Wonder Woman #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist/Cover artist: Cliff Chiang
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
When DC announced the creative team for Wonder Woman, I was sold. Brian Azzarello rarely disappoints with his edgy plots and intelligent scripting, and Cliff Chiang boasts one of the most appealing and all-too-rarely seen styles in super-hero comics today. Their previous collaboration — Dr. 13: Architecture and Mortality — was one of the more inventive and entertaining stories DC has produced in recent memory, with its use of obscure characters and focus on metafiction. Wonder Woman boasts a radically different atmosphere than the irreverent tone throughout the creators’ last joint effort, though, but it’s just as engrossing and entertaining. Azzarello said in an interview in advance of the release of this comic book it was more of a horror series than a super-hero book, and he was true to his word. The best take on Wonder Woman I’ve read up to this point was George Perez’s relaunch of the character in the late 1980s, in which he embraced the mythic elements in her origin. Azzarello does the same, but in a darker and perhaps more accurate manner. Whereas Perez’s heroine was an innocent who was learning about how the world works and the wonders it contains, Azzarello’s take on the iconic character s wiser, jaded and well-versed in the dangers that lurk on the periphery of mundane life.
A young woman named Zola finds an intruder in her home, but he’s there to warn and protect her from the real invaders, inhuman monsters intent on her death. Spirited away to safety, Zola instead encounters another dangerous creature, but not one who means her harm. Face to face with the super-heroine known as Wonder Woman, Zola carries with her an artifact that immediately lets the Amazonian princess Diana know of the crisis that’s arisen. Soon, thereafter, Wonder Woman finds herself in battle with a pair of monstrous warriors, intent on killing both her and Zola.
Chiang’s clean, soft linework makes for some thoroughly attractive figures, but without an emphasis on voluptuous, gratuitous curves some other artists resort to in efforts to appeal to younger, male readers. The title character’s confidence and strength shines through in her posture and the determined look on her face. I was a bit disappointed her first appearance in this inaugural issue is as a naked, sleeping figure, covered only by a sheet. I didn’t see what it added to the story. But that was a fleeting moment. Wonder Woman’s new design works. Her top has an armored look that’s in keeping with the character’s warrior qualities, and it’s hard to lament the “loss” of her pants seeing as how the character has been depicted in a skirt or shorts for decades.
Chiang’s style has at times been a fairly static one, but he conveys motion incredibly well in this issue’s action scenes. There were a couple of moments when his art reminded me of Kieron (Superman: The Dark Side) Dwyer’s simple but powerful style, specifically when it came to the depiction of centaurs in the story. Speaking of which, his designs for those creatures, the mysterious woman in the Virginian barn and the divine figure that appeared to help Zola were all quite striking, so I can’t wait to see how else he interprets and depicts other players from Greek myth in future issues.
The only truly irksome thing about this comic book is the cover logo. There’s nothing about it that conveys a sense of myth or any of Wonder Woman’s qualities. There’s a stark, modern military look to it that seems wholly out of place, and the thick “wings” coming off the right of the first letter just don’t work either.
The most striking scene in the book is the one in which an act of violence and supernatural transformation lead to the rise of the two immediate (though incidental) antagonists in this opening episode. It’s that moment that sets Wonder Woman apart from typical super-hero fare, in which the horror-genre influence Azzarello promised shows itself.
The notion Azzarello explores in this first issue is that mythology — and by extension, religion in general — has become sugar-coated in people’s eyes today. We envision impossibly beautiful figures in togas appearing in the clouds, imparting wisdom, parables and morals to the mortals below. In reality, mythology is full of ugliness. Brothers and sisters, parents and children war with one another. People are seen as disposable, either literally or as sexual playthings. Zola is clearly set up as a Madonna-like figure, allowing the writer to relate the excesses of Greek myth to the softer portrayals of Christian scripture. Maybe the writer’s ultimate goal is to challenge his readers to question ideas of faith, to view the supposedly divine as something as flawed as humanity, if not moreso. Maybe I’m reading too much into the story, but I’m fascinated and look forward to Azzarello’s further examination and possible criticism of the notions of faith and godliness. 9/10
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