Let’s start off this review by first saying, "Welcome back, Cliff Chiang!"
Welcome back, Cliff Chiang!
After two issues of rather a poor fill-in artist, it’s great to have Cliff back. I tell you what’s also great to have back: action. Yes, issue #7 of Wonder Woman actually has things happen in it – the cover is actually less action-packed than the contents for once.
In fact, issue #7 is probably the best issue of the title since the reboot. But (and you knew there’d be one), it’s also got one great big middle finger sticking up at both long-time fans and Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston, right in the centre. We’ll talk about that after the jump.
We’ll also talk about Justice League #6, 7, which have both come out since the last review and paradoxically are a lot more like old school Wonder Woman than her own title is right now. In fact, as well as the glorious return of Captain Steve Trevor, we also have the new-look Etta Candy. And Captain Marvel – aka Shazam, but we don’t care about him. See you in a bit.
Wonder Woman #7
So a lot to commend issue #7 for. The basic plot: Wonder Woman, Hermes and Lennox head to Florence, Italy, to look for Eros, the god of (erotic, obviously) love.
They’re looking for Love so they can find his father, Hephaestus, the smith, who in turn can help them with weaponry with which to take on Hades.
They want to take on Hades because last issue he abducted their friend Zola.
Clear so far? Good.
Right. Hephaestus is down under Mount Etna but that doesn’t stop Hades knowing that Wonder Woman is up to something and trying to stop them.
But after a fight, Wonder Woman discovers that Hephaestus’ assistants aren’t robots, but are actually people. Worse than that, they’re her brothers.
See (and here comes the finger), it turns out that the Amazons have in fact been sneaking off Paradise Island every 33 years to seduce and then murder sailors in the hope of impregnating themselves while preserving the secret of the Island. If they gave birth to girls, hey presto, new Amazons; if they gave birth to boys, they’d trade them with Hephaestus for weaponry.
Wonder Woman naturally goes on a liberation campaign, takes on the god Hephaestus himself and tries to save her brothers, only to discover they’re happy workers at heart.
Which prompts a bit of soul-searching by Wondie.
And this is all very well handled. For once, everything’s clear, the art is great, the story is strong, there’s plenty of action, and for once Wonder Woman is front and centre, doing her ‘compassionate violence for good’ routine. And she’s totally kick ass.
In fact, this issue, we learn a lot about the new Wonder Woman. We learn that she got her lasso from Hephaestus via her mother. The lasso even gets tied into a lesser known point of Wonder Woman lore – that it compels people to tell the truth because of something innate to Wonder Woman rather than because of its own properties (Wonder Woman’s gift of the Fires of Hestia as it was in the old days, but presumably something genetic from Zeus now).
We also get our first reference to Aphrodite and possibly that she might once more be the (sole?) patron of the Amazons – or even that Wondie has a crush on her.
Lennox is thankfully downplayed and Azzarello’s toned down his ridiculous ‘cockney’ expressions as well – and it’s now clearer that he’s wearing a faded version of Bruce Lee’s Game of Death tracksuit (what a chav). The personifications of Eros and Hephaestus are lovely. And the action is indeed cracking, even if it really definitely looks now like Wonder Woman can’t fly any more.
A great read basically. Try it.
But now let’s stare at that middle finger for a bit.
Let’s start at the beginning for the poor Amazons. The Wonder Woman Amazons were initially created by Aphrodite from clay to be a new master race who will rule the world with love:
They’re smart, technologically advanced, capable of building invisible planes, purple healing rays and more. They’re also immortal and eternally youthful.
They were intended by Wonder Woman creator William Marston to be an illustration of the majesty of women, who he believed should rule the world.
Now, come the 80s reboot, the Amazons were downgraded a little bit. Sure they were civilised, smart, good at building things, immortal, eternally beautiful, etc:
But they were still a tiny bit stuck in the BCs. They were still a chosen race, intended to be smarter, nicer, better, etc, than regular people (ie men), but not as advanced as they used to be. Well, not until aliens helped them, but that’s another story.
In other words, for 70 years or so, the Amazons have been intended as a metaphor for the best in women.
Now that’s not exactly how they were in Greek myth. Actually, Greek myth doesn’t have much to say about the Amazon lifestyle, beyond Apollodoros’ claim that they used only to raise the girls they gave birth to – who knows what they did to the boys? In fact, beyond the fact they tended to get beaten up a lot by heroes, Greek myth is usually quite complimentary to Amazons.
However, a 1st century BC Greek historian Strabo came up with a lot of inventive ideas, including:
…once a year, in order to prevent their race from dying out, they visited the Gargareans, a neighbouring tribe. The male children who were the result of these visits were either killed, sent back to their fathers or exposed in the wilderness to fend for themselves; the females were kept and brought up by their mothers, and trained in agricultural pursuits, hunting, and the art of war. In other versions when the Amazons went to war they would not kill all the men. Some they would take as slaves, and once or twice a year they would have sex with their slaves
Now, Brian Azzarello has being making a big deal over going back to Greek myth for his version of Wonder Woman. He’s not – after all, he’s just made Eros the son of Hephaestus – but that’s his claim. Here, however he appears to be going to Strabo rather than myth for inspiration for his idea of Amazon procreation:
Seduce the men then kill them. Not myth. Not even Strabo. This Azz in action.
