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Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood (The New 52) Comics – January 15, 2013
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Pity the poor superhero writers, eternally obligated to balance comfortable familiarity with fresh reinvention. Azzarello leans toward the latter, counting on the fact that, for the world’s most famous superheroine, relatively little of Wonder Woman’s backstory is widely known. He also jettisons proper superheroing in favor of mythological intrigue, as Princess Diana protects a mortal woman pregnant with the child of Zeus, with the political future of Olympus in the balance. Diana also learns the truth of her own heritage: she was not born of clay but is herself a child of Zeus and a victim of a lifelong lie. Azzarello brings the harder-than-usual-hitting action and razor-sharp dialogue from his tough-as-nails 100 Bullets, establishing his heroine as a fierce protector and a woman in search of community. Chiang, meanwhile, merges modern streamlined figures and gritty combat with a classical sense of beauty for a look that’s distinctive, but not dissonant, within contemporary superhero comics. Among DC’s massive relaunch, the New 52, Wonder Woman stands slightly outside the pack to establish its own mythology and sense of fun. --Jesse Karp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“This is clear storytelling at its best….It’s an intriguing concept and easy to grasp. The reader doesn’t need to know that much about Wonder Woman because she is, well, Wonder Woman.” – The New York Times
“Azzarello is...rebuilding the mythology of Wonder Woman.” – Maxim
“Azzarello is crafting a highly-intelligent, and surprisingly gory, affair that's drenched in Greek mythology and godly mischief. And if that's not enough, artist Cliff Chiang simply kills it on every panel he touches. Put your presumptions aside because this is actually a Wonder Woman book worth reading.” – Complex Magazine
“This series will hopefully elevate Diana back into the limelight with Superman and Batman where she belongs.” – Christian Science Monitor
“Beautifully illustrated and brings a fresh, fascinating and fun take to the Amazon Princess and her world.” – IGN
“It’s a different direction for Wonder Woman, but one still steeped in mythology...great things from Azzarello and Chiang.” – The Onion AV Club
“Enthralling.” - UGO
“This book is weird and worth your while.” – io9
“It’s the kind of writing that’s made Azzarello such a sought after comic book author.” – CraveOnline
“Brian Azzarello is going for a much more horror-oriented book than previous incarnations, and that works well with Cliff Chiang’s art. In fact, they’re probably one of the best paired teams for the New 52 so far.” – Comic Book Resources
“Page after page, Azzarello just unfurls more and more smart ideas in what is probably the best hope for the great Wonder Woman story we’ve all been hoping for. Unsurprisingly, Cliff Chiang delivers some phenomenal visuals, presenting us with a heroine who reads as dynamic, elegant, powerful, and even godly. People, I think they’ve figured it out.” – iFanboy
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You aren't going to want to give it to your daughters, either. It isn't that kind of book.
And if you're a person who prefers to wait for the comics to come out in trade so you can get a full story in one gulp, you should be warned. You aren't getting a complete story in this book. You're barely getting half of Brian Azzarello's first arc. You're going to have to wait until the next trade appears to find out how it ends. The story is that slow paced. And it's even more action-starved. Over the course of the first trade, collecting issues 1 through 6 of the run, Wonder Woman defeats two minions and tangles with a couple more; that's the extent of the superheroism on display here.
Azzarello's Vertigo mannerisms --- extreme "written for the trade" decompression, gratuitous weirdness, and grim solemnity --- underline why it isn't a good idea to turn DC heroes over to Vertigo writers. It's a bad idea to tell the writers of our adventure stories that they should instead aim for the allegedly superior status of literary fiction. It's a very bad idea to tell them that they're so much cleverer than the people who actually thought up the brightly colored, patriotic heroines.
The story itself is all about Wonder Woman's reactions to a series of unpleasant revelations. The Amazons have been reverted to an isolated barbarian tribe, with no technology and little material culture. They will be demonized in a later issue. They are violent xenophobes. All of this is set up for the reveal that Princess Diana is not made from clay brought to life, but is the natural daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus. Revealing that she is a demigoddess is in fact where it goes downhill; for Wonder Woman's role is largely set aside in favor of intrigues among the gods of Olympus. As the story drags on, Wonder Woman fades into the background as the gods take center stage.
Wonder Woman has almost no personality here. She is brave, compassionate, and takes point.... and that's about it. She seems curiously lacking in initiative, does not seem much of a leader, and carries out plans from her mostly male companions. I can't fault Chiang's art; he has a good command of facial expressions, and Azzarello's storytelling is so oblique and longwinded that a lot of work is left to the artist. A pity that Diana's expression seldom moves past shock or horror.
Wonder Woman's only role here is the protection of Zola, a young woman pregnant with another demigod by Zeus. But it's the gods and not Wonder Woman that are the chief actors here. In the meantime, the goddess Hera turns the barbarian Amazons into snakes, and Hippolyta into stone. This catastrophe does not change the scope of Wonder Woman's perception of her mission; even if the gods have stolen her people's humanity, she stays focused on Zola.
As opposed to action or adventure, this story depends on shock value for its entertainment: "Look at what we're doing to Wonder Woman." I generally find this method of comic book writing to be negative, pretentious, and archly condescending towards William Moulton Marston, the fellow who created Wonder Woman and Paradise Island. If you have any affection for Wonder Woman in her previous incarnations, you will probably find this take painful to read, like watching someone pull the wings off a butterfly. It's an attempt to deliberately uglify Paradise. It's an act of vandalism against a national and feminist icon.
