Drew: Fantasy is always going to have an exposition problem. It’s hard enough establishing who everyone is and what their motivations are elegantly without having to explain the rules of various magics or the politics between various races. This is especially true of myths, where the stories are often distilled down to their essence, such that any details (which could otherwise be written off as just adding color) bears obvious narrative significance, as if Chekov himself were pointing them out for you. Brian Azzarello manages to side-step this issue both by relying on pre-esstablished myths (voiding any need for exposition), and by mirthfully keeping us in the dark regarding much of those telling details.
The issue opens with Hades placing Diana’s head through a noose made of her own Lasso of Truth, desiring to test the validity of her declarations of love. We know Diana was shot with Eros’ Love Gun, so she should love Hades, but she’s also a demigod, so we don’t really know (plus, we’re really hoping she doesn’t, because ew). Diana confirms that she does love Hades, but objects to the idea of a marriage without trust, and makes a run for it. Hades throws up some obstacles, but Diana manages to meet-up with Lennox, Eros, and Hephaestus, who had come to break her out. She tells them — and Strife, who lends an uncharacteristically helpful hand — that this is her fight, not theirs.
She confronts Hades, explaining that, while she wasn’t technically lying when she told Hades she loved him, the whole truth is that she loves everyone. She also tells Hades no one can truly love him until he learns to love himself. Hades allows Diana to leave, dropping Eros’ guns, and accepting Hephaestus’ wedding gift. As they depart Hell, Diana muses that Hephaestus planned this from the start. Hephaestus demurs, but it would seem so; from their boat, Diana levels Eros’ gun and fires a shot across Hell, striking Hades — who had just opened Hephaestus’ gift — in the heart. The gift? A mirror.
We’ve talked a lot about the role of mythology in Wonder Woman, but this is the first time I’ve felt the story was a myth. Indeed, the story of how Hades learned to love himself feels at home among those depicting Athena’s birth or Pandora’s folly. It has all the makings of a classic myth, including that same reliance on magical rules that can make them so frustrating. What’s brilliant about Azzarello’s plotting is that nothing — even a literal gun — ever feels like Checkov’s gun. Sure, we suspected Hephaestus’ gift would play a role, but we never knew what that role might be until it had already done it.
Azzarello had already pulled the Oceans 11-style “everyone is in on the plan except the audience” trick before, but here it has the twist of being a plan only Hephaestus knew. The elegance of his plan, compared to Diana and Lennox’s relatively crude plan to blind Hera, reveals an understanding of the world that only seems fitting of a god. Hephaestus can be modest if he wants, but that plan started back when he handed Eros’ guns to Diana (even though she didn’t really have any use for them). It’s a brilliant plan, and the fact that we don’t see it until it’s too late is an important story element, rather than a cheap narrative trick for goosing excitement.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this issue is the chase sequence with Diana still wearing the Lasso. I commented last month on how hard it is to read Diana. That was a huge asset for that issue, but could otherwise be a pretty big problem for the title moving forward. Giving her a sequence where she had to be telling the truth was refreshing, and made for some great banter.
The art here is fascinating, as Hades bends Hell Inception-style to prevent Diana from escaping. The fact that everything in Hell is made of souls makes for some very striking and bizarre images, from walls made of bodies to this skinless giant:
That giant is Hades, but is also made up of souls, which oddly makes a lot of sense in the context of the story. Believe it or not, things actually get gorier from there, as Hades attempts to swallow Diana, and Stirfe responds by PUNCHING HIM THROUGH THE HEAD.
Art duties here are split between Kano and the team of Tony Akins and Dan Green, and while the book is delineated quite clearly between the two sections by a change in color palette, the transition between them couldn’t be more seamless. Kano matches Akins’ style almost perfectly, and while both deliver expressive faces and action that is paradoxically both clear and insane, I can’t help but miss Cliff Chiang’s dynamism. That said, the closing page is essentially perfect, elevated by Azzarello’s closing line about Diana’s aim.
I couldn’t help but hum “Alison” when I red that last line, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sum-up the issue brilliantly. Pair that with the clever heart-flare from the bullet impact, and you’ve got a powerful close to our three-issue detour into Hell. A conclusion like that makes for a great opportunity to add another voice to the mix. With that in mind, it’s my pleasure to introduce guest-writer Siri Hellerman, who you’ll recongnize as the narrator of our Cram Session videos. Siri, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this issue, this arc, and this title in general.
Siri: I gotta be honest: the first thing I noticed about this issue was Wonder Woman’s outfit. I know, I know…I’m superficial. Whatever. The point is, she looks way hot. Her hair? Flawless. Her makeup? Gorgeous. That military-esque jacket and long flowing skirt? To die for.
Seriously though, who chose this outfit? Wonder Woman is basically an A-list celebrity, so it would make sense that she has the same stylist as Lady Gaga, right? They’re both SuperHeroDemiGods, and they both look as good in metal underwear as they do in Alexander McQueen. (There’s also probably a Constantly-Surrounded-By-Gay-Men joke in there somewhere, but I don’t actually know enough about the supposed sexuality of any of these characters to make such claims.) Point is, after this whole Hell Debacle is over, Wonder Woman needs to invest in more pointy-shouldered capes and give her stylist a raise.
Ms. Woman’s wedding attire is so stunning, it’s a shame she’s getting married to creepy candle-face Hades. I have to admit that when I first saw him I thought the melted wax covering his eyes was actually vanilla frosting. I say that not to disparage any of the art work, but more to express how childlike Hades looks to me. He’s small, and always has a sweet look on his face, even when he’s being evil.
Despite his huge ugly snake-haired henchmen and awful ghost-filled dungeon, he never really seemed like a huge threat. A kid with frosting all over their face can’t possibly defeat the great Wonder Woman, right? Right. I do end up feeling sad for him by the end, if only because he’s by himself. A kid sitting alone opening his only wedding-day present? That’s just depressing.
I completely agree with Drew that the issue really feels like an ancient myth. For me, this story has an interesting parallel to Theseus and the Minotaur. According to legend, Theseus braves his way into the Minotaur’s cave so he can kill the monster and impress everyone. In order to find his way out, Theseus strings a golden thread through the complicated labyrinth. The similarities are pretty obvious: the hero, the monster/ devil, the golden thread/lasso, the obstacles to get out of hell. Just another example of one myth being almost like every other one—once we’re in Myth Land, it’s very clear.
I’ll freely admit that I didn’t expect to like Wonder Woman as much as I did. It’s not just the pretty clothes that did it. I know this is true of most sophisticated comics, but I find myself constantly surprised by the intricate plots, beautiful art work, and just how much information can be contained in one single frame.
Siri Hellerman lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and genius kitten Penelope. She has her MFA in Acting, which means she does odd jobs and hopes that someday someone will pay her to do something cool. Siri loves to talk about things she knows little to nothing about, which is why writing about comics is so appealing.
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