It’s that time of the month again: another issue of Wonder Woman is out, as is Justice League (which features Wonder Woman, obviously), so it’s time for a double-review. This month, we learn what happens when Hera gets some shocking news and we learn what happens when Wonder Woman gets some shocking news (clue: they act very differently, and one of them goes to a concert); meanwhile in Justice League, Aquaman turns up. Whoopdy doo.
So after a couple of issues that took time out to show us the new-style Amazons and reveal that Wonder Woman is actually the daughter of Zeus in this new DC Universe, issue 4 took us back to the story that started all the way back in issue #1. In case you can’t remember back that far, Zeus has disappeared – he ‘doesn’t exist’ any more – and Apollo is scheming away, probably to take his place.
Issue 4 starts with Apollo going to Darfur to meet with Ares to see if he’s going to interfere in Apollo’s attempts to become King of the Gods. And it turns out that Ares now looks like Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello.
It quickly becomes clear in this part of the story that war isn’t what it/he used to be, perhaps Ares is even tired of war itself or convinced that it might be stronger than him and even the rest of the world. What this all means, we’ll have to wait to see.
Meanwhile, Hera’s pissed. She now knows that Zeus cheated again, this time with Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. So she goes to Paradise Island to make her wrath known.
Meanwhile again, Wondy returns to London with Eris/Strife, Hermes and Zola, the mortal girl pregnant with Zeus’s child, where she decides to try to get to grips with the revelation that her mother and friends have all been lying to her all these years. She’s never been made from clay, she’s always been flesh and blood and her fabricator/mother is actually her birth mother. That clearly means she needs to hang out at a rock concert to process.
Eventually, after talking to Zola about her family, Wondy decides that storming off from Paradise Island probably was dumb so goes back to make amends. Except it’s too late (or so it would seem).
Is it any good?
Well things are moving again and there’s a lot to recommend about the issue. The artwork is once again phenomenal, even if Wondy dresses like someone’s mum’s idea of cool when she goes to a rock concert.
The writing – even if it is overly addicted to puns and that old Watchman mainstay, the bit of dialogue from the next scene left over the preceding frame – is subtle and takes the story to new, surprising places.
Hera’s encounter with Hippolyta is outstanding…
… as is Hera’s vengeance against the Amazons and Hippolyta, shocking in a way that the title’s never really been before: finally, we see that these are gods, capable of turning a whole people into snakes and women into clay statues on a whim, not mortals with some nifty superpowers and togas.
Eris/Strife is well drawn (in all senses) as well, more amoral than immoral, the first Withnail and I goddess to come our way. It’s hard not to like her, despite her wanting to kill babies, and you have to be impressed that Wondy can smash a champagne flute through a goddess’ hand, even if the act itself was somewhat pointless.
But the issue and the series is frustrating. I’m still not 100% happy with the way the gods are portrayed. Azzarrello’s quote that they’re the ‘first crime family’ isn’t in any sense true, just as the portrayals, the addition of their being able to be killed by their own blood, etc are not in keeping with the Greek myth that he aspires to be more authentic towards. I can live with it, but all we’ve seen so far have been the darker gods (Strife, Hera, Ares) and gods who weren’t truly dark but are in the book (Zeus, Apollo), with only Hermes to lighten things. Where are Athena and Aphrodite, Artemis and Hestia to brighten things up and to inject at least some nobility into things? I’m hoping their time will come. And since when was Hera a storm goddess? Did Zeus give her a promotion when he left?
We’re still not really indulging in any action, either, particularly not superheroics. While the pace is picking up and should hopefully pick up even further next issue, this isn’t so much ‘Wonder Woman’ as ‘Moping Woman’ – she goes from situation to situation, grim as can be, generally upset about everything, reacting to everything rather than being truly proactive, not really doing anything. While it would be hard for her do anything about it, having Strife trail along with her and be pally seems off, even if they are now half-sisters. True, there have been a few smiles here and there as well as a couple of dry quips. But at the moment, I’m liking the supporting cast of gods and mortals a whole lot more than this passive, largely humourless, stoic Wonder Woman.
The Amazons are a thorny problem. Their own clay-origins appear to have been thrown to one side, judging by the dialogue (Diana thought her previous clay origin had set her apart from the others) and with only Aleska the misandrist and general trouble-maker getting lines for the last two issues, I actually was quite happy to have the Amazons turned to snakes. It certainly wasn’t the terrible moment it should have been if we’d cared about the Amazons the way we’d used to.
But, we’re in chapter four of a 12-part book (it may even be longer than that). It’s easily one of the best DC comics around at the moment, even if it’s not perfect, and this was probably the best issue since #1, if not better. It may be frustrating but it’s leaps and bounds better than most of the preceding volume of Wonder Woman. Give it time.
Justice League #4
Well, the very slow drip of story continues in Justice League #4. Writer Geoff Johns spends a good chunk of the issue giving us introductions to Aquaman and Cyborg. In contrast to Wonder Woman’s appearance last issue, which mostly focused on her talking about how much she loves ice cream and fighting, we get to see a protracted fight scene involving Aquaman. No one comments about how much they’d like to “hit that”, either, presumably because he’s married.
It’s all a little tedious to be honest. Cyborg isn’t that interesting and most of Aquaman’s extended introduction is just to demonstrate that this Aquaman isn’t the laughable specimen of yesteryear (so it’s safe to read his own title, coincidentally written by… Geoff Johns). Woo hoo, he can talk to sharks.
However, we do get a little more Wonder Woman fun. As well as revealing that the Lasso of Truth is still the lasso of truth…
…we also get to see Steve Trevor being protective towards Wondy and for her to demonstrate some sorely needed superheroics.
Okay, her dialogue is in typical Johns fashion, over-egging the pudding: we know that Hal Jordan is a dick, but are repeatedly shown this, and now we’ve had three instances of Wonder Woman showing she’s likes a nice bit of ultraviolence and likes talking about it, too. Could we have a little bit of variety, please?
And for some reason, Diana wears nail polish now.
Interesting that she’s the one showing compassion to the new arrival (bit of the old Wonder Woman there), although it’s notable that she’s the one doing it and she’s the only woman on the team (stereotype of the issue: all women are nurturing, even violent Amazons with swords; men cannot be nurturing if they are to remain cool).
But with Darkseid, DC’s premier ‘New God’, turning up at the end of the issue, things should be hotting up with issue 5.