Wonder Woman #35 Review OR The End Of An Era


I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a comic than when DC announced that Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang would be relaunching Wonder Woman. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news, how I flipped out in a public place and drew a lot of odd looks, and how I called my best friend to celebrate with someone comicly inclined who would understand the awesomeness of the day. I was a huge fan of Azzarello’s work on books like 100 Bullets and Loveless, as well the only guy I know who loved Superman: For Tomorrow, and I’d been following Cliff Chiang’s work for years; he was one of the few artists whose work I always bought no matter my interest in the book as a whole. I have a stack of Cliff Chiang comics starring characters I don’t give a hoot about, but I love the comics because they are GORGEOUS.

Now, more than three years later, their run on Wonder Woman is drawing to a close. It’s had its ups and downs, to be sure. I’m still not over the changes to the Amazons, and their portrayal of Diana was a bit all over the map. But when their Wonder Woman was good, which it was quite often, it was one of the best comics on the stands and portrayed a powerful and compassionate version of the character. Today, with their final issue, Azzarello and Chiang have finished strong, presenting a fantastic showcase for Wonder Woman and the wider cast they’ve built around her. But before we talk about that, first this:


I am going to spoil not just this issue, but the ENTIRE run!

Go read it all first!

Don’t rob yourself of a good story and spectacular art!

Carrying on, let me start with a bit of self-congratulating. I called the Zola is Athena thing when I reviewed the last issue, as well as the Zeke/Zeus connection. So high fives all around for that!

Onto the book itself. This issue picks up where the last one left off, with Wonder Woman and her pals facing Poseidon on Olympus. Then things went sideways when the First Born showed up, and it looked like some of the team were going to meet a bad end. But, of course, the good guys won. It’s superhero comic; that was sort of a given. How they won, however, speaks to the strength of Azzarello and Chiang’s run.

Over the last few years, I’ve often commented on the lack of Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman. On average, she was lucky to be on half of the pages of her own book. But for this finale, Azzarello and Chiang had Wonder Woman take center stage and show her true heroism. She was on every single page of this final issue, driving the action and bringing the First Born’s reign to an end.

When all was lost and it looked like the heroes would be defeated, Wonder Woman was spared because the minotaur couldn’t kill her. He remembered what she did when he was in the same circumstances in Wonder Woman #0, subdued and about to be killed. The young Diana couldn’t kill the minotaur and now, years later, because of that act of compassion, the minotaur refused to kill her. After three years of Wonder Woman’s compassion routinely biting her square in the ass, that it finally paid off for her when it mattered most was a nice, triumphant moment.

It also allowed Wonder Woman to regroup, and defeat the First Born. She took off her bracelets and went full on god mode, and could have killed him. Hermes was certainly cheering for that when he told her to show no mercy. But mercy and compassion are her core. She tricked the First Born; Wonder Woman is clever as well. But instead of killing him, she sent him back down into the pit from whence he came to stay for another few thousand years. The act appeared to not be about malice or punishment, but rather about her belief that the First Born could, with time, learn to love and trust others. Despite all of his evil actions, she refused to see him as a lost cause.

Finally, Wonder Woman convinced Athena to save Zola, who she was set to discard as she returned to her divine form. Athena had been living as Zola, unknowingly, for twenty years, a pittance compared to the lifespan of a god, but Diana convinced her that her time as Zola was valuable and that Zola should live on, to help Zeke/Zeus and also to help others. I’m particularly glad for this turn of events, because Zola is one of the best new characters to come out of this run.

As a comic book, this final issue was well balance and paced. The action was a lot of fun, and the fights were great, but there was a lot more going on than a typical superhero beat ’em up as Wonder Woman’s compassion ultimately saved the day. Azzarello wrote great moments for all of his now fan favourite characters, and finished with a surprisingly happy yet fitting ending for his darker take on Wonder Woman’s universe.

