Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wonder Woman #3 review

In which the Amazons bury their dead and Diana learns that she has a father as well as a mother.

Last issue, in the midst of tricking Amazon into killing Amazon, demi-goddess Strife told Diana that they shared a father - Zeus. Diana didn't believe this, her mother Hippolyta having told her that she was a clay statue brought to life in answer to her mother's prayers.

Believing herself to be responsible for the slain, Hippolyta feels ashamed. She admits to Diana that Strife speaks the truth - she is the result of a passionate affair between Queen of the Amazons and King of the Gods. Learning she was pregnant, Hippolyta concocted the magical birth story to hide Diana from Zeus' wronged, vengeful wife, Hera. Feeling her life to be a lie, Diana goes into the Amazon jungle (no, not that one) and smashes things for awhile, before emerging and announcing that she is no longer to be referred to as Diana, and certainly not by the dismissive nickname Clay - from now on, it's Wonder Woman.

Clay? Really? The queen allowed her beloved child to be referred to so dismissively while growing up? It's one thing to keep a lie going, but allowing your child to be hurt in the process? Not cool.

Mind, Diana seems sanguine about the nickname; less so about her mother's well-intentioned deceit. While I'm not buying writer Brian Azzarello's self-evidently silly argument that having a father who's a god is more relatable than Diana being a transformed statue (not a Golem, that's a culturally specific term), the comic book Hippolyta of earlier continuities has form when it comes to lying to Diana 'for her own good'. And Diana has been angry at her previously, on learning the truth. This lie, though, is rather massive, changing Diana's sense of self - her mother is her genetic parent; she has a dual heritage as Olympian as well as Amazon; and >ulp< she's likely to be murdered by one of the most powerful of the gods. It's a lot to take in, and given that praying to her deities for succour might not be the wisest move right now, I can understand her smashing a few things. 

But I'm not delighted that when she comes out of the jungle she immediately puts the trash-talking Amazon Aleka in her place, with a well-placed punch. Yes, Aleka is stirring up ill-feeling against Diana, but she does have a point - knowing that the mortal Zola was being hunted by Hera's monsters, bringing her to Paradise Island wasn't the wisest of ideas. Rather than lash out with a closed fist, Wonder Woman should hold out a conciliatory open hand - love and understanding is meant to be the core of her being.

And while I'm not judging Hippolyte for her unwise choice of  man/god, her obvious pleasure in sharing the details of her shenanigans while purporting to be ashamed makes her seem like a daft old tart. Then there's the crab fight on the beach as Aleka rabble rouses - it's not subtle.

Things I do like in the script include the spunk of Zola, which is enough to stop gods in their tracks, and the mischief of Strife, always stirring the pot. And it's good that Azzarello obviously know just where his story is going, and he has a fine turn of phrase.

It's just a shame that he's turned Diana into the kid who's OK with who they are, only to suddenly find themselves the scion of a rich clan - the Adam Carrington of the superhero set. I truly hope this series isn't going to be filled with godly, godawful soap opera. At its best, the Wonder Woman strip is a delicate balance of superheroics and mythology - go too far in the one direction, confine her to one milieu, and Diana loses a big part of her appeal.

And never mind Zeus, Diana's real-life father, William Moulton Marston, intended Diana to inspire. Wonder Woman's powers weren't innate, they were the result of Amazon training. She strove to become the finest, wisest warrior on Paradise Island - her only birthright was her mother's love. So making Diana an actual demi-god cheapens the ideal of Wonder Woman, takes away from her message that any of us could become a wonder too.

On the artistic side, Cliff Chiang continues to dazzle. His Diana has the physique of an athlete rather than a whippet-thin model, while - partnered with colourist Matthew Wilson - he choreographs action and sets the mood superbly. There's one panel in which Diana's body is a little off, and unfortunately it's the capper to the issue, but disappointing Chiang is still pretty nice

And there's one hilarious panel in which ... wait, I'll show you ...
I'm a great proponent of 'sometimes a cigar is just a cigar' but Lord, that's one big fat Cuban. Still, the Zeus scenes have the requisite sexy intensity to them, probably more than a Teen-rated comic should have. This is a good-looking book, it's a well-written book. I just hope the creative team remembers that it's supposed to be a Wonder Woman book.

