Wonder Woman HC volume one Blood
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by: Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins
Collecting:Wonder Woman #’s 1-6 & 7-12
I recently saw the Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s New 52 version of Wonder Woman described as a combination of Game of Thrones and The Sopranos. This is a very apt depiction, though it may even be easier to portray it by saying what it is not: a superhero story.
Wonder Woman HC volume two Guts
New 52 Wonder Woman is a story of family conflict and monarchical deception. At no point is there any one “bad guy” that needs to be stopped, nor do you feel as though Wonder Woman is the only character capable of handling everything on her own. Rather than delivering a tale through the conventional comic book vehicle of story arcs, Azzarello relay’s Diana Prince’s adventures via one long narrative. While some problems may seemingly get resolved, the most pertinent conflict is always what will take place in the next issue. This method of delivering story via never-ending delayed gratification –what could turn out to be novel-style story telling when all is said and done- could be frustrating for some, but I found it to be engrossing.
The books are about Wonder Woman and her interactions with the Olympians, or the gods of Greek mythology. It begins when Zeus disappears, leaving nothing but a vacant throne and some previously undiscovered bastard children. Naturally, Hera is not happy about her husband’s betrayal, and the other gods begin making the necessary chess moves to put them in the best possible position to claim Zeus’ vacated throne.
What elevates Azzarello’s writing from good to great is the way he depicts the Olympians as large dysfunctional family. There is an overarching feeling of familiarity and resentment between all the gods/demi-gods. Deals are struck, schemes are hatched, past personal conflicts are dug up (many of which are fun little Easter Eggs for any fans of Greek myth), and it all merges into an atmosphere of distrust and instability. You’re never quite sure what will happen next, and your opinions of the peripheral characters are ever changing.
The visuals are handled by Chiang, with occasional fill-in issues by Tony Akins. Chiang’s bold, dynamic lines perfectly illustrate the ferocity and determination of Diana. While Chiang’s work may not carry as much detail as your average illustrator, he renders Apollo’s irritating smirks and Strife’s subtle, knowing looks just as well. The visuals suffer a little with Akins takes over, as it looks very similar to Chiang’s pencils, but with a less steady, firm hand.
Perhaps the best aesthetic element in these volumes are Chiangs’ depictions of the Pantheon of Gods. With the inaugural appearance of each respective god, the character models invoke a sense of originality, while still echoing the historical mythos of Poseidon, Eros, or Hermes. A modern twist on old classics.
There was an instance at the end of issue 6 (illustrated by Akins) where it was very difficult to tell what was happening in a scene between Wonder Woman, Hades, and Hera. It appeared to be both an issue of art and narrative, and thankfully after a quick web search, I was able to at least have some idea of what occurred.
It is worth saying I had a very difficult time procuring the hardcover for volume 1 for less than $40 (it typically ranges from $40 – $50 for a brand new copy on eBay or Amazon). For context, not vol. 1 of Scott Snyder’s Batman nor Geoff Johns’ Justice League go for more than $20 online. If everything I typed up here doesn’t properly relay the quality or popularity of Azzarello and Chiang’s work, perhaps value others have placed on it will.
The only other issue I have with these two volumes lies within Wonder Woman’s costume. Part of the reason for the New 52 was to re-visualize DC’s characters in a more modern light. This was done to great success, in my opinion, with the (subtle) changes made to Superman and Batman’s costumes, but less so with Wonder Woman. Her garb still says “Golden Age Objectivism” rather than mirroring the ferocious and hardened Amazon warrior displayed in the story. Worse yet, Wonder Woman dons -what is called by Chiang- “Divine Armor” during the course of the story. In my opinion it is the perfect solution to Diana’s clothing problem, vicious Amazon warrior without losing a feminine feel, but it lasts for just one issue. This is more a criticism of DC as a whole than it is of creative team’s work. DC spun their wheels with her character design, but have a dynamic replacement that they refuse to pull the trigger on. Disappointing.