The issue was beautifully drawn as always by Cliff Chiang, who captured the emotion of each beat perfectly. I don’t think that any other comic book artist communicates feeling and mood as well as Cliff Chiang, and definitely not as deftly and subtly. Plus, he can draw the hell out of a fight scene too. The man is incomparable, and I’m so sad to see him leave the title.

Matthew Wilson’s colours were gorgeous, which is not a surprise given the stellar work he’s done on this series. He always knows how to find the exact right palette for an issue, and then punctuate it fun ways to really drive home the key moments. This issue, I was particularly taken with how he coloured Wonder Woman, Zola, and Zeke as the dawn hit them on the second last page. Such lovely work.

Jared K. Fletcher’s lettering continued to achieve the key goal of lettering: To blend in so well with the art that you don’t even really notice it’s there. His work has been seamless from the first issue on, telling the story effectively while showcasing the artwork as well. Being a letterer isn’t the flashiest of jobs, but good lettering goes a long way and Fletcher has done some fantastic work on Wonder Woman over the past few years.

So the First Born is vanquished, the Amazons are back, and Wonder Woman and all her pals made it out alive. This issue is not only the end of this epic storyline, but also the end of an era. Largely due to Azzarello and Chiang’s star power, the series has been incredibly self-contained and avoided the wider world of the DC universe, specifically Wonder Woman’s foolish romance with Superman. From what we’ve seen of the Finches’ first issue set to debut next month, this separation is over and Wonder Woman will now be much more integrated with the rest of DC’s titles. Wonder Woman hasn’t received the best treatment in the New 52, so her autonomy in her own series was a nice respite. I suppose we’ll still have Sensation Comics, at least.

My congratulations to Azzarello, Chiang, and the whole Wonder Woman team for this great finale! While the run has had rough moments, I think that in the end there was a lot more good than bad and, as a whole, it will go down as one of the better runs in the history of the character.

Published by Tim Hanley

Tim Hanley is a comic book historian and the author of Wonder Woman Unbound, Investigating Lois Lane, The Many Lives of Catwoman, and Betty and Veronica: The Leading Ladies of Riverdale.

17 thoughts on “Wonder Woman #35 Review OR The End Of An Era

  1. I also enjoyed Superman: For Tomorrow! So you definitely not alone on that.

    While enjoyed the entire run as well as this issue I don’t see how the 1st born is suppose to learn about Compassion, love and mercy after Diana throws him into the pit. Just feel like we could be right back here in the next 1000 years when he is free again

    1. Nice! There’s two of us!

      My thinking is that the First Born might realize that Wonder Woman could have rightfully killed him and she didn’t, and that compassion might change him some.

  2. It’ll be a while before I can forgive what was done to the Amazons and read the entire run, but that does sound like such a great ending, and as much as I really disliked how the Amazons were portrayed, I’m pretty nervous about what the Finches will now do. I hope they surprise me, or that they only do an arc or two before a more seasoned team can take over.

    1. I hear you about the Amazon thing. It still upsets me. But setting that aside, it was a very strong ending to the run. I’m also nervous about the Finches, and totally with you on hoping they aren’t around for too long.

  3. What do you think about Athena showing up as a owl Goddess in Secret Origins, as an owl in issue #0 and never being missed by the other gods all this time, if she was supposedly born as Zola for some twenty years? I loved this issue, but along with how Hippolyta couldn’t be transformed back, this is bugging me. The Secret Origins issue is too close to this one to be a continuity error, passing through Chiang, Sudzuka, Matt Wilson, Jared Flecther and the editors, right? All I can think is that Athena could transform into herself, Zola not being exactly a vessel. At the end, if Diana didn’t beg for Athena to keep Zola, maybe she would just full transform into herself. Instead, she turned into an owl, and left Zola.

    1. Oh, good catch. The continuity there is pretty wonky unless, as you say, Athena could pop away from Zola every now and again. Or like, project a form of herself or some such.

  4. Random comments (with spoilers):

    1. Poseidon is a major wimp. He receives the equivalent of a black eye and then just like the 5th little piggy cries “wee wee wee all the way home”. I expected much more of a fight for the throne from the “God” of the sea.

