Today, Taylor and Scott are discussing Wonder Woman 13, originally released October 17th, 2012.
Taylor: Continuity is a something I appreciate. I enjoy waking up in the morning having a fairly good sense of who I am, where I am, what I’ve been doing and what I need to do during the coming day. I also appreciate continuity in its more mundane and nuanced forms; I appreciate the fact that I can expect my coffee to taste a certain way and even that I can expect the people I know to behave and think in a similar to fashion to that of the day before. Most days I can appreciate the regularity of the subway that takes me to work every morning, but as happens every so often (or more often than not lately), that continuity and expectation of service is broken. Whether it’s an equipment malfunction, signal failures, or a sick passenger, the Red Line of the CTA has a knack for failing to deliver on its promised, regular service that drives me to absolute madness. Maybe I appreciate regularity more than the normal person, but I think most people can appreciate a certain amount of continuity in their life, whether it’s in their daily commute or their comic books. Wonder Woman is a title that garners a fair amount of its strength from consistency, which by no means is a bad thing.
Issue 13 opens right where Issue 12 left off, with the birth of a New God, Orion. A team of mysterious researchers await Orion’s early arrival in Antarctica and one has the unlucky business of getting his head bitten off by the feisty god, who claims he needs help from no one. Meanwhile, atop his “throne,” Apollo gathers all of Zeus’s children (those who are 100% god at least) with the exception of Athena to discuss the issue of Wonder Woman and her disturbing amount of power. He also informs his fellow gods that the oracle has told him that a war is coming and that a child of Zeus will kill them all and seize control of the throne. In London Diana and Lennox are busy licking their wounds from battle and also figuring out what they must do next to find Zola’s child. Lennox suggests to Diana that she seek out Siracca, one of the five remaining demigods spawned by Zeus in the 20th century, to help her locate the child. Diana travels to Libya in search of this demigod and after scarring some militiamen finds a scared child in a giant vase. This girl turns out to be Siracca who wanting to either trick or test Diana, unleashes an attack on our hero.
Given the fantastic events of the twelfth issue of Wonder Woman it was pretty easy to guess that issue thirteen would deal with the aftermath of these developments. However, while there is always a calm after the storm, there are also broken tree limbs to be picked up and puddles to be avoided. Tidying up must be done and the next step must be watched. Wonder Woman 13 does both of these quite well, something made all the more impressive given that the momentum of this particular story arch was interrupted by the 0 Issue event. This is where my appreciation of continuity was really satisfied. While the 0 Issue of Wonder Woman could have merely been a random blip on the radar, Brain Azzerello avoided this by crafting a narrative that hangs together regardless of when you read the 0 issue. I first picked up Wonder Woman during the 0 Issue event and proceeded to read from there up to the current issue. While reading Wonder Woman in this way certainly makes sense given that we follow Diana’s life from her youth to the present, I can also see how reading the 0 issue as a flashback would be worthwhile as it helps to give a sense of why Diana acts the way she does.
In both cases, attention to detail and consistent story telling are something the reader is rewarded with. I enjoyed seeing Ares again and noticing that his characterization has remained constant, even if his appearance has altered slightly since we last saw him in the 0 Issue. As was seen in that installment, Ares is tired of war and wishes to take off his mantle rather than wear it eternally, perhaps wanting to give it to Diana. At that time he looked young and virile, but the ravages of war have taken their toll on the god in this issue, and, as was seen earlier, he is old, decrepit, and boozed up.
Being able to see the Ares of old compared with Ares of the present, no matter the order you choose to read the comics helps to deepen his character and bring us to more of an understanding about who he is and what his motivations are. Again, the consistency with which he is characterized artistically by Tony Akins and Dan Green is intriguing and noticing the differences between who he was and who he is presently, gives nice depth to the Wonder Woman universe.
More importantly, however, is the consistency we see in Diana’s character. What passes for the simple heroic shtick of goodness in other superheroes for Wonder Woman is something that is the consequence of her life experiences. As we saw in the 0 Issue with her refusal to kill the minotaur, Diana has an innate sense of mercy and justice that sets her apart from most of the gods and demigods with which she has dealings. When Zola wants to kill the now mortal Hera. Diana will not let her, with the consistent morality that makes us like her so much as a hero.
That this exchange should take place chronologically after the 0 Issue, but also sequentially after the twelfth, is satisfying since it is obvious Azzarello has a clear understanding of who his Wonder Woman is and where this comic has been, where it is presently, and where it is going. This makes for a consistently good read and one that continues to broaden and deepen with pleasing regularity.
So Scott, how do you feel about this issue? Do you find this title to be like a fine wine which gets better and more complex with time? Do you think we are seeing characters develop or do you think they are flat, similar to the gods of Greek mythology? Also, how do you feel about Libya?
Scott: Taylor, to be honest, this title hasn’t had much time to grow on me. Issue 13 was my first experience with Wonder Woman, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But all your talk about consistency convinced me to take a couple hours and read through the 13 issues leading up to this one, to give myself a better idea of what’s going on here. The experience has been more like slamming a couple shots of espresso than savoring a fine wine, but I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked now. I kind of feel like I just caught up with a TV show on Netflix and now I have to wait an eternity for new episodes to come out. It’s not fair.
