Wonder Woman #2

Wonder Woman #2

A

Obviously the grades we assign to comics and other media on this site are essentially meaningless, but still, I somewhat find myself wishing I’d given the first issue of Wonder Woman an A- instead of an A. No doubt the debut is an excellent, exciting comic, but in my opinion this book tops it, adding a couple great new dimensions to the world being built by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. In the New 52, after all, anything goes, and the direction this series seems to be taking has me very excited.

As we last left Wonder Woman, she had stumbled into protecting Zola, a mortal woman who happens to be carrying one of Zeus’ bastard children. That’s made Zeus’ wife Hera pretty upset, and it’s also provoked some tense reactions from the other members of the Greek pantheon. Now Wonder Woman, Zola and the messenger god Hermes must navigate a political/sexual/mythological minefield, or at least make sure that Zola doesn’t end up dead, which seems to be Hera’s number-one goal.

All of the strengths present in Wonder Woman‘s first issue remain here, from the strong mythological/epic underpinnings of the story to the beautiful, clean art by the ultra-talented Cliff Chiang. But the book also introduces a couple new elements that really caught me off guard: humor and sexuality, which work hand-in-hand in allowing Wonder Woman to cover a wide range of emotional and narrative ground.

When I say Wonder Woman is funny, I don’t just mean in an “oh, that’s cute” sort of way; I mean that I chuckled or laughed out loud about five times while reading this issue, which is about five times more than with most other monthly comics. And when I say it uses its main character’s sexuality, I don’t mean that Wonder Woman gets down with every guy she sees. Rather, there’s a playful sexuality here that works off the book’s ancient Grecian feel, turning Paradise Island into basically a stand-in for Lesbos which, honestly, makes a lot of sense. I quite enjoyed the verbal sparring between Wonder Woman and fellow Amazon Aleka, for instance, which Azzarello has drenched in double entendre.

Diana: Forgive me, Aleka, but you’d find my form a bit rusty.
Aleka: Of course, Princess. I imagine all your time spent among the morals has left many bits that way (check out that awesome wordplay!) …. Do you still prefer the staff?
Diana: For games? I do.

Of course their actual sparring, presented via a Cliff Chiang two-page spread, is equally impressive; Chiang’s action sequences flow incredibly well and never lose my interest. I also want to call attention to colorist Matthew Wilson, who both here and later in the book makes impressive use of sparse red and black panels to indicate moments of intense action. What results ends up looking like a Grecian urn, lending all the weight and power of history to these comic-book actions.

Other wickedly funny moments abound in this book, notably the conversation between Zola and Hermes regarding the former’s pregnancy (“Do you remember what Zeus came to you as?” “A truck driver… or a pool hustler. He coulda been in a band… I hope he was that guy….”). This is also the only monthly comic I’ve ever seen to employ the word “cockless.” Yet Wonder Woman gets serious when it needs to; when Diana confronts the goddess Strife in the book’s climax, for instance, it’s one of the first times we see her in full-on warrior mode, which is an awesome moment. In these pages we’re also introduced to her mother Hippolyta, who gets a great, bulky costume design from Chiang, emphasizing her power and stature as Queen of the Amazons. Oh, and in a two-page flashback Diana’s origin in the New 52 is revealed.

Wonder Woman is a comic that in my opinion has so far done everything conceivable correctly. I’m amazed that its second issue finds so many ways to add depth to the first (despite having an already great first outing!), and it makes me think that even better things are coming down the line. Though Wonder Woman‘s been in my New 52 top five since the first issue, it’s slowly crawling up the ranks even higher. If the first story arc continues in this fashion, I could see it being my favorite monthly comic period.

tags: brian azzarello, cliff chiang, wonder woman

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