Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Wonder Woman 19, originally released April 17th, 2013.
Drew: Wonder Woman 18 ended on an atypically happy note — Zola was reunited with her baby, Diana and Ares seemed to have patched things up, Hera had found a bottle of wine — but the end of those good times is lurking around every corner. Unfortunately, Diana and friends may be caught unawares, mistaking their recent battles for the coming war. Indeed, when wagering on the outcome of that war, Poseidon discounts Diana, suggesting that he “always bet[s] against a player who doesn’t know they’re in the game.” Poseidon has made the mistake of underestimating Diana before, but he may have a point: while her adversaries are arming themselves, Diana seems to be distracted by more basic team maintenance.
The issue follows three different armies: those of Apollo, Diana, and the First Born. Apollo has rallied the support of Artemis and Dionysus by pointing out that the prophecy does not specify which god Zola’s baby will kill in its ascent to the throne. Speaking of Zola’s baby, Zola is in need of some help naming it, a duty nobody seems to be taking seriously — Ares suggests “Jack” and/or “Daniel,” Diana suggests “Steve,” and Hera is happy with whatever sounds totally pedestrian. To be fair, the group has bigger fish to fry: Lennox and Orion are butting heads in a bad way, and one of them has to go. Diana’s not one to chose sides, but she is more than willing to put Orion in his place.
Orion completely hulks out at this, storming back to (presumably) New Genesis. Meanwhile, the firstborn has found an ally in both Hades and Poseidon, who have set him on the trail of Zola’s baby, too.
As a “putting the pieces in place” issue, there’s not a lot of action, but this series has always hung its hat on subtler details. I’m so enamored of the world that Brian Azzarello has created in this series, it’s easy for me to gush about how clever I find elements like Dionysus ascent of “my pleasure,” but this series is at its best when it can make those details matter. Take the baby-naming scene. Last month, I remarked at how hard these characters are to read, but here, Azzarello shows that that doesn’t preclude each character from having a distinct voice. In fact, every character reacts more or less how you might expect: Lennox is suggesting overly cockney-sounding names, Ares is more preoccupied with the thought of his next drink, and Hera just wants whatever sounds worst. Still, you have to admit, the kid kind of does look like a Nigel.
Diana’s suggestion of “Steve” — apparently after Steve Trevor — is the only surprise, but it’s such a nice nod to both the current DC canon and Wonder Woman’s greater history, that it makes perfect sense. We don’t see Zola come to any conclusion, but she seems to be leaning towards Zeke, with that “Z” initial only teasing us further that this baby is Zeus.
I also liked Poseidon and Hades’ play to send the First Born to certain death. They may debate who will deliver the death stroke, but it’s clear that they just wanted him off their collective back. They made their play for Zeus’ throne, and it didn’t work out. Now they’re just focused on keeping their houses in order, like a senator after a failed presidential bid. It’s some very old-school politicking they pull here, manipulating an enemy to work against his own self-interest. We haven’t seen a ton of these characters, but this all fits perfectly. Hell, even Cassandra’s role here — essentially just a spectator — fits with her character: she’s privy to all sorts of information, but nobody cares what she has to say.
It’s a little harder to read what the hell Orion’s deal is. He goes into a freaky Mr. Hyde mode after Diana decks him, but runs off before we get any kind of explanation. Is this just a matter of “we wouldn’t like him when he’s angry,” or is something else going on here? I guess we’ll have to wait until he returns for more answers.
The end of the issue finds both Artemis and the First Born arriving in London, hell-bent on killing Zola’s baby, which has me pretty excited for next month. I’m not entirely sure what that battle will look like — I don’t think the First Born is on anyone’s radar just yet — but I’ve never been disappointed by this series’ surprises. That promise of action may make this issue look pretty tame, but I found the character work to be plenty satisfying. Did you find as much to like in this issue as I did, Scott, or were you a little bored?
Scott: Bored? Bored!?! At a glance, this issue might look tame, but don’t confuse lack of action for lack of tension. This issue was full of moments that had me holding my breath. The obvious show-stealer was the exchange between Diana and Orion that Drew highlighted above, but that moment is heightened by the fact that it takes place while the First Born holds a knife to Poseidon’s throat (if you can call what Poseidon has a throat). Speaking of the First Born, while he was out-politicked by Poseidon and Hades, I’m continuously impressed by his ferocity. Anyone who’s ever tried to crack open a crab claw should be impressed by his effort to, literally, disarm Poseidon’s guard.
Another reason I liked this issue is because it actually went into some detail about the Prophecy everyone keeps yapping about. Turns out, there’s a pretty simple explanation for all the confusion. The prophecy, as the First Born knows it, does not mention the Last Born. Then again, he’s been digging his way out from the center of the Earth for seven thousand years. And a lot can happen in seven thousand years. The Prophecy, quite simply, has been updated. No matter; the First Born manages to destroy most things he sets his mind to, and now he’s looking to destroy Zola’s baby. Best of all, it actually seems imminent. Of course, knowing Azzarello, it could still be months before Wonder Woman and the First Born cross paths. But if you’re like me, the promise of action is more exciting to you than the action itself. Oh, the anticipation!
Drew, you mentioned how happy everyone seemed at the end of Wonder Woman 18. It’s because, as Ares points out, Diana has become such a strong leader. But, in a group full of big egos, Diana’s unquestioned role as captain is also the biggest threat to tear the group apart. Lennox is departing because he used to being the “Alpha Dog” and doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Diana any longer. That Diana is a woman doesn’t seem to factor into Lennox’s decision, it’s only when Orion chimes in that her gender becomes relevant at all. Romantic tension has been rising between Diana and Orion in a very awkward way, where he’s always just sleazy enough to make me hope she isn’t actually into him. Which makes their kiss, and what follows, all the more satisfying. While Diana as Wonder Woman is overtly, almost aggressively sexy, she rarely comes across as sexual, and it’s shocking to see her use her sexuality to establish authority. It’s impressive that Azzarello could have her do something as hackneyed as threaten to remove Orion’s manhood and make it seem like honest-to-goodness character development. I loved it. Still, I’ve enjoyed the antics of Diana’s ragtag crew, and I’m sad to see the pieces starting to drift apart.
And if you were bored by this issue, well, I’ve got news for you.
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