I’m going to be off on holiday for the next three weeks or so, so before I go, I thought I’d sneek in a ‘Weekly Woman Wonder’ on the most important title of the month – apart from Superman/Wonder Woman that is – namely Wonder Woman. Strange that that should be the order, hey?
I’ll also be playing a little bit of time travel to cast my eye back over the past few issues of Batman and Robin which have featured a reasonably well written but spectacularly poorly drawn Diana, simply because it’s an interesting look at how she’s now viewed in the DC Universe. And because it’s quite interesting.
Wonder Woman #33
Got your Azzarello scorecard ready?
- Minimal action
- Everything feeling like set-up for some future action that never happens
- Bad puns
- Confusing dialogue
- Hints at some higher plot arc that never happens
- Wonder Woman being weak and generally being pushed around or subservient to everyone else
- Wonder Woman apologising to a man about something
- A poor grasp of Greek myth
- The gods hardly being god-like at all
- General gross out ideas
Then away we go!
After helping everyone else to escape last issue and following an interesting and cleverly written battle that sees Diana uses as many of her fighting skills, armoury and abilities as possible, she eventually defeats the First Born with an exciting and innovative plan to. Oh wait, Brian Azzarello’s still writing this. She gets captured without a fight and just sort of kneels there a lot while he euphemistically tells her he’s going to rape her. Oh quelle f*cking surprise.
Meanwhile, back on Paradise Island, Orion is insulting everyone so Hera teaches him some manners.
Then, the First Born’s army arrives, forcing the assembled Amazons, (new) gods and goddesses to join together to fight them.
When the Amazons look like they’re going to win, the First Born sends Cassandra and his pseudo-Minotaur to even the odds, while threatening to rape Wonder Woman again.
When the Amazons start to lose, the First Born makes one last offer for her to join him voluntarily, which she refuses. So he penetrates her.
All looks bad. Orion is impaled by the Minotaur, Diana is dying, the Amazons – even Aleka – are dying. What can possibly save them?
Deus ex infantia, of course.
Is it any good?
So what was your score? High? Me, too. Well, pretty much. Not enough puns and a little bit too much action for me to shout ‘House’ this time round.
However, it was close and as a result, this is probably the issue I’ve enjoyed least in over a year, perhaps even since the infamous ‘Amazon murder-rape’ issue. This is despite the issue actually having a lot going for it: Cliff Chiang’s fabulous art, some bold ideas and imagery, the Amazons getting to fight and act nobly for a change, Hera slapping around Orion, Zeke doing something.
Yet, against that, we have the sheer awfulness of the messages. Once again, we have the usual paean to male brute force that apparently trumps everything without even a real fight. Wonder Woman, the goddess of war, who can summon up armies and as many weapons as her heart desires at a moment’s notice, who is a superheroine matched only by Superman in terms of strength and speed, and who has the blood of Zeus in her veins, is overpowered without so much as a whirl of her lasso and then spends the entire comic being subjected to the dullest trope in the world: the strong, powerful, bad man threatening the heroine with sexual violence.
Really? We’re reduced to that. You can’t even call it mythic, unless you can call Conan the Barbarian mythic. It’s both trite and tripe, and the exact opposite of the message Wonder Woman was created to impart.
That message extends to everyone else, too. Orion is defeated by first Hera’s brute force and then the Minotaur’s. So is Aleka. So are the Amazons (and presumably Hera, Dionysus and Hermes, too). And even though the First Born could have been sliced to tiny pieces by Wonder Woman’s swords by now or trussed up by her lasso, he’s not been because he is the male incarnation of brute force.
Now, whether by the end of this Azzarello is going to turn round and have male brute force defeated by women – either their own greater brute force or something more ‘feminine’ or perhaps even something uncharacteristically subtle – to give us the message that brute force isn’t the dominant power in the world, remains to be seen. But at the moment, the glowing eyes of Zeke are more suggestive of Zeus being behind everything and ready to emerge as the end game unfolds, Zeus having been the only god capable of defeating the First Born until now.
And while we’re waiting for that to happen, the sheer passivity of Wonder Woman, which would be inconceivable in any other DC title, is getting a free pass.
Azzarello’s isolation from the rest of the DC Universe is also obvious from Diana’s apparent death. Who does Diana apologise to and worry about in her final moments? Clark/Superman, the man she loves? Nope. Zola and co.
And why are these even her dying moments? A mere stab? Diana’s survived Doomsday and healed in a jiffy.
On top of that, we have Diana uncharacteristically using words like ‘gross’, asking ‘Is that how you would rule me? With cruelty?’, and responding to rape/stalker threats with ‘what an odd thing to day.’ This is not even up to Azzarello’s normal standard of dialogue, let alone accurate characterisation for the nu52 or any other version of Diana you care to mention.
