Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Wonder Woman, volume 1: Blood

We kick off my New 52 reviews with the first volume of Brian Azzarello's run on Wonder Woman. And boy howdy, is this book polarizing. Check the message boards online-- either Azzarello is an evil monstrous being who has irrevocably ruined Wonder Woman and the Amazons, or he is a visionary who has finally made Wonder Woman relevant. Let's take a look, shall we?

I'll just get this out of the way right now: I liked this book, and I don't think that Azzarello has committed an awful crime with it. That being said, I understand why fans of old Wonder Woman are upset: he origin has changed, her personality has been altered, and the Amazons are much more violent than before. So yeah, lot's of big changes with this comic.

And yet... I've been seeing people call new Wonder Woman "Kratos with tits." Come on guys, she's not that bad.

Wonder Woman takes things in a slightly different direction than one may expect. This is, in many ways, a modernized Greek myth. The gods dick around with mortals, Zeus is a shameless womanizer, and Hera is vengeful and angry. Basically, the gods are as they should be. I also love their new designs. Each god's appearance is human enough that we can understand their emotions, but inhuman enough that we never forget that these beings are, well, inhuman.
Hermes the messenger god, seen here totally ripping off Moses.
Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Princess Diana, is the daughter of Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons, a group of apparently immortal women who live in a magical land called Paradise Island (or Themyscira). Traditionally, Diana was formed from clay and then given life by the goddesses of the Greek pantheon. In the New 52 version, however, she is... um... not.

Oh, they acknowledge the clay story, but it's revealed only one issue later to be a lie. Hippolyte concocted the story in order to protect Diana from Hera's wrath, as in actuality, Diana was the lovechild of Hippolyte and Zeus, which is oddly fitting, since Diana is already protecting a young woman being hounded by Hera for carrying Zeus's newest bastard, and this revelation makes it more personal.

It also makes her very pissed. Diana does not take the news well.
It doesn't help that the goddess of strife and discord is a terrible people person.
And right here, we also see why many classic Wonder Woman fans are so pissed. Wonder Woman is no longer unique. She is now tied to Zeus, a guy who, if you know anything at all about Greek mythology, you know has fathered enough bastard children to put Genghis Khan to shame. There's also the fact that the "daughter of Zeus" origin was already claimed by someone in the DC universe-- Wonder Girl. That's right, they gave Wonder Woman her sidekick's origin.

However, I can see what Azzarello is aiming for here. He wants to tell a story that's very deeply entrenched in Greek Mythology, and in Greek myth, being a hero pretty much meant that a god had to be your parent. Making Wonder Woman the daughter of Zeus emphasizes her mythological theme. This version is clearly not meant to be a modern hero as we understand, but instead a Classical Greek hero (hence why this new Wonder Woman is a bit more prone to violence).

I can see why people would be upset about this. Wonder Woman and the Amazons have always been about peace, after all... but the whole paradise thing? That's a Christian concept. Since this new version is focused more on classical mythology, I don't mind that classical values are being applied.

This is a well done story. The interactions between Diana and the other characters is just great. I love her playful teasing with Zola (the pregnant girl she's protecting) and Hermes. I love how she reacts to her life being a lie. I just love this whole story.

And also, I love the art. Cliff Chiang's artwork in this comic is absolutely gorgeous and beautifully stylish. The last two issues in this volume have a different guy doing the artwork, and maybe if they had worked on it from the start I wouldn't have minded, but next to Chiang's drawings, the art in issues 5 and 6 look like crap.
Is this not one of the most stylishly badass covers ever?
Also, Wonder Woman is actually colored like someone from the Mediterranean, so there's that too.
I should also note that this series can get pretty gory at times. Hera begins her assault on the pregnant woman by chopping off some horses heads, and we are then treated to a seen of human torsos crawling out of the bleeding stumps to become centaurs. Admittedly, that's a pretty imaginative way to make centaurs, but this is not a comic for the squeamish (why do I get the feeling I'll be saying that a lot as I review the New 52?).

That's all I have to say. I can't really recommend for or against this comic because whether or not you enjoy it depends a lot on what you want out of a wonder woman story. I will say, however, that I really enjoyed this and will most definitely get volume two when it comes out in January.

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