Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wonder Woman #5 review

Diana's having a breakfast of tomatoes in London with pals Zola and Hermes when a stranger, Lennox, brings a side order of obtuseness.

'It must be something to learn yea has a dad the same day yea learn he's scarpered off the ... call it the immortal coil?'

Well cor bloimey and lor luvvaduck. Rather than tell the fella to get back to Mary Poppins, Diana lets him speak, and believes his story that with Zeus being dead, some of his children are jostling for position. She also takes on board his claim that he's a member of her newfound family too, one who discovered his links to Olympus on the battlefields of the Second World War.

So she takes Lennox at his word that she has to be on Tower Bridge at 'six bells' or live to regret it. Who should turn up at 6pm but Poseidon, god of the seas, not in familiar old guy pose, but as the biggest, ugliest fish you ever did see? Diana changes into her Wonder Woman outfit to have a chat. Poseidon says he's going to be the new lord of Olympus, Diana stirs the pot by lying, telling him that Hera has her eye on the prize.

Meanwhile, Lennox has gone into the London sewers, met three-headed devil dog Cerberus and been saved from becoming dog food by, presumably, Hades. Dig that beehive gone bad.
Back on the rain-sodden streets of London, a pair of (masked!) centaurs appear behind the crowd watching Diana. And on some godly plain, Hera seethes at Diana's weasel words.

So Wonder Woman's plan to take on Hera, who has killed her mother and threatens Zola and her child, is based on a lie? I'm taking it that she aims to get Poseidon and Hera at one another's throats and hope they take one another down. I get that Hera's power levels are far beyond her own, but truth has always been one of the most powerful weapons in Diana's arsenal. I'm all for using it, not abusing it.

I'm baffled as to why there's such a long gap between Lennox's arrival at breakfast and Poseidon's at teatime - we're told Diana and Zola have spent the day together, which isn't very proactive for a superheroine; she should be rounding up troops against Hera, not sticking by Zola's side for Hera's inevitable attack ... act, don't react. Take the offensive. Even Hermes sees that sticking close to Zola just makes her a bigger target.

Mind, this Diana isn't the sharpest tool in the Amazon armoury, suggesting that Zola having Zeus's child somehow makes Zola her aunt. Why does Lennox gain Diana's trust so easily? Who's told him to go into the sewers? Why doesn't Diana ask more questions?

Five issues in, and as atmospheric as this story is, as nicely written as the dialogue is when Brian Azzarello isn't reaching for local colour, I'm impatient for the wrap-up. Wonder Woman seems far from the star of this book, which is basically Clash of the Titans meets Dynasty. It's a seemingly endless parade of gods and godlings knocking on Diana's door, telling her things. There's no spark to Diana, no optimism, no sense of her taking control. She should be unifying the Amazons to storm the gates of Olympus, not cowering in London waiting for the next thing to happen.

Cliff Chiang is absent this issue, but fill-in penciller Tony Akins produces more than decent work, keeping the Chiang feel. Diana, Hermes and Zola are all on-model, he can draw realistic street clothes, his London is convincing - he gets across the idea of rain swimmingly - and his creatures of myth are suitably unearthly. Not that all the monsters work - Poseidon looks just ridiculous, like a fat refugee from The Little Mermaid with his daft 'crown' of shells. There's no sense of grandeur, or threat - he looks plain silly.

In all, this is another good issue of Azzarello and Chiang's Wonder Woman, but if someone told me they were leaving tomorrow, I'd be fine with that. The title character in this run isn't DC's most famous heroine, she's a bit player in a tale of gods and monsters, Percy Jackson in a swimsuit.

27 comments:

  1. I agree, Diana should be acting like Wonder Woman and taking centerstage, especially by the fifth issue.

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    1. Indeedy - I've posted very positive reviews of previous issues, but it's time for Diana to be the star; she's no newbie, we're years into her career as a superhero, and she should be far more take charge than this.

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  2. I like your review better than J. Shooters review of the same issue. I think I will read a few more on your blog!

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    1. Cheers Don, I'd forgotten he was planning a review. I shall put on the old flak jacket and pop along ...

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  3. Ah, Jim's an issue behind. Oi, Shooter, catch up!

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  4. I'm wondering how much time has passed between this issue and the last. Zola remarks that she's still not showing, which to me means it's been a few months. At least long enough for her to apparently have gotten a real pregnancy test and decided (and comes to terms with) just how she feels about Marcus. I mean, her baby.

