I’m not entirely sure why this issue didn’t work for me, so this review might be a bit of a jumble. The Silver Age throwback should’ve been right up my alley!! They were clearly going for a Robert Kanigher, 1960s Wonder Girl vibe, and man oh man do I know that stuff like the back of my hand. It’s classic, and sort of terrible, but also fun in its own weird way. And doing the issue in a throwback style is SUCH a cool idea that really takes advantage of this whole zero issue mandate. I guess it just didn’t go anywhere interesting for me. I expected more, maybe. We’ll dig into it, but first:
If you haven’t read the issue yet, GO AWAY!!
You know that spoilers are the worst… just spare yourself the shame of spoiling yourself.
Okay, so back to the book. As a throwback, it was cute. The whole thing with Ares was a nice little story where young Diana learns to be a great warrior but finds out that at the end of the day her compassion comes first AND she awakens some compassion in the god of war too. Things end badly between her and Ares, but she has a better sense of who she is. Lovely.
However, that’s all it is. It was a straight forward, simple tale, generally unconnected from the past twelve issues. I’m sure it’ll have ramifications in the future, but for right now, as a single issue, it didn’t really do a lot. I expected more from it, and in a few different ways.
First, in a practical sort of way, I expected a better pastiche of a Silver Age Wonder Woman comic. Maybe it’s because I’m all over early Wonder Woman stuff, but this issue was off the mark. It was both overdone and underdone. The dialogue was comicly extravagant, even by Silver Age standards. Check out this introduction of Ares:
Kanigher could throw down some overblown dialogue, but he was never this Shakespearean with it. At the same time, the story itself was way too simple. There’s a Wonder Girl birthday story in Wonder Woman #113 where there’s an earthquake, a tornado, a roc, a sea monster, and a birthday cake that gets blown into space and orbits the Earth. It had hilariously random panels like this:
Plus it was only NINE pages long. Wonder Woman #0 is 20 pages, and she trains some and fights a minotaur. That’s like a page and a half in a Silver Age book. This issue just didn’t capture the Silver Age vibe properly.
Second, I expected it to be darker. We’ve gotten twelve issues of horror stories, really, and when I saw the preview I thought it would be fascinating to see how that translated into the innocuous, fantastical world of the Silver Age where no one ever really got hurt and everything was always swell. What we got instead was a watered down Ares, compared to his deadly and explosive previous appearances, and a book that’s wasn’t at all creepy or gruesome or dark. I thought they’d try to subvert the Silver Age style, but instead they just played it straight.
Third, I expected some sort or intrigue or connection to the complex machinations of the Olympian gods that we’ve seen so far. The book has had all sorts of twists and turns and betrayals, and you never know who you can trust, especially after the last issue. I thought we might see seeds of where we are now and hints of where we could be going, but it was just a straight-forward, simple story with no real connection to the bigger plot.
Now, I probably expected too much. Azzarello and Chiang are two of the best in the business, and I was looking for something really clever and involved and they gave me simple and cute instead. There’s nothing wrong with cute, I just thought there would be more.
The only way I could see why they went for this comicly overdone yet simplistic storytelling is if this issue is a ruse, a cheerier, pleasant take on what was actually a horrific relationship between Ares and Wonder Woman and we’ll find out what actually happened down the road. I don’t think that’s what’s happening, and I hope that’s not what’s going on because lord knows we don’t need Wonder Woman to have even more complicated and messed up father figure issues. I’m just saying, that’s the only reason I can imagine they’d do a story this way after what we’ve come to expect from the twelve issues previous.
Aside from my many expectation problems, the whole Ares training Diana thing is kind of irksome. She already has crazy powers because Zeus, a man, is her father, and now she’s got fighting skills because Ares, a man, trained her? This is a lot of men for an Amazon. Being an Amazon should be more than enough to make Wonder Woman awesome and bad ass. They are fierce, epic warriors. And if you’re thinking that maybe Diana needed the extra grit and brutality that only the god of war could provide, in current continuity the Amazons are straight up murderers. They don’t play around.
By having Ares train Wonder Woman, the implication is that Amazon training isn’t enough, that Diana needs more than her Amazon background to be a real hero. And it’s a double whammy with the new Zeus angle too. You could argue that in this new continuity, the Amazons are almost useless. They’re rapists who all seem to hate Diana, apart from her mom. She gets cool superpowers from Zeus and awesome fighting skills from Ares. All the Amazons are good for is Hippolyta providing a uterus and the rest of them teasing Diana enough that she’s got something to rebel against so she can be a cool bad ass. Wonder Woman used to be great BECAUSE she was an Amazon, but now it seems that she’s great IN SPITE of being an Amazon. That makes me sad.
I know the whole Amazon story is xenophobic and problematic, but the fact is that in such a ridiculously patriarchal genre, a female superhero being the product of a race of warrior women is kind of epic. Strong men are EVERYWHERE in comics while strong women are few and far between, but Wonder Woman came from a whole island of them!! It’s awesome, and that’s why she was created in the first place. William Moulton Marston was sick of male superheroes being dicks and punching everybody, so he created Wonder Woman who was a more loving, happy superhero but at the same time just as strong as everyone else. And she was all of these things because that’s how the Amazons raised her. The Amazons were powerful, wise, and kind, and taught legions of women to be the same way. Now, everything comes from men, and the Amazons just sort of suck.
Now, I doubt that this undermining of the Amazons and the new, male-based powers of Wonder Woman are some sort of scheme on Azzarello’s part to make Wonder Woman wholly dependent on men. Instead, I think he’s just all wrapped up in trying to tell his story and not actively taking into account the character’s history and the significance of her Amazon heritage and the strength and power of women that it suggests. I don’t think any sort of feminist, much less matriarchal, angle is on his mind, and because of that this history is being eroded and replaced. It’s not malevolent. Just careless.
Well know I dislike this issue a lot more. That took a weird turn for me with the Ares thing at the end here. I thought I had a handle on what I thought about that, but it seems that I’m more upset about it than I anticipated. Oh well. Again, I don’t think it’s an intentional thing. I just don’t think they’re paying attention to Wonder Woman’s feminist history and taking into account what these new changes mean in that regard.
Overall, it’s a cute little issue, which is nice, but I expected a lot more out of it. It also tweaks Wonder Woman’s origins in an even more male-based way, which is very annoying. If you start reading between the lines, you end up in a dark place like I just did there. It really sneaks up on you.
Anyway, I expected more in a great many ways, from an accurate throwback to feminist origins, and got none of it. So it goes. The art was pretty, and it was a nice story. It’s the first issue in a while I could let my nieces read, though then we’d have to have a long talk about Ares and why the Amazons seem to be such bitches. Maybe they don’t read this one, then. But yeah, it was cute on the surface, and troubling below.