Lately I’ve been noticing the lack of Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman. We talked about this a bit last month, comparing this to how often Batman is in Batman and Superman is in Superman. Those guys were in nearly ALL of their books, while Wonder Woman appears in only about half of hers. This month, she was in 8 of the 20 pages, and in 2 of those pages she was all covered with flies, not doing much of anything, and it was hard to tell that it was actually her. This isn’t so cool, but what’s even more noticeable this issue is how much more fun the pages WITHOUT Wonder Woman are. We’ll discuss momentarily, but first:
Damn near every major plot point will be revealed!!
If you haven’t read it yet, GO AWAY!!
Then come back AFTER you’ve read it and carry on with this review!!
Okay then. So in the Wonder Woman bits, we’ve got a lot of standing around and posturing between Wonder Woman and Orion after the fly situation is taken care of. It all looks cool, because Cliff Chiang is epic and draws a great Orion and Wonder Woman. Then Wonder Woman does some ruminating on nature vs. nurture (a clearly important topic for her given what she’s found out about her Amazon heritage and her parents… she’s firmly on the nurture side, not surprisingly) and then because she’s kind and a nice sister Milan agrees to use his maggot eyes to find Zola’s baby. It’s with Demeter and Hermes, which we already knew, but now Wonder Woman knows too. That’s literally ALL that happens with Wonder Woman. She learns something we already know. Presumably she’ll do something about it next issue, but this month it’s just a lot of standing around.
The best part of all of that is that we get to see Hermes again. My love of Hermes is well documented. He’s far and away my favourite character, and he’s been off with the baby since August. He doesn’t get to do anything, but it’s nice to see him again.
The other storylines are where interesting and enjoyable things actually happened. First up, we’ve got the First Born battling a bunch of Ice Giants in Antarctica. Doesn’t that just sound more fun than superheroes standing around while their pal looks for a baby? It totally is. It’s a cool fight, plus we get some good revelations. The giants came from Hades, who we now know was part of the plan to imprison the First Born. Then, after getting smashed into the ice, the First Born emerges with some cool new armour:
Finally, we find out who rescued the First Born, and it’s this cyborg-looking gal:
I have NO idea who she is, but I’m intrigued. My entirely unsubstantiated guess is that it could be Athena, only because we haven’t seen her yet and I could see how the goddess of wisdom and war might be infused with technology. Plus in her coat and big goggles she sort of looks like an owl, the animal most closely associated with Athena:
But I’m most likely wrong. I have little to no confidence in this guess. Athena is just the first thing that I thought of.
The best story of all, though, is Zola and Hera out on the town. It’s HILARIOUS in so many ways. Hera in a hoodie and Zola in her down south plaid sitting at a swanky Manhattan bar is a great visual:
And Hera’s inability to settle on a drink because she’s only ever had wine on Mount Olympus is completely randomly amusing. Then Ares shows up!! And instead of being “Oh shit!” about it, everyone is super laid back and Zola saunters off to use the washroom.
There she meets Dionysus, who tells her what Ares wants to do to Wonder Woman. Shocked and appalled, Zola runs into the bathroom to throw up and who pops out of the stall behind her but our old pal Strife!! The Zola/Hera scenes are a cavalcade of guest stars and hilarity, all leisurely and enjoyably paced as we revel in the inherent awesomeness of the characters. All these people meeting up in a swanky bar is just so much fun. It’s ridiculous, but not too ridiculous, threatening, but not too threatening, and it’s just one enjoyable cameo after another.
Now, it would be tricky to build a monthly comic called Zola and Hera at the Bar, though I would absolutely buy it if they tried. But as a scene that moves some pieces into place and puts the characters into a new and potentially dangerous situation, this was executed perfectly. In a lot of comics, and lately often in Wonder Woman, these sorts of getting the pieces in place stories are dull and predictable. Once it starts, you know how it’ll end up and you’ve got to slog through pages of it. This was entertaining and surprising. It didn’t propel the story forward at any breakneck sort of pace, but it was enjoyable to read.
So how come when not much is going on with Wonder Woman, it’s kind of dull? Obviously, characters like Zola, Hera, and Strife lend themselves to entertaining situations. But Wonder Woman is cool, Orion is a bad ass, and there could be some fun friction there. I find that Azzarello tends to present Wonder Woman in three ways:
- First, she’s fighting, which is usually a pretty good time. Everyone loves a fight scene, and his Wonder Woman is really good at it. They’re always dynamically choreographed and cool.
- Second, she’s just talking with someone, busting out some exposition. This is usually a little bland, and lacks any real personality from Wonder Woman. It can be informative, but it’s rarely entertaining unless someone cool (Zola, Hera, Strife, etc.) is on the other end of it.
- Third, she’s being SUPER nice. I find this often goes over the top into maudlin territory, like the Hades story with the lame “I love everyone” revelation. In this issue, she’s all kind and sisterly to Milan, and it’s not too over the top, but it’s bordering on treacly, and it’s getting sort of old because it gets trotted out every other issue. Wonder Woman is in a pickle, but wait! She’ll LOVE herself out of it. Now, of course Wonder Woman is loving and compassionate, but a) they’re going to that well too often and too deep, and b) it’s a weird juxtaposition with the punk rock loving, violent Wonder Woman of the early days of the story.
Ultimately, I don’t think that Azzarello has a real handle on the character, of who she is as Wonder Woman OR Diana. He has his moments sporadically, but usually he flicks through these three settings and it just doesn’t add up to an interesting, well rounded character like it does with everyone else. Most of the other characters in Wonder Woman are fascinating and fleshed out in such full, interesting ways. Wonder Woman is a two dimensional in this very three dimensional world they’ve created, which is maybe why she doesn’t appear in her own book a lot. Given the choice, I’d rather be writing Zola and Hera and the First Born than this wooden version of Wonder Woman too.
I enjoy the book, but I don’t enjoy it because of Wonder Woman. And I don’t enjoy it despite Wonder Woman either. She’s just there, a neutral character who’s the least interesting thing in her own series.