After nearly two and a half years of being subject to the fiendish machinations of the gods, I think Wonder Woman is starting to turn the tables. With Zola and Zeke gone, Wonder Woman isn’t flying off half-cocked like we’ve seen in the past. It looks like she’s got a plan, and she’s acting instead of reacting. I’ve got more to say on the matter, but first:
I am about to reveal EVERY major plot point from this issue!
Do not read on if you haven’t read the issue yet!
Cliff Chiang is back! Go enjoy his lovely art and then come back!
Before we get to Wonder Woman’s plan, let’s talk about the art for a minute. Cliff Chiang is back, and boy oh boy does he kill it. The man is just a premiere artist. His page layouts capture the story perfectly, he communicates the serenity or brutality of a scene with equal skill, and I think he’s the best in the business when it comes to facial expressions. The book is an absolute thing of beauty.
The facial expressions are particularly striking in this issue, and Chiang and colourist Matthew Wilson are doing some very cool work. For most comic art, the inked line art stays black, but here a lot of the details have been coloured. It’s a technique Chiang and Wilson have used before, but I don’t think they’ve done it to the degree we see it in this issue. Look at this panel featuring Wonder Woman:
Her nose, eyelids, jaw line, and inner ear are all coloured with a darker flesh tone instead of the usual flat black. It makes the book more visually interesting, taking great line art and making it even better with some clever colouring.
Wilson had a fantastic issue across the board, and he really makes the art sing with his colour work. From the pale blue glow of Artemis to sunny warmth of Provence, each scene has a colour palette that communicates the feel of each setting. Plus the colouring is ridiculously smooth; nothing is just one solid colour, but rather an array of highlights and shadows blending seamlessly. It’s stellar work.
But back to the story itself. I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that Wonder Woman is a weird book. In this issue alone, we had four pages of torture, an orgy in the woods, and a minotaur in bondage gear. This most definitely is not a book for a younger audience, or even for squeamish adults. Seeing someone already beaten and bloody get their back broken repeatedly is not for the faint of heart.
As a sidenote, however, the First Born scenes are certainly effective. I now sympathize with the First Born, despite the fact that he was nothing but a remorseless killer before he was captured. I was glad he escaped, and I hope Apollo gets what he has coming. So yeah, making the First Born someone I’d cheer for, even if it is just against another sadistic fiend, is quite a feat. The systematic torture of the First Born has been gross, but now I’m on his side a little bit.
Nonetheless, this dark, horror tone and the, shall we say, mature content of the series is not my favourite. I’m not averse to darker stories in any way; I just don’t think it’s the best way to present Wonder Woman (though Superman/Wonder Woman has ably demonstrated that there are, in fact, worse ways to present Wonder Woman). It’s not a particularly accessible series in terms of its range of appeal, and moreover it’s a book where Wonder Woman is often the least interesting character each month. The world that surrounds her has been far more vibrant and compelling than Wonder Woman herself, and being constantly overshadowed and ineffective against the horrors of this world has resulted in a weak depiction of the character.
Luckily for me, this might be about to change. Wonder Woman is finally doing something.
Up to this point, Wonder Woman’s been reacting, responding to the actions of other characters rather than taking control of the situation. But now, with Zola and Zeke gone yet again, she’s actually got a plan. The fight with Artemis in bear form was fun (and beautifully coloured), but this final panel captured everything I’ve been missing about Wonder Woman:
The sly smile. The knowing side eye. For the first time in a long time, Wonder Woman is up to something. She’s going to outsmart her enemies instead of punching them, and she’s going to dictate the action moving forward. This is the Wonder Woman that I haven’t seen in two years.
When the book first launched, Wonder Woman was firmly in control. She swooped in to save Zola, showed up Aleka in a sparring session, and busted up Strife at a rock show. You didn’t mess with Wonder Woman. Things took a quick turn when she learned that Zeus was her dad and all of the Amazons were wiped out, and Wonder Woman’s been reeling since. She’s been angry and careless, punching before she thinks, manipulated by the gods at every turn. As someone who wants a great Wonder Woman in their Wonder Woman, it hasn’t been the best time.
This issue, and that panel above, is the first time in ages that Wonder Woman has actually felt like Wonder Woman to me. She’s had her moments here and there, mostly with cool fighting moves, but now she’s thinking. She’s as strong as she’s ever been, what with her Zeus powers AND her god of war powers, but she’s not punching things anymore. She’s got a plan.
If we can return to an in control, firing on all cylinders Wonder Woman, then all of my other issues with the book will quickly fade away. A weak, flailing Wonder Woman in the midst of this grotesque horror story hasn’t been a fun book to read, but a strong, capable Wonder Woman putting an end to these horrors is a story I’m excited about.