Now why is this necessary? The Amazons appeared to be immortal in issue #2. For years, we’ve had a good explanation of how the Amazons deal with their sexual needs:
We’ve also had storylines about the Amazons’ unmet desire for children. This is all new, unnecessary stuff.
Even on its own terms, it doesn’t make sense. Why did Hippolyta need to hide her pregnancy? Could she truly be thought to be barren if she only had sex once every 33 years? How come this is all news to Wonder Woman, who surely would have been raised in Amazon ways? She knows that the Amazons have babies, apparently, assuming they were all girls by divine will, but where did she imagine they all came from? When was her mummy going to break the news to her? And where does Wonder Woman’s compassion towards all people, even Steve Trevor, come from if this is how her mother and sisters raised her?
It’s basically shock for shock’s sake, devaluation because being paragons of virtue – and being better than men – isn’t cool and might put off young male readers. So after 70 years, the Wonder Woman Amazons have finally stopped being Marston’s exemplars of womanhood, Perez’s proxies for feminists, and have become the worst man-hating stereotypes around. It truly is the end of an era.
Indeed, it’s hard not to notice incidentally that pretty much all the issues so far have been about men and introducing more men to the Wonder Woman mythos, while sidelining women. Zola’s a tag-along and there to be rescued; we’ve had plenty of gods, some nice (Eros, Hephaestus, Hermes), some not; only two goddesses have shown up and rather than the Amazon’s former benevolent patrons (Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia, Athena), they’ve been somewhat malevolent ones instead (Strife/Eris, Hera); we’ve got victimised, artisan Amazon men; we’ve got a helpful demi-god half-brother; and we’ve got Zeus as dad of Wonder Woman. And now, not only are the Amazons MIA, either snakes or a clay statue, they’ve been revealed as a bunch of man-murderers who trade babies for weaponry.
It’s not really a very pro-women comic at the moment, is it?
So while we get some of the best writing and plotting the title has ever seen, we also have the masculinisation of the title and the erosion of its very founding ideals. It’s all a bit swings and roundabouts, isn’t it? We’ve gained a cracking read, and we have totally lost a feminist icon.
Justice League #6/#7
Things on Justice League are a bit jollier for Wonder Woman. In fact, the writing of the first set of issues has been like reading something aimed at teenagers. In fact, arguably, the Justice League is pretty much American Pie, with Superman as Chris, Green Lantern as Stifler, the Flash as Jim, Batman as Finch and Wonder Woman as Nadia, the foxy foreign exchange student (no, I don’t know where Cyborg and Aquaman fit into this analogy).
Issue #5 was a bit of a disappointment, with Wonder Woman trapped under something heavy for much of it before being helped to fly off by Green Lantern. Issue #6 is a much better affair, with Wonder Woman kicking the crap out of Darkseid. Yes, Darkseid. Superman nearly gets killed when zapped by Darkseid’s homing ‘omega beams’ – Wonder Woman just does her thing.
All that while giving a minor speechette about the nature of humanity. She might not be there all the time in Justice League, but so far, she’s had by far the best, most memorable, most fun moments.
The whole issue ends quickly with the Justice League forming and superheroes being acknowledged as not all bad. And Wonder Woman claims to have responsibilities, all while Steve Trevor looks on lovingly.
Okay so Darkseid essentially sods off because he’s been hacked by Cyborg, so as a nuanced elaborate plot, it leaves a lot to be desired, but the whole six issues formed a good introduction to the new Justice League and the new Wonder Woman.
Things are a bit more sedate in the issue #7, which is almost wholly a Wonder Woman issue – or should I say a Steve Trevor issue? We’ve now moved on five years, presumably to when Wonder Woman is set or thereabouts, but this still doesn’t come across as the WW of her own title. But she has grown up a bit.
In this time period, the Justice League is still not quite accepted. The US government is frightened of the superheroes, not least because they have a stonking great space station in orbit. And because they kick arse when the government can’t, even when they have Colonel Steve Trevor of ARGUS (no, not Argos) on board.
This Justice League still isn’t a cohesive whole, with plenty of squabbles and Green Lantern still being a dick.
Most of the issue is a surprising character piece rather than a total slug-fest, revolving around Steve Trevor playing politics and his issues of playing second fiddle to both the Justice League – and Wonder Woman. To help him though, he has an assistant: Etta Candy. No not this one:
Who bears a surprising resemblance, as you can see, to the Etta Candy of the failed NBC pilot. That’s a nifty innovation, although it is, once again, a thinning out, as with Amanda Waller, of a character who wasn’t the stereotypical skinny girl of most DC comics.
The last few pages of the story are, surprisingly, basically Steve Trevor having a Skype chat with Wonder Woman, who’s up on the Justice League space station, trying to avoid boys being tools… sorry, boys.
But it ends rather touchingly with a pregnant moment between Wondy and Steve… and a revelation to Etta.
Ah. Ain’t that sweet. And a bit teenage. But sweet.
Maybe Wondy really does have a crush on Aphrodite. Or maybe we’ll find out how she feels next issue. Let’s see. It’s nice to have a little romance in comics, don’t you think?