Wonder Woman #15 review

I checked out of this Wonder Woman series a few months back, but couldn't resist checking back in for the debut of Orion of the New Gods in DC's New 52 continuity. Nothing much seems to have changed while I've been away: Diana is still following her fellow demi-god brother Lennox around like a clueless puppy. Zola has had her baby but, the child having been stolen, is babysitting Queen of the Gods Hera instead. Orion is looking for someone and has gone to old friend Milan, who presents as a hobo but is apparently an Olympian. Diana and Lennox are, coincidentally or not, looking for Milan as part of a quest to find some sister I missed, Siracca. Hephaestus tweaks Diana's bracelets so that they can create swords, which comes in handy when Orion and Diana must fight because, well, they're in a superhero comic. And some lost firstborn of, probably, Zeus is in Antarctica and pretty darn miffed.

Last week, while reviewing Legion Lost, I argued for DC to institute a Marvel-style recap page to avoid writers having to shoe in acres of unconvincing expository dialogue. There's no such problem with info-dumping here - Brian Azzarello assumes that the only people reading are those who've been with Wonder Woman from the start of this seemingly endless tale of petty-minded, idiotic gods. Or those who will read this in one massive collection. Super. Having been around for many of the issues, I've a better chance than first-timers of 'getting' this comic, but Wonder Woman #15 certainly won't bring me back as a regular. The old problem remains, encapsulated by Orion in a refreshingly meta piece of dialogue as he barks at Lennox: 'You and your stupid damn riddles.'

Indeed. Lennox isn't the only offender - all the gods sound like cryptic crossword clues - but he's the worst because Azzarello has somehow gotten even worse at writing 'English' speech patterns:

'I don' let him do anything - why you think I 'ave control over this?' 
'There be older powers at play.' 
'Why I always stick myself with the 'orrid jobs?' 

As Jack Lemmon said of Tony Curtis's impression of Cary Grant in Some Like it Hot, 'nobody talks like that'. Lennox sounds like a cross between Ali G and Worzel Gummidge. It's as if Azzarello is typing with a tin ear.

Of course, this could be his subtle way of hinting that Lennox isn't the English godling he claims to be; in which case, get on with the revelation, and stop hurting my brain.

As implied by the line above, Orion is a far more straightforward guy than the Olympians, who couldn't cross the street without building a labyrinth and dumping a minotaur in it. If he can cut through some of the nonsense and bring the main storyline - whatever it is, I can no longer remember - to a close, excellent. Once he and Diana get their obligatory fight scene over with, they'll likely team up to do whatever (while Diana wants to find Siracca, it seems Orion has been searching for Diana).

The scenes I really like this issue see Zola and Hera acting like kids over the TV remote, before they address the tension between them - the fact that Hera's hubby Zeus dallied with Zola. Two women on the road to resolving their differences by talking rather than fighting - that's classic Wonder Woman right there. The scene plays out well, thanks in large part to the nuanced art of Cliff Chiang (click on image to enlarge).

Chiang's work is a pleasure to look at, with all the characters distinct and, well, characterful. Even the annoying lummox - sorry, Lennox - looks adorable, a confused man-baby, while Hera is all stately bitchiness, Zola the impatient homegirl and Diana, pretty darn magnificent. As for Orion, he's surprisingly true to Jack Kirby's classic design, burly, heroic and the most thoughtful bruiser around. He lacks the awe factor, though, looking more like a biker than a space god, while the astro harness resembles a piece of gym equipment. Chiang's storytelling is as sharp as I remember, always interesting, always getting the job done. My favourite image is Diana swooping down on Orion after he challenges her, looking like the star of the show that she never seems to be in this series. And the colours of Matthew Wilson suit Chiang's work down to the ground, knowing when to be flashy and when to be naturalistic; the Boom Tube lighting is especially fine.

All in all, this seems a pretty good issue of the Azzarello Wonder Woman series, but I won't be back next time - there were too many gods when I left, and here we are months later, with still more being introduced, even without New God Orion. The Amazons still look to be missing, Diana's mother Hippolyta apparently remains dead and the Zola's baby thread is being spun out ever thinner. And Diana? Diana is no more than the member of the ensemble cast who gets to appear on the cover. There's no sense that this comic is about her, that's she's driving the story.

The DC New 52 Wonder Woman is what it is, but it ain't for me.

Ain't? Er, 'isn't'. Don' 'old that against me, oi?

