up?
Wonder Woman is a character I loved as a kid but have had a very hard time connecting to as a comic book collector. Part of that is that it has taken this popular idea that feminism means being a better man than a man and a lot of the feminine qualities about her character have been swept away. Those characteristics, I felt, were a huge part of her appeal and, in my opinion, undervalued qualities in what is increasingly becoming a coldly competitive society. It's for that reason I feel that Wonder Woman could be the perfect hero to contrast that problem and show a reflection of something that's missing in us that we don't even know is missing. So whenever I know there is a new jumping on point for the character I give it a try.

The Good:
The story is well written in that it understands that we already know who Wonder Woman is, it's not just telling an origin story, but it has the character discover something about herself that allows the writer to say, here's your character, here's where she came from, here's how it's important to what she's dealing with right now. Although I was immediately put off but Cliff Chang's art as it marinaded it really started to grow on me and I think
it's perfect for this story and I'll definitely keep my eye out for him from this point on. While this isn't necessarily the Wonder Woman I have been waiting for, I really enjoy it when creative teams of quality take these iconic characters and drop them into a different kind of story than we're used to seeing them in. I like that Paradise Island feels big and mysterious. I like that it's not just glistening in the sun. This gives it more depth and makes it more interesting to tell stories. Brian Azarello knows how to make something feel important even if we didn't go into it feeling that way in the first place, which is no surprise if you look at the work that he made his name on. Not everyone is an Azarello fan but you have to admit, the guy's name is based off his storytelling, not just playing with franchise characters that already get a lot of attention. I also really like that Wonder Woman's mother, Queen Hippolyta looks like her classic appearance again and not an older version of Wonder Woman. That might be that might be purely aesthetic but it's the little touches like this that makes me feel the roots of a character haven't been forgotten.

The Bad:
My daughters both love Wonder Woman and this comic isn't appropriate for them. I understand that it's tough to brand a character like Wonder Woman because girls don't support the comic industry enough to hold up a title like this and kids barely have a presence in mainline comics anymore, which is really the biggest shift in comics (that my generation took them with us). So you have this issue where some of the people buying the book want to see the sex appeal of the character. Some want this ultimate fighter warrior so that she can look badass next to Superman. And I really think that Wonder Woman hasn't established an identity in mainstream comics yet. I like this take on her so far. She seems more human than I've seen in a while. But when the creative team next shifts it's hard not to consider it as a possible jumping off point because at this point Wonder Woman is still just an icon. DC has to really figure out how to brand this character because I don't see that they've figured it out yet.

Is it worth it?
I'm enjoying this comic and I would enjoy it if this creative team stayed on it for a while.

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