    2. Something that I may be mis-interpreting: On page 6 of the story, Diana is down but looks up at the Minotaur and is well aware that she is about to get hit again. But she appears (at least to me) to let herself get knocked out. I mean, the Minotaur is no match for her. The fact that he bested her makes no sense and is quite frankly, insulting to WW as a member of the trinity. A teenage Diana kicked his ass in the zero issue. Why would adult Diana have any problem? UNLESS she deliberately let herself get knocked out. To put it another way, Diana “submitted” to the minotaur….. which ties in to her final comments to the First Born as she threw him into the abyss “Submission is faith in the strength of others.”

    On the other hand, if this is true, it shows stupid tactics on Diana’s part as it exposed her to the danger of being killed outright by the Firstborn during her unconsciousness, as there was no way that she could precisely predict the length of her incapacity following the Minotaurs blow.

    3. Upon subsequent readings, I think my point above is more likely wrong. The truth is that Diana got her ass kicked by the Minotaur. Which sucks. And while I can appreciate the connection to a past moment of compassion on Diana’s part in sparing the Minotaurs life, the fanboy in me hates it. WW lost. Period. And it is simply impossible to believe that having been so easily dispatched by the Minotaur that she could last more than a second with the First Born.

    4. And exactly how does Diana think that removing her gauntlets and shoes will improve her chances against First born? My first thought was that the blow from the Minotaur gave her brain damage. Her comments accompanying her actions were painfully cliche and literally meaningless. I mean really, “I need only be myself” ???? Why is it we see these types of awful meta-self commentaries (more) in WW than any other comic? When was the last time we read Batman scream “I am the son of Thomas and Martha. I am the Night. I am the harbinger of fright and fear into the Cowardly lots of men. I am Batman. But I need only be myself!”

    By the gods! WW is FAR TOO SELF-REFERENTIAL. Get over yourself Diana. Just get the job done. And for future reference, you can leave all your clothes on in battle. Really. But if you are going to strip, at least go all the way. 🙂

    5. Congrats on the accurate guessing of who Athena and Zeke really were Mr. Hanley 🙂 Good catch.

    6. I am compelled to bring up another cliche; namely the : throwing- the-bad-guy-into-a-giant-hole-and-thinking-he-won’t-come-back-plan. It has NEVER worked.

    7. So Athena was born 20 years ago as the mortal Zola. But also separate from Zola. Zola is but a human vessel. Zeus, screws Zola (who is really Athena) to give birth to another version of himself? But how was the re-birth of Athena facilitated in Zola? Who is Zola’s father? And who is Zola’s mother? How did Athena come to be part of Zola? Is this explained in another issue and I forget?

    8. If Zola is a mere vessel for Athena that Athena can discard at any time, why doesn’t Zeus discard the infant vessel of Zeke now that he is reborn? What’s the point of staying in the body of an infant? If Zeus desired to be “different” as Athena speculates, choosing to remain in an infant body would certainly fit the bill. But surely the other Gods will not accept an infant on the throne of Olympus. Zeus is far too vulnerable to be placed on the throne at this stage. Athena is competent but not a long term effective protector. And….

    9. I wonder how Zola will react she is told that she is nothing but a sex tool of Athena and Zeus’ incestuous plan to provide further nuances to the gene pool of the Greek gods. Will the next writing team even address the questions raised by this 3 year story?

    10. I personally hope that young Zeus grows into a teenager quickly and then team ups with Damian (once he is officially back among the living). That would make for an interesting and amusing adventure 🙂
    11. Love the final page.

    1. Did you read the whole story? Removing her bracers unshackles her might whereas removing her shoes is a thing that Gods do so it basically means that she finally accepted the mantle of War Goddess.

