Wonder Woman #23 Review OR An Unsatisfying, But Not Unusual, End To An Uneven Year


Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have been working on Wonder Woman for two years now, and while the series has had some great moments, the treatment of Wonder Woman herself has been bugging me for a while.  Chiang always draws her magnificently, and my issue is less with him than with the way she’s written, and Wonder Woman #23 was the culmination of a lot of my concerns about how Azzarello has done so.  I’ll try not to make this review the greatest hits of stuff I’ve complained about already over the past two years, but a lot of it came up in this issue, and in big ways.  But first…


This is the BIG FINALE!!

You’re going to want to read it yourself!!

I know I don’t sound enthused about it, but it’s really pretty at least!!

So go check it out!!

Okay, back to reviewing.

First off, I totally called it!  I’ve been saying for a while now that Ares was going to die and Wonder Woman would become the god of war, and that’s exactly what happened.  This is huge because I’m NEVER right at this sort of thing.  I am usually completely oblivious when it comes to plot prediction, to such a degree that my friends tease me about it.  So yeah, this is either a minor miracle, or they telegraphed the ending so obviously that even I could figure it out.

This issue was the big finale battle with the First Born, and there was lots of action.  Everyone took their shot at the First Born; Ares had his ghost army, Orion just punched him for a bit, and Wonder Woman went bonkers and then finally impaled him (and Ares) on a spear.  The good guys won, the world is saved, hooray.

Except that, yet again, Wonder Woman does not come off well at all.  Have you ever read the mod Diana Prince comics from the late 1960s, when Diana was perpetually hysterical and beating the hell out of people while her mentor, I Ching, tried to calm her down?  This issue reminded me of that, with Ares in the I Ching role.  Wonder Woman took off her bracelets and went full on Zeus-powered berserker to fight the First Born, while Ares tried to tell her it wasn’t a good plan.  And, of course, Ares was right and Wonder Woman got beat down, because in the New 52 Wonder Woman men are always correct and Wonder Woman always makes the wrong, irrational decision.

As a sidenote, however, Chiang does some great work with half-crazed Wonder Woman.  Take a look at these panels where she fights the First Born in mid-air, and specifically note her hair:


Chiang usually draws her hair in smooth waves, but here it takes on a jagged, triangular sort of appearance that mimics the harsh, jagged nature of the First Born’s cloak.  Notice as well that Matthew Wilson has coloured the hair and the cloak with the same blue.  This mirroring cleverly highlights how an uncontrolled Wonder Woman is as wild, angry, and violent as the First Born.  And then the dialogue unsubtly hammers that home on the next page.  The dialogue in this issue was not so great, as you can tell from the panels above.

After Wonder Woman gets smashed into the ground, Hera and Zola’s escape is hindered by the First Born (I love that they’re such pals now; that relationship is one of the best things Azzarello has done in the series), but Ares distracts him, buying Wonder Woman enough time to get up, grab a spear, and run them both through.  I have several problems with this.

First, while I don’t mind Wonder Woman killing people (I am a firm supporter of killing Max Lord), this just seems unnecessary.  Ares is little and skinny.  The First Born is big and wide.  There was no other trajectory that would avoid impaling Ares while hitting the First Born?  That’s rather unlikely given the size disparity here.  Wonder Woman should kill only when she HAS to kill.  This incidental impaling seems silly.

Second, if she’s willing to kill Ares to stop the First Born, why not go all the way and kill the First Born?  The line’s been crossed already, and obviously if the First Born isn’t dealt with he’s just going to do this again, kill a bunch more people, and Ares’ death is going to be in vain.  Obviously, the conventions of superhero storytelling require the villain to never die so they can come back over and over and over, which is fine, but don’t then have Wonder Woman kill a dude to momentarily pause this tidal wave of destruction.  Again, silly.  Find a better ending.