    I liked the art better than Chiang's, but that one panel that stretched across the bottom of the spread and included not only dialogue from the bottom of the left-hand page but action from the bottom of the right, confused me (points given for trying it, though) and I had to double-back. Similarly, I didn't know what was happening when the centaurs showed up (but that could have been because the page double-opened on me and I had to go back to find my place).

    So Diana's now got a father, a daring brother, a darling potential nephew. Her deceitful mother is dead and her taunting aunts are now snakes. She's done some things she regrets in her life, but other than that, we're 5 issues in and still have no idea of who Diana is. The script refuses to go in for a close or even little-closer-than-up-to-now look at her. Is this any way to treat the supposed lead in your story?

    Have we seen any real power set from her yet?

    She still seems merely an excuse to present a story about the gods having a war. She's a minor note, not a Wonder. Why is DC treating her like this?

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  5. Dropped as of this issue. Terrible non-story, I have no idea who or what Wonder Woman is supposed to be here and we're five issues in now. Despite a strong launch issue that was full of promise, I feel utterly disconnected with the characters and story (...?) after four issues. None of the promise has been met, this is just a parade of characters and WW/Diana doesn't have any purpose or drive. The unforgivable mock London patois this issue killed any remaining goodwill I still had for the book, there's no excuse for that in the 21st century.

    Incredible Hercules did this idea far better, which far more wit.

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  6. I didn't read Zola's comments in the same way as you, Carol, to me she was simply saying that there's no bump. I reckon a day or two has passed since last issue, though that still begs the question of why Hera hasn't acted against Zola and Diana and Hermes ... oh my! And why does Diana see Hermes as a victim in need of protection? Sure, he's hurt, but he's technically twice the god she is - he must have magicks to protect him.

    I hope Azzarello intends to explain why the question of who will rule the otherworldly realm of Olympus is being played out on Earth.

    I think the trick with dialogue overlapping from scene to scene was played out about two years after Alan Moore began doing it (I don't know if he was the first, but that's when I noticed). Especially when matching-on-action is involved - I don't actually need to be babied from one page to the next.

    Great points about the unknown Diana - mind if I plug the piece at your Strickly Speaking blog on the new Wonder Woman?

    Hey all, my cut and paste isn't working, so Google 'The Illusory Wonder Woman' if you've not read Carol's excellent piece.

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  7. You know, Krusty, I need to drop this book too. Buying it sends the wrong message to DC. As a second WW book, it'd be fine, but as the only solo take on Diana it's just not satisfactory - a non-charismatic supposed lead; an unfocused storyline; excessive violence and a case of nice arse, shame about the costume. I need to lose my 'lifer' attitude.

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  8. The shame of it is that I really liked Phil Hester's work fixing the Odyssey storyline. Azzarello seems like a bad fit on normal superhero books (as he was on Superman, anyway), as this book almost seems like Vertigo Wonder Woman.

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  9. I dropped Superman for the first time in years during that run - it was so depressing. Vertigo Wonder Woman sounds about right, Jonathan.

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  10. But Mart, Hermes has those big, sad, lost-puppy eyes.

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  11. Hey Mart, Sean here from the DC/CBR boards. You say this is a good issue and there are many pluses, but you want to drop it anyway? It seems strange to drop it at this point, when I'm sure there are runs in the past that were much, much less than enjoyable for you. Although I'm just guessing. Shouldn't good writing be rewarded too?

    Nice sum, up. But I would disagree on a couple of points. Rousing an army might be appropriate in some storylines, but as you note, this is more a "Dynasty" take, where it's all about scheming. I think Diana's showing her smarts by setting factions against each other. Also don't agree about Diana not being the sharpest tack, based on her "aunt" comment. It's just a throwaway line, and makes sense, in a common-law way. As for optimism-- I see a touch of Marston's Diana in this take, in which she takes opportunities proffered her, knowing it could be a trap, but trusting to her own ability to handle the situation. Also the line about spending the day with Zola means it's not a loss-- fantastic. It's a rare individual who doesn't complain about waiting as a waste of time.


