Today, Shelby and guest writer James D’Amato are discussing Wonder Woman 16, originally released January 23rd, 2012.
Shelby: Gods, gods everywhere. Brian Azzarello does not take a “less is more” approach when it comes to the pantheon; we’ve got old gods, older gods, demigods, new gods, and non-gods. Not to mention ice giants and cyborg women. If it all sounds a little confusing, well, it is; Azzarello is juggling a lot of chainsaws with Wonder Woman. On top of it all, we’ve still got the $64,000 question that everyone seems to have forgotten about: where is Zeus?
We’ve got three story-lines running through this book. Milan has covered Diana, Orion, and Lennox in flies, to keep them from fighting. After some talking and kind words, as is her style, Diana convinces him to look for Zola’s baby. Apparently, Milan’s godly power is the ability to see through the eyes of flies, which means he can basically see everything; he finds Hermes and the starry-eyed babe with Demeter. Meanwhile, in Antartica, the First Born defeats Hades’ ice giants in a tremendously gory fashion. Finally, Zola and Hera are out for drinks when Ares shows up. While he chats with his mother, Zola has a weirdly familar conversation Dionysus. After the flirting (?) he tells her what Ares plans to do to Diana. It’s so horrible Zola literally loses her lunch, and Strife shows up, presumably to make things worse, as is her style.
This issue didn’t wow me as much as past issues have. I think I’m beginning to feel a little fatigued from Azzarello’s slow build-up of this arc and ever-expanding cast of characters. Of all the major deities, we’re pretty much only missing Athena, which makes sense as Diana and Athena are very similar. As much as I love the design and personification of all the gods, we’ve got a lot of players on the field. I also feel like the story is straying off course; not being able to see Azzarello’s end goal (or knowing how long he plans to take to get there), means this book is starting to wander a little aimlessly. Consider this: we first saw the First Born emerge from the snow back in issue 12, and we still aren’t totally sure who he is. Instead of solving mysteries and answering questions, Azz is just shellacking on more layers of intrigue. The payout is going to be huge, I’m sure, but we’ve got to get there first.
That being said, there’s still a lot to like in this issue. For example, everything Cliff Chiang touches. It’s not enough for us to know that Milan controls flies and through them can see everything; nope, Chiang has to show us the maggot-filled eye sockets.
I love how Chiang put all those glimpses of the world in hexagonal panels, like the multiple lenses on the eye of a housefly. I did a little Wikipedia research; the compound eye works by gathering a number of images, each one containing a point of information, from each eye, and assembling the images into a whole in the brain. That is exactly what Milan does, except he’s got to gather a point of information from every fly in the world. That is an unspeakably cool and terribly clever concept. There are also some interesting things happening with Dionysus. Thanks to Walt Disney’s Fantasia, I’ve always pictured Dionysus as that jolly drunk everyone likes to have at the party. But the god of winemaking and sexy parties is also the god of madness and bringer of chaos, and that is the Dionysus Azzarello and Chiang prefer.
Their Dionysus is lean and menacing, incredibly appealing and completely terrible. This Dionysus represents everything dangerous about drinking, everything that scares you about losing control. Another fun little detail: in a different panel, we see he’s got a fox tail hanging from his belt. I assumed it was just some twee hipster accessory, like Eros’ scarf and skinny jeans, but Wikipedia tells me Dionysus was often depicted draped in a fox hide, representing new life. It’s that smart attention to detail that leads me to trust the creative team behind this story; things may be slowing down, but I know we’ll get back on track and I’m going to love every minute of it.
So, onto the speculation. Orion has everyone convinced he’s here to fight Zola’s baby, the last of the blood line and a new god destined to end time. I’m not totally convinced. At the exact time the baby was born, the First Born burst from the ice; he certainly seems more threatening. I’m thinking the difference might lie in the “new god” and the “New Gods” of Jack Kirby fame, which I don’t understand in the least. And why exactly is Ares in town to do terrible things to Wonder Woman? Is he still bitter over their falling out in the zero issue? Or is he afraid of her? At Apollo’s little pool party, he seemed shocked that Diana had inflicted the damage she had on Artemis; is he simply afraid of what she can do? Or are there more secret machinations at play? Finally, the question I ask every time I write about this title: Where is Zeus? It seems more and more likely that he has somehow been reborn as Zola’s baby. That would put a fun little twist on Apollo’s prophecy that a child of Zeus would slay one of them and take the throne: Zeus-as-son-of-Zeus taking his own throne back. With that complicated bit of logic, I’m going to turn it over to my friend James. James, this is your first time writing on Wonder Woman, what do you think of Azzarello’s deity-packed interpretation? Do you feel the story is getting a little bogged down as well?
