Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Wonder Woman #6 review

In which Wonder Woman and newly discovered semi-sibling Lennox sort out the tussle for Olympus between claimants Hades and Poseidon by, er ...

... to be honest, I don't really know. I know what I see, but not how the moments shown work together to tell the story.

Diana, Lennox and pals Hermes and Zola are in a tunnel by the Thames with Hades, and Poseidon looking in from the outside. Hera, the other claimant to the Greek heaven, shows up, naked but for her ridiculous feather cape. Diana and Lennox are suggesting that rather than fight, the brothers treat Olympus as a timeshare - Poseidon's by day, Hades' by night - with Hera as resident queen.

It makes no sense, obviously, but the idea distracts the three long enough for Lennox to snap a candle from Hades' head and throw it to Diana. Hermes tosses his teleportation staff to her, too. Diana throws the candle at Hera. There's a magical wave on the floor. Lennox protects Zola from an explosion. Diana and Hera are suddenly in her Olympian palace. They threaten one another across a shiny surface. Diana teleports away.

Zola observes that Lennox is made of stone, and Poseidon apparently refers to Hera as having been blinded. Neither of these things were obvious from the preceding pages. There is some kind of rocky effect in the panel of Lennox covering Zola, but there's no sense that he's generating, or becoming, stone. And there's nothing at all to indicate Hera has lost her sight - perhaps Poseidon is using 'blinding' as a synonym for 'distracting', who knows?

DC's solicitation for this issue, among other things, asks: '... what does Lennox know that Wonder Woman doesn't?' I have no flaming idea.

What I do know is that the climactic pages of a six-issue story should be a lot clearer than this. What's the deal with Hades' head candles? What's that pool? Why did Diana take Hera across the dimensions for a simple pouting match? Since Hera zapped her way into the tunnel once, why doesn't she do so again after Diana cuts and runs?

If a lifelong Wonder Woman fan who has read every issue of this New 52 relaunch can't figure out what's going on, what chance has a first-time reader trying this book because of the buzz? Oh for a Marvel style recap page - they're great at explaining things that have never been seen in the actual stories.

Art and script just don't gel .Things happen but the progression from incident to consequence isn't there. Writer Brian Azzarello seems more interested in the gods throwing daft puns at one another (Poseidon to waxy-headed Hades: 'Oh lighten up!') than in making clear what's going on. At the beginning of the book, for example, Diana is fighting Poseidon on the surface while Lennox chats to Hades below. It seems Lennox is somehow transmitting the conversation to Hades, but it's not clear how, or whether the impression is the result of attempts to link scenes in a stylish manner. Instead we're given nudge nudge wink wink exchanges about sex, and excruciating lines such as 'Jus' Lennox, Lord Hades. Leave the mistah for me sistah.' Letterer Jared K Fletcher was likely in pain while having to spell out that one.

It's not all bad; there's a decent - if over-bloody - scene of Diana beating centaurs with a spot of pole vaulting, and a decent surprise ending leading into Diana's upcoming trip to hell. The art of Tony Akins and Dan Adkins has some good moments outside of those confusing three pages, and Matthew Wilson's colouring is pleasant. The cover by regular artist and co-plotter Cliff Chiang is a striking take on a classic idea.

But overall, this is one unsatisfying comic. After six issues I'm no closer to knowing who this latest version of Wonder Woman is. She wins the day, but only with a plan Lennox came up with, and the rest of the 'week' looks to be more of the same. Gods and monsters and clever-clever cryptic dialogue and mysterious plots and bargains ... I enjoyed the first couple of issues but the increasing starring role of the gods, and parade of half-explained events, has me frustrated. Editor Matt Idelson really needs to sit down with his creators and explain that we readers don't actually know the story that's in their heads. Spell it out. And remember who the star of the book is meant to be.

38 comments:

  1. I think that Azzarello is trying to tell the story in long terms.
    Nothing does make much sense right now, even the prophecy has been forgotten for a while... but I guess all of this will be explained in the end.
    It's risky because monthly comic books are generally more direct, but I think this will gonna work, we only need to be patient. I like all this mistery

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  2. I'm glad you're enjoying it, Jack. I can go with the longform storytelling so long as individual chunks of narrative are satisfying, and that's somewhere this book falls down.