Third, Ares is proud of the choice Wonder Woman made, and the GOD OF WAR should never, ever be proud of Wonder Woman.  He should be annoyed by her perpetually looking for a peaceful alternative.  This whole mentor role for Ares has felt like a wrong fit to me since the beginning, in part because he’s a man and what’s cool about Wonder Woman is that she’s an AMAZON and thus is both an amazing diplomat and warrior (when necessary) because of their training, but also because the god of war and Diana shouldn’t be friends.  They should be oil and water.  The first time they met, Diana should have said “There’s nothing I can learn from you that I can’t learn better from my Amazon sisters” and that should have been the end of it.  If Ares is proud of Wonder Woman, something has gone wrong with your story.

Which leads us to this: Now Wonder Woman is the god of war.  I guess if you kill him, you get the title.  As I just mentioned, Wonder Woman and the god of war is a poor fit.  Which I’m sure will be explored moving forward, and I know that her first act as the god of war was not killing the First Born, dumb as that was.  She’s not going to be some bloodthirsty fiend or anything.  This just seems to pull us farther away from what I think Wonder Woman should be, which is just my own opinion and one that’s obviously not shared by Azzarello.  Plus it’s another example of uh oh, Wonder Woman’s accidentally gotten herself into another sticky situation.

Ironically, while taking on the mantle of a god should make Wonder Woman ridiculously powerful, I think that this is a very weak incarnation of the character.  She entirely lacks control, as evidenced by her berserker attack but also by the fact that she is perpetually reacting instead of driving the action herself, always backed into a corner by her own poor decisions.  She shouldn’t have had to kill Ares, she shouldn’t be the god of war, but she screwed it all up (again) so here we are.  Wonder Woman should be smarter, Wonder Woman should be more capable, Wonder Woman should have found another way.

This moment, however, I quite liked.  At least Zola is still freaking awesome:


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18 Responses to “Wonder Woman #23 Review OR An Unsatisfying, But Not Unusual, End To An Uneven Year”

  1. AP Says:

    She couldn’t risk First Born to kill Ares, thus she had to kill him herself. (since FB was about to squeeze the life out of Ares)

    And to have Diana kill him was a lesson from Ares himself, If she was prepeared to do “the right thing” and not let her compassion get in her way.

    Just as the minotaur was supposed to be in #0. A lesson, which Diana “fails” by acting like an amazon.

    An issue that also makes it perfectly clear that Ares is proud of her (that she was prepeared to die by his hand) but also that she inspired him in a way he did not like.

    And seriously. Diana has inspired almost every character she met during the course of the book, to be better (Even Hera for Zeus sake!).

    That she have flaws (being a bit stubborn and sometimes naive, but always gets through it) only makes her stronger. That you can’t see beyond her flaws says more about you than WW or the writer Azzarello.

    • IronBerserk Says:

      Sorry to say this but your writing isn’t that good (no offense) and I’m confused about what you’re saying? Are you saying that WW did the wrong thing when she did not kill the minotaur back in issue #0? Are saying WW compassion is a bad thing? (if you aren’t then I apologize for the rest of this post)

      If you are then I don’t think you understood issue #0. At the end of that issue, the minotaur respected WW for not going through with the killing. It left her unscathed even though she was defenseless. Right before WW was about to kill the minotaur, she saw fear in its eyes, fear that showed her how awful a thing violence and killing is. It has nothing to do with WW not learning her lesson and letting her compassion get in the way. She in fact did the right and noble choice.

      WW killing is not a good thing, and if being barely disturbed at the end of this event of Ares dying is not a sign of WW going down a dark path…then I don’t know what is? Killing a friend in order to get to an enemy, that is not only a flaw…it is a TERRIBLE atrocious flaw. This is not the WW we know and love. She could have easily found another way in order to save Ares and/or defeat the First born before he killed him.

