Today, Shelby and guest writer Nate are discussing Wonder Woman 23, originally released August 21st, 2013.
Shelby: Remember 22 issues ago, when Brian Azzarello relaunched Wonder Woman with the question: where is Zeus? We are no closer to answering that question, but honestly I don’t care in the least. Azz has flawlessly incorporated the Greek pantheon into this contemporary story, and has along the way crafted complex, believable, interesting characters. This issue feels like the cumulation of all that character work. We have the death of one god and the birth of another, and who knows what the repercussions will be for these characters we’ve grown so very fond of.
It’s time for the big showdown. Diana, Orion, Ares, Hera, Zola, and baby Zeke are facing off against the First Born and his henchmen in the streets of London. Lennox’s broken body still fresh in her thoughts, Diana decides she’s tired of playing around, and removes her gauntlets to face First Born. Ares offers some sage advice, asking her if it’s worth it to win the battle but lose herself. She must have taken his words to heart, because despite being all jacked up on god power, she hesitates, and First Born body-slams her into the ground handily. War steps into the fight, and does pretty well against First Born, until he grabs him by the throat. Diana knows she can’t let First Born become the new god of war, so she does what she has to do.
Ares dies in Diana’s arms, after a touching apology for the burden he has left on her shoulders. In one of the most beautiful and moving pages I have seen, Hades comes for his nephew, and Diana carries him into the boat for the journey to the underworld. Cliff Chiang rocked the hell out of the art as usual, but Ares’s silent trip to Hades is just stupendous.
Wow. Just…wow. This issue left me speechless. We’ve been talking a long time about the possibility of Diana killing Ares and taking up the mantle of God of War, but I was not prepared for just how moving it was going to be. War’s last words to Diana were “Keep me in your heart?” which, at first blush, is sad and beautiful and very humanizing. He was a god, and his last hope is to be remembered fondly by his protege. But then I started thinking about it a little more; he just told Diana to keep war in her heart. He could have been asking Diana as a friend and ally to remember him, but he could have just as easily been giving her a little bit of advice as the new God of War.
Let’s think about that for a second: Diana is the new God of War. We’ve commented in the past that the big hole in Azzarello’s pantheon is Athena, which makes sense because Diana is sort of the embodiment of the goddess of war and wisdom, of justice and just warfare. Now that she’s the official God of War, she is definitely Athena incarnate. And Hades is right, she will make for a very interesting God of War; she avoids killing at all costs, she loves everyone, she values peace and justice above all else. Doesn’t exactly sound like a figure to lead all wars everywhere.
Speaking of all wars everywhere, how bad-ass was War’s army?
The hard copy of this issue had an ad between First Born’s question of what army would follow an old man and this awesome reveal, and as I turned the page, I thought to myself, “Well, wouldn’t they all follow him?” Honestly, i am having a hard time saying anything of any intelligence about this issue, it was just so awesome. There were awesome fights, Diana’s struggle with her control, some cute moments between Hera and Zola (I love that these two are becoming friends), and of course, the death of War. The real question is where this story will go next. First Born will most likely end up imprisoned somewhere again. Diana is now the God of War, who knows what sort of duties that will entail. Apollo is still on the throne of Olympus, and seems pretty pleased with the outcome of this issue. We still don’t know what happened to Zeus. The level of story-telling that Azzarello brings to this title is incredible, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for this motley crew. With that, I’m going to turn things over to Nate, who will hopefully be able to quit gushing about this title long enough to say something intelligent. If not, that’s ok, too.
Nate: Holy Shit I love this book! Someone asked me a few months ago, “if you could just read one comic, what would it be?”, and the first words out of my mouth were “Wonder Woman” (followed quickly by: “but I wouldn’t give up Batman, Batwoman, Saga, Daredevil or Hawkeye…”). This issue totally justifies my first response. It wraps up an awesome arc, ties off some loose ends that were introduced way back in issue 1, but still keeps plenty of balls in the air to keep us wanting more — all while introducing a new chapter on Wonder Woman (the War Goddess? The God of War? Love and Rockets?) that I am totally psyched to read! In fact, when I finished this issue, I was so amped to see what was coming I immediately rushed to check the solicits for the next few issues — which is something I have never done before. (Unfortunately, the descriptions were disappointingly vague, though they do have some cool covers!) But Shelby, I will try to contain the gushing and grope for something more intelligent to say…
It’s funny — as you said, Shelby, we kinda knew War was fading and that Diana was the heir apparent, likely to replace him upon his death. But I was still totally shocked when it happened (and by how it happened)! I mean, you can’t just kill off a god (Thor notwithstanding) — particularly the full blown Greek God of War! That’s pretty ballsy! And then to have Wonder Woman be the killer and the one to replace him? WTF! That is such a fascinating place to take this character — It’s fantastic! Sorry — gushing again.
In retrospect, this outcome was telegraphed pretty clearly since the zero issue — just look at the covers to issues 13 and 17. I went back and reread all of the issues from the zero issue on, and it is pretty clear War knew where things were going as well, as illustrated by his conversation with Demeter in issue 18, and this image from issue 20:
Knowing where the story was heading made War a much more sympathetic character. It also explains a lot of his behavior, how he interacts with his family, his saving and returning Zeke to Zola, his soft-spot for Diana, and his constant drinking. Which brings me to my favorite single moment of the current issue: Our heroes are facing the First Born’s army in the final battle, and War turns, looking like he is leaving as he prepares to make his last play against the First Born by summoning his army of dead warriors.
This leads to the awesome image of War’s army that you posted, Shelby (and can I add: I love Zola—add her to the list of fictional characters I totally want to hang out with).
As much as I have gushed about the story and the character work and Azzarello’s writing, Chiang’s art is just incredible (there is plenty of proof of that right here in this review — the page of Ares being carried to Hades’ boat is brilliant). The acting is superb and the action is dynamic and violent. Chiang’s lines are bold, but clean and clear, and I love how expressive his characters are, given Chiang’s somewhat minimalist graphic style (not unlike David Aja on Hawkeye). The panel layouts are also awesome — they serve the story and don’t draw attention to themselves, yet provide subtle elements that add to the emotion. A great example of that is the page you posted, Shelby, of Ares being carried to Hades waiting boat: The two panels floating in the sky that show the approach to the boat give the scene a slow, quiet, somber, and somewhat surreal tone. Of course Matthew Wilson’s colors help sell that and really bring Chiang’s art to life.
So, Shelby, you asked what comes next. Apollo’s prophecy said that a child of Zeus would slay a god and take the throne. That seems to have been Diana replacing Ares. But the prophecy also said there is a war looming that threatens all the gods. You mention the issue of a missing Zeus and a baby oh-so-conveniently-named Zeke. If Zeke or Zeus or some other Z-themed god emerges and wants to reclaim Olympus, we may have our war! Then we still have the First Born and Orion’s mission to kill him as (apparently) he is a threat to all existence. And I personally would like to revisit some of Diana’s very interesting but somewhat disturbed siblings. But the most compelling reasons to read on is just to see what Azzarello and Chiang can do with Wonder Woman as the new God of War!
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?