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  3. well, I didn't read this issue yet, but until now I am very satisfied
    never been so anxious for each issue

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  4. It'd be great to hear your thoughts!

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  5. From loving the first issue of this relaunch, I've become more bemused and befuddled as the series has gone on. Glad to find I'm not the only one!

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  6. I think the "blinding" of Hera was Diana tossing the candle into her scrying pool. I have no idea why Diana and/or Hera didn't say that Hera had just as much right to rule over the heavens as do her brothers, if not more so, for she is the by-golly already-there QUEEN. Is "queen" intrinsically so inferior in every way than "king"? Does every god get updated to 21st Century concepts except the queen? Someone needs to read about Patricia Wrede's dragon "king."

    It's so odd to see such in a Wonder Woman comic.

    For a few panels there Zola changed into what looked to me to be a 6-year-old boy. I'm afraid I didn't enjoy the art this issue. It was very vague, along with the story.

    What a mess.

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    1. So now Hera's scrying blind.

      Dead on as regards Hera's right to Olympus - she has as much, or as little, as any of the players here. If only this story were appearing in a book starring a character big on female equality.

      And you're right, Zola does go a bit John Byrne Cassie Sandsmark/Franklin Richards for a moment there.

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    2. Why shouldn't it be suggested Hera rule heaven? Because it was never a serious proposal, just a way to distract the two Gods, playing upon their own sexism. But if it were a real proposal, why would Diana suggest it, when Hera's now her immortal enemy?

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    3. In order to placate her. If Diana were to help her take over Olympus, surely she'd be due a favor—like restoring her people? Besides, it would make for a rollicking adventure, wouldn't it?

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    4. But Hera that she is troublesome and vindictive and impulsive, not the sort you want for a leader. She's trying to kill Zola simply from pettiness. She doesn't seem like someone to be placated, and it would be dangerous for Diana to promise something she can't deliver, especially when Zeus returns.

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    5. Martin, really enjoyed your review and I share your frustration about the sloth slow storytelling. Here's what I had to say about Wonder Woman #6 http://interestedinsophisticatedfun.blogspot.com/2012/02/wonder-woman-6.html

      Awesome title for the blog. Keep up the great work!

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    6. Cheers Keith, I'm off for a gander at your review!

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  7. I had read now

    Yes, the "blinding" was Diana tossing the candle into Hera's pool, ideed. Then Hera cannot see where Zola is. That's the whole idea of the issue.

    But I can understand why Martin didn't figured out. The art is AWFUL. It's really hard to see what's going on. I re-read these pages a few times to understand it.

    If I were to give star, I'd give 4/5. The story is very great, but the art is painful! But I'm a nice guy, so... 4/5 :D

    sorry for my english

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    1. Thanks for getting back to us, Jack, and your English is fine.

      This idea that Hera can no longer see Zola, it confuses me - as the sitting Queen of Olympus I'd expect more intelligence resources than a measly pool. She has Strife on Earth, for one thing, able to find Zola and report back. She could send an owl, or an espionage-savvy peacock. There must be all sorts of ways she could continue her vendetta.

      If the scrying pool is Hera's weapon of power and her effectiveness is tied to that, we should have been told. If we have been told, we should have been given a one-line reminder here. We should know how weapons such as the candle and the Caduceus staff relate to one another, and the power of the gods. We shouldn't have to read every scene several times, intuit what we, guess some stuff and then turn theories over to a focus group.

      Oh, I'm going on. I really am glad you enjoyed the comic, Jack.

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    2. "an espionage-savvy peacock"

      I would buy a comic about that alone!

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  8. I've really loved the series up till now, but this issue really fell down for me, too. I thought, aside from a few instances, Akins' art made it pretty clear what was happening, but I certainly couldn't tell why on the first read. (I figured out that blinding = breaking the scrying pool after I paged back, but am still not sure why Hades's candle was needed.) More than anything, it reminded me of an issue of Hellblazer more than Wonder Woman -- a bunch of mystical figures in a stand-off while the main character has some secret double-cross planned.

