Taylor: Brian Azzarello certainly has a way of making us do a double take while reading Wonder Woman. The man has a talent for bending his plots in unlikely directions while also making us second guess everyone’s motivations with almost every new issue. It’s likely that when Wonder Woman was rebooted, some were similarly thrown for a loop when Azzarello depicted the gods as being petty, mean, and downright hostile to just about everyone but themselves. While anyone who has ever read a Greek myth recognizes the dickish mentality of the Greek pantheon, it seems likely that others might have been surprised. The popular conception of heaven and god(s) in today’s culture takes a much more touchy-feely approach with our deities. Instead of being something to be feared, we like to think of deities as being righteous, compassionate, and selfless. Azzarello seems to understand how these two forces are at odds and in issue 22 of Wonder Woman he asks us to compare the Greek gods with their New God alternates. The question is, are they the same or are they different?
Wonder Woman, Orion, and the rest of their company have barely escaped the wrath of the First Born thanks to an emergency BOOM-teleportation to New Genesis. Wonder Woman awakes to find herself in a Luke Skywalker-esque healing tube, having been put into an induced coma to help heal her battle wounds. Highfather, the leader of New Genesis, is upset that Orion has brought foreigners to his land so he sends him off to meditate in the woods. Taking his advice, Orion goes and knocks down some trees. Wonder Woman arrives to comfort Orion and he explains to her some of the history of New Genesis. Later, our heroes are about to return home when Highfather attempts to keep Zeke in New Genesis. However, before this plan can be carried out, Orion grabs the we babe and teleports back to Earth with Wonder Woman and her friends. Back on Earth, the First Born has all but destroyed London and we learn that he has indeed murdered Lennox.
This issue of Wonder Woman continues the path of deepening the universe in which Wonder Woman exists and at the same time has us examining what qualities we look for in our divine beings. When we are first introduced to New Genesis it seems like a paradise. There is no war, no unnecessary development, and seemingly everyone enjoys a peaceful existence. As Highfather himself says, it’s a “true place of peace.”
Contrast this picture of utopia to the “Olympus” that Apollo has set up on Earth. There, strife is present (literally and figuratively), people distrust each other, and chaos is almost a regular occurrence. Basically, compared to New Genesis, Olympus is total shit hole. However, each is a place where gods reside. While the Olympus Azzarello depicts is true to history, it’s certainly not what we think of when someone mentions heaven. New Genesis, on the other hand, seems like a paradise. This image of a place where gods reside is much more inline with the idea of Heaven. Azzarello dares us to compare these two godly societies and choose which we like better based on our assumptions of what paradise should look like.
But before we get too comfortable with the idea of New Genesis being a utopia, we begin to see cracks in the facade. From the start, it’s apparent that Orion is not at home in New Genesis. He lacks the self-control Highfather requires of all his people and he has trouble following Highfather’s orders as well. It’s not that Orion blatantly wants to disregard Highfather’s wishes, but he dislikes having his every move and thought dictated to him. It is through Highfather and Orion’s relationship that we begin to see that New Genesis is not exactly as perfect as we would like to think. Instead of a peaceful realm where everyone is happy, it is one where everyone’s move is dictated by Highfather. Rather than a paradise, it would appear that New Genesis is a quasi-communist dictator state. When Highfather orders Orion to take Zeke, it becomes clear that there is trouble in paradise.
With this Azzarello once again pulls the rug out from under our feet. Just as we were beginning to think there was a group of gods who could be trusted we see they are no better than those sitting atop Olympus. The message here seems to be that no god can be trusted and that mankind is better off left working things out on its own. Lucky for us, we at least have Wonder Woman on our side.
Also, before I hand things off to Scott, I would be remiss to not mention Cliff Chiang’s artwork. As always it’s a pleasure to see his art bring to life the Wonder Woman story, but I simply loved the cover for this issue. It depicts a portrait of Highfather looking off to the horizon while the buildings of New Genesis sparkle below him.
The entire depiction is a nod to Soviet era propaganda right down to the Russian derived text. It’s a clever acknowledgment of what New Genesis actually is under its gleaming appearance and while hinting at the contents of the issue doesn’t give anything away.
Scott! What do you think of New Genesis? Can Highfather and company be trusted or like me, do you think they are just as bad as the Olympians? Highfather did let Orion take Zeke pretty easily, so maybe it’s all part of his plan? Also, Ares has decided to join with Wonder Woman. He’s old and drunk, but will he be useful in a fight against the First Born?
Scott: Well, like you said Taylor, New Genesis is certainly misleading. It looks like a paradise, which gives the impression that life there, and the people living that life, are more perfect versions of what you would find on Earth. But when you consider that they were forced to move to their satellite city because they poisoned their home planet during war, it’s clear that their society has flaws. In that respect, New Genesis and Olympus are much more alike than they appear at first glance.
The relationship between Orion and Highfather also reeks of the dysfunction we are familiar with among the Gods of Olympus. We don’t get much sense of how Highfather treats the other citizens of New Genesis, so it’s difficult to tell how befitting a title like “dictator” really is. We do know that he has impossibly high expectations for his son, but his actions as a father don’t necessarily reflect his actions as a leader of a planet. When coupled with his command that Orion take Zeke, however, it does start to paint a picture of him as a rather ruthless ruler. But again, I think Azzarello is toying with us, as that command ultimately appears to be a test.
I definitely think it was Highfather’s hope all along that Orion would disobey him and return Zeke to Earth. What you command is not necessarily what you desire, and based on what we’ve seen of Highfather, I can’t imagine he would react so calmly if Orion had truly disobeyed his desires. It’s more likely Highfather wanted to test Orion’s character. Orion earlier tried to explain to Highfather the situation surrounding Zeke, but Highfather brushed him off due to Orion’s relative youth and inexperience with such matters. Ordering Orion to take Zeke gives Highfather a chance to gauge his son’s judgement in a situation that could have consequences across the universe. We’ve seen that Highfather is pretty open in expressing his disappointment in Orion, so his reaction here feels like a giant stamp of approval.
As for War, drunk or not, it’s never wise to write him off. He may only show up when he feels like it, but in those cases he’s proven himself a valuable member of Team Diana. Much like Lennox and Orion, War is a little rough around the edges but he has a lot of heart (or, at least, a soft spot for Diana), and I have faith in him to come through when Diana needs him. Speaking of Lennox, the reveal of his death was so sudden and unceremonious, it feels like it couldn’t be real. I guess it just hasn’t had time to sink in yet, but I’m hoping he gets a more proper send off in a future issue. I want to know what happened in the moments before his death, and whether he left behind anything that could help Diana. As always, I’m just eager to see what happens next!
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?