Wonder Woman, it seems, is a tough character to write compellingly. Though she’s ostensibly part of DC’s “Big Three,” her creators often struggle to figure out what she can bring to the table that Superman and Batman can’t. It’s too easy to just make her the female Superman, and in my opinion that one twist — sex — doesn’t do enough to justify her existence. Greg Rucka wrote my favorite take on the character, which found her becoming an ambassador for Themyscira, a media figure as much as a superheroine. Now here we are in the New 52, faced with the question of how the superstar creative team of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang will treat her. If this first issue is any indication, the answer seems to be “pretty darn well.”
Granted, we can’t tell too much about Diana from this book, which mostly works to set up a long-term plot steeped in Greek mythology. That gives us at least one clue: these guys will be taking inspiration from the legends of centuries past. That’s a fertile ground so long as they imbue their tales with a modern edge, which this first issue does aptly.
Here’s the plot: Hera sends agents to Earth to murder a hastily introduced Virginia resident named Zola. It turns out that somehow Zola’s been impregnated by Zeus (though she doesn’t know it), which understandably has Hera pissed. Hermes comes to warn Zola, but he’s too late to do much, so as a last-ditch effort he sends Zola to Diana for protection. Meanwhile, Apollo (in the guise of a savvy businessman) consults a homemade oracle to figure out where his dad’s gone and how Zola’s kid might spell doom for his whole family.
For a Wonder Woman comic, there’s not a whole lot of Diana in the story, but what we do get works well, especially the end-of-issue fight between her and a couple centaurs. Chiang, whose art straddles the line between cartoony and serious, seems the perfect artist for this assignment — he nails the balance Diana needs to strike between compassionate activist and kick-ass brawler. No one draws eyes like Chiang, which gives his faces a relatable, instantly sympathetic quality. This issue’s fight choreography shines as well; I particularly loved a sequence involving Diana throwing her sword.
Azzarello has long proven himself a sharp writer, and that continues here. You might spend your first read-through of this issue wondering what exactly’s going on — it doesn’t really hold hands — but give it a second go and everything will become clear. I like the way this book moves along frantically at first, only taking a little time to slow down and introduce the regal Diana (who for some reason doesn’t acknowledge the Wonder Woman monicker). He also does a great job bridging the worlds of mythological and modern with the dialog spoken by Apollo’s oracle, which blends ancient gravitas (“There is a storm gathering / just beyond the horizon”) with valley girl parlance (“Seriously, this is mental”).
I could imagine readers objecting, perhaps, to Wonder Woman #1 not really giving them enough to go on in DC’s brave new 52, but I’d disagree with that. We have a good sense of the world in which Diana lives and a notion of the trials she’ll be facing over the coming issues. Azzarello sets up an intriguing long-term plot grounded in epic stories, and both his heroes and villains demand more page time. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes next.
Pull list verdict: KEEP IT
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more