    This is the first issue of the new series to let me down; I'm hoping that with the return of Chiang (and his addition as a co-writer) we'll get some more clarity.

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    1. Lennox certainly seems to be a bit of a Constantine substitute. Brian Azzarello's Hellblazer was the only run I actually hated - take the British magician out of his natural environment and don't have much of anything spooky happening.

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    2. Definitely -- but even more than Lennox, it's also the structure of the issue that echoes a Constantine story. Bringing all the entities together and forging a deal that works against them is pretty much how he cured himself of cancer, isn't it?

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    3. I think so, but things were a lot clearer there.

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  9. I was going to say Hellblazer but Rob beat me to it[!!!]; this is beginning to be a make-or-break issue for me - Diana is now merely an occupying supporting player in what was her own book. This Lennox might as well be Constantine from Hellblazer for all the good he is, and Diana seemed ot be fighting with Dr. Who's old enemy the Nestene Consciousness throughout...was she on Hera's side after what she did, or was she playing a game? Oh, Im worn out trying to figure it out.

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    1. Issue by issue, I#m missing the previous versions of Wonder Woman more and more ... time to hit the Archives and Chronicles!

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  10. as far as blinding Hera goes, what it looks like to me is Diana damaged the pool/two-way mirror that Hera observes things through, that's my best guess from the pages (it looks like she damaged it with the candle)

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  11. This is one of the new 52 titles I'm dropping -- it's actually made me pine for Phil Hester's work just before the reboot. Azzarello's writing here reminds me of his work on Firstwave -- too many characters, a murky plotline that repeatedly vanishes completely, and issues that can be read entirely in less than 5 minutes.

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    1. I never tried Firstwave, but it sounds as if it wouldn't be my cup of tea, Jonathan. Well done on dropping a book you're not enjoying. I wonder (no pun intended) when Azzarello will leave. Big name writers never stick around. Mind, the Nu DC will likely bring on Rob Liefeld as co-plotter.

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  12. Poster JBK405 on the Gail Simone board offered what I think is the clearest explanation for what happened and why that I've seen yet, so I thought I'd quote him here:

    "Diana's entire involvement wasn't to prevent the godwar, it was to lure Hera down to Earth. She then went to Hera's home and broke her scrying mirror so that Hera cannot follow her or anybody else from afar anymore. She used Hades' candle-head because only something from a god could break Hera's mirror, and she was able to get the candle-head because Hades had offered to give 'a light' (gotta be more specific in the supernatural world)."

    (The implication being that Lennox could never have stolen the candle if Hades hadn't already agreed to it.)

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    1. Sounds plausible. I wonder how 'seven years' bad luck' translates in an immortal realm.

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  13. I found this issue confusing too; the artwork definitely didn't help. I'll be much happier when Cliff Chiang is back. The current art team ruined the 'climax' of this issue.
    Considering what little I have seen of Azarrello's work and his usual stereotypical portrayal of women, I'm not surprised by his take on Hera. She's petty, vindictive, shrill, etc....
    Despite this, I do like his version of Diana
    I'm curious to see where he goes with this storyline and hopefully there is a great payoff

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    1. I've not read enough Azarello to know how he seems to see women - Superman: For Tomorrow (awful); Dr 13 (decent), the Spaceman preview story (annoying) and Hellblazer (no ta). But it's good to know his Diana seems better than most.

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  14. I enjoyed this issue. I didn't get it at first, but when I went back and reread, I got the whole thing. I liked Wonder Woman's plan, I enjoyed the humor in this, and the action was good.

    However, I have a bit of the problem with the art. It's not that I don't like the artist, it's just there is some problems with how he draws Wonder Woman. Sometimes she looks thin and sometimes she looks like she has a lot of muscles. Sort of was distracting.

    Also, nit pick. That cover is a lie! That was disappointing, but oh well! Still, I had fun and I am looking forward to seeing her venture into hell to rescue Zola. This should be great!

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    1. That cover is a lie, isn't it! But a very pretty one.