Comments

  1. I tend to agree with much of this review. As far as story goes it's cool enough and Chaing's art is great but Wonder Woman is swamped by Gods and we keep getting more and more. Being the reboot title this book owed WW not only exploring her new origin etc but trying to explore with her what she is about. Coming into the outside world and adapting and good old fashioned super heroics. I guess we should be thankful to Geoff Johns in a way, least he give us something familiar but JL is not the WW book. We have subplots the writer could have tied up but he keeps dragging in more Gods, and we haven't met some important Olympians yet (athena) and even begun to deal with the stuff dropped on us in issue #7 about the man seducing amazons, God mode etc. I am losing some patience. 15 issues in and we are no where near resolving anything and call me picky but I want an explanation about her life in London, what the hell is she even doing there, etc and would be nice to actaully see Diana missing her mother and sisters sometimes. Oh well.

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    1. Hi Anonymous (1), nicely put. Diana's placement in the UK was one of the most intriguing aspects of the opening issue and - so far as I've read - we know nothing about her life here beyond a familiarity with clubs.

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  2. It's all about Wonder Woman because it's her world. Ridiculous complaint as usual from Wonder Woman vets who aren't used to the character getting a good story. Look how expansive Batman's world is. It doesn't get that way if they only focus on Batman all the time. These narrow thinking Wonder zealots hold the character and her mythos back just because they want to ogle at Wonder Woman alone.

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    1. Be nice if we get to ogle her alone. As is she is hiding behind a barage of Gods. Batman has a zillion title btw. WW has ONE.

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    2. Maybe Batman can support multiple books with his supporting cast and Wonder Women has been floundering on One book for ages. Her supporting cast is now extremely interesting and it makes her Book all the better. Who knows we might get another Wonder Women Universe book out of this run because Of how much her Supporting Cast has been Built up.

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    3. Anonymous says: "Ridiculous complaint as usual from Wonder Woman vets who aren't used to the character getting a good story."

      I think Mart's been very clear here that his issue is with the story at least as much as Diana's role within it. From what he's said here, and from my experience of Azarello's run (and I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool Wonder Woman devotee) so far this title has spent 15 issues introducing character after character. That's not an adequate alternative to story.

      The charm of Batman's supporting cast is they were by and large introduced "naturally" over 60 years, in stories that kept the focus on Batman (cf. Leslie Thompkins, Commissioner Gordon, any of the Robins...). The concern that Mart expresses here is that we don't know who "Wonder Woman" is yet, but Azarello is still enamoured with introducing more new/revamped characters and sidelining Wonder Woman herself. I love the Buffy the Vampire Slayer supporting cast, for example, but they only work if one has a clue who Buffy is first.

      And without meaning this to sound churlish, Wonder Woman already had a well-established supporting cast... Etta Candy, Steve Trevor, the Amazons (all with 60+ years history), Mindi, Julia and her daughter (20 years history), etc. Pick any era and you'll find plenty of strong supporting characters and they were used to highlight and enhance stories that kept the focus on Wonder Woman. In my opinion, during the George Perez 1988 reboot, WW introduced one of the strongest supporting casts in comics.

      Which isn't to say that creating a new supporting cast from whole cloth isn't fine if a writer wants to do that - but I remain unconvinced that this writer has any interest in using Wonder Woman at its centre.

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    4. Anonymous (2), thanks for taking the time to comment, however dismissively! Krusty, cheers for answering Anon2's points while I've had a wonderful day at the office and dentist.

      Anon2, if you think this is a blog that likes to ogle Wonder Woman, you're kind of barking up the wrong tree. I want Stories with Diana at the centre, ones in which she's the most important player and the supporting chracters do what the term implies - prop up her story. That doesn't mean they should never be featured players in storylines, but for the most part this comic should star Wonder Woman, as promised by the title.

      Nicely put points about Batman, Krusty. Batman's back-ups developed over time. Heck, I don't think Leslie Thompkins appeared for a decade or something after her debut in There is No Hope in Crime ALley in Detective Comics #457. I'd love to see some of Diana's old muckers appear here - it's weird that Steve Trevor is everywhere in the new DCU except here, and perhaps if the new Etta Candy migrated over from the Justice League title she'd show a spark of personality.

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  3. Mart has been clear to say this is a good story. It simply is not the story for him. He has given it a chance. I'm buying WW and enjoy the book but totally get what they say. I agree the book is kind of dragging now and I caan see the concern Diana is being passive character who only reacts rather than drive the narrative. As for the other titles it will spin off? I can see New Gods. How is that remotely anything to do with Wonder Woman? Orion coming in really better have some majoy repercussion for the DCU at large because otherwise I see no real reason to drag him in. Also if anyone thinks Hera/Strife is going to sell books you really have to check yourself. I myself would like if we have a second book to pay attention to updating WW's rogue's gallery and showcase WW in the real world. It doesn't mean I don't like this story but it does not feel like all that WW is or should be for the sole WW book. The Buffy analogy is very good and Buffy worked because she had a normal life and was not only chasing vampires. Buffy also had to struggle with getting use to her new responsibility. The reverse needs to happen to Diana becuse heroism isn't new to her. Our world is. I am still going to be around buying the books but I am getting a little antsy too. I have been waiting for Azz to explore the huge bomb he dropped on us and seems to have no desire to even revist it and he is moving further away from trying to circle back and deal with the seeds he's sowing. There are many ideas I like in this run but many I am very indifferent to. I compare say Action and the way it plotted and the way pages and ideas are played with and used and how effective a writer can deal with story and introduce new elements and characters yet keep it all about the star and have resolution. So I'm hanging in for now but really considering whether I should wait for trades if this book just keeps only focusing on Olympians and New Gods.

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    1. And thanks to you too, Hellacre, for the incisive comments. Surely Brian Azzarello will eventually take up the 'killer Amazons' business, how could any supposedly compassionate Wonder Woman not wish to find out the truth. There may be no Amazons around to interrogate, and the gods can't be trusted, but she could perhaps hire a detective to look into shipping records, see if sailors have been going missing due to Themis-sirens. DC could dig up Micah Rains, or Ed Indelicato or even (gosh but I'm such a Wonder Woman vet) Tim Trench. And surely that guy from Justice League, Steve Trevor, knows something?

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    2. "how could any supposedly compassionate Wonder Woman not wish to find out the truth."

      Same reason that this Wonder Woman would let Hera and Zola be in the same room, even though in the previous issue Hera almost murdered Zola and her unborn child by literally throwing her off a cliff. You would think a compassionate Wonder Woman wouldn't act surprised at the sight of these two fighting each other. This one does. The way I see it, compassion would imply that Wonder Woman cares. If this Wonder Woman does indeed care, she's certainly doing a good job at making sure it's no one's business. She even stated how she didn't care that Apollo, the guy who murdered three innocent women at the same time in issue #1 got the throne. And if anyone is going to bring up the fact that Wondy didn't know about it, use that as an example at how detached she is from her own comic.

      As for the killer Amazons? How is that going to lead to anything outside of having Wonder Woman apologizing to males everywhere on behalf of the female gender? Outside of her and Zola, what female character isn't a manipulative and borderline psychotic person?

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    3. Hello Jeyl, thanks for filling me in as to what I missed. It is weird that Wonder Woman would leave those ladies alone together, given what you say.

      I don't want to see Diana apologise for the 'killer Amazons'. Rather, I want to find out if the story is true. I'm still hoping its just another god lie.

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  4. Orion is kind of like Alexander the Great. Give him a complicated knot, and he’ll cut it with a sword, riddles be damned. :)

    I also love the current run, including this issue, but I can understand why some won’t. Stories, in my opinion, are a matter of personal preference.

    Still, since I’m quite a selfish, I love reading your reviews, Mart, and still hope you stay for good! :)

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    1. Hello Arnold, I'm glad you're enjoying Wonder Woman - I know you're not alone!

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  5. Loved this issue as much as every previous one. The story grips me so much that when I was interrupted reading it to get on the bus, my mind started filling with possible scenes between the characters. That's how well I think Azz's doing his job. I don't even mind the Amazon revelations. Those women once had progressed to super-science and explored new philosophies but since the original Crisis they have just been stagnant barbarians who have no desire to grow into anything beyond what they were when they first set foot on Paradise Island. Would I have chosen the man killing impregnation? No, but it's a change beyond stagnant Red Shirts. And I'm thrilled I was wrong Orion would turn out to be the head biter from a few issues ago. Now if only it won't turn out to be Heracles I'll be even happier but that seems where it's going...

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  6. Hello Steve, it's good to get another perspective. I do think you're underselling the post-Crisis Amazons, though, given that they opened their borders to a cultural exchange with the outside world.

    I love that you were conjuring up extra scenes, it must have made for a fun bus ride!

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  7. The problem was that the Amazons opened up their doors to a long dead culture. Their weapons, dress, architecture, and philosophy froze in amber when they left Man's World. I dislike reading about Marston's bondage fetish but his Amazons evolved and grew in their time apart. Perez's send the message that without men you stagnate...

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