So I was RIDICULOUSLY jazzed for this issue. Cliff Chiang is back and Hephaestus and Eros were going to be in it and they were going to plan a trip to Hades and it all sounded terribly exciting. Then it took a very bizarre left turn that’s been perplexing me all night. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I don’t think I like it.
But I can’t tell you about it without first saying SPOILER.
As always, I’m going to wreck everything that happens in this comic, so if you haven’t read it yet, go away!!
Seriously, it’s only three bucks… go get a copy.
Okay, onto the reviewing…
Cliff Chiang was back and killed it as always. I loved barefoot hipster Eros and burnt arms, ogre-like Hephaestus. That was all very fun and good. But I’m pretty much only going to talk about one thing in this review.
In this issue, we learn that Hephaestus’ minions are the male children of Amazons, who they trade to Hephaestus in return for weapons. Hephaestus takes them in and raises them as is own, and they’re one big happy family, working at the forge. You see, thrice a century the Amazons go out looking for dudes to have sex with, seduce them with their feminine wiles, kill the dudes after they have sex with them, keep the female babies to be Amazons, and ditch the boys. Apparently it’s been going on for a while.
I have a huge problem with this.
Let me preface this by saying that I love EVERYTHING Azzarello and Chiang have done with the series so far. The new take on the gods is fantastic, I adore the new characters, and I think that Zeus as Wonder Woman’s father was a really interesting tweak to the mythos that’s been handled well so far. I know a lot of Wonder Woman fans are up in arms about this new direction for the book, but I’m not one of them. I’ve loved it all, and I think it’s the best book on the stands right now.
But this bothers me. For a lot of reasons, some of them dully logistical even. I mean, how does Wonder Woman not know about this? Was she literally JUST born? Or did she just not notice all the babies, and everyone ducking out every 33 years? It’s not a big island. Anyway, let’s get back on track. The main reason this doesn’t sit well with me is because the Amazons have ALWAYS been better than us.
That’s their schtick. Paradise Island is a feminist utopia and the Amazons are more advanced than everyone else on the planet in every possible way on account of they don’t spend all their time killing each other and taking other people’s stuff like we do. And it’s been like that for seventy years, most blatantly in the Golden Age with William Moulton Marston but in every incarnation afterwards as well. The Amazons can be warriors when they need to be, but left to their own devices they are a peaceful and prosperous people we could all learn something from. That’s what makes them awesome.
And that’s what makes them important. Wonder Woman and the Amazons have been representatives of feminism for decades, way before feminism was cool (though really, feminism still isn’t cool is vast swathes of the United States). Yeah, there are lots of great other female characters in comics now, but no one’s been around for as long or been as spectacular as Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is who she is because she’s an Amazon, and Amazons have always represented the best that humanity can achieve. They’re noble and brave and strong and heroic, which can’t be said about most other female characters without having to add “she’s also this headlining hero’s girlfriend” or “she’s a derivative of this more well known male hero” or “she’s got a big hole in her costume right over her cleavage”. And they’re ladies!! They’re better AND they’re ladies. The Amazons are strong and independent women who have been a remarkably progressive and feminist presence in the DC universe since it began.
And now they’re jerks. No, jerks is WAY too soft. They’re killers. Murderers. You could actually call them feminazis is you wanted to… they’re certainly exterminating large numbers of a particular group of people they don’t like. There’s no way to justify seducing and then killing random, innocent men. I mean, you could get into a whole “no man is innocent in a patriarchal society” thing but that’s just a slippery slope and you’ll end up sounding like Valerie Solanas.
Plus, if it wasn’t for Hephaestus, they’d kill all the male babies too!! Wonder Woman sees the whole set up as forced slavery for her brothers and she tries to set them free, but they all tell her thanks but no thanks. Their Amazon mothers were cruel women who would have left them to die if it wasn’t for Hephaestus, and they were glad to stay with him. This scene would actually be sweet if I wasn’t perplexed by everything that came before while I read it:
Hephaestus, the male, is caring and compassionate. The Amazons, the females, are cold-hearted killers. This is not how things are supposed to go.
And here’s the thing… if this had been the Amazons pre-Paradise Island, I’d be cool with it. I could understand it. An all female society is going to die out pretty quick if you don’t figure out some ways to make babies. If they were plundering a Greek trireme or some such and killing all the dudes, I could see that. It was a different time, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But at a certain point, they go off to Paradise Island, become immortal, and build a utopia. There’s no need to do that anymore, because a) they’re immortal so they won’t die out, b) they don’t want to have anything to go with men anymore… that’s sort of the ENTIRE goddamn point of the island, and c) having left the world of men because men are murderous, treacherous fiends, their main aim as a society was NOT TO BE LIKE THAT.
Also, why? I know Azzarello has mad skills and I’m sure he has a plan, but I have NO idea why this was done. It serves no purpose in the story, other than to make Wonder Woman look dumb repeatedly. It feels like a twist just for the sake of being shocking and different. Maybe it will play out into something interesting and, I sincerely hope, good and restorative for the Amazons, but so far there’s no discernible reason for it.
In earlier issues, I sort of enjoyed the man-hating bits with the Amazons because it felt like a joke, like they were teasing Diana for being out in the world with stupid dudes all the time. But in actuality, they REALLY hate men. It wasn’t a joke. Thrice a century they’re going out to kill them and toss them off boats:
That is beyond screwed up. If that is a sanctioned practice in Amazon society, what does that say about Amazon society? Nothing good. The Amazons were unimpeachable. The Amazons were the ideal. But now, they’re no better than the rest of us.
Now, this doesn’t ruin Wonder Woman or anything like that. Much as Wonder Woman being the product of a feminist utopia is a fantastic story, Wonder Woman being a kind and noble hero despite what is now a pretty twisted history is still a positive message. Wonder Woman herself remains awesome. But something really great from DC’s history is now gone, and that’s kind of sad. What the Amazons represented was so cool and so unique, especially in what has historically been a male-dominated and often sexist industry. After seventy years, that’s now been done away with.
With this shift, Wonder Woman seems to be just like everyone else, a hero with a messed up past who’s trying to overcome the ever-present darkness that surrounds her. She’ll overcome it, of course, and be a stronger hero for it, but Wonder Woman was never dark or tortured or trying to deal with a screwed up history. That’s what made her different. She wasn’t a hero to excise her demons or because of a psychological break cause by serious parental issues, she was a hero because she’s an Amazon and that’s just what they do. But now she’s a hero despite being an Amazon, and that’s bumming me out some.
So yeah, this was not my favourite issue of the series. And of course, it’s just a comic and the world hasn’t ended or anything. I’m frustrated and perplexed by a change to the backstory of a fictional character I enjoy… there are people dying in Uganda. Also, I feel a little bad about not liking this, because I’ve loved the book so far. I know I just said it’s not a huge deal, but I’ve been thinking about it ALL night and yeah, it just doesn’t sit right with me. Of course, I totally reserve the right to take this all back if the story restores all of the Amazon’s feminist awesomeness at some point, but for right now I’m confused and a little bit disappointed.