I’ll say this up front: I did not care for this issue, and for a variety of reasons, so sorry in advance for all of the negativity. I have such mixed feelings about this run. When it’s good, it’s SO good, but when it’s bad it’s the sort of bad that just bums me out to my core as a fan of Wonder Woman and the Amazons. Wonder Woman #31 was one of the bumming me out issues. I’ll talk about why momentarily, but first:
I am going to reveal EVERY story development from this issue, few though they may be!
If you haven’t read the issue yet, run away!
But come back later when you have read it!
Carrying on, let’s start with this issue’s story, or rather the lack thereof. Nothing really happened at all, apart from the last two pages. We got some confirmation about what happened in Hades last issue, but that’s just affirming old news. And then Zeke got kidnapped again. I laughed out loud when I got to that part; Zeke is kidnapped in every other issue. I’m beginning to question if Zola is a fit mother. But Wonder Woman got him back, and the issue ended with the Amazon’s male brothers showing up on Paradise Island, and the news that Hermes is in trouble. It was twenty pages of not a lot happening, other than the continued campaign of making the Amazons look stupid.
I can’t decide whether Brian Azzarello just fundamentally misunderstands the Amazons or if he actively dislikes them and is trying to make them look terrible. I realize that I talked about the Amazons last month, but bear with me; I’ve got new critiques, not a rehash.
First, I don’t understand why all of the old Amazons don’t exist in this universe. In this issue, Wonder Woman talks with a black Amazon who was a chief advisor for Hippolyta. That should be Philippus, right? Everybody loves Philippus. She’s super cool. But no, it’s a new Amazon named Dessa. She looks like Philippus and functions in a similar role, but she’s a new character. Along the same lines, Aleka seems to be an Artemis analogue, a redheaded warrior who’s not at all impressed with Diana. It seems silly to create a new cast of Amazons when there are already known, loved characters. The New 52 has wiped away that history, replacing these characters with subpar facsimiles. I suppose they had to do so, because lord knows that Philippus wouldn’t stand for the foolishness that’s been going on with the Amazons these past few years.
Second, Dessa is the only Amazon who stands up for the all female, warrior society that the Amazons have always been, and she is presented as both murderous and suicidal. Diana is bringing back the Amazons’ lost brothers (more on that later) and Dessa argues forcefully against this. But instead of being a rational character with a valid point to make, she kidnaps Zeke and tries to throw him off a cliff as a sacrifice, and then throws herself off the cliff when Wonder Woman saves Zeke. It’s awful that the only voice standing up for what the Amazons have always been, ie. female strength and power, is presented as crazy and unbalanced.
Third, men are coming to Paradise Island. I don’t even know what to call them. Bromazons? Manazons? I like Manazons. The Manazons, who the Amazons traded to Hephaestus for weapons, are coming back to Paradise Island. The book doesn’t say whether they’re back for good or just for the war against the First Born, but either way, there will be men on the island. This is just stupid. The entire point of the Amazons is that they’re women who were fed up with patriarchal society so they created their own. They are a rebellious group who want nothing to do with the world of men. Bringing in boatloads of men goes against this entirely.
Furthermore, the return of the Manazons is presented as some type of atonement for the sins of the Amazons, what with their raping and murdering and abandoning of babies and such. So here’s what happened: Azzarello fundamentally changed the history of the Amazons, turning them into monsters, and decided that the remedy for that was to further fundamentally change the nature of the Amazons by undoing the very principles of their foundation. Essentially, he ruined the Amazons so he could further ruin the Amazons by making them co-ed. This is also stupid. We’ve got thirty issues of the Amazons being unpleasant people who do terrible things, just so we can bring some boys to the island? It’s ridiculous. Besmirching the Amazons to undo the defining tenet of the Amazons displays such a massive lack of understanding or appreciation for what the Amazons have meant to the DC Comics universe for 75 years.
And here’s the thing: The Amazons don’t have to be perfect. They were often presented as such over the decades, but there were lots of problems to explore. There’s a notion of superiority through purity at their core that’s not so cool when you dig into it, along with isolationism and disregard for the rest of the world. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with fleshing out the Amazons, adding some contrary opinions and attitudes and making them a less harmonious bunch. There’s lots to explore in lots of ways, but this complete 180 degree turn we’ve gotten from the New 52 that undoes EVERYTHING fundamental about the Amazons strikes me as the absolute wrong way to go about it. They could’ve easily made the Amazons more human, but instead they made them monsters, and all in the service of adding more men to the mix. It completely boggles my mind.
So yeah, this issue really bothered me. Plus, nothing happened; the story just inched along glacially. The last issue ended with the Amazons revving up to face the First Born, and so did this one. If the Amazons don’t actually fight the First Born at some point next month, I’m going to be annoyed. Or rather, more annoyed than I usually am when Azzarello writes the Amazons.