    It would have been nice to have seen more of their time together, although this might not have been needed had there not been the breakfast-evening time jump. I suspect BA wanted to throw in some Britishy thing, like tomatoes at breakfast, or Diana saying "it's proper." (?) I also thought the patois was terrible. What's with these Vertigo writers obsessed with British culture? Is it because of Moore and Morrison? Bizarre.

    Also, don’t understand what you mean by violence—I don’t think there was anything in this issue, and aside from a horse decapitation, and a glass through a hand, I don’t see anything out of the ordinary. Certainly no more violent than the Amazon slaughter in Jimenez, or anything in Perez, Messner-Loebs, Byrne, Rucka, or Simone.

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  12. Well, predictably the initial good feeling about this book didnt last long, did it; with depressing familiarity WW fans are starting to turn, and apart from the geniune concerns of readers eager to see our fave heroine back at the top where she belongs after such a promising start the offensive trolls inhabiting the CBR board are prime examples of this - that is, if anyone left still inhabits that long abandoned board [I only go for the previews]. I didnt like this issue either, but really only because its the middle point between the set-up of Dianas new direction and how it all finally plays out. The things that annoy most posters here also irritate me, but only in a minor way; the London patois, resplete with Im sure an upcoming fight near Big Ben and a London bus. Diana being all PC with her no smoking around a pregnant Zola [sure she can say it herself] and a fight that can only be described as 'murky' and a monster that looks like a cousin of the Nestene Consciousness. So are the Amazons and Hippy dead for sure or will we see a ressurection later on...my bets on the latter. I found this issue extremely disjointed from the previous ones, tho I tried to like it and dont really seem keen on looking for faults. The replacement artist did a very resonable job filling in and the combination wide-angle and close-up shots gave this issue a slow-building, nerveless energy that, whilst not enhancing the actual plot itself maintains the idea that We're Just Not There Yet in terms of how this story is being perceived, tho the [spot on] Dynasty sop does have merit in view of how characters are precipatating their own value in the way this tale unfolds. But we;ve had more than enough easing-in, as with next issue were approx halfway through Azzarellos run on this [afaik] year-long story. But the pace of it compromises Diana herself, effectively demoting her to a supporting character in her own book - never a good thing. And after the shock ending of last issue the sharp jump ahead to London without seeing Di's reactions to what happened is too similar to Simones run on the book, where the story would jump from scene to scene with little info as to what transpired inbetween.
    Im indifferent about this issue - I neither liked it nor disliked it in and of itself [im prepared to consider it a minor lull in a so far relatively successful book] but we need a more pro-active heroine here.

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  13. Hi Sean, thanks for stopping by. There's not much chance of me not finishing the storyline, as I say, I'm a lifer, always hoping for better. If there wasn't some pleasure here, I'd be off like a shot. Given DC's mercurial (how apt!) attitude to Wondy, and recent creative moves, they could decide next week that Paul Levitz is writing the feature and Diana Prince is back in astronaut training ... Hmm, what's Jose Delbo doing these days?

    'It's proper,' isn't something you'd hear anyone say, bar maybe Eliza Dolittle trying to be posh. It's just weird. As for the tomatoes, that's perfectly normal as part of a fry-up, and that's what Diana is having - I see sausages and scrambled egg there too. Are tomatoes really so unusual in US breakfasts?

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  14. Howay Karl, no need to have a pop at the CBR guys behind their collective back ... there are plenty of nice folk there, with opinions as valid as mine or yours. With the same opinions, actually, as you'd see if you read the thread on #5 there. If people at CBR are 'offensive trolls' for the concerns expressed, you and I are right under that bridge too, watching for billy goats. Trip-trap and all that. We're all just fans, sharing opinions.

    That's a very fair point about how Gail Simone's stories were often derailed by weird jumps. As ever, I wonder where the editors are.

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  15. Sorry Mart, but from what Ive heard from other ex-posters who used to go there, the CBR board is very nice and welcoming for about six months or so but then the insults and snipings start and people start being chased away. Take a look at how few old posters there are now; Ive noticed up to eleven long-term people whove been banned/chased away, and several other forums elsewhere have mentioned this. Its getting a bad reputation, unfortunately.

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  16. Karl,

    I don't want to speak for Mart here, but I don't think that this is the place to discuss issues with the CBR forums.

    To bring things back to the topic at hand, for me this run is failing because 1. WW hasn't done anything notable yet. 2. It's not written with any sympathy towards the monthly format it's being published in.