8 comments:

  1. Well...this was quite the game-changer; it appears all DCs 3rd and 4th issues are the ones in which the plots take a massive u-turn and WW is no exception - in fact, she has the pick of the bunch with what Im reading here. We all knew it was coming but our new resident writer pulls out more twists, re Hippolyta and her attraction to Zeus and her lying to Diana. And I totally understand Di being angry but still it was petulant of her to punch Akka...no more angry WW without good reasonplease Azzarello; I dont want scowls every ish. All in all it held its high standards, this ish; there seems to be a definite thru-line in his writing that is setting up major confrontations later on and keeping us entertained as to what happens next and what we think will happen next...thats good writing.
    Still not keen on Di having a dad at all but this plot is fair carrying me along; its a rare skill that a major plot point/twist like that isnt dominating the story [except for this one issue so far, naturally] but forms part of a much wider picture to come. I thought Id dislike this new direction when it came out, I find myself liking it even more with each instalment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "And never mind Zeus, Diana's real-life father, William Moulton Marston, intended Diana to inspire. Wonder Woman's powers weren't innate, they were the result of Amazon training. She strove to become the finest, wisest warrior on Paradise Island - her only birthright was her mother's love. So making Diana an actual demi-god cheapens the ideal of Wonder Woman, takes away from her message that any of us could become a wonder too."

    You mean like a bunch of Goddesses and one God popping down from Olympus to give Diana life and god-like powers ala Perez? Face it, the Marston idea of hard work and anyone can be a "wonder " too has been dead for decades now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This whole thing with Zeus and the father stuff... I don't care. Frankly don't give a damn. A whole new world and universe, so changing things up it doesn't bother me. I understand people's problems with that, but since I never really felt attached to Wondy before now, I don't feel like bursting into anger like others.

    Anyhow, I'm hoping to get this later on this week. My local bookstore is acting funnny this week and not releasing anything until Friday. If this means they are finally catching up, great! If not, UGH.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have to admit, new origin or not, I'm loving it. (And like Anon said, I think the "anyone can train and be a wonder" has been lost long before now... probably at the point when all Amazons became badasses... maybe sometime in the 70s?)

    But I liked some of the other Amazon's resentment of Diana. I suspect that nickname wasn't something Hippolyta allowed... but something that persisted despite her. Royal decrees like "don't tease my daughter" don't make for a very just (or loved) queen.

    I'm also okay with Diana punching Aleka. Not that love and understanding shouldn't be at the core of her being, but as a signal that the news she's just heard has shaken that core... lashing out might not be heroic, but it's not a situation where she needs to be a hero. (And, of course, it's a comic, so I expect people to express themselves through punching now and then.) Agreed that the crabs weren't subtle. Poor Sebastian.

    I loved that she blew the funeral pyres alight!

    Can't wait for the next issue. I'm wholly invested in this Wonder Woman, in a way that I've rarely been before.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gahh. Not only did we have to wade through a "Hippy and Zeus make love" on-panel scene that was completely unnecessary (but hey, the fanboys will love it) (did we need such to show the conception of Superman or Batman?), but once again in the past handful of years we are shown that the Amazons are a hateful, violent bunch. Why should we expect Diana to show the very core of her iconographic foundation: love, peace, reasonableness, empowerment, when she has had no way to learn such?

    http://www.fempop.com/2011/10/10/dc-gives-wonder-woman-a-father-and-misses-the-point/

    To you, Azz "has a fine turn of phrase," but I read it as a quick series of cliches, gathered from dozens of places and tossed together into one irritating stream. And I still have massive problems with Chiang's use of anatomy. That final full-page panel—yuck! Yes, he's consistent, but—yuck!

    Diana has not only been cheapened but completely rebooted, to be replaced by Xenules. I'm calling it: Wonder Woman died in 2010 in issue #600. Someone have the tombstone engraved. Send me the bill.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm certainly engrossed in the story, Karl, but I'm really hoping we see some of Diana's unique qualities and gimmicks.

    Fair comment about Dr Marston's ideas, Anon, but this is comics - the dead can be revived!

    I hope you have your books now, Info Geek - let us know what you reckon to WW #3.

    I didn't get why Diana was getting involved with the funeral pyres - the lasses were doing just fine with the burning, there's at least one lit before she gets all blowy. I'm disappointed that she wasn't expressing much in the way of angst over her sisters' deaths. She was rather Poor Me.

    Hmm, if Diana is the new Hercules maybe we could have another nice 12 Labours story, Carol? Maybe Azzarello is going for the big drama here, then we'll get a spot of whimsy? A boy can dream ...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Reply to Martin, I love to tell you my opinion on this new issue of WW, but my shop decided to continue with it being a week behind when I finally got my comics. So, tune in week. On the plus side, I finally got Batgirl that continued to be a load of fun.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What is the philosophy of your shop so far as getting comics in is concerned? Why all the delays? It's just wrong!

    ReplyDelete