Wonder Woman’s comic series, for the most part, has rarely been a sales powerhouse, yet she remains the most famous and iconic female super hero in all of comics, to the point that anytime DC has tried to alter her in any way, not only does it send the fan community into a tizzy, but it typically spills over into mainstream press and public reaction. That said, Diana’s most successful sales come from such revamps. Post ‘Crisis on Infinite Earth,’ under the care of writer/artist George Perez, she enjoyed one of her most successful periods, in terms of both sales and fan reaction. And despite the negative reaction to her “new costume,” her ‘Odyssey’ run sold strongly… at least at first.
So now we have yet another revamp for Diana and how does it pan out? (Spoiler assault from here on!) The book opens in Singapore, where a mysterious man with jet black skin and hair, energy glowing from his eyes and mouth, who describes himself as the ‘Sun of a King,’ is entertaining three young ladies on the top floor of the world’s tallest building. The Mystery Man talks briefly about his father, most notably his infidelity (the King’s wife is not the Mystery Man’s mother). One of the women exclaims, “It’s like we can see for miles,” to which he replies, “Miles? Why my beautiful girls, you can see forever,” before grasping them, lifting them from the ground and…?
Cut scene to a farm in Virginia, where another mysterious figure, this one a woman cloaked entirely with peacock feathers horrifically creates and arms two centaur assassins that she sends to kill a woman identified as Zola. In the farm house, Zola is attempting to fend off an intruder with a shotgun. This invader is otherworldly, with blue skin, extra long limbs, blacked out eyes and eagle-like talons for feet, not to mention tiny wings on his ankles. He attempts to reason with Zola, saying that he is there to protect her and her child, when the centaur assassins strike. The blue man, shoves Zola aside just as a huge arrow pierces his abdomen! One of the centaurs is about to kill Zola, when the blue man hands her a glowing blue key which spirits her away to a hotel room in London.
The room, it turns out, is currently occupied by Diana, better known as Wonder Woman. (But she prefers “Diana.”) Diana and Zola return to the farm, where Diana attempts to protect Zola from the killer centaurs.
I need to point out that this scene reintroduces the Mystery Man and the three women, whom he has enchanted, making them his “Oracles.” The three woman speak in three green text captions, while the Mystery Man’s dialogue is in black boxes with white text. They don’t appear, but their dialogue takes place while Wonder Woman is battling the centaurs. He asks them to look into his future and tell him what they see, which is at first hazy, but eventually they describe a horrific creature with a crown of horns and a cape of blood flowing from his back with a naked woman lying at his feet.
Once the centaurs are dispatched, the blue skinned man from before stumbles outside and Diana finally identifies him as Hermes, making everything crystal clear. As Hermes lays dying, he implores Diana to protect Zola at all cost, because unbeknownst to Zola, she is pregnant and her child is part of a grave prophecy, which is clarified by the three Oracles in Singapore.
Like ‘Justice League’ #1, I felt like this was a tad too short, but whereas I felt ‘Justice League’ was too slight to even form an opinion on, I at least got a solid, well-defined set up from this issue. I know where the book is going at least and several characters are introduced and at least somewhat defined. One who isn’t defined enough, unfortunately, is Wonder Woman herself. For long-time fans like myself, she seems like the same Amazing Amazon we know and love, but these new #1’s are supposed to be jumping on points and I don’t know if a new reader is going to be able to get enough of a handle on the protagonist of this book enough to remain on board.