    - Krusty

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  17. Thats cool, Krusty, I agree, this comic is a much more worthwhile subject for us all to be discussing. Further to my thoughts on issue 5, we seem fated to wait for what appears a long time for any denoument for this story, as there are lacking in any significant confrontations so far; Diana should be going after Hera for what happened to her mother and there should be a clearer explanation of Diana's powers too.

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  18. I truly hope Diana is front and centre next issue, Krusty. Heck, she had more to do guest starring in that (awful) For Tomorrow story Brian Azzarello wrote in Superman.

    I'm with you Karl - do we know how long this initial storyline is going on? Azzarello and Cliff Chiang seem to be shooting for the Omnibus.

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    1. As of issue 5 I am done with WW until things change, I ahave been sorely disappointed in the story and the art. I don't ind the costume change, the compromise DC made was adequate, but the new origin the way the amazons and the Gods are portrayed and drawn, the warrior Diana who loves to fight and carries a sword. The is not Wonder Woman the Amazon Princess from a society of Women who mastered the arts, science, ways of love and truth. Who perfected their bodies and were great warriors but only fought when necessary, who sent Diana to man's world to be an ambassador of love and truth and to forsake war. Diana whose strength of character was as great as her physical strength. I abhor this version. This Xena copycat, nothing more than a female Hercules. I cannot in good conscious continue to support this and waste $3.00 on lousy story and art.

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  19. I have to agree, Anonymous; this version of Diana [so far] is turning out worse than that Oddysey atavism - punching out Aleka [though she deserved it] like a playground bully, and last issue viciously sticking a broken glass into Strife's hand [ok, she deserved it too]...these are sadistic things Azzarello has got Di doing and it dosent sit well with our long-established respect for the character. Not to mention her indolent nature, having breakfast in London[?] after finding her mother and amazon sisters turned into snakes. And if shes so apparently against her amazon nature and all the Gods goings-on, why is she putting herself out helping Zola?
    As for how long this story is lasting...well, most comics are plotted [loosely] a year in advance, and Im sure [dont ask me where] Azzarello was given writing duties for a year, so...
    Plus, given that DC gave all its titles eight issues to garner good sales before pulling the plug [I thought it was six, initially] and this story only seems to have just begun, Id imagine we're going to see another year-long-arc played out.
    As if we didnt have enough of this with Oddysey!

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  20. Anon, you're making me even more nostalgic for the Diana I grew up with. Someone should start a Campaign for Real Wonder Woman! We'd get the secret identity, those smart and brave Amazons, a wide variety of genres, villains galore, Steve and Etta, the plane, lasso and best of all, a Diana to inspire.

    Oh, Hippolyte would still lie to Diana. That's traditional.

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  21. Some great points about Diana's behaviour, Karl. She's channelling her frustration in the wrong direction. It's a shame writers often seem to play to the 'make Diana a hardass' crowd, changing her to fit the story rather than thinking more about what kind of story would fit the fundamental Wonder Woman.

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  22. OK, I finally got around to reading the issue (and reading Martin's review, which as usual was excellent). I for one am not upset about this storyline not wrapping up yet. I like the gathering of the godly chess pieces for a battle to replace Zeus on the throne, and it understandably takes a while to bring in everyone that should be there from a mythological standpoint. We would expect Poseidon, Hades, Apollo, Ares, etc., to try to get in on the action. In fact, if anything this storyline should be longer-there are two big ones going on at the same times (on the one hand WW protecting Zola from whatever beastie Hera might send and on the other the Olympian struggle to replace Zeus). Far from Dynasty, I like the author's cynical take on the gods as tired, cruel, power-hungry, self-intereted figures (that's how they always came off in reading mythology). I trust Azzarello to build this off to a "proper" (ugh) conclusion.

    I will say I agree with Wonder Woman not coming off as competent as she might, but then again she must be still reeling from the recent newfound dad. I also thought that the depiction of Poseidon was...laughable.

    Great review though Martin, even where I don't agree. It made me laugh (the Little Mermaid comment) and asked good questions concerning what is going on in the book. Keep up the good work!

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  23. Many thanks for the kind words, Mr Whiskas. Should Azzarello stick around after the first year, it'll be interesting to see if he keeps the book as Gods of our Lives (there you go, Dynasty dropped) or will change the tone for awhile. Maybe he'll do something radical, like focus on Diana!

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