Wonder Woman #22 was the definition of a setup issue. Not in a bad way, just in that its purpose was to take a breather from last issue’s huge fight, rearrange the pieces a bit, and get everything in place for next issue’s even bigger fight. And if you’re going to do an issue like that, setting most of it on a bombed out utopian planet is a pretty fun way to go. We’ll dig into the issue in a second, but first:
Everything that happened in this issue will soon be revealed!!
It will ruin EVERYTHING if you haven’t read it yet!!
Okay, back to the issue.
While Wonder Woman was on almost every page of this issue, a lovely change of pace from her recent tendency to only show up in half of her own series, this issue was really all about Orion. We learn a bit about his backstory, see him come into his own a bit, and ultimately it humanizes a character I haven’t particularly cared for so far.
Now, an issue focusing on Orion when we regularly get so little of Wonder Woman is sort of annoying. If you’re going to take an issue to pause and fill in a character a bit, maybe do that with your MAIN character. There are still tons of unanswered questions about the New 52 Wonder Woman and her past that I’d have much rather delved into. Maybe boom tube the gang to Paradise Island and Wonder Woman tells Zola about why she left, or talks more about her relationship with her mother. I feel like that would have been a better use of our time.
That being said, it was still a decent issue, partly because New Genesis is inherently cool and interesting and partly because I like how Wonder Woman was used in helping Orion grow.
Azzarello and Chiang have given us an unusual take on New Genesis, one that seems more raw from the scars of the war with Apokalips than we’ve seen before. The planet’s cities are destroyed and uninhabited, and instead the citizens of New Genesis live on a floating city in the sky ruled by an authoritarian Highfather. This militaristic regime is a far cry from the more laid back take on New Genesis we had pre-New 52, but there are also seeds of how it could mellow into the world we’re used to. Highfather may act like a dictator and be hard on Orion, but I think that there was a purpose to it, to encourage Orion to take his own path. He seemed pleased when Orion disobeyed and returned to Earth with Zeke and the gang, and with time I can see him mellowing into the more shaman warrior commune leader of his past incarnation.
My knowledge of the original New Gods isn’t great, but I do know that Orion was actually Darkseid’s son, traded at the end of the war as part of the peace pact. I can’t tell if the New 52 Orion is Darkseid’s son or not, but I suspect he is. He refers to himself as Highfather’s son, but doesn’t specify whether it’s biological or adopted. Certainly his angry face bore a strong resemblance to Darkseid, and the fact that he has these deep wells of fiery anger inside him seems to be another Apokaliptan connection. I would guess that either Orion doesn’t yet know that he’s actually Darkseid’s son, and that this might come up down the road to throw him for a loop, or he knows but he’s not telling Wonder Woman due to her past battles with Darkseid and the hordes of Apokalips, which also might come up down the road to throw her for a loop. Either way, it’s a cool story to pick up on later.
The design of New Genesis was great, with its futuristic sky city and lush wilderness below. Chiang captured the spirit of Kirby’s Fourth World while updating it for a new story and a modern audience, giving it a cohesive aesthetic. The sky city was clean and bright, while the destroyed cities were overgrown and haunting, particularly with the splash page of Orion meditating in the middle of a ruined metropolis. Matthew Wilson’s colours complimented Chiang’s designs beautifully, and the whole book had a great visual quality, including the return to a bombed out London.
Wonder Woman didn’t have a lot to do in this issue, and the book almost fell into a familiar rut, but I think Azzarello pulled it off this time. After being in a medically induced coma for three days, Wonder Woman broke out in a rather bad ass fashion and set about figuring out what’s what. Her conversation with Orion could have come off as clichéd; it was all about him accepting who he is, trying to be better instead of perfect, and how she believes in him and that he’ll do the right thing. This could have easily slipped into “I love everybody” territory like the quite lame finale to the Hades adventure, but I think it worked. Wonder Woman may not particularly like Orion at times, but she respects him for helping her and she understands his struggles. She better than anyone knows the difficulties inherent in being the ruler’s child.
Actually, the parallel goes further, thought it’s not acknowledged directly. Diana was always different on Paradise Island, teased for being made of clay but in fact the daughter of a detested deity. So too is Orion different, with his disfiguring anger issues while in fact he’s the son of their hated enemy. Diana and Orion have more in common than they realize, and I could see the series exploring that down the road.
Ultimately, when Highfather orders Orion to take Zeke and send Wonder Woman and the gang back to Earth, Orion disobeys and returns Zeke to Zola, going with them all to fight the First Born. This could be seen as yet another example of the man saving the day while Wonder Woman stands by, helpless, but clearly Orion’s actions sprang from his conversation with Wonder Woman. Because of her support, Orion was able to stand up to his father, so in the end she had a definite hand in saving the day. Wonder Woman works so much better when everyone is a team, working together and helping each other, than it does when Wonder Woman screws up and one of the guys sorts it out.
Now the big setup part: London is destroyed and the First Born is sitting on the throne at Westminster Abbey with a bunch of weird jackal men, fixing for a fight. Oh, and Lennox is dead, but I kind of doubt that he is. An off-panel demise seems a weak sendoff for someone who’s been a big part of the book. If Lennox is dead, then he went out pretty well, saving the gang last week, but I have a feeling he’ll be back. He’s got weird physiology; his head might pop back on like a Lego man or something.
So yeah, the big battle is next month! Wonder Woman, Orion, Hera, Ares, Zola, and Zeke against the First Born and his jackal minions! Apparently it’s going to have a crazy ending, because the solicits talk about a strange new direction for the series when it’s back in October after the Forever Evil villain month break. Where this issue was more a quiet character study, expect the complete opposite in August. It should be mayhem.