Well, I’m surprised. As we head into the final few issues of his run, after ages of either being annoyed at Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman or only finding it moderately good but with some worrying aspects, I’m forced not only to say that Wonder Woman #28 is a great issue but also that it might even be the case that our Brian has had a masterplan all this time, an interesting genius plan that will essentially create a broad foundation for whomever follows him.
Let’s talk more after the jump.
Last issue, Apollo and the First Born had a great big fight… and Apollo lost, destroying Olympus and possibly the First Born in an effort to stop him. Except the First Born survived.
Artemis senses something wrong so returns to Olympus with Hermes.
Meanwhile, Hera, who’s been left behind in France, gets a very special gift from Apollo…
…the return of her godhood and she returns to Olympus, too.
The First Born having got what he wants and now a slightly weird biological thing is able to dispense with his ally, Cassandra, and is ready to take on all the gods, including Wonder Woman, who now has a shiny new power.
Fortunately, Hera comes to the rescue with her late husband’s lightning, which is presumably now her property.
And to fight her First Born, Hera suggests Wonder Woman will need an army – the newly restored Amazons.
And Wonder Woman will lead them by assuming her new mantel – the goddess of war.
Is it any good?
Essentially, my problems with Brian Azzarello’s run on Wonder Woman have been that following an excellent start, then a just-about-excusable change to the Wonder Woman mythos (Zeus is now her father), Azz:
- Turned the Amazons into a bunch of man-raping baby-murderers
- Replaced, downgraded or turned evil all the established female characters from the WW mythos
- Served us up a bunch of male characters to replace them
- Showed us that male power is best and will triumph
- Made Wonder Woman a very passive character, with everyone else doing the hard work
However, as we approach the end of his run, it looks to me that we’ve only been looking at the first half of a game plan. What it looks like now is that Azz has been showing us an origin story: ‘How Wonder Woman got her groove back.’ More so, it’s also been an origin for her supporting cast.
The aim has been that rather than start with the (admittedly slightly agitprop) feminist origin stories of Marston and Perez, with nice goddesses and women trying to save the world while bad gods either take a back seat or actively hinder them, only to be shown the power of the feminine way, we start with a set-up closer to a perceived version of Greek myth where all the gods, goddesses and women are largely dicks. By playing down the feminine and emphasising the masculine, the association of Wonder Woman with feminism has largely been purged, in favour simply of a heroine doing her best to help the world against this background.
But now Azzarello is on the home straight and I suspect by the end of the run, we’ll have the set-up he was intending from the beginning:
- We’ll have Hera ruling Olympus, a Hera that having learnt what mortality is like will be kinder and more generous and a friend of Wonder Woman
- With most of the gods now purged, Apollo, Ares and Lennox already have been wiped from the story, we’ll only be left with the friendly male gods and probably a reformed Artemis
- Wonder Woman will be the goddess of war – effectively Athena in the pantheon, now the somewhat absent Athena has become ‘Justice’ – and possibly have a whole new set of special powers to match
- The Amazons still a fighting force, but one where Hippolyta is queen and they all respect Wonder Woman’s reign
- Wonder Woman triumphing over brute male power with intelligent female power
Let’s see how all of that pans out. But if that is the case, it’s a work extreme cleverness by Azz: to create a feminist(ish) work that isn’t obviously feminist; to give a strong female foundation to the title, but without rewriting myth significantly or arguing that women >> men; to make Wonder Woman something more than simply a female Superman without as many powers. The latter point is the most interesting one, since Wonder Woman on paper has seemed relatively underpowered, despite her previously god-given attributes, since ’the eye of the hunter’, etc, didn’t really give her much beyond smarts. Now we have someone who is essentially likely to be Athena or the very least the goddess of war, with a full set of suitably godlike powers to match.
Yes, at the end of it all, Wonder Woman could end up being stronger than she was pre-nu52. Let’s wait and see, since the Golden Rule is that my theories are always wrong, but the potential is there at least.
The issue itself is different from most of the previous 15+ Azz issues, with action galore, comedy that actually works (Hera’s discussion with a French waiter about ‘new things’), comprehensible dialogue and more. There are some fine, but icky ideas, with Olympus essentially becoming a mound of flesh under the First Born’s rule, and everyone, gods and mortals alike, potentially just part of his bodily systems (it’s all vaguely reminiscent of Zeus’ battle with Typhon, myth fans). True, Wondy does her usual Azz thing of threatening the baddie before being slapped about a bit, but that happens to all the other gods and goddesses as well, presumably to lead into the idea that women working together (with some men) can triumph over brute strength. Artemis’s love for her brother is lovely and the idea that there’s a difference between Paradise Island and Themyscira, presumably its capital city, is a small but enjoyable innovation.
Cliff Chiang’s art is as beautiful as ever, of course.
We’ve a few more issues left of Azz’s run, but for the first time in a long time, I’m genuinely looking forward to the next one to see how this all ends.