Poor old Wonder Woman. What a year – her 70th no less. She’s been having nothing but trouble. Let’s put to one side for a moment the problems of her intended TV adventures and look to her true home: comics.
A year or so ago, lauded writer Gail Simone was just leaving the title. She’d left it in quite a nice state. Wonder Woman was getting to grips with “man’s world”, relationships, friendships, daughterhood, her new power (Zeus’s lightning bolts), et al. Achilles had settled down from his time as The Olympian. The Amazons were tickety-boo for a change. Everything seemed happy and all set for the next writer, J Michael Straczynski. They even reverted the numbering scheme for the comic back to #600 in celebration for the next issue.
(Forgive the gorillas – it’s a long story).
Then along comes JMS and everything gets shaken up. Everything Gail Simone did is thrown to one side. We get an alternative Wonder Woman with a new costume, who lives in a world where the Amazons are all dead, Wonder Woman is an orphan. Paradise Island is in ruins. The gods have gone. And she has a new costume, too. This wasn’t Wonder Woman as we knew it or her.
So lots of people stopped reading it, including me. By about issue #608, though, it soon became clear that Wonder Woman’s ‘Odyssey’ wasn’t exactly what everyone thought it was and in fact the major reboot was a bit more minor and Wonder Woman would in all likelihood get back to something like her normal self by the end of JMS’s run on the title. Which she did, although she got to keep her new costume.
I actually ended up going back over the run once it was done to read the earlier issues, because it was quite a clever subversion of the whole Wonder Woman mythos that led to something stronger. Trouble was, it took a year to do and at the end of it, turned out to be a little pointless.
Because DC had its own major reboot planned for no fewer than 52 of its titles, including Wonder Woman. Nothing was ever going to be the same again, just as at the end of the pan-DC ‘Infinite Crisis’ arc back in the 80s. The question was, how was everything going to be different? To be honest, no one yet knows and DC hasn’t exactly been forthcoming, beyond telling us everything was going to be different and every single comic was going to start from issue #1 again.
It’s an easily satirisable position.
Now, four weeks into the relaunch, we have issue #1 of the all-new Wonder Woman. Has it all been worth it? Have there been many changes?
Well, Diana does have a new costume – again…
The stated aim of Brian Azzarello, the writer of Wonder Woman #1 and the man responsible for the comic 100 Bullets, is to delve more into mythology and use more of the Greek myths than before. Clearly, then, he’s never read any of Gail Simone’s work, which managed to squeeze in Achilles and Jason (of the Argonauts) to name just a few, or even his predecessor’s work, which folded in Nemesis and various other gods.
But that is at least what he’s doing. Mission: accomplished. The story of #1 is in fact a very pared down work. There’s no introduction to Wonder Woman and who she is (or who she is now). It’s just a given that Wonder Woman exists, people know about her and she helps protect women. Why she lives in London, now, we don’t know.
Yes, Wonder Woman is still very tall, has a lasso and wears armour and bracelets. She’s gained a choker and an arm band. But she’s lost her trousers again. Clearly, DC has been having severe internal wranglings over whether Diana should have trousers or not, given the publicity shot for Justice League #1:
The plot, as far as can be worked out, does indeed draw on mythology. It looks like Zeus has got another mortal woman pregnant. Hera is none too pleased so decapitates a few horses and turns them into centaurs.
Which she sends after the pregnant mortal in question. Hermes, as always, intercedes on mortals’ behalf, but this isn’t the Hermes we recognise from before – like all the gods in Wonder Woman #1, he barely looks human.
I can’t say I approve, but it’s novel at least.
Through various means, Wonder Woman comes to the help of the mortal. Meanwhile, Apollo is hatching his own plans and has some prophecies to make.
So Azzarello’s clearly meeting his stated aims on one score at least – plenty of mythology, although his own take on it.
Another of his aims is to make Wonder Woman a true icon on a par with Batman and Superman. On this score, he’s less than successful. While Superman is off beating the proverbial out of Batman and The Green Lantern over in Justice League, Wonder Woman is having a stand-up fight with centaurs, even though she is as fast and as strong as Superman and smarter than Batman. She kicks ass, but not in a way that you could say is iconic.
In its favour, Wonder Woman #1 a cracking read, a real page-turner. The lack of explanation does give the issue a real sense of mystery and the involvement of the reworked gods is intriguing. And Cliff Chiang’s artwork is phenomenal.
But the last aim of Azzarello is to get people reading Wonder Woman again. It’s no secret that reading levels haven’t been their greatest of late, and despite the JMS revamp’s attempt to redress this, that probably only did the opposite. So is Azzarello succeeding?
Tricky. What we have here essentially is a horror comic. It’s grizzly, bloody and vicious. It’s cryptic and mysterious. There’s almost no characterisation, no emotion. It’s pure plot and action.
So are little girls going to pick this up and start reading Wonder Woman regularly? I doubt it. I doubt grown women will either and while it might attract new male readers, it’s playing hard with the affections of the existing male and female readers.
But DC’s intention with the #52 haven’t been to get in new, younger readers, so much as young adult, typically male readers and set up a series of titles as the foundations of movies, which are usually watched by young men. Envious of Marvel and its movie successes, pretty much everything with the new #52 has been designed with movies in mind. And Wonder Woman is no exception.
So far, there’s very little to latch on to as a reader, although there are plenty of images that stay with you after the experience. It’s a good read, one of the more radical shake-ups of the new #52, but it’s not yet done anything to win actual affection from readers.
But I’ll be getting issue #2 to see where it goes.