Still, not long now. I’m hoping this is leading somewhere good before Azzarello departs the title. Because despite recent hints of possible brilliance beneath the surface, they’re so few and far between, I’m giving up hope again and back to wishing he was gone from the title. I’d rather have something more mundane and average than something that hits such egregious lows so frequently now.
Rating: 1/5 (5/5 for Chiang’s artwork, mind)
Batman and Robin #29-33
Over on Batman and Robin, stuff has been happening. I’m not sure quite what, since I have no desire to read back far enough to find out, but Batman is apparently looking for the body of his son Damian, who was a Robin in the nu52 continuity AFAIK, even if Batman’s only been out and about as Batman for five or six years. Ra’s Al Ghul has taken it, along with the body of Talia Al Ghul, and is looking for a very special Lazarus Pit to resurrect her (and maybe Damian. I’m not sure). Which is where Diana comes in, since it’s on Paradise Island.
Not quite sure about the chimneys in London there, and quite why Batman had to turn up in person rather than use Skype, I don’t know. And I know I’ve been going on about Diana not getting secret identities, but wearing Wonder Woman earrings as Diana Prince? Oh dear.
Anyway, Diana obliges by taking Batman to Paradise Island and, as is apparently common in Batman and Robin, all kinds of exciting things happen in between issues that mean that issue #30 opens like this:
Nice that they put Wonder Woman on the cover. Not so nice that they got in an apparently amateur artist to draw the title.
After a chatty time discussing the plot, Alaka eventually decides to punch everyone, including Diana, which isn’t the smartest move.
Eventually, Diana persuades Alaka to let Batman go searching for Ra’s Al Ghul and his special Lazarus Pit on the island. But the bulk of the issue is then taken up with introducing nu52 Wonder Woman mythos to the Batman readership. We have Diana communing with her stone mum and explaining her new origin as the daughter of Zeus to Batman, who apparently didn’t know until now. Which is odd. I thought everyone knew.
They then go to meet the Amazon Oracle – a new addition to the nu52 – who speaks slightly oddly accented and in fact modern Greek if she things νύχτα is pronounced ‘neekta’ rather than either ’neechta’ or ‘nich-ta’ (to rhyme with Andy Richter). She tells them about the Cavern of the Night/’Neekta’, which is where something even Zeus was frightened of lives.
Apparently, that’s not the same thing as the ancient Greek νύξ, aka Nyx, aka ‘Night’, who popped up in Batwoman #13, where she was much better illustrated, naturally.
Equally naturally, the Cavern of Neekta is where Batman and Wonder Woman end up going. Thankfully, once they get there and find the very special Lazarus Pit, nu52 Wonder Woman is perfectly okay and doesn’t get a literal attack of the vapours, unlike the post-Crisis, clay-based Wonder Woman of Trinity.
As a result, while Batman is off tussling with Ra’s Al Ghul, Wonder Woman is tying Night up in knots. And rather than being saved by Batman, she saves him, Atlas-style*.
Surprisingly, though, having felled the creature powerful enough to scare Zeus, it turns out the one thing it really wanted was sunshine.
Wonder Woman gives Neekta what it wants, and Neekta dies. A curious end to an otherwise action-packed story and rather an apt one for Wonder Woman. But with Ra’s Al Ghul gone from Paradise Island with the two sarcophaguses, Batman’s off again.
That’s not the end of the story, because a few issues later, in Batman and Robin #33, Wonder Woman and the Justice League return to the narrative, because eventually Apokolips gets its hands on the bodies, and Batman wants to head off to Darkseid’s home world to fight him in ‘the Hellbat’.
What’s that you ask? Well, the Justice League have apparently noticed that Batman is a little bit ‘differently abled’ compared to them, so they all clubbed together to make him a very special suit so he’d stand a chance in fights. Wondy even enlisted her brother Hephaestus in its manufacture.
When the other suggest inviting Apokolips’ attention might not be a good idea, Batman decides to put up a fight, forcing Wonder Woman to subdue him.
Batman naturally goes off to brood, so Superman offers him a shoulder to brood on. How did he know his best bro needed him? Have a guess.
So obviously, this is all about Batman and Robin. The clue very definitely is in the title there. And obviously the artwork, while well framed and quite cinematic, doesn’t look brilliant. In fact, it looks quite poor. And the dialogue between the Amazons and Diana isn’t great.
But on the whole, this is a textbook example of how to respectfully include Diana/Wonder Woman in your narrative. Peter J Tomasi has done his research and knows the high points of the DC nu52 Wonder Woman continuity and is also willing to add to it. She doesn’t dominate the narrative, except through location, but her skills, abilities and personality aren’t diminished to make that happen.
I may not like Batbooks normally, but I did enjoy these.
* Yes, I know Atlas carried the Heavens/Ouranos on his shoulders, not the globe. You try telling that to everyone who uses the imagery