Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wonder Woman #0 review

For Wonder Woman readers, DC's Zero Month means a trip back to Diana's childhood, and harsh lessons from an Olympian. The story opens with the 12-year-old princess of Themyscira stealing a harpy's egg to make her birthday cake. She hands the egg to her mother, because on Paradise Island, says Hippolyta, 'you need to present me with a suitable present or the passing of your years will not be acknowledged'.

Delighted by the oeuf offering, Hippolyta allows a tournament, at which rival Amazon Eleka shows Diana just how much she hates her. A distressed Diana runs off to the forest, where she meets the god Ares, who introduces himself as War. He tells her that the lessons of her sisters are not enough - she needs to learn the ways of the Olympians as well as the Amazons. The pair agree to meet each full moon and for the next 11 months Diana takes on board everything her patron has to show her, eventually deciding that she wishes to use a real blade, not a wooden training one.

War explains that if a warrior picks up a metal knife they had better be prepared to use it, and agrees to let Diana fight him with steel - to the death. Unsurprisingly, War bests the teenager, but despite his words, he holds back from striking a killing blow.

One month later, with her 13th birthday approaching, the god sends Diana into a labyrinth to find 'the greatest treasure' as Hippolyta's tribute. Inside, Diana meets the Minotaur, and after downing the beast is invited to strike the killing blow - what warrior queen mother could want more than a daughter prepared to slay an injured foe?

But will she murder the Minotaur?

I really rather liked this issue. Writer Brian Azzarello, who also stars as War, approaches his story with a breezy narration, claiming it's a reprint from 'All-Girl Adventure Tales for Men' #4. Introduction over, there's a William Marston-style narration and old school thought balloons. And how I loved the latter - sure, they're not naturalistic, but they add to our understanding of the characters and anyway, this is high fantasy. Azzarello keeps his habitual punnery to a minimum, concentrating on building up the characters of Diana ('Can my mercy be a tribute to my mother?') and War ('The purpose of war is to end conflict. You must strike.')

Appropriately, the young Diana is a less-arrogant character than the adult self we've seen in the DC New 52 series, and a million miles from the brutal harridan of Geoff Johns' Justice League. She's naive enough to secretly become the ward of the war god, and merciful enough not to take on board his final lesson. She's been raised to be the best, to please her elders, but she eventually makes up her own mind about War's wisdom. The story sets up the later antagonism between War and Diana in assured style.

There are a couple of mysteries - a watching owl, likely indicating the interest of Athena, and a training Amazon who looks for all the world like Starfire (that's almost certainly me over-reaching).

And this Before the New 52 entry is simply lovely to look at. Regular artist Cliff Chiang's young Diana is a wide-eyed child, intelligent, eager and plucky. She hurtles across the pages, taking on every challenge that comes at her with with grace and power. As for the most fantastical elements, Chiang's take on the harpy and the Minotaur, more traditional than the regular series' interpretation of things mythical, is a delight. As for War, he's as scary as he should be, even when acting tenderly towards Diana.

The colouring by Matt Wilson is as terrific as ever - I particularly like the blues of the sea and sky around Themyscira - while Jared K Fletcher digs into his font baskets to summon the appropriate comic book memories. There's at least one typo, and a misused word, both of which will hopefully be fixed by editors Chris Conroy and Matt Idelson for any reprint.

Altogether, though, this is a well-crafted, enjoyable look back to a formative period in the future Wonder Woman's life.

14 comments:

  1. Well here is a surprise. I wasn't expecting you to be reading Wonder Woman again with Brian Azzarello writing it and all. Well if you are getting back into it, now is the best time I feel. The story finally got out of that boring Hades arc and is moving on, with some rather interesting developments I personally think.

    A typo huh? What a concidence! Batman #0 had one as well with the mispelling of little. Come on editors, how could you miss that?

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    1. I'm not back on the monthly - though I may check out the first part of the Orion story - simply unable to see what new details of Diana's past might be raised. It was a nice surprise.

      So many typos - I'm sure I make them, but I don't charge for this nonsense. I'm just reading Supergirl, and there's one in there too (see review, when it's up).

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    2. There are apparently a couple of errors in Batwoman 0 as well, with Renee spelled as "Rene."

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    3. I've not gotten to that yet, but am guaranteed to giggle. Do you know the Britcom 'allo 'allo?

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    4. I do -- haven't seen the whole series, but our local PBS station reran a ton of them a few years ago. (Kathy remembered them from her childhood, but they were all new to me.)

      More than anything else, my impression is that they all seemed to be having such fun making it! 'Allo Rene!

      "Good moaning..."

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    5. 'I weel say zis only wans, eet was ze Madonna wees ze big boobies.'

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  2. Another superb zero issue...I really enjoyed this, and in my current skittish frame of mind [Im presently moving house over thirty miles away, and am driving myself as mad as Orion with the effort of transporting my entire comics collection - some 26,000 in fact - from 'house of hell A' to 'gorgeous dream house B' in just a month.
    But enough of my trials...what about the lovely Diana's? She turned out very well here, showing a refreshing maturity as a teenager than she ever did as an adult during the current run [tho I dont approve of her nicking that egg, poor show]. We saw a real improvement of character in just this one issue with her sense of duty, indefatigable manner of bringing out the best in all around her wothout them knowing it and her unabashed Amazon joie de vivre. You cant help but wish this teenage Diana was inhabiting the current WW book. Being a massive WW fan from way back, even an old Silver Age snob like my good self found those old Kanigher Wonder Girl tales hard going. Her adventures getting stuck in giant clams [dont ask] or making wishes with overly-camp genies or being the unwitting beard inbetween Mer-Boy and Wing-Boy [forget his name] had me reaching for the tin-foil to chew on, so this new version of an old tale was a delightful surprise, right down to the narration and the Marston touches. I did feel as if the first page did sound as if Stan Lee has been let loose at it.
    Smashing fun. I only wish in honor of the Silver Age WW we had had Queen Hippoyta with those ice-cream cones in her hair.
    Bliss.

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    1. Thanks for finding the time to comment, Karl - all the best with the move. I agree that the egg theft was off, and assumed it was meant to be eventually understood as a bookend with the merciful Minotaur moment. But maybe not!

      The idea of Wonder Girl as beard for Mer Boy and Bird Boy is hilarious. I can't recall the real names of Bird Boy and Mer Boy, but I do recall that in Wonder Tot tales, the latter was Mer Mite ... you either loved him, or hated him

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  3. I liked the issue a lot -- it really did read a lot like an updating of one of those daffy old Kanigher/Andru Wonder Girl stories. I'm surprised the egg she stole didn't turn out to be Bird Boy.

    A couple notes: Starting an issue of Wonder Woman off with a menstruation joke is not a particularly classy move on Azzarello's part... but that's my take on the change from "the dreaded deadline doom" to "the monthly monster is here again..." (At the same time, it strikes me as a very 1963-vintage Alan Moore style gag.)

    As for the substance of the story itself, I liked it a lot, even though it sidesteps the question of where all of Diana's contemporaries on the island have come from... or rather, why Hypollita needed the clay cover story, considering the provenance of the other Amazon babies. But all things considered, I'd rather not dwell on that at all, until it can be retconned away/revealed as a lie.

    As for the traditional takes on the harpy, the minotaur, and even War himself -- I wonder if it's the contact the Amazons have had with the outside world that has changed the configuration of the gods?

    Oh, and "oeuf offering"? Your talent with puns would make Andy Saltzman proud.

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    1. Hiya Rob, that menstruation business, I tried to believe, was me reading too much into things. Apparently not (theatrical SIGH).

      I agree, it might be better to never hear where the other Teenazons came from.

      And cheers for the kind words.

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  4. I missed your interesting reviews. I wish you’d keep doing them (only the WW comic truly interests me these days).

    I had a good laugh on the “brutal harridan”, though with respect to Azzarello’s, I prefer “strong-willed” to “arrogant” (isn’t that a stereotype for women?). Even young, she leaves the god of war dumbfounded. This and the subsequent scenes do make for an excellent set-up for future conflict, as nobody slights a god without any consequence.

    Can’t say I love the issue as much as the previous entries, not because it’s bad, it just feels different. I did like the use of the thought balloons, but I must also admit, divining intentions (doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong) through actions can be more stimulating, e.g., it puzzled me a bit in issue #12 why Diana didn’t go all berserk in issue #11, then, I realized that Olympus didn’t have any innocent bystanders.

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    1. Hi Arnold, you've made my night with the kind comments. I'll likely do the odd issue if it sounds worth picking up, but basically BA's version of Wonder Woman isn't for me.

      I just love thought balloons - if the artist wants to add some subtext beyond what the script gives us, so much the better. I wonder how BA would deal with though balloons were he not seni-taking the Mmickey?

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  5. A very simple origins tale that kids would love. My 10 year old niece loved it, and she normally hates comics.

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    1. Good news - I hope your niece finds other stuff to her taste, too.

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