Patrick: Twitch Plays Pokemon allowed thousands of people all over the world to play one game of Pokemon Red together. This means the poor game was getting thousands of simultaneous inputs from players across the globe all with different agendas. Cultures sprang up on Reddit around specific Pokemon (which were all nicknamed hilarious things because actually typing a name in the game resulted in total nonsense) and weird little quirks of playing the game cooperatively (most famously, the Cult of Helix Fossil worked tirelessly to get the character to use a context-specific item in all contexts). Shit got weird, but it was a weirdness of consensus, a horrible democracy that gave shape to what “Twitch Plays Pokemon” means. This is largely true for long-lasting comic book characters as well — they pass through so many hands that the meta story of how they came to be can often eclipse the in-world origins. That’s why all your favorite heroes are irreconcilable messes of conflicting stories and ideas, and mixed together into one semi-coherent identity. Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman looks to change that for the titular heroine, giving her purpose, direction, vision and identity without having to wait for thousands of players to agree on the same input.
The unthinkable has just gone down, and the peak of Olympus is decimated. Cassandra’s ship (with Zola on-board) is about to crash into the ruins of Olympus, but a cooler-even-than-usual Wonder Woman is able to guide the ship to safety.
Elsewhere, Artemis senses a broken connection with her twin brother, and insists that Hermes ‘port them to Olympus. Thus, everyone is there to witness the First Born, freshly soaked in Apollo gore, take the throne of Olympus and start sucking the life out of everyone with these creepy veins. Wonder Woman stands up for friends, but even she is overpowered… until Hera, who was granted her godliness as Apollo’s final act, appears on the scene. The First Born being her first born, she decides that she needs to do whatever she can do clean up his mess, which in this case means safely spiriting everyone away to Themyscira and reverting the Amazons to human form.
That’s right: the Amazons are back. You could argue that it was only going to be a matter of time before the Amazons were returned to their former glory. After all, having a Paradise Island full of Diana’s subjects is kind of crucial to her identity as a character — just as not having a Krypton to go back to is part of Superman’s character. Not to place too much of an importance on long-term planning or the foresight of the creative team, but the Amazons were turned to snakes in issue 3. (That was so long ago, if you follow the link, you’ll get an article that Drew and I wrote before Retcon Punch even existed.) That was November of 2011, and we’re just now getting some kind of resolution on it. The most beautiful part about their return, however, isn’t the long game that Azzarello had set up from the get-go, but how well the moment resonates with who Woman Woman has become. She is the God of War, and try and she might to be a different kind of war god, some problems are only going to solved through large campaigns of violence. The First Born is one such problem. In fully accepting her mantle by commanding an army of her sisters, Diana is allowed to be something wholly new and wholly familiar at the same time.
There have been numerous fill-in artists on this title throughout its run (and they’ve all been excellent), but there’s nothing that drives this feeling of return harder than having Cliff Chiang on pencils for the issue. I remember, way back in the day, I had complained about the switch over to Tony Atkins for issue 5 — particularly because he drew a less confident, less capable Hera. I can’t imagine a more empowering drawing of the character than that which Chiang delivers to trumpet her return to divinity.
This glowing pale green effect, courtesy of Mathew Willson, embodies her powerful rage so effectively. It also plays off the more organic greens of her peacock feather cape, another sign that she’s returned to her former glory. This panel is especially powerful in light of the first scene in the issue, as Hera tries — unsuccessfully — to even have a good time ordering a drink.
But Wonder Woman’s call to arms is the focal point of the issue. She’s able to be the cool hero we all expect her to be — saving Cassandra’s ship, stepping to Artemis’ defense — but even that’s not enough. This is how Brian Azzarello has been able to take a slow, patient look at one of the DC Universe’s characters most in need of definition, and define her. In thirty issues, there has been no mention of Superman or Batman or the League or Owls or Krypton — it’s a journey with it’s own particular mythological tics. Shelby would kill me if I didn’t mention here that we still don’t know where Zeus is. This is all part of what makes the rally moments in this series so effective: they are exciting in their own context and not as part of a greater continuity. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are defining Wonder Woman with a singularity of vision that few characters have the fortune of enjoying.
Scott, are you ready for Diana to bring the battle back to the First Born? Or do you think we need to deal with Milan and Orion first? (Until I asked that question, I’d sorta forgotten what happened to them.) And can you think of a more horrifying weapon than a set of prehensile veins that suck the life out of you?
Scott: Bring on the battle! Seriously, as impressive as the First Born’s slow and steady march to the throne has been, I’m more than ready to see him get clobbered once and for all. The guy’s gone full crazy.
If I made it to heaven and found out that was God, I’d be more than a little confused. His life has been so sad and unfair that I’ve found myself rooting for him a little bit, but he’s turned out to be such a vengeful prick that now I really just want to see him lose. If that defeat comes at the hands of the Amazons, oh how sweet it will be.
That does raise one question though: would the Amazons really just go along with this idea? They’ve been snakes all this time. I’d imagine they’d want to ask a few questions before blindly following Diana and Hera into war. We don’t actually see the Amazons respond to Diana’s request — I think it’s implied they will join her — but realistically, wouldn’t their thought process be something like,”Huh? First Born? What are you talking about? Were we just snakes?”
Anyway, Patrick, you’re right, this absolutely feels like a defining moment for Wonder Woman. She’s finally embraced her place amongst the Gods, an evolution of her character we’ve been waiting for since Ares’ death (or really since the Zero Issue). I love that Wonder Woman exists in it’s own world, separate from the rest of the DC Universe. Diana taking on greater responsibilities within that world further legitimizes what once may have seemed like a punk rock choice by Azzarello to tell this isolated story about Gods and Goddesses.
Inspired by Patrick’s post, I started looking through some old issues and something caught my attention. Way back in Wonder Woman 4, just after the Amazons are turned to snakes, the final words of the issue are spoken by War (meaning Ares — I suppose I need to make that distinction nowadays). He says to Apollo, “The world will be ruled by war. It’s inevitable.” Now, suddenly, Diana is the God of War, and she’s leading the charge against the sitting ruler of Olympus. Ares could have meant any number of things when he said that — does he mean “war” as in warfare or “War” as in the God of War? — but it’s hard not to read into it. That’s the effect of the foresight this creative team exhibits time and time again — I’m looking back 25 issues to try to get a clue about where this series is headed next.
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