Basically, he creates his own new mythos and destroys (I'm sure to the chagrin of a lot of pre52 WW fans) her original, laughable origin story and replaces it with something much more interesting (which in turn leads to a great reason for her leaving the island and becoming Wonder Woman in the first place). Her personality is very strong yet caring, as she should be. The plot basically revolves around this woman that gets pregnant by a god and the other gods are trying to kill her or exploit her for power in Olympus. There is a lot of power politics mixed with Greek tragedy, ti's not merely an excuse for Wonder Woman to chop off hers (don't worry she does that too though.) Cliff Chang's art was weird at first but now I find it's iconic and fitting with the style of the comic. The violence is necessary, all the people complaining about AN AMAZON WARRIOR killing just need to really analyze that statement. The humor and wit is also surprisingly good, lots of puns, quips, etc that actually develop characters and not merely showboat the writers storytelling ability. The portrayal and character designs of the gods are nothing short of amazing, from peacock dresses, flaming candle heads, gun wielding, leviathans. Honestly, this was my favorite announcement of the new 52. (besides Aquaman of course, another title that didn't disappoint in the slightest.) I can not recommend this enough, especially to those of you who knew Wonder Woman was badass but could never prove it, Azarello's run shows why she's so awesome.
But I started getting into WW about a year before her New 52 reboot took affect, and I started to slowly see the appeal. The thing is WW is a progressive character that is slowly evolving as time goes on. All the different incarnations of her and she is still finding her place as a compelling character after 70 years. Yet some of those great characteristics that writers like Rucka, Simone, and Perez have made her (her Amazonian side and Greek mythology) haven't been played to the fullest...until now. Brian Azzarello looks to take WW and put her in her own version of The Odyssey, because this looks like an epic of Greek proportions.
WONDER WOMAN VOL.1: BLOOD collects issues #1-6 and begins with a young woman named Zola who whines up on WW's door asking for protection from attackers. In the heat of battle, Zola finds out she's pregnant with Zeus's unborn child from Hermes, the messenger god and that those attackers were sent from Hera, Zeus jealous wife. From this information, WW, Hermes, and Zola then have to figure out a plan to work this whole situation out while protecting the unborn. As all this is happening, an omen from Apollo regarding Zeus, king of Olympus, looks to shake the foundation of Olympus itself...and Zeus is missing. With word of this out to the gods, many of them start making plays for power among themselves for the position of ruler of Olympus.
Azzarello sets up a lot of information in a short amount of time, one that is heavy on Greek mythology, theatrics, and inspiration. Azzarello wants this to be a Greek epic, again akin to Homer's The Odyssey. There is a little of everything in this same regard: adventure, mysticism, suspense, love, desires, humor, revelations, and a whole heap of things being setup for the future to come. This is meant to be a long and arduous journey for WW that, unlike many other trades out there from the New 52, where story arcs go up to the amount of the trade collected...this story doesn't end here. It looks to be that Azzarello wants this to last awhile. So if your going to read this run, you have to start here because your probably going to get left behind later on in the continuing issues to come.
Azzarello's WW is very much like her old self, despite many WW purist think. She may not be an ambassador of peace or a princess like her old self, but she cares for life, innocents, and justice her own way...but she's more Amazon about it here. There are many variations of WW over the years and it's very difficult to strike a balance with her to make her work (as well as appeasable to fans). Azzarello's WW I think strikes that good balance of warrior and hero at the same time. So for new readers, I think you'll love her. But for old WW fans, try to set your mind into this new WW before hand.
But to be honest, the real narrative here of the new WW is the world itself and the characters that inhabit it. Again, going with the concept Homer's The Odyssey (or the epic poem of Dante in the Divine Comedy), WW is meant to be about the journey and as a loose main character in awe of her surroundings. Going from a dead forest to England and to Paradise Island, or seeing the other characters like the gods own interactions, beliefs, and own personal twisted way of showing appeasement and retribution is intriguing. Characters like Apollo, War, Strife, and Hermes are all complex beings that could be made into case studies in and of themselves. They really are that interesting to read about, and Azzarello does a wonderful job in that regard.
I have to mention the beautiful art by Cliff Chiang. Do yourself a favor and go open a tab and look up Greek art in the search engine and you'll get an idea of what Chiang's art is meant to be like. The bold thick lines and distinct color contraptions are just excellent. Chiang's WW is also beautiful without looking like a Barbie-doll figure. She's lean and mean and beautiful in-between. And Chiang's designs for the Gods are creative and have a lot of hidden innuendoes in their designs that only Chiang and Azzarello probably know and won't tell us. And a honorable mention to Tony Akins who does issues #5-6. His imitation of Chiang's is a bit of a weak spot (especially WW's face expressions), but overall he still does some wonderful shots (you have to see his Poseidon) and I don't think it affects the art narrative that bad actually.
Now I prefer to give some level of critique when I review books to try to stay subjective and fair about what I review, but I'm at a loss for what to say for I or anyone might not like or agree with (though everything is subjective regardless of bad or good review). I really enjoyed this. So instead of a negative, I will mention the new origin that's been seen as "blasphemy" from long time fans. I've already mentioned the current take on WW with older fans, and then I sort of understand the complaints regarding her new origin. Azzarello's new focus on the world itself instead of Diana and the origin is quite a bit to ask for older fans. But I personally enjoy this new origin. It makes her more grounded and more inline with a traditional Greek twist in a storyline (and it still explains her power level). But again, the story might play out well once it's all said and done down the road. But if you're an old WW fan and you can't get behind this new take, then that's your own standings and I respect it. It's just a bummer you can't get into this.
WONDER WOMAN VOL.1: BLOOD is wonderful start for new readers to look into. If your one that by all means have never picked up a single WW comic in your life, I recommend giving this a try. And if you're a fan of Diana already and are open for the challenge, and then you can add on what appears to be another great interpretation of WW. Hera, give me strength...because this looks like this is going to be a great long run.