Well, DC is catching even more internet crap than I ever imagined they would over the Starfire and Catwoman. But I’ll give them credit where it’s most assuredly due. They hit a home run with the Wonder Woman title. I was not even remotely enthusiastic about this title when I saw first saw it, but now that I’ve picked it up, I have to say I’m extremely impressed. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang combine their talents to make a vivid and fantastic book.
Azzarello is at his best in noir, and he’s shown us in Flashpoint that he can get a little nutzo with it. What he’s done in Wonder Woman is transport the Greek Gods into an urban underworld. Perhaps the better world for it is ‘overworld,’ since the first mythological character we see in the book has taken up residence in a spectacular penthouse. According to him he’s the ‘sun of a king’ in what I am sure, by the end of the book, is not a misprint. Mythological creatures flit around the world, committing murder, trying to commit murder, and very occasionally trying to prevent murder.
If the premise of mythology in the everyday world sounds too precious for regular comics readers, Cliff Chiang rides to the rescue with deep neons that stand out against red skylines. Never have centaurs looked so perfectly in place. The storyline is pure noir as well, with the thoughtless kingpin (Zeus) at the top, playing around while his underlings, in this case his children, scrambling and scheming to get a bigger slice of the pie. It looks like the most ruthless of those children wants to knock off dear old dad himself, or at least a few of his brothers and sisters.
Into this world, a hapless innocent – a young woman who was impregnated by Zeus – has gotten in over her head. Diana is summoned to save her, from the machinations of Zeus and from all of his children on earth. This book, funny as it sounds, has Wonder Woman playing Sam Spade. She’s world weary, knows the lay of the land, knows she’s not particularly high up in the hierarchy, but also knows she’s tough as nails. It’s her job to figure out what’s going on, what needs to happen, and to go up against the powers that be to make sure it does happen.
Let me add a word or two about Cliff Chiang’s art. (I believe those words will be; Nekkid Ladies Done Right.)
This is Zola.
She spends the entire issue in her underwear, and it’s pink. I didn’t notice it until my second or third reading. Although Chiang’s art makes women very ‘pretty,’ there isn’t any scene that looks posed or contrived. When Zola’s in danger, the art is about Zola being in danger. When she’s threatening someone with a gun, the pose is one that looks right for threatening someone with a gun.
And here’s Diana:
I would argue that the picture above is hot. At the same time, the art doesn’t sacrifice personality, context, or the heroic look of the character in order to make it hot. In fact, the most awkward piece of art in the entire book was this panel:
That magical coverlet has to be held on with magnets, or has to have slid down to her waist one second later, because otherwise Diana would be flashing the reader. And I would be fine with that. Surprised that they did it, but fine with it. (I’d also be fine with her sleeping in pajamas.) It’s not about nudity. I’m pretty sure that between Vertigo and Max and independent titles every comics reader out there has seen a nipple or two, and kids don’t read this stuff. (Even if they did, I doubt a naked boob shot would hurt them.) It’s about the context and the character – and prioritizing both. Not all nudity is bad nudity, and a nude shot of Diana here would, in my opinion, be better than the fully-clothed gratuitous butt shots of other female characters in other books.
But back to Wonder Woman. The art and the storyline work together well. It’s also an interesting story, thanks to good world-building by Azzarello and thanks to the fact that, unlike nearly every other book in the New 52, it isn’t stuck waist deep in yet another re-telling of a superhero’s origin. If there’s one thing that hampers it, it’s the fact that Wonder Woman remains DC’s version of The Man With No Personality. (“Some say he robbed a bank and saved a puppy at the same time.” “Is he fer the law or agin’ it?” “Nobody knows. ‘Cause he ain’t got no personality.”) Putting her in the Sam Spade role is a good way for her to stalk through the book with authority and purpose, but the main show will always be the side characters. Overall, though, I’d say it’s one of the best books to come out of the New 52, and it’s good to see that for this particular part of DC’s Big Three.