Reading through the series all at once, I could see how characters might seem flat. With monthly titles, I think the characters have to maintain a specific voice and moral code just to be recognizable from one issue to the next, and that generally holds true for these characters. But that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of character development. Wonder Woman is too serialized, with issues often picking up exactly where the previous one ended, to let us forget what the characters have been through and what we’ve learned about them. Azzarello also does a good job concealing the characters’ motivations, leaving us to wonder if they’re always saying what they mean. Take, for instance, the presence of Hephaestus and Ares at Apollo’s gathering. Both have teamed up with Diana in recent issues, but here they are expressing their loyalty to Apollo and the family.
I like both of these characters, but the fact that I’m mentioning them speaks volumes about the work Azzarello has put into developing even the relatively minor roles in Wonder Woman. Hephaestus and Ares don’t have a lot to do in this issue, but I’m still curious about what they’re up to and how it’s going to come into play in later months.
I’m equally excited to see what Azzarello has in store for the new faces introduced this month. We get our first real look at Orion (who basically looks like a big, scary version of my brother Drew), and we’re introduced to Siracca. I’m a little bummed that we won’t be seeing more of the little Libyan girl in the barrel, whose expectation of physical harm was just about the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.
We haven’t really mentioned the art in this issue yet, but I was impressed with the work of colorist Matthew Wilson. The issue is essentially broken down into five scenes, each in a different setting. Wilson came up with a color scheme for each one and really stuck to it- a simple and effective way to visually organize the story’s distinct, separate parts. I could feel the temperature rise as fall over the course of the issue as it worked its way through various climates.
Taylor, you mentioned how you felt that Azzarello has a clear understanding of who Wonder Woman is and where this comic is headed, and I couldn’t agree more. He’s a very clever storyteller and he has a way of slowly expanding this universe so that it becomes more complex without ever seeming overwhelming. There are more story elements in motion right now than there have been at any other point in the series, none of which feel particularly close to a resolution, so it could be a while until we see how it all comes together. But the word of the day is “consistency”, and if this title can maintain this same level of quality, it can take as much time as it wants.
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Scott, I’m glad you mentioned the art. I wanted to talk about it but that would have made my portion a bit long. From the first I’ve always enjoyed the overall look of Wonder Woman. It’s simple in some ways but it never feels sparse and it certainly never feels cluttered. I can’t say I know much about comics of old, but the art reminds me of The Golden Age in some ways, only updated so it feels fresh.
I tend to favor Cliff Chiang over Tony Akins, but it’s strange that the Akins issues are consistently the ones that introduce new characters. I’m pretty sure Chiang is doing the designs, but it’s strange that he rarely gets to draw their first appearances.
I love how fucking douchey Apollo made Mount Olympus. It’s like he’s a power broker from the 1980s – of course he has a rooftop pool.
“Yeah, I’m having bros over to watch the Olympics and pound some ambrosia.”
I remember an interview where Chiang is asked about Lennox and he comments that Akins was a true part of the creative team and that Lennox was Akins’ design, so maybe not.
Correction! It was Azzarello that made the comments – he talks briefly about the the two artists sharing the design process.
Really, it all just boils down to 2 very talented artists and a crazy talented writer working on this book. Please never take these guys off this title!!!
My favorite thing about the meeting of the gods is that it’s a legit pool party. Hephaestus and Aphrodite are casually doing pool stuff the entire scene. “Greek God Pool Party” is now the only kind of party I ever want to have.
Taylor, there’s also a fun bit of continuity between the zero issue and Batwoman 13. Diana has teamed up with Batwoman (starting in issue 12) and they were investigating the most recent where-abouts of Medusa – which was a labyrinth. Diana and the Minotaur have a nice tender moment, and it tickled my continuity-bone just right.
Also – readers of Batwoman, weigh in on this: While Batwoman is obviously a good read, should fans of Wonder Woman pick up Batwoman 12, 13 and until this story arc wraps up?
Hmm… that’s a tough call. I don’t think Diana’s personality has come out particularly strong in Batwoman, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it for folks that would just pick it up for the cameo. I do think there’s a lot of overlap between the two titles in terms of strong women grappling with their family issues and supernatural entities, but they’re so different in tone, I’m not sure enjoyment of one necessarily indicates enjoyment of the other. That said, they’re both good enough to recommend to anyone for any reason at any time. I guess what I’m saying is: I would recommend Batwoman to any one who likes comics, not because they like Wonder Woman.
And vice versa, by the way.
I find Akins’ presence in the book to be both a curse and a blessing; between the fact that there are no fill-ins by completely random artists and the fact that Akins does his best to mimic the Cliff Chiang style established early on lies a great visual consistency. BUT, this is apparantly also a great excuse for Cliff Chiant to take EVERY OTHER ISSUE OFF. Akins rocked the head-biting sequence though, which is exactly the dark, mythological, Del Toro-esque type of place I want the tone of this book to hang out in. The mix of the super-dark mythology and super-poppy artwork is something I especially savor – I like it here even moreso than in Sword Of Sorcery (which I also love). For some reason, though, this issue felt like a stop-gap to me. I hope we get YEARS AND YEARS of this team on this book so that no issue can be ridiculated as a wasted month.
I was kinda cold on Tony Atkins until he did the two-issue run in Hell, and then I totally recanted. Chiang did (if I can recall all this properly) 11, 12 and the 0 – so I’m happy to let the man take a breather.
It’s not as bad as I exagerate, but when you look at the work ethic of Greg Capullo or Ivan Reis over the past year it makes certain people look really bad – particularly Rags Morales
I love Chiang, but Akins totally rocked that wedding dress.