This week sees the last issue of Wonder Woman from Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, the creative forces behind the character’s revamp for the nu52. However, before they go, they’ve one extra little ‘treat’ for Wonder Woman fans as part of the Secret Origins series of comics, revealing – in their own inimitable style – why Wonder Woman left Paradise Island. And as usual with those two, it was both the best of times and the worst of times.
Also out last week was Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, which gave us a pleasing team-up between Diana and Big Barda against some intelligent gorillas and their robots. Monkey punching! Yay!
It’s a whole lot better than it sounds, I promise.
And lastly, Smallville: Continuity has apparently been including its Wonder Woman in the storyline for the past nine issues without telling me. Huh. So a brief recap of that story after the jump, too. See you in a minute!
Secret Origins #6
Although we’ve had flashbacks to pre-nu52 times before now, including a tale from Steve Trevor’s point of view about how he met Wonder Woman on Paradise Island, until now, Wonder Woman‘s author has largely ignored that origin story, in favour of the continuing story of Wonder Woman’s new family of gods.
However, in common with the one-off Wonder Woman #0, Secret Origins #6 has allowed Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang – now co-writing the comic while handing off art duties to regular stand-in Goran Sudzuka – to take a breather and flashback to a time before the current one. Indeed, in many ways, Secret Origins #6 is a sequel to #0, being written and illustrated in the same half-faux Golden Age style, half mocking style. Here, though, Azz and Chiang think it’ll be fun to have a lot of lesbian undertones, rather than querying why a lot of grown men are reading about girls.
Have a brief gander at that. Whereas #0 was from ‘All-Girl Adventure Tales For Men’, now we’re reading ‘Closet of Mystery #7’ and Diana’s ‘tired of being a girl’. And the rest of Diana and Aleka’s interactions in the issue are in the same vein, with a thinly veiled gay subtext while the two Amazons wrestle in a somewhat absurd and impractical style (made even more absurd by the fact that one of the combatants is Wonder Woman and the other… isn’t).
Now, clearly the question of whether Diana and the other Amazons are bisexual or gay has come up before and I’m sure there are Wonder Woman fans, particularly those who are LGBT themselves, who would be happy if she were LGBT – or if the Amazons were at least, since not just Batwoman #12 but this issue come down pretty conclusively in favour of Diana not being ‘a sister of Sappho’. But I’m also equally sure this was more exploitative and for humour, than a genuine and deep consideration of their collective sexualities.
To some extent, since this is an homage to the Golden Age, where Marston’s lesbian subtext was almost text, Azz and Chiang should be given a little latitude, I think. Nevertheless, it is wearing and not even especially well written: “tired of being a girl.’ Ho de ho ho. What does that even mean in the context of Diana wanting to leave Paradise Island? It’s meaningless. It’s not double entendre – it’s just entendre.
As well as Azz’s usual favouring of poor puns and equally poor wrestling holds, this scene does have a reasonable point: to allow Diana to explain that she wants to leave Paradise Island to enter ‘Man’s World’ and become more than just a princess; and to show the conventions that Diana is breaking by even wanting this. As well as then giving us a brief re-telling of the nu52 origin from issue #3, Azz and Chiang double down on showing Diana’s transgressiveness by retelling the post-Crisis ‘clay origin’ of Wonder Woman then having Aleka call Diana by the childhood taunt of ‘clay’ to suggest that her feelings indicate she’s not a true Amazon.
This at least is reasonably well handled. Things, however, do get a lot more interesting later on. One of the biggest question marks hanging over the series for the past three years since its inception has been: where is Athena? Her presence has certainly been hinted at, with first an owl watching while Ares trains Diana in issue #0…
…and then in issue #13 where she’s referred to as ‘Justice’ for some reason:
But we’ve not had a look at her or even seen any involvement of her in Wonder Woman’s upbringing or empowerment. This was odd, given how important not just post-Crisis but throughout her history: indeed, in many ways, Diana was the mortal version of Athena, in much the same way as Iphigenia was the mortal Artemis and Helen the mortal Aphrodite in myth, with Diana being a virginal, protective, wise warrior, just like Athena.
