Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Wonder Woman 9, originally released May 16th, 2012.
Shelby: I love weddings. I love Greek mythology. I love comic books. I think I even love Brian Azzarello. Wonder Woman 9 has all of these things: therefore, I love it.
The issue opens with Strife sitting down with War to see if he wants to be her date to the big wedding. He declines, citing a one-wedding-per-person policy; he went to Hades first wedding, and that’s it. I guess Strife is going stag; she should have asked Lennox, because he is ready and rarin’ to go on a big rescue. Hermes opts out, because he has to keep Zola safe, which means the only way Lennox is getting into Hell is as Hephaestus’ date. Cute. In Hell, Diana is being tended by none other than Persephone, Hades’ first (current?) wife. Turns out, she tried to kill herself to get out of her eternal marriage, which didn’t work, because she’s married to the lord of the dead. Once Diana is dressed and looking AWESOME, she and her betrothed are riding their skinless horses down the aisle. Hades confesses a) He is incapable of love and b) He suspects that Diana is lying about loving him as part of a complicated plan to free Zola. He asks her if she would mind wearing her ring before the ceremony, to assuage his doubts, and she readily agrees. Turns out, the ring is a noose made out of her lasso; Wonder Woman must either truthfully confess her love, or hang.
This issue gives us lots of little vignettes as Azzarello moves all the players to their places for the conclusion of this pseudo arc. Don’t forget, we are currently looking for Zeus, this is just a little sidetrip. I am, of course, happiest with the idea that Diana is faking this whole love thing. Last issue, I was suspicious of The Smith for giving Diana Eros’ pistols, putting her in a position to get shot and forced to stay. Now I’m thinking the whole thing was planned from the beginning between the two of them. I can’t wait to see what sort of tricksy little gift he has crafted for her; I’m sure it’s something to help her escape, but I’m not so sure it’s a weapon. It’s got to be something more clever than that; Hades is a devious bastard, he’d see through something as obvious as a weapon.
I say it every time I write about this title, but the design of the characters is incredible. We meet some more members of the family in this issue, and I was the most impressed with Akins’ depiction of Aphrodite. She is nude, but forever out of panel: we see a hand here, a torso there. It’s a clever and elegant solution of the problem of drawing a character known for nudity and being the most beautiful creation in the world. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Hades on his horrifying, chained up, talking corpse throne.
At first, I thought this was Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire from the gods for man. He was chained to a rock for all eternity, and every day a giant eagle would eat his liver. BUT, when Hades called him “father,” I realized this is none other than Cronos himself. Cronos had a bad habit of eating his children, so when Zeus was born his mother gave Cronos a rock wrapped in a blanket to eat, and hid her son away. When Zeus was all growed up, he cut a hole in his daddy’s gut to let his brothers and sisters out, one of whom was Hades. Akins has done a horrifyingly terrific job of depicting the end result of that shit show.
And how about that wedding, eh?!? When I met Tony Akins at C2E2, he was awesome enough to give me a quick sneak peak of Wonder Woman’s wedding … dress?… and I gotta say it looks even more fantastic here.
Honestly, I could go on and on about this title. The more I think about it, the more I realize the interesting layers Azzarello is painting on these characters. Drew, what’s your take on this issue? Are you on pins and needles like I am to see how this wedding will end up?
Drew: It’s interesting; Patrick and I weren’t thrilled with Akins’ last contribution to this title, but this issue really plays to his strengths. His slightly cartoonier style lends a great deal of comedy to all of Strife’s scenes, and this is suspiciously the second issue introducing a bunch of wild character designs that he’s done. I don’t know if these designs are his or series regular Cliff Chiang’s, but it is odd that he keeps getting the issues where these characters are introduced. Shelby rightfully cited the design for Chronos and Diana’s wedding dress, but I also loved the Gorgons, hilariously cast as Diana’s beauticians (which you can see in the image Shelby included of Diana’s wedding dress). Obscuring Aphrodite strikes me as a little cheap, but then again, how would they draw her otherwise?
What I enjoyed most about this issue is the way it managed to turn its greatest weakness into a huge asset. Namely, that the lead character is a total cypher. This has been a small gripe in the past — the world around her is so rich that she doesn’t need to do much besides reflect it out — but it meant we never really knew what Diana was thinking. Part of this is her complicated relationship with her past (it’s clear she may not know how she feels about it herself), but it also comes from her role as reactor rather than pro-actor. Azzarello has given her more agency in the more recent issues, but it’s still impossible to tell what she’s thinking or feeling — which I think serves the cliffhanger incredibly well.
Is Diana faking? Is it possible to not love someone if you’ve been shot with Eros’ love bullet? Maybe if you’re a demigod? I have no idea, so I can’t wait for the next issue. There are other pieces to that puzzle — including, as Shelby pointed out, Hephestus’ wedding gift. He’s clearly on Diana’s side in all of this (which, why is that?), and he’s clearly a sneaky son of a bitch (Hera, right?), so we know it’s something but I have no idea what.
With all those mechanics in play, it’s easy to make the issue sound like simple piece-moving, but it’s also a solid, character-driven story. Azzarello has creates such a sad little kingdom for Hades, one that none of his family wants to visit, even for his wedding. That is, aside from Strife, who, let’s be honest, is the last person you want at your party. The only other folks in attendance — or even around him, period — are the souls of the dead, and a cannibalistic father he’s turned into a piece of furniture. It’s kind of understandable, then, why he would long for a little companionship, or why he would be so adamant about that companionship being genuine.
So…I almost wish Diana weren’t faking, which is otherwise a pretty grim prospect. Persephone puts a very fine point on that prospect, pointing out that Diana doesn’t even have the sweet release of death to look forward to. That brings up a rather odd question about death in Hell — what would actually happen to Diana if she were hung? I’m guessing that would mean she really couldn’t leave, but I have no idea. What happens to demigods when they die? I suppose we don’t need to know, and I really think a noose made out of the lasso of truth is a brilliant concept, so who cares? The point is, it wouldn’t be good if she were caught lying, even if we don’t fully understand the stakes. Next month is going to be fun.
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