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  15. Hey Martin, I've been enjoying this reboot of Wonder Woman, I kind of like this angering-the-gods side of Wonder Woman. It's a nice different take from the old version (which I also liked!). I like how the gods and the cast interacted, and I actually like Tony Akins' art

    However, I think what was really confusing this issue wasn't all the writing or artwork per se, but the story telling. I have a feeling Akins was on a really tight deadline since his work on the previous issue was stronger and it affected the story. Anyway:

    On the sequence where Lennox tosses the candle and Hermes chucks his caduceus at Diana, Diana actually teleports to Hera's temple: LEAVING everybody behind. In Hera's lair, Diana then throws the candle into the pool.

    On page 16 panels 2-4 (not counting the ads) it's supposed to juxtapose the two scenes together: with the candle flying through the air in 'slow motion'. Panel 2 supposed to be an establishing shot with Diana missing from the scene, but it's unclear in the way Akins set it up. To add to the confusion Akins doesn't show us any details that Diana has teleported to a different scene (the colorist uses the redish background to differentiate where Diana is on panel one, but its not enough), so when it's read it feels like she's still in the same place as everybody else.

    Hera then realizes that Diana has gone to her place and teleports back, angrily, sending shockwaves that break the wall behind lennox and zola. Again, the colorist tries to clarify this action with the green shockwaves in panel 7, but the set-up by Akins just isn't that clear.

    Cut to a shot of the pool's red liquid (which isn't established anywhere in this issue, but it's in the previous ones) with the candle 'killing' the pool. In my head, I think that's why Wonder Woman needed hades' candle, since he can bring about death? Rob S had a good post about this part too.

    Anyway, on top of this, Azzarello's writing is usually pretty cryptic and you have to read between the lines, the difference being Cliff Chiang's storytelling is pretty good so we don't get TOTALLY lost. Also, I think Azzarello's Spaceman-language is seeping through Lennox a little much.

    But Akins has some moments in story telling, the action sequence with the centaurs is pretty good and flows pretty well. Anyway, sorry for the long post hopefully this helps? And I agree with you: this issue was a pretty confusing read and this book should be written and told clearly.

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    1. Hiya Biggedy, love the name. Thanks so much for the play by play, I'm sure you have it down pat.

      I actually enjoy a bit of cryptic and puns ... pretty much my living. But I see them as extra-value; in the first instance the script should be transparent. Here, the wordplay gets in the way.

      I did enjoy Akins work last issue, and did note some good moments here. Likely he was rushed.

      And no need to apologise for the length of the post, it's all good. Feel free to post long or short comments anytime!

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  16. Great review Martin. I've been defending this run, but I'm with you here. I should not have to go to a review site, even one as excellent as yours, to figure out what just happened in a comic I just read...Plus, they take their time throughout six issues and then totally rush this character Lennox into the story and suddenly through this Meeting of the Gods/Trick with the Candle thing together out of NOWHERE? That was more sudden than the ending to Twin Peaks...

    I thought I was pretty up on mythology, but why did Hades have candles on his head? And why did he look like a kid (albeit one with candles on his head) half the time?

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    1. Cliff Chiang is fond of a painting which depicts Hades so - I'm not making this up!

      And I expect he's meant to look like that all the time, but the artist didn't manage it.

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  17. Looks like I came to the commenting party late... But here goes anyway.

    I just about understood that WW broke Hera's scrying pool by throwing the candle in it. But I did have to re-read several of the pages twice as I wasn't sure what I was seeing. Thank you to whoever posted the comment about Lennox needing to borrow a light before he could snap off a candle so WW could smash the scrying pool - I hadn't understood the importance of him asking for a light.

    But I'm surprised that Hades was so relaxed about having one of his candles snapped off. Even if it didn't hurt, surely a surly god would feel it inappropriate for a half-human to touch him and snap a bit of him off??

    And, like many others here, I enjoyed the first few issues but got confused by this issue. Martin, perhaps the editor of the comic will read this thread and see that there's a real groundswell of opinion that each narrative arc needs a bit more, er, narrative.

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    1. Hades is relaxed because there's not logic to the characterisations. Go to the CBR message boards and Azzarello fans will explain that we simply have to accept this kind of thing, and applaud.

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