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      To me, the flaws have outweighed the positives for Wonder Woman as a character so far this run, and as I said above the Ares relationship is one I haven’t been keen on from the beginning. That’s just my opinion, of course, but I felt that killing Ares was unnecessary and will ultimately be fruitless with the First Born still around. It didn’t strike me as good storytelling.

  2. Karl Says:

    I remember the ‘mod’ Diana Prince stories well, lovely they were.

    So I will avoid the spoilers [ I just KNOW that I will have a sneaky peek later, I cannot help it] and it sounds intriguing at least.
    Not sure I dig the idea of Diana being the new God of War but I will roll with it, lets see how it turns out.
    Diana losing control again? I dont like how this portrays women as forever losing control and ‘going mad’ a bit sexist of Azzarello. Id much prefer to have Diana retain her dignity and reason and fight him on HER OWN TERMS.
    Zola using the term ‘a-hole.’..’not in my favourite comic and my favourite heroine, thanks.
    Ares is still Ares and still a nasty piece of work so it shouldnt matter what he looks like.
    Cool cover.
    Nice to see your posting back on the WW Message forum, Tim.

  3. IronBerserk Says:

    This review is right on the ball. My exact thoughts when I finished reading the issue. However, my thoughts have changed…a bit.

    After reading it again, a panel struck me as kind of odd. Right before WW impales Ares and First Born, her bracelet shines of the Zeus power as if it broke free even with the protection. Is this a sign that WW is becoming kind of evil? Did she want to get rid of Ares and become God of War while at the same time removing the threat of the First Born? Maybe Ares is proud of her not because she did the right thing, but because she killed and took advantage of him just like he would have. Remember back in WW #0, Ares was mad at her for not killing the minotaur, yet in this issue she did finally kill. In other words, yes he would be proud of her. Did WW just kill for her own selfish gain like Ares wanted her to do back during the minotaur fight? It would be interesting of a twist and cool to see WW fight her own god like evil power as it torments her with all the wrong she’s been doing. WW turning evil would explain many of the wrong choices and out of character moments that have been going on these past issues. It would get rid of plot holes and give us a cool character arc of inner turmoil.

    Am I being too optimistic again? Probably, but if all of what I just wrote is wrong, then yes this issue is as bad as you’ve described it Hanley. The stupid out of character killing of Ares, WW becoming God of War, it was all dumb. I really hope there is a long term good plan in store for all this mess.

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      I really like your reading of the issue, and how it colours all of Azzarello’s run and sets things up moving forward. That could be very interesting. I’m not sure that’s what is actually happening, but that would definitely make for a cool story.

  4. Titong Says:

    Wish it could have been another way, but I think her spearing through Ares was a necessary spur-of-the-moment move; it gave her the cover which the First Born, who has been unbeatable, did not anticipate.

    If old Ares’, I’ll agree that WW & the god of war will not mix, but the present Ares has been pictured as a tired & weary old man; there’s also a certain nobility to his character, so the relationship between the two I can understand. He’s also got me misty-eyed, so he’s the best version ever. That and his einherjars.

  5. Karl Says:

    I know where Diana and her hair turning blue and such-like reminded me of; lately Ive been re-reading my old WW comics and last week got round to The Shattered God storyline ‘The Game of the Gods’,, which ran for six issues just before vol 2 reached issue 200, the tale written by one P.Craig Russell. The look of Diana when she went wild is very similar

  6. beccalikestoast Says:

    Not trying to change your mind on the whole issue, as you make some good points, but I read the events differently – I thought Wonder Woman stabbed Ares not as a byproduct of stabbing the First Born but as the primary goal. She was killing Ares before the First Born could kill him, because better she have the God of War title than him. The reason she didn’t just stab the First Born is that she wasn’t sure it would actually kill him or stop him to the point he wasn’t able to complete snapping Ares’ neck (which it didn’t, I mean, he was still flailing around until Zola whacked him on the head). And also because I think it really was a situation where splitseconds mattered – the First Born was in the process of delivering the killing blow.

    I think that it’s possible to criticise the decision to write it this way – like to write a story where these events happen? Like the way Azzarello set up the circumstances? Or the social comments the text makes around them? But I think given the circumstances her behaviour made a fair amount of sense. She was preventing Ares from being killed by the First Born – that’s why War was proud of her, I think – because in this instance, she took the brutal and pragmatic route of killing hi to stop her enemy from winning. Again – debatable whether that’s a great way to write Diana, but his pride makes sense in this context to me?

  7. nightwing17 Says:

    I think you make a number of good points, however I’m not sure that I agree that Ares and Diana should never be able to agree.

    I think that, properly handled, the new relationship between Diana and Ares could be very interesting, however, there hasn’t really been enough time dedicated to it to justify this issue’s events.

    I will say that it feels awkward to have it be a straight mentor/mentee relationship instead of something more combative and equal, but particularly with the way that Ares has been characterized, I think that it’s logical that they agree sometimes, after all, the Amazons are a warrior race and while they better fit the martial aspects of Athena they can’t fully escape Ares’ sphere of

    My two favorite WW writers, Perez and Rucka, both found ways for Diana and Ares to come to some kind of tense peace and I think that it could have been done well here, too.

    I mean, just because Diana strives for peace doesn’t mean that her actions can’t please war. ( think it would be interesting to see a more congenial Ares constantly debating Diana, sometimes agreeing sometimes arguing. Think of it as somewhere between Rucka’s ‘conversation starter Wondie” and the League of One “personal standards Wondie”.

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      I’d definitely agree that the relationship between WW and Ares COULD have been interesting, and that this god of war situation COULD take the book in cool directions, but to me the relationship wasn’t particularly interesting or well-handled in the 24 issues we’ve had and that makes me wary for the future. I’m sure there are decent ways a WW/Ares relationship could be portrayed, and you point out a bunch of them. It’s just that this one didn’t work much for me.

      • nightwing17 Says:

        Fair enough. Reading this issue, you’d think that it had been a major theme of the run, but it was really just present in one issue, a one-off no less.

        Something about the abruptness of this issue made me realize how aimless this title became in its second year. I have a feeling this goddess of war plot will either be the redeeming factor of the book or that it’s going to be the beginning of me finally having to drop this title.

  8. nightwing17 Says:

    I also think that there’s something really interesting about put Diana in a role where she’s kind of beyond good and evil and has responsibilities that clash with her moral compass. I I’m not sure if Azzarello will take this in a good direction, but watching her find ways to balance her own values with the title of goddess of war could be fascinating.

  9. Keiji D Ezio Says:

    I can’t help but feel your review is just like the reviews of everyone else hating on the new52 books. “She isn’t the same character I’d read for years so I don’t like! Wah wah wah….”

    I think there needs to be an established difference from the old represenatation of ARES and the new WAR.

  10. Green Says:

    Well between her killing Maxwell lord and her killing War, For me her Killing War was more urgent and believable than the time she killed Maxwell. He was on his knees, already surrendered.

    • beccalikestoast Says:

      You mean Maxwell Lord? He was on his knees but only because he was physically restrained. The entire reason Diana killed him was because he told her he would *never* stop trying to control Superman and make him murder folks, and the only way to stop him permanently would be to kill him.

      If you still don’t find it believable that she’d kill him when he was – at that point – restrained, cool beans. But he wasn’t surrendering.

  11. Lvenger Says:

    Ugh for the last time, she had to kill War so that the First Born wouldn’t kill him and take the mantle of God of War for himself. If he’d done that, he would have been unbeatable. Diana needed to kill Ares and then wound the First Born because the First Born was literally about to snap his neck. In the context of Wonder Woman as a character, she should only kill when she thinks it’s necessary and here I thought it was conveyed rightly that she thought killing Ares was ultimately necessary, Not saying it was right just like killing Lord wasn’t right but it made sense with Diana being a warrior as well as a peace keeper.

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