Now, at last, we see Athena and discover that she was the one who suggested to Diana that her heading off to the outside world might have the gods’ approval. However, she probably didn’t look how you thought she might. Here’s traditional Athena:
Here’s nu52 Athena.
Although she has a Medusa’s head shield (although that’s not the head itself), we see that in the nu52 universe, Athena is like Artemis, Hermes, Demeter, Apollo and to a lesser extent Dionysus: an amalgam of her symbol and human form – part woman, part owl. She also has Amazonian bracers/bracelets, which somewhat implies that in the nu52, the bracers are her gift to the Amazons (and Wonder Woman) rather than Aphrodite’s.
All very interesting and groundbreaking, no?
Then Steve Trevor arrives and Diana sees her opportunity to escape. This differs somewhat from the Forever Evil: Argus retelling in several ways, including what Diana was wearing, what she did and what Steve Trevor was flying:
Again, you may have noticed, while there’s a few nice touches, such as Diana’s reaction to Steve’s sexism, it’s a pun-ridden hellhole of dialogue that the reader has to brave to get to the end of the issue, right down to:
Diana: “So Man’s World… What’s It Like?”
Steve: “It has its ups and downs”
Diana: “Sounds stimula…”
The question of how Diana speaks English at this point is glossed over, as is the question of how she knows what a ticket is and why she’d so explicitly state that he was her ticket off the island. Presumably also, the famous ‘Contest’ to see who would be the Amazon who takes Trevor back to the mainland has been chucked out of continuity, although that’s still a possibility.
Nevertheless, if you can brave the innuendo and the puns, as with #0, this is an important issue in terms of nu52 Wonder Woman continuity and will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect with later issues. Compared to the other far more prosaically written origins in this issue, it also tries to do something different and original, so should get bonus marks on those grounds. And it’s good to see Athena back in the fold, too.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #11
In contrast to Secret Origins #6, Sensation Comics #11 is a lot more throwaway, but it’s none the worse for that. It features New Goddess Big Barda, whom a nu52ish Wonder Woman has been helping in her efforts to teach compassion to former slave workers on another planet. But when they return to Earth, someone’s breaking into the Museum of Alternative Energy and Wonder Woman and Barda must fight the intruders. Or so it seems at first.
The issue is a comparison of these two occasional pre-nu52 partners. Here, Barda is all about the fighting. Her joy at finding both some robot
monkeysgorillas and some real monkeysgorillas to punch is clear throughout, as is Wonder Woman’s more measured, thoughtful response.
Of course, it turns out that Brain (ed: who he? Brainiac?) just wants to be topped up with some of that alternative energy. Diana brokers a peace deal and the fight is over.
That just leaves Barda to take home a robot
monkeygorilla as a souvenir.
It’s a nice little piece, half monkey-punching, half-characterisation, with Wonder Wonder’s intelligence saving the day. But it’s also good to see Diana and Barda together again – hopefully not for the last time.
Smallville: Continuity #1-9
This is largely a nine issue-long fight, principally involving the Smallville Superman and his supporting cast. The Monitors have arrived with some Manhunters and it’s a battle involving all the Earth’s heroes and heroines in the Smallville universe to save the day. Among that line-up, naturally enough, is Wonder Woman.
Diana doesn’t get to do much except fight, but there are a few points of note over the whole of the nine issues.
The first is that the Monitors have caused devastation on Earth to the extent that even Paradise Island has been trashed, leaving Diana alone – with her flying horse – as the last of the Amazons.
The second is that while in the DC Universe, Wonder Woman and Superman are the power couple du jour, back in the world of Smallville, it’s Lois and Clark who rule, leaving Diana and Superman as just good friends.
All the same, that doesn’t mean that Wonder Woman’s all alone. Because in Continuity, Diana finally gets to have her first kiss with ‘secret boy‘ Steve Trevor.
I wouldn’t recommend reading it unless you’re a big fan of both Smallville and Wonder Woman, but for what it is, it’s fine.