Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Wonder Woman 21, originally released June 19th, 2013. Check out Drew’s exclusive interview with Brian Azzarello here!
Shelby: I recently bought PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, a button-masher fighting game that’s a whole lot of fun. It’s basically Super Smash Brothers, but with characters like Nathan Drake, Sly Cooper, Kratos, etc. I think this game is great because it’s all about mindless smashy smashing; you pick your character and then try to punch the other characters as much as possible. Loads of fun, but nothing much in the story department. I also recently played through Heavy Rain, an interactive-drama game where you play through a series of quicktime events to find the killer before he strikes again. Not a lot of action, mostly “press triangle to ask a question, press square to sit at the table” sort of stuff, but the story and character development is breathtaking. It had me on the edge of my seat, and the ending totally caught me by surprise. I like both of these games, and I’d recommend either of them, but they take very different approaches to entertainment: one mindless and awesome fighting, the other slower paced, but with incredible character moments. Brian Azzarello is not one to be content with one or the other; Wonder Woman 21 manages to give us both big action and quiet character development, and is wholly satisfying on both counts.
The confrontation we’ve been waiting for is finally here: Zola (and Zeke), Lennox, Hera, and Wonder Woman against The First Born and Cassandra. Orion shows up as well, but even with his assistance things are not going well for our plucky group of misfits. We do learn a bit about the First Born, namely that he doesn’t have a name other than First Born, he hates everything and everyone, and he wants to destroy everything. Diana uses him to knock down a building, and everyone hops on Orion’s scooter to take a boomtube to anywhere else. The First Born pries the boomtube open with his bare hands, preventing everyone from leaving and threatening to kill them all. So, Lennox sacrifices himself so everyone else can get away to New Genesis.
The bulk of this issue is taken up by the fight scene we’ve been wanting so badly. Azzarello being who he is, though, he gives us super satisfying character moments between all the punching. We’ve got revelations about Cassandra and Lennox, a clearer idea of First Born’s plans, a touching moment from our stoniest guy, but my favorite is a tiny little connection between Zola and Hera.
The First Born is addressing (and smacking) his mother Hera, but we don’t see any of it. We see new mother Zola holding her baby. Is she wincing because the First Born just hit Hera, or is she wincing to hear a son tell his mother he hates her? Hera and Zola have been reluctantly bonding, and the pain in Zola’s face is such an eloquent depiction of that fact. Cliff Chiang can convey so much emotion with such a simplicity of line, and the way he zooms in until her face fills the panel is so powerful.
Cassandra is becoming more and more interesting to me. There is a character named Cassandra in Greek mythology; she was a prophet, but she displeased Apollo, so he cursed her gift such that no one would ever believe her prophecies. She died tragically, knowing exactly what was going to happen to her. This Cassandra is more like Cassandra’s Revenge: “You didn’t believe me when I told you the future? Fine. Now my voice has the power to tell you what to do instead of what’s going to happen, and you’re gonna hate it.” We’ve always known Lennox is a little…rough around the edges, but her version of what he did to her takes a lot of shine off his heart of gold. I don’t believe her, but I am all the more curious to know what exactly happened between her and her brother.
Speaking of, do we really think Lennox is dead? I know he’s a tough guy and all, but he wasn’t totally fixed up yet from his last big brawl, and the First Born definitely broke his face a little bit with just one hit. It certainly looks like he sacrificed himself so everyone else can get away, but what turned him into such a softie? It was only a couple issues ago he was ready to bail on the whole group, now he’s throwing himself to probably doom? Somewhere along the way, his stone heart grew three sizes, which makes his (possible) death that much more heartbreaking. At least he goes out like he lived: ready to punch his godly half-brother in the face while singing a chant for a football club whose fans are known as hooligans.
Scott, what do you think of this issue? I got so caught up in the little moments with the support characters, I didn’t talk at all about Diana or New Genesis, or that Zeke mysteriously knocked out Cassandra when threatened. Also, here’s a short clip of a bunch of soccer fans singing “No One Likes Us” at a match; I hope you like it, because it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week.
Scott: Shelby, It’s amazing that you could rave about an issue of Wonder Woman without actually talking about Wonder Woman, but that’s totally the world Brian Azzarello has created. It’s hard to define anyone as a lead or supporting character at this point, as Azzarello seems equally likely to zoom in and focus on any series regular in any given issue, and with equal emotional resonance. Diana has her moments in this issue, but her big entrance is trumped by Orion’s, and they’re both overshadowed by Lennox’s sacrifice. Wonder Woman holds the record for the comic with the most characters who can make me gasp, either by doing something heroic or something dangerous, and it’s due to Azzarello’s effort in crafting such an emotionally developed cast.
My gut tells me Lennox is not dead. In Retcon-Punch’s recent interview with Azzarello, the writer hints that we still have more to learn about Lennox, and that we “might not like it.” I’m not sure what that means, but it’s reassurance that we haven’t seen the last of him. I doubt the First Born would think twice about busting his head to pieces, but let’s not forget that Cassandra is still around, and she has reason to want to make his life a living hell for as long as possible.
OK, let’s be clear about one thing: the First Born f’ing rules! This issue delivered the fight seen we’ve been waiting seemingly forever to get, and it played out like a crazy tag-team wrestling match, with Diana’s crew throwing themselves one, sometimes two at a time at the First Born. The result: they attempt to flee to another planet while the First Born literally pries the boom tube open, leading to the coolest artistic sequence of the issue.
Cliff Chiang’s work is consistently stellar throughout the issue, but this sequence is easily my favorite. With the help of colorist Matthew Wilson, he awesomely creates the feeling that the characters are being pulled between two dimensions. It has the look of printer cartridges that aren’t properly aligned- usually not a good thing, but perfect for making it appear like everything is this close to coming apart. I don’t know what it looks like when something is atomized, but I do believe that right before it happens, it looks like this.
Well there you have it, I also managed to not talk about Zeke or New Genesis. But I’m not worried- I think their respective roles in this issue were meant to act as teasers for things to come in future issues. Maybe by then Lennox can come up with a more fitting chant than “No One Likes Us”- I think he may have just won a few people over.
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?