      1. Thanks for the reply Popper. At the risk of sounding foolish, I did indeed read the whole story. More than once. However, I do not see how removing her bracers “unshackles her might”. So Diana is more powerful without bracelets? I seem to recall old WW stories where she could be subdued by merely being handcuffed, but I was not aware that wearing bracers caged her full power/might. If this is true, why on earth would she wear them?
        I will have to re-read some past issues. I thought that the bracers were created by Haephastus (spelling?) to provide further protection in battle and also transform into swords. It is for this reason that her removing them in the heat of battle confused me.
        And I am not sure if you are being facetious when you say that “removing her shoes is a thing that gods do”. But then when I reflect back on it, the portrayal of most of the gods in Azarello’s run never wear shoes. I never actually noticed that until you mentioned it. Poseidon is a fish so footwear is moot. Athena is a giant owl and footwear is pointless. Strife is always barefoot but she is not a god. Ares and Apollo? Hm.

        Three years of following this story and the stuff I miss.

        Thanks for the enlightenment.

      2. Replying to the Anonymous above (I can’t reply directly).

        “So Diana is more powerful without bracelets? I seem to recall old WW stories where she could be subdued by merely being handcuffed, but I was not aware that wearing bracers caged her full power/might. If this is true, why on earth would she wear them?”

        She would lost her control and go berserk, not holding back. It is kinda different now, as she indeed goes more powerful (she had to use Artemis’ own power to defeat her when in normal state, but easily defeated her in god-mode), but she also goes into rage.

        This was first introduced by Marston and later reused by Kanigher.

  5. Great analysis, as always. I was looking forward to reading your thoughts on the grand finale. Like yourself, while I certainly did not find the past three years to be perfect, and at times felt it was rather uneven, on the whole I was happy. I would have to say that I liked 85% to 90% of what Azzarello & Chang did on the Wonder Woman series.

    Reading over your review, as well as others online, it seems like I was practically the only one to not figure out ahead of time that Zola was Athena and Zeke was Zeus!

    By the way, here’s a link to my own review. Let me know what you think…


    1. Great review, Ben! This was certainly an interesting run because while I can absolutely understand why readers got frustrated with it, particularly the treatment of the Amazons, I think that in the end there was a lot more good than bad and that what was glaringly bad was compartmentalized in one corner of the mythos. Ultimately, I’m sorry to see Azzarello and Chiang go, and a little worried about what’s next!

  6. First it was a good catch about Athena, as for the rest of the comic, the best thing about this issue is that finally Azzarello’s time as WW writer is OVER.

    Did he come up with neat stuff, most certainly.

    Whatever he did that was good was completely overwhelmed by his utter lack of consistency, follow through or explanation for things that happened in the stories he told.

    The last one that is typical throughout his run is the absurdity of a a teenage NON-divine teenage wonder woman being able to defeat the minotaur, but the adult God of War WW was beaten senseless by the same monitor centuries aged.

    Her cuffs released her power originally, because they were a duplicitous gift of Artemis meant to prevent her from using her full might against Artemis should they ever come to fight each other.

    That they’d shackler her might against the first born is utterly illogical and irrational even by comic book standards.

    The whole fight sequence is ludicrous.

    Wonder Woman gets beaten by the Minotaur, who is then all to easily killed by the first born, who then in turn is easily defeated despite still owning the title of rule of Olympus by Wonder Woman.

    Since when was the god of war ever that powerful, and why did she allow herself to be to totally humiliated in all their other encounters.

    Indeed I think you appreciate his star power a bit too much. 😉

    Azzarello’s contempt for the reader comes out loud and clear when he explains that with the panel where she says all she has to be is herself to beat the first born and current ruler of Olympus. Oh really!

    I can just hear Azzarello farting that one out and writing it down laughing out loud at how his fans will overlook all the gaping holes in this stories.

    All in all it may not be the worst I’ve ever seen in a comic, but Azzarello’s run is far far from the best.

    Most of what he dreamed up will be quickly ignored then forgotten and eventually retconned out of existence. .

    Only her becoming the god of war and how he and Chang drew the Olympians will have staying power.

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