Shelby: Often times for me, the hardest part about writing any of these posts is this very intro. I always want to find some overarching theme in the issue, or one relevant anecdote from my past to broadly introduce the issue. I used to write the intro last on a regular basis, so I could find that one theme as I was writing. I couldn’t possibly use that approach with this post, however. Brian Azzarello has given me so many individual moments to get excited about this issue, the best I can do at coming up with a unifying theme is to marvel at how beautifully the pieces fit together to create the whole.
Wonder Woman is preparing for war. The sons of the Amazons are gearing up and making the ladies of the island very uneasy, Aleka has been assigned to protect Zola and Zeke, and (at Hephaestus’ suggestion) Moon and Eros have gone to Hell to find Hermes. Strife is up in Olympus doing that thing she does best, and Demeter finds herself with some unwanted visitors: a wounded Hermes, and batshit CRAZY Cassandra, and a very angry Minotaur. Demeter makes short work of Cassandra thanks to a large venus flytrap, but the Minotaur proves trickier, even with the assistance of Artemis and Eros. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, they do; First Born shows up, and literally begins to suck the life from Demeter’s kingdom. All looks to be lost, so Wonder Woman sends the rest of the gods back to the island so she can take care of First Born. She hits him with a flaming arrow, which appears to actually have an effect; unfortunately, First Born isn’t planning on going out alone. He uses his horrifying artery cape to snare Diana and pull her into the fire with him. Back on Themyscira, Zola is increasingly concerned about Diana. Suddenly, Orion and Milan(!) boom their way onto the scene to save the day, presumably.
So, as much as I love Orion and Milan as characters, and as concerned as I was for Milan’s fate after he was about to explode, I one hundred percent completely forgot about them. I’ve been so caught up in First Born’s carnage and Wonder Woman’s political issues on the island they completely slipped my mind. Leave it to Brian Azzarello to write a story so compelling, he can surprise me with the reappearance of key players. I may be excited to see Azzarello’s homage to Wesley Willis again, but I’m most excited to see Orion. I love the way his alpha-male attitude puts him at odds with Diana. I also can’t imagine a worse person to bring to Themyscira; the Amazons are going to have so much less tolerance for his bullshit than Diana ever did. It’s going to be great.
I also really loved the whole encounter with Demeter. Her character design (like the rest of the pantheon) is stunning, and Goran Sudzucka carries that over to the rest of her kingdom beautifully.
As the goddess of the harvest and the fertility of the world, it is so perfect and so beautiful to have her palace be in the shape of a reclining woman. I always associate Demeter with motherhood as well, as I think her most well known story is her loss of Persephone, so why shouldn’t she appear as a sort of mother of Earth as well? Not only that, according to her wikipedia page, she “presided over…the cycle of life and death.” Makes sense: the harvest cycle is driven by her mourning over the time Persephone has to spend in Hell, if she determines when the seasons “die” and are “reborn” why shouldn’t she be in charge of the entire life cycle? It speaks to how badly the natural balance has been uprooted by First Born that he can essentially break the natural cycle of life and death itself.
With every issue we get of Wonder Woman, I get more excited for the next, and more bummed out that it will soon be done. It’s a very bittersweet feeling. Azzarello and all the artists who have worked on this book have done so much for this character, and have really elevated my opinion of comic book storytelling. When I think about our mission here at Retcon Punch, to treat comic books as the literature and art they can be, this is one of the titles that immediately comes to mind as a perfect example. Drew, what did you think of this issue? How excited are you for the impending big boss fight? Also, remember Zeus?
Drew: Hahaha. You know, if I had a dollar every time one of our writeups mentioned the continued absence of Zeus, I woud probably have somewhere around $32. For all of our fascination with the question, Azzarello has avoided any mention of Zeus since very early in the series. I suspect he’s building towards an effect very similar to what we get with Orion in this issue — a kind of “I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT ABOUT THAT!” moment that reminds us just how masterfully the creative team can direct our attention away from the elephant in the room.
Actually, the difference of always remembering and allowing ourselves to forget may be an aesthetic one: is it more satisfying to know all along, or to get that moment of surprise recognition? Do you prefer to see the satisfaction of seeing the surprise coming, or being totally blindsided by it. I think most stories feature a healthy mix of moments we do and don’t see coming, so we may all be used to both (and may prefer that mix). I think I have a tendency to call things I see coming — I’ve always been a bit of an insufferable know-it-all — but I think I actually prefer to be totally surprised. That actually makes this issue perfect for me, as it’s hard to have predicted any of these surprises.
For me, the biggest development is Strife’s…let’s call it an “alliance” with the First Born. The companionship she offers may come off as totally unwelcome, and even a little incestuous, but she manages to appeal to the First Born’s ego just enough to ingratiate herself to him.
Of course, it’s not entirely clear why she’s even here. On the face of it, she’s appealing to what could be the winning side, hoping to make nice before the dust settles on the final battle. Again, this assumption of victory plays right into the First Born’s ego, giving Strife a believable cover for what I suspect her real motives are: to bring him strife. I know I’ve mentioned before how trouble seems to follow her like it’s her middle name (actually, it’s her first name), and I absolutely love the idea of her using that trait strategically, rather than just out of boredom.
Come to think of it, it’s easy to track this series narrative by following who Strife is hanging out with. At first, she’s entirely absent from our hero’s life, but as we progressed through the first act, she was splitting her time between the protagonists and antagonists. By the end of the second act (the traditional low point for heroes), she’s making time with the protagonists exclusively. Now, she’s found her way back to the antagonist, hopefully bringing with her the conflict that will prove to be his downfall.
Of course, the thought of Azzarello’s run entering it’s endgame does bring me down a bit. I’ve loved every page of this series, and will be extremely sad to see it come to an end. This has been such a visionary run — Azzarello assured me when I interviewed him last year that all three years were part of his original pitch — and it will be weird not to have this Wonder Woman as part of my life anymore. It’s too early to start eulogizing, but it’s hard to keep the rapidly approaching conclusion of this series from taking over my mind. Maybe this is another matter of knowing versus not knowing, though in this case, I think I’m happy to be able to prepare myself for the goodbye.
Argh! This series is too good. I know I’ve been too partial to certain series to be able to evaluate them objectively before, but this is the first time my emotions about the series have prevented me from focusing on the actual issue itself. Sorry. It’s really good. You should go read this series from the start.
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?