– This post was originally published on my now-defunct site, New to Comics. –
New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic-books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
We’re delving deep into the mythological aspects prevalent in superhero comics this week, in a story starring one of the world’s greatest heroes in a globe-trotting adventure that sees her face off against Gods and Monsters alike.
It’s the first Wonder Woman story of the New 52, and the start of a huge switch-up in the life of Diana of Themyscira; Wonder Woman: Blood.
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Art by: Cliff Chiang & Tony Akins
Real Name: Diana
Affiliation: The Justice League
First Appearance: All-Star Comics #8 (October 1941)
12000 BC – during the time of the Olympians – the Greek Goddesses collected the souls of all women who had died at the hands of men and reincarnated them as a fierce race of warriors. Many years later, on the hidden paradise island of Themyscira, Queen Hippolyta longed for a daughter. Sculpting a baby out of clay and praying to her Goddess, Hippolyta was gifted with a new daughter – Diana – the most powerful of the Amazons. But after a man named Steve Trevor crashed in paradise, Diana took on the role of Wonder Woman to escort Trevor back home and adventure through the world of man. Since then, she has become one of Earth’s most revered heroes and has since discovered her true origins – not those of a mythic baby born from clay, but as the daughter of the all-powerful Zeus, God of the Sky and Lord of Olympus.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
If you’re following this site closely, you’ve probably seen a few mentions of ‘the New 52’, but now, for the first time, we’re finally looking at a story from that era of DC Comic-books.
The New 52 came about after a Flash story resulted in the altering of the DC Universe. As a result, super-heroes had only been around for about five years or so (with some exceptions; despite being a ‘reader-friendly’ entry point, some of the continuity of the New 52 is outlandishly convoluted). This meant younger, less experienced iterations of characters like Batman and Superman, new takes on old villains, the replacement of Martian Manhunter by Cyborg as a founding member of the Justice League and long-cemented relationships torn asunder (such as the marriages between Clark Kent/Lois Lane and Black Canary/Green Arrow).
But with eighty years of prior stories to draw from, it was the task of the writers to take these characters somewhere new. As the writer on the new Wonder Woman title, Brian Azzarello did this by tying the story of Diana of Themyscira even more closely into the stories of Greek Mythology than had previously been seen.
Sure, the Greek Pantheon has always been important to the story of Wonder Woman, but never before had they been this… familial.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
After a young girl named Zola earns the scorn of Hera; Queen of the Gods; the messenger God Hermes enlists the aid of Wonder Woman to protect Zola and her unborn child. Now entwined in the Olympians legendary family squabbles, Wonder Woman must face off against many of the deities who have shaped her life.
But when secret truths are exposed in this conflict, Wonder Woman must not only face the power of the Gods but also the fury of her kin – the Amazons – and the true nature of her heritage, her powers and her very identity.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
While some of the New 52 requires you to have some foreknowledge (the stories of Batman and Green Lantern, for instance, refused to negate some of their more recent developments prior to the relaunch, and thus broke the five year rule set in place, due to the fact it was inconceivable they could have done so much in such a short space of time), Wonder Woman’s story is pretty contained. All you really need to know is a passing understanding of Greek Mythology and the fact that there is a super-hero called Wonder Woman. Everything else is explained.
The Greek Gods, while drawing of course, from real-life mythology, are given exotic new looks, powers and traits, meaning they are essentially new characters built from old moulds. Likewise, the Amazons with whom Wonder Woman share a homeland are, for the most part, unnamed characters with speaking roles few and far between, so the need to know the intricate backstory of Paradise Island is also negated.
It’s just an all-around very welcoming comic-book, and on top of that, it’s pretty good too…
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
Prior to reading this book, I wasn’t all that fussed about Wonder Woman. I didn’t dislike her, I was just indifferent. At the time, as primarily a Marvel fan, if ever I ventured over to DC it would usually be to see what Batman was getting up to. In time, I broadened my outlook on comic-books, starting with Superman, reading a bit of Green Arrow here, some Suicide Squad there. And then I came across Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. Mixing mythology with superheroics? I’m all about that – the various Thor and Hercules comics told me that much. And if you’re all about that too, you’ll be in for a treat here.
From start to finish, the story is just so much fun. It zips and turns in different directions, never really slowing down enough for things to get boring. On top of the world of DC Comics, Azzarello introduces readers to a whole new world – the world of the Gods, who are perhaps the highlight of this story. Seeing each of them scheme and plot in light of the fact their King, Zeus, seems to have disappeared is delightful, and Cliff Chiang gifts them with some absolutely stellar designs that seem both bizarre and yet perfect.
At times, I must admit the dialogue and scripting feel like they could have done with a few more looks over to ensure they flowed well, but that is a minor grievance really. Also, reading this in trade format, you should be aware that it just cuts off. It’s not a complete story, and if you’re not aware of that you may be a bit bummed out that you need to fork out more money so you’re not stuck with a cliffhanger ending. But such is the way with broad mythological tales, and often times, comic-books too.
Still, although you don’t get the whole story, you do get the beginnings of a very good story, one filled with action and intrigue. One that does the job of getting you invested not only in Wonder Woman but in this new DC Universe she inhabits.
What’s particularly interesting to note at this stage, is that, although there are antagonists, there are no real villains in this story (thus far). An argument could be made for Hera being the villain, but in one line of dialogue from Azzarello, Hera becomes both sympathetic and, in a way, a victim. This is especially considering when, in all the comics we’ve looked at thus far, there has been a clear primary villain; All-Star Superman had Lex Luthor, Ultimate Spider-Man had the Green Goblin, Flash: Rebirth had the Reverse-Flash, Iron Man: Extremis had Mallen, and even Watchmen had… well, I won’t spoil it for you here.
In short, this is just such a different type of super-hero comic to what we’ve looked at so far, from a story stand-point, an art stand-point and even a character stand-point. It’s something new.
Now, I can’t promise it’ll be the same for you, but as the cover review claims, reading this comic-book made me a Wonder Woman fan, and I hope you’ll see if it’ll make you one too.