While Wonder Woman #23.1 The Cheetah didn’t seem to have much to do with anything going on elsewhere in the DC universe, the similarly awkwardly named Wonder Woman #23.2 First Born digs deep into the character’s history and lets us understand some more about him and his motivations. It’s not necessarily an essential piece of Azzarello’s bigger story but it does flesh out the First Born some more, along with giving us some hints of what’s to come. We’ll get to all of that, but first:
I am about to ruin the ENTIRE issue for you!!
And if you’re a regular Wonder Woman reader, you should probably pick this one up!!
Read it for yourself first!!
I liked this issue, not because it was particularly revelatory but because I thought it was nicely put together. Apollo using his oracles to tell the story of the First Born was a simple but effective plot device that allowed the art to really shine and communicate the story as well. This was a good call; ACO did a fantastic job capturing the brutality of the First Born in a number of unusual and striking settings, using thick lines and strong shadows that were well balanced out by Matthew Wilson’s colours. Everyone on the creative team did a great job this month, and the result was a book that looked great and told an interesting story.
The basic story we knew already: The First Born was literally the first born son of Zeus and Hera, cast out of Olympus and imprisoned by the gods deep within the Earth, but there was more to it than that. Zeus was jealous of his son, worried he would usurp him after an ominous prophecy, and the boy was abandoned in the wild. Raised by a pack of hyenas, the First Born continually tried to get the attention of the gods, conquering the whole world through mass slaughter to do so, but they never noticed him. Finally he attacked Olympus himself, only to be beaten almost instantaneously by the combined power of his father and uncles. He was locked away deep inside the bowels of the Earth, and would only be freed when Zeus ended his reign as king of the gods.
The First Born’s motivations aren’t the most nuanced. The comic describes how he became a creature of hate, with the god’s continual spurning pushing him to act out in increasingly violent and evil ways. Azzarello hasn’t done the greatest jobs with the motivations of his main characters, really; where Wonder Woman has her “I love everyone”, the First Born hates everyone. The dichotomy is nice, and the big fight in Wonder Woman #23 did a good job of getting into that, but it’s a somewhat simplistic situation. The First Born is understandably upset at the gods, and this hate festers over millennia, but the result is a villain who’s more an animal than a person, ruled by an overwhelming urge to destroy. Yes, he’s clearly seeking validation, but his father isn’t even around to validate him anymore. Should he win the throne of Olympus, the First Born would suddenly realize all his raging and destruction was for naught, as there’d be no one left to notice him. That’s tragic in its own way, but again points to an unthinking force of nature more than a person. He’s not reflecting on what he’s doing, he’s just doing it.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as far as villains go. Obviously he’s super evil and Wonder Woman will have to inevitably take him down again, and that kind of single-minded motivation will make for an epic battle. I’m hoping there’s an extra layer to the First Born that emerges now that he’s captured, though, some sort of humanity that extends beyond him being hate incarnate. I thought there was a chance for that in Wonder Woman #21, when Hera tells him she loves him and she did what she did to save him, but the First Born just responded with hate-filled vitriol. Perhaps now that he’s been humbled in defeat, he’ll have a slightly new perspective and there’ll be something more to him than hate. We’ll have to see what happens.
The book ends with a new prophecy from Apollo’s oracles concerning a great battle between Apollo and the First Born where one will emerge victorious while the other is engulfed in flames. There’s also a naked woman there, Apollo’s sister, and the oracles say she is too late, but we don’t know for what because they burn up before they can finish the prophecy. The only naked woman we’ve seen so far is Aphrodite, in a few brief appearances, so perhaps she’ll play a bigger role moving forward. That, or Wonder Woman loses her costume at some point. In a Wonder Woman comic, when a lady is mentioned in a prophecy there’s always a chance it could be Wonder Woman herself.
Speaking of which, Wonder Woman doesn’t appear in the book at all. She showed up in one page of the Cheetah comic last week, albeit in a dream sequence, but she played no part in this First Born title. It is VILLAINS Month though, and frankly Wonder Woman hasn’t had much to do in a lot of her normal issues during this current run anyway. An issue without her in it isn’t a big stretch. The lack of Wonder Woman and the fun, dark machinations of the gods in this issue made me think about what role Wonder Woman really plays in the series. The gods are all engaged in this massive fight for the throne of Olympus, with disputes and alliances stretching back to the dawn of the world, and Wonder Woman just seems stuck in the middle of it because Hermes sent Zola to her way back in Wonder Woman #1. Of all the pieces in this bigger story, Wonder Woman is the one that lifts out most easily. However, this could very easily change now that she’s the god of war. That may bring her into the fold directly, and make her a more integral part of this war of the gods.
Altogether, I enjoyed this issue. While I have some questions about and hopes for Azzarello’s overall story arc, this issue was well written and drawn and gave me a lot to think about despite its relatively simple narrative. I might be silly to be looking for humanity in a hate-filled god, but I hope that’s an avenue that’s explored moving forward.