Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wonder Woman #1 - A Review

Has any one character been subjected to revamping and reconsideration more than Wonder Woman in the past few years? I’m hard pressed to think of one if there is. Following Infinite Crisis, she was reinvented as an agent of the US Government with a secret identity. Just over a year ago, J. Michael Straczynski restarted the Wonder Woman mythos in the comics by turning Wonder Woman into a lost princess and child of prophecy. And the less said about David E. Kelly’s rejected Wonder Woman TV show, in which Diana was a CEO and superheroine who also posed as her own secretary, the better. And so we come to this – Wonder Woman #1 by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang.

We start in the thick of things with monsters attacking a woman named Zola, who is saved by a mysterious man and then teleported by a magic key to Wonder Woman’s home in London. Following the key back to the woman’s home, Diana proceeds to do what Amazons do when facing monsters and discovers that the mysterious man was the god Hermes, who came to project Zola from the wrath of Hera. All of this is observed from a distance by a man who seems to be the sun god Apollo, as evidenced by granting three women the power of prophecy and his punishing introduction.

Surprisingly this first issue gives us little Wonder Woman, with the title character making her first appearance about halfway through the issue. Azzarello seems to be gambling that most people are familiar enough with the concept of Wonder Woman and that aside from some confirmation of core concepts that comes out of the narrative (she is still an Amazon, she still kicks ass, etc.) he doesn’t need to focus much on Diana’s character or personality. I believe this gamble paid off but I hope Diana gets more personal development in later issues. As it is, a reader is more likely to be in trouble if they don’t know their Greek mythology than they are if they’ve never read a Wonder Woman comic. I was able to guess who the woman in the cloak of peacock feathers was long before it was confirmed to be Hera but someone who isn’t a Greek Mythology geek might be lost during the opening scenes.

But if anyone does become lost reading this book, it certainly won’t be because of the artwork. Cliff Chiang is a wonderful visual storyteller whose work on Green Arrow/Black Canary was one of the few high-points of that series. The action flows naturally from panel to panel and Chiang’s high-action style lends itself well to Azzarello’s writing. Indeed, some panels would not look out of place on the side of a Grecian urn. My one complaint about the artwork is the coloring of our heroine is a bit strange at points, with Diana’s tan skin looking more red than brown. Indeed, she looks so red at times she looks more like Dejah Thoris, Warrior Princess of Mars than Diana, Warrior Princess of Themyscira.

Despite that, this book is definitely one of the best ones to come out of the New 52 thus far. It’s a must-read for all fans of Wonder Woman in specific, good action comics in general and Greek mythology in particular. I certainly plan to be picking it up in the future.

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