Review: Wonder Woman #5

Wonder Woman #5 front cover

Would you look at that. Another cover for Wonder Woman that actually contains more action than the entire issue (incidentally, have a look at who Wonder Woman is tridenting while I ask, Rolf Harris-style, "Can you tell who it is yet?" Bet you can’t.)

Anyway, follow me quickly after the jump so we can talk about Wonder Woman’s first proper trip around London, the arrival of a couple of new gods, the unveiling of a cockney demi-god and some more of Wonder Woman’s super-powers, and how even though flattery may be the sincerest form of imitation, Tony Akins really isn’t Cliff Chiang. Spoilers ahoy!

Two men on a boat on the Thames find a dead giant seahorse. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman, Hermes and Zola have breakfast in London and meet someone called Lennox, who knows all about their situation and reveals himself to be a demi-god, too.

More giant sea horses arrive, bringing Poseidon with them. Wonder Woman talks to Poseidon and tells him that Hera claims the heavens as her kingdom in Zeus’s absence.

And Lennox goes into a tunnel where he meets Hades… and Cerebus.

Is it any good?
In and of itself, it’s a good issue, although one in which yet again not much happens by way of action. We meet Lennox, who is basically John Constantine, but Constantine if he were the son of a god. He’s blond, he wears a brown coat and smokes, he talks back to beings who should be able to kick him around, he knows an awful lot about what’s going on, his motivations might not be pure and he has a supposed London accent. Given that Brian Azzarello actually wrote for Hellblazer for some time, you’d think he’d have either more shame or greater creativity.

Lennox meets Wonder Woman

Lennox, at least, has the benefit of being 80 years old and from the East End, so his ‘London’ accent is just about excusable (although which self-respecting Cockney of any era says ‘aye’?). Every other Londoner talking more or less the same way, whether they’re a waitress or work on a boat, is less excusable.


And ordering a pint for breakfast at an outdoors café on the South Bank near Tower Bridge that sells full Englishes as well? Hmm. Good luck with that.

The artwork by guest artist Tony Akins doesn’t help to depict a convincing London either. This is a far less built up, wider, more spacious, largely car-less London than the real thing, with all manner of minor details here and there that shout out "American artist" at every turn.

An empty London

While Akins does his best to recreate Cliff Chiang’s art, it really isn’t as good, being far more comic book, less stylised and just plain less aesthetically pleasing than Chiang’s. The final frame of the book which depicts Hera is a good contrast with Chiang’s style:

Tony Akin's Hera

Cliff Chiang's Hera

Apart from Lennox, this issue also introduces us to Poseidon…


…and Hades (with Cerebus in tow)…

Cerebus and Hades

But kudos to Akins, these definitely do work as concepts and are better visually than even Greg Rucka’s versions:

Hades and Poseidon in WW Volume 2 #217

As you may have noticed from the page with Poseidon, Wonder Woman is standing on the Thames (or hovering on it), another of Azzarello’s now-characteristic use of super-powers: small miracles rather than big fights. She also gets to demonstrate her resistance to fire, equally subtly.

Wonder Woman stubs out a cigarette

But we’re five issues in now and as far as action’s concerned, there’s not been much of it. Most of this issue is Zola, Hermes and Diana discussing their feelings and the situation they’re in, rather than actually doing anything.

To a certain extent, although he does take liberties with the gods, Azzarello’s storytelling appears to be taking the approach that the gods are gods and if you look at them the wrong way, they’ll turn you and several thousand of your best friends into snakes with a thought, so fighting them isn’t a good idea, even if you are a demi-goddess. Instead, it’s better to get them to fight one another:

Poseidon and Wonder Woman

This is admirable in some senses, not the least of which is that instead of a "biff sock" comic, we have a comic of manipulation and Machiavellian cunning, of which there are few. Old school fans might be a little shocked that Wonder Woman, former goddess of truth and bearer of the Lasso of Truth, is now lying her arse off, but there you go. Times change.

Equally, there comes a point – particularly given that there are only 18 or so pages per comic so the story isn’t emerging as quickly as it might 10 years ago, say – that the reader begins to hanker after some action: you know, a fight, and not one that involves merely head-butting some centaurs. Greek myths are Greek myths and you could be guaranteed some action every so often, after all, so if you’re telling a new Greek myth, a little swordplay or fist-fighting every so often helps add to the authenticity. No, this does not count as action:

Wonder Woman jumps

Without Diana’s internal monologue, a characteristic of most of the previous two volumes, we also aren’t really getting to know her that well. We know how she’s reacting to discovering she’s the daughter of Zeus, but that’s about it. She appears to have gotten over the death of her mother and her sisters relatively quickly, whatever life she had before meeting Zola has been put on the back-burner and we don’t even know how she feels about having to fight her new family who were formerly her gods.

But things are at least proceeding apace. Like an approaching storm, we can sniff the action in the air, not least because we’ve seen the ultra-cool front cover of issue #8.

Wonder Woman #8

That should be framed and turned into a poster. Okay, on past form, the above scene isn’t going to actually happen in the issue, any more than Wonder Woman ended up tridenting Poseidon, but we can live in hope.

On the whole then, yet another slower foundation piece for the title, but a well written one – bar the attempts at ‘London’. Akins isn’t Chiang, unfortunately, so the art does suffer, but Chiang will be back the issue after next at least. Still frustratingly close to perfection, with only a little action, a little wonder and a little more Diana needed to take it there.

Rating: 3/5

PS It’s worth noting that with one bit of dialogue between Poseidon and Wonder Woman, pretty much all of Volumes 2 and 3 have been invalidated in one way or another:

Poseidon smells Diana's blood

Yes, not only has Poseidon never met Wonder Woman until now, like any god, apparently, he can snif
f the fact she’s got gods’ blood in her veins – Zeus’s in fact. That might have had an impact on one or two storylines, I suspect*. DC’s nu52 soft reboot has just become very, very hard.

* Minor nerd-filla™ possibility: Zeus was somehow masking the fact from everyone that Diana was his daughter but now he’s gone, he can’t do that any more.

Batman: The Dark Knight #4
No Justice League last week – it’s been put back to this week – so the regular secondary fix of Wonder Woman isn’t available from that source. But the Jim Lee, under-nourished, pouting, younger, made-up, slightly pornographic version of Wonder Woman turned up in Batman: The Dark Knight #4 to do… not a lot except be hot and give the bad news.

Wonder Woman in Batman: The Dark Knight #4