Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Wonder Woman 20, originally released May 15th, 2013.
I said, war, huh
Good God, y’all
What is it good for
Say it again
— Edwin Starr
Drew: War is ugly. There’s death, there’s destruction, there’s misery, but I think the ugliest thing about war is that we’ll never be free of it — it’s in our nature. Things quickly escalate from the desire to protect the people and things we care about, to a “the best defense is a good offense” mentality, to tit-for-tat reciprocity. It’s all too easy to see how vast groups of people — motivated only to do what is right for their loved ones — could be compelled to all-out war. In his Wonder Woman run, Brian Azzarello has traced this trajectory with grim fascination, simmering the tension along as the situation slowly escalates. This month finds that tension boiling over with three factions engaged in war — with the added complication that War itself is also a character.
Apollo is anxiously awaiting the return of Artemis, who was sent to kill Zola’s baby (who is now definitely named “Zeke”). Poseidon is offended that Apollo has forsaken some of the traditions of the House of Olympus, but finds the irony in Apollo’s “enlightened” reign beginning with the murder of a baby. Speaking of murdering that baby, it turns out that’s easier said than done — especially when that baby has one god, two demigods, and one former god looking out for him. Diana ably routes Artemis while Lennox, Zola, and Hera sneak of with Zeke. Of course, Artemis may not be the only deity gunning for Zeke, so Diana flies off to act as bodyguard yet again, while Ares takes Artemis back to Olympus. Once there, Poseidon reveals that the First Born is on Zeke’s trail. Sure enough, it’s the First Born that finds Zola et al. first, which means it’s Lennox’s time to step into the protector role.
For all of the attempted infanticide, I’m impressed by how compelling Azzarello has made each faction’s case. Diana’s group is the easiest to grasp — they just don’t want any babies to be killed — but the attacks from Artemis and the First Born come from similar desires to protect what they care about. I think there’s room to argue how much “what they care about” is just themselves or their right to power, but in light of the prophecy, they clearly see killing this baby as an act of self-defense.
But let’s talk about that prophecy. Back in issue 1, the oracles told Apollo that one of Zeus’ children “will murder another and take their place.” All of the Olympians have assumed that that “place” would be Zeus’ throne, but what if that’s not the case? Since the zero issue, we’ve conjectured that Ares may have designs on Diana taking over his responsibilities as god of war. This issue seems to suggest that that might be the part of the prophecy that has everyone so anxious.
If Diana needs to kill a god, then the prophecy must be referring to her, but I highly doubt she’s going to be killing Apollo — especially since she has no interest in taking his place (either as god of the sun or as ruler of Olympus). In fact, the only role I can see her taking is Ares’, something that fits with what we’ve long suspected was his plan all along. Sure, this means that the god Diana needs to kill is Ares himself, but he’s certainly world-weary enough to talk about his own demise with that level of impatience.
I should take a time out here to praise the continued excellence of this title’s art team. Cliff Chiang is — as usual — excellent, providing art for the Olympus scenes and breakdowns for the rest. Goran Sudzuka manages finishes on the rest of the issue, and blends beautifully with Chiang’s style — perhaps even more than regular fill-in artist Tony Akins. If anything, Sudzuka out-Chiang’s Chiang, veering at times into Darwyn Cooke-level efficiency of line. My only gripe is that Sudzuka tends to shrink the noses of his female characters, giving them an infantilized look that doesn’t quite fit the tone of the book.
For all of my conjectures about this series’ long game, I have no clue what will happen next issue. Lennox didn’t faire so well against Apollo and Artemis in his last dust-up, so I don’t have much hope for him against the firstborn. I’m also curious about his apparent history with Cassandra — as well as the fact that, far from going unheard, this Cassandra is capable of the power of suggestion. All that is to say, I’m as excited for the next issue as ever. What do you think, Scotty — is Diana on the path to becoming war? If so, what will she be good for?
Scott: I have little doubt that she would make a Good God (y’all). You’re right, it looks like Ares has his sights set on Diana becoming his successor, but it won’t happen without some convincing. I don’t think Diana has much interest in becoming the God of War, especially if it requires her becoming a murderer in the process. I could see her doing it, though, if it means putting an end to all this inter-sibling fighting. If Diana can fulfill the prophecy by killing a willing Ares, and thus ensuring the safety of baby Zeke, I think she does it. For what it’s worth, Diana demonstrated against Artemis that she is more than capable as a warrior, and would be a logical choice to replace Ares.
If that is Ares’ plan, he sure is willing to let Zeke live in constant peril. He’s done his part to rescue and protect the child, but he could do more, considering he apparently knows something the others don’t.
If Ares knows that Zeke isn’t involved in the prophecy, maybe he ought to spill the beans about his plan so his siblings will stop trying to kill the poor kid. He loves making fools of his brothers and sisters, so what would be better than telling Apollo, “Hey, you know that the baby you’ve been trying so hard to kill? Well, he’s irrelevant to the prophecy you’re obsessed with, which, by the way, has nothing to do with you in the first place, you arrogant prick!”
The brief glimpse into Lennox’s history with Cassandra was one of my favorite moments of the issue. Azzarello does a great job juggling such a large and varied cast of characters, picking his moments to delve further into each character’s life. An issue ago, Lennox was prepared to walk away from Diana & Co., so I was glad to see him not only still around, but getting some great character moments. Azzarello is also great at incorporating characters into his ever-thickening plots, so I’m excited to see what he has in store for Cassandra. Drew, I don’t like Lennox’s chances against the First Born much either. Hopefully the big guy has a soft spot for his mommy.
Wonder Woman is such a vast universe that Azzarello is able to really tease out developments without it ever seeming like he’s meandering. It hard to believe any characters are hearing about the First Born for the first time in this issue, considering how long he’s been a part of the series, but it’s actually perfectly in-line with the pacing of the series. Anticipation is a huge part of Wonder Woman‘s intrigue, as you never know if something will play out over one issue or a dozen. Fortunately, the wait- unlike baby Zeke- is worth it.
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?