Shelby: Let me explain: I have loved Greek mythology since I was just a young lass. I picked up a copy of Jason and the Argonauts from my middle school library many, many years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I think what is most appealing to me about the Greek gods and goddesses is their human failings. They toe the line between being the source of human characteristics, to just being overly emphasized caricatures. They’re silly, stupid, petty, jealous, vain: they fall for the same tricks and make the same mistakes as all us regular folk. In this way, the gods of Greece are the great lessons for what to do and what not to do; their “nobody’s perfect” depiction makes them relatable. Wonder Woman continues in this vein, much to my delight.
Issue 5 left Lennox with Hades, Wonder Woman with Poseidon, Zola on a bridge, and Hera mad as hell. This month we start back up with Wonder Woman telling Poseidon more of Hera’s plan to rule the heavens in Zeus’ absence. And when I say “telling,” I actually mean “fighting for her life because Poseidon is pretty pissed about the whole thing.” Lennox, on the other hand, is having a far more mysterious conversation with the enigmatic Hades. As Wonder Woman continues to explainfight with Poseidon, she notices the centaur assassins from Issue 1 are closing on Zola. Oops! Quick bloody fight, and WW grabs Zola and hops back down to Poseidon as Lennox emerges with Hades. Finally we hear the details of the proposed bargain: Poseidon rules the heavens by day, and Hades rules by night. The boys think that’s pretty fucking funny, and that’s when Hera shows up, kind of pissy. Suddenly we get some magic! WW combines Hermes’ staff with a candle yanked from Hades’ head, and Hera is transported back to her throne room, and apparently blinded? Poseidon thinks the exchange is kind of funny, but Hades storms off in a tiff (probably because he lost part of his hat). Zola is lured to the cave entrance by the oldest trick in the book (apparition of a long-lost parent), Hades grabs her, and tells WW that he was serious about that heaven bargain, and will kill Zola and the child if he doesn’t get what he wants.
I’ll admit, my first read thru this story, I wasn’t especially impressed. There was some good action, but I felt like the story was kind of clunky; I just wasn’t sold on it. For me, the biggest draw of this title is the literal pantheon of characters, and to not meet anyone new was a little disappointing. But, on a second read, the story grew on me, and it was due completely to the character development of Hades and Poseidon. We’ve got two very different characters here; Poseidon is obviously larger than life, and I don’t just mean in size. He’s kind of a hot head (You’d think that would be Hades! Zing!), and rather crass. That’s not to say he’s just some sort of loudmouthed idiot, far from it; he’s just very passionate. Hades, on the other hand, is cold and calculating. He doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor, either.
As I said earlier, I’ve always loved the personification of the gods in Greek literature, and Azzarello has continued that tradition. Any time an author can make a god into an understandable and relatable character, I think he has done something right. Poseidon is crotchety and loud, and Hades is rather petulant and capable of very dangerous tantrums. I also think that both Akins and Chiang before him have greatly complimented Azzarello’s words with their visual depictions of the gods. We’ve got Hades, god of the underworld, of darkness, wreathed in light. Remember Aries, shown not as a fiery young man with war in his blood, but a barefoot and tired old man with blood-stained cuffs. Poseidon is the only god we’ve seen so far without some sort of human characteristic, but I think that makes sense for the god of the sea. Especially a god of the sea who seems to give less of a shit about humanity than his counterparts.
I also think Akins does a great job depicting action sequences. He varies the panels size and placement on the page to create a very striking and dynamic scene. The layout on its own is very visually striking, and while the more cartoony style isn’t my most favorite, Akins has a great eye for detail that really sucks you into the story. My favorite series of panels is from the fight scene on the bridge between Wonder Woman and the centaurs. Zola is hiding under a car, and you get her claustrophobic, half-view of the scene as Wonder Woman does something horrible.
We, like Zola, don’t know what’s going on out there, except that it’s awful and probably awesome. Overall, I continue to be pleased with this title. There’s enough action to keep things interesting and a central mystery intriguing enough to keep me coming back. I am dying to meet more of the gods and things, and I’d like to learn more about Lennox. We’ve kind of taken his word at his lineage, and while I don’t think he’s lying per se, I think there is definitely more to him than meets the eye. I mean, what’s his motive for helping out? My current theory: one of the gods, maybe even one we don’t know yet, is paying Lennox to find Zeus, so Lennox figured throwing in with Wonder Woman and her crew was the best way to achieve that.
Drew: I don’t think Lennox and Wonder Woman’s ploy literally blinded Hera — it just broke her magic viewing pool. Apparently, you need some first generation god magic to do such a thing, hence the nabbing of one of Hades’s head candles. Hermes’s staff just transported Wonder Woman there, where she dropped the candle into the pool. Hera rushes back, but not in time to stop her magic pool from turning into a useless floor mirror.
The action — and more importantly, the sense of cause and effect — is a little unclear in this sequence, and requires the knowledge (or in my case, assumption) that one of Hades’s head candles is necessary to ruin Hera’s pool. In the end, it’s a clever plan — one that works well to protect Zola from Hera — but I had to read through it three or four times to figure out just what was going on. It’s also not clear how they managed to formulate this plan without Hera’s knowledge. We weren’t privy to the laying out of the plan (which I’m not complaining about), but I have to imagine Hera would have been able to see it, what with her still having the magic pool and all. Maybe Strife came back to Olympus and was distracting her.
Anyway, while that action was fun, I’m more partial to the first half of the story, which pits Wonder Woman and Lennox against Hades and Poseidon’s patriarchal sensibilities. Put another way, Wonder Woman is battling sexism this issue, which is way more fun than it sounds. I suppose it’s understandable that, being as old as time, the gods might have less than progressive views when it comes to gender, but Poseidon says some out-and-out sexist stuff. His planned solution to Hera’s objection? To “have her kneel, just as Zeus did,” and when pressed, “without a king, the queen has nothing!” For his part, Hades isn’t much better, and the two share a laugh over the idea of “Hera retaining her position, but under two kings.”
Hera isn’t much better, showing up with bombastic storms, representing the fury “of a woman scorned,” as Hippolyta observed in issue 4. Her power is largely reactive, and much of it is centered around the actions of her husband. Even her most autonomous actions — killing her husband’s mistresses and their love children — is centered around her relationship to a man. Strong as Hera may be, she isn’t exactly the picture of an empowered woman.
It’s a good thing we have Wonder Woman, then. What’s intriguing about Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is that she doesn’t assert her equality by being as strong as the men around her, but by possessing a different skill-set. Azzarello exaggerates the physical differences between men and women by pitting Diana not just against a male, but a gigantic, grotesque male. Physically, she’s completely outmatched — the bad news for Poseidon is that size and strength are not all that matters. Diana is able to outthink the men, and ultimately manipulate them precisely because they underestimate her. It’s a bold characterization, and one that elevates Wonder Woman beyond her “what if a woman were stronger than a man?” roots, and asks the much more practical “how is a women able to beat a man in spite of their physical differences?”
All that isn’t to say Wonder Woman isn’t also a total badass this issue. Shelby already showed one of the best sequences in the issue — where Diana does something off-screen to the centaur, resulting in buckets of blood — so I’ll have to settle for the panel immediately following it, where Wonder Woman lifts a truck effortlessly. Sure, the image of somebody hoisting a car over their head may belong to that other DC superhero, but let me ask you this: did Superman ever lift a car when he was covered up to his elbows in centaur blood? I think this round goes to Wonder Woman.
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?