James: I will admit that I have a prejudice against Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. It is not that I think the series is bad. Far from it actually, I know that it happens to be quite good. It is in fact one of the best stories involving Wonder Woman that has been told in quite some time, a story about myths, family and intrigue. Of the core themes I just named, only one is really central to Diana’s character. Family has never really been Wondy’s thing. We know she has a mother, she calls all of her lady bros “sister” but family is not central to who she is in the same way that it would be for Batman or the Secret Six. Intrigue is kind of Wonder Womany because she tends to get tied up (tee hee) in international politics being a diplomat/badass. Greek myths are central to Wonder Woman, but even that is more flavor than outright identity.
My problem with Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is that he doesn’t really care about her. I guess he doesn’t have to, seeing as how DC comics doesn’t give a damn about her, but if you are going to man the ship that relaunches Wonder Woman you should be telling a story that represents Wonder Woman. This isn’t really a problem for your Batmans, Supermans, or even your Spider-Mans because people already know what they are all about. I don’t like Azzarello’s run because he takes Wondy’s most important theme, FEMINISM and basically ignores it. Sure Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is strong, but she doesn’t teach us anything about the place of women in our messed-up patriarchy, or even show us different approaches to our world view. For a Wonder Woman story that could reshape how we look at the character that is a pretty massive oversight. When you change the themes of a character, you change who they are. Away from feminism is a bad direction for Wonder Woman.
Now that I have wasted all of my allotted space, let’s talk about the issue. If you, like me, are coming in not fully caught up it is not spectacular. Again this is not me saying it isn’t good. We just happen to be in the middle of some heavy exposition, something that Azzarello, a noir man by reputation, can be very very good at. I’m sure if I was actively reading this series I would have been excited by this issue.
The one thing that has been totally flawless throughout the run of Nu 52 Wondy is Cliff Chiang’s exquisite art. The dude knows how to draw ladies. His Diana is brimming with all of the themes that Azzarello is so keen to ignore. She is powerful and beautiful. She radiates strength without sacrificing her femininity, unlike the man-faced Amazon princesses of some artists I cold mention (coughAlex Rosscough). Chiang’s Dianna is an elegant balance of grace and aggression. Also I cannot praise the Chang/Azzarello designs for the gods and demi-kids enough. They inspire wonder, fear, and reverence, and look so damn compelling. And of course they are all human shaped with something just a little off, to remind us they are unnatural. They are everything gods should be.
Chiang and Azzarello are amazingly talented and work well together. While this story might not do much for those who are not following it month to month I imagine it is a smooth ride for those who are. To give everyone some idea of what I am talking about I want to discuss this page:
It’s not flashy, but I think that is part of what makes it great. Chiang and Azzarello are showing us one of the coolest things about Diana, her dual nature. She is royalty raised in a warrior society and burdened with the responsibility of looking after her people and the world. In addition to that she is incredibly empathetic and exhibits all that best qualities of humanity. She starts off towering over both Milan and the reader; she is authoritative and prepared for anything. Then we reach the final panel. Now we the readers, and our friend Milan, are on her level. She is looking us right in the face and reaching out. This is the other aspect of Diana. Despite being an immortal demi-god princess who could beat up all of our dads, she is still compassionate. Wonder Woman can actually connect with you. It doesn’t matter if you think of her as a mother, sister, or friend, you want to talk to her and you know she can keep you safe. Her face is radiating real concern and empathy. That’s amazing. Not flashy, but amazing. Now for flashy we have Milan’s fly vision. I know Shelby already talked about this but this page is so COOL! Azzarello and Chiang have a real sense of story economy and character design. I have to hand it to Azzarello, the gods and demi-gods in Wonder Woman definitely make you think twice about wanting superpowers.
In the end, this book is not the book that will make you want to read Wonder Woman. Azzarello is telling a good story but I’m not sure it works chopped up into monthly issues. I’m excited by the mythology folding in with Kirby’s New Gods. However, I can’t shake the feeling that this could have been more. Cliff Chiang and Brian Azzarello are a real dream team. They could have really breathed new life into the character. Instead they use her to tell a fun story, which I guess is not the worst thing in the world.
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?