Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Wonder Woman 8, originally released April 18th, 2012.
Patrick: Last month, we were promised a trip to Hell. Given all the characters in-play in Wonder Woman, I foolishly assumed we’d get something of an Orpheus story. But that assumption proved too narrow and too literal: Brian Azzarello may have been given license to explicitly alter the Wonder Woman mythos, but he takes the same liberties with Greek mythology. The result is a trippy adventure through the underworld that is recognizably epic (in both the traditional and modern sense of the word) and wholly, boldly new.
Before heading down to Hell, Diana helps herself to Hephaestus’ armory. She’s decked out with a shield, multiple blades, a whole suit of armor – but Hephaestus insists that she also take Eros’ pair of golden pistols. Before Eros can articulate an objection, Hermes spirits himself and Diana away to Hell. But this isn’t a Hell of fire and brimstone, it’s all cobbled together from pieces of Diana’s recent history – the first area is made to resemble London. Hades obviously expected the visit. Taking a page from Satre, Hell is literally made from the souls of other people, and the statues and streets come alive to attack our heroes. Wonder Woman and Hermes quickly dispatch of their soul-foes, and find themselves out in front of Zola’s cabin. Complete with Zola.
Only… something’s happened and Zola is several months pregnanter than she was when we last saw her. Wonder Woman is surprised by this, but Hermes plays it cool: verifying to Zola that it certainly has been a long time. Hades emerges from the fireplace and raises an army of souls to surround our trio. Hades makes a strange offer: trade Eros’ pistols for Zola’s life. Wonder Woman had basically forgotten that she still had those things (despite the action shot on the cover, she never actually uses the guns) and hands them over without a second thought. But she totally should have given it a second thought because Hades draws down and fires on Diana — ripping through her bullet-proof bracelets — and nailing her right in the chest.
Let’s start right there: Wonder Woman shot in the chest with one of Eros’ bullets. Those bullets don’t kill people, they make them love. So when Wonder Woman comes to, she’ll be made to marry Hades, and he will have the queen he’s always wanted. But what’s the nature of those magic bullets? Will she still be Wonder Woman, just an in-love version of Wonder Woman? Will she be totally brainwashed? Is it more of a technicality sort-of-thing and she won’t actually love him, but has to “honor and obey” him anyway? I’m going to point out that there’s maybe some marriage-as-socially-accepted-enslavement-of-women statement being made here. But that may well be thematic ground for the next issue, so I’ll stop right after pointing it out. This is me stopping.
I absolutely love this vision of Hell. There are so many interesting little philosophical ideas at play that you can forgive the characters for waxing poetic on the nature of life’s brevity and the desire to be. In fact, for as weighty and abstract as the discussion is, it all feels very natural. Wonder Woman asks the sort of questions I would ask when we learn the streets are made of the dead: “Do they like it?” and “How could they possibly like being a street?”
It may not come to anything. I suspect that the nature of Hell and the role those poor souls play in making it up won’t be explored much further in future issues. Just like Azzarello’s controversial addition to the Amazon mythology last month, this feels like a one-off detail that enriches the already-dynamic world of Wonder Woman. It’s remarkable just how varied and huge this character’s world is. When I hold this world up to those created in the other titles we’re reading, Wonder Woman’s seems Tolkienesque by comparison. The only superhero world that feels nearly this fleshed out is Gotham – but that’s largely because like a billion books take place there.
Cliff Chiang’s gritty artwork goes a long way to selling this particular corner of the universe. I always love his angular-yet-sketchy style, but I find it serves these skinless-man-monsters particularly well. He’s also great at creating tension with his layouts. Especially early in the issue, the panels alternately depict the city coming alive and our oblivious heroes exploring; it feels like a horror movie. But, you know, a good one.
Also, we got some really rocking action this month – probably the best since Diana ripped that centaur in half. I don’t know: it just all worked for me. I know there have been a few issues lately that didn’t quite blow us away. But I feel like I’m comfortable naming this among my favorites of the New 52 again. Wonder Woman is really playing a long-form game at this point, as resolution on the “Where is Zeus?” story seems like it’s nowhere in sight. And as long as the individual episodes between this point and that far-off conclusion are as engaging and inventive as this, I’ll keep singing its praises.
How are you feeling Shelby? You enjoy the thematic ponderings or did you find it pedantic? How about the pace? Do you care that we seem miles away from wrapping up this adventure? Also: how about the heart-shaped flare that comes of the the muzzle of Eros’ pistol when fired? You love that bit, right?
Shelby: Of COURSE I loved the heart-shaped flares. Duh and or hello. As far as any sort of conclusion to this arc, I don’t care in the least that we are no where near the end, because I love what’s going on. I almost forgot about the whole, pesky, “where is zeus?” issue.
You were wrong about the mythology being referenced here. Wonder Woman isn’t Orpheus; Wonder Woman is Persephone. Let’s remember back to Heroes and Athletes of Ancient Greece: Persephone was kidnapped by Hades to be his queen. Demeter, her mother and goddess of the earth and harvest, was so despaired by her daughter’s disappearance that she neglected the earth and nothing would grow. Finally, when Zeus saw what was happening, he told Hades he had to return Persephone to her mother. BUT, Hades, that tricky bastard, had conned Persephone into eating 3 pomegranate seeds. Rules is rules: if you eat or drink anything in the Underworld, you have to stay. Everyone reached a compromise. Persephone would stay for 3 months out of the year, one for each seed, and during that time nothing would grow because Demeter was so bummed out. That’s why we have winter. I gotta say, Azzarello’s interpretation of the pantheon and their mythologies is very clever; he’s taking these very old stories and manipulating them just enough to make them accessible and relevant to a contemporary audience without damaging their core.
Chiang has, once again, blown me away with his art. I love the streets of the dead, and that panel of the skinless horse, with the gore dripping from his muzzle? Shut up, that’s awesome. The only philosophical comparison I’ll make is to Dante; in his hell, suicides are turned into trees which are then torn apart by Harpies. It’s an interesting comparison between this and Hermes’ discussion of the free will of the souls to be transformed into Hades’ world.
What’s to come? I’m hoping for some sweet, “Stop that wedding!” action. I may or may not have gotten a super sneak peak of some art of wedding preparations when I talked to Tony Akins at C2E2. It may or may not have been totally and completely awesome. Oh, plus, a wedding means WE GET TO MEET THE REST OF THE FAMILY. The design and depiction of the gods has always been my favorite aspect of this title, I can’t wait. We still have to meet Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena (although, Diana has always been rather Athena-like herself), Demeter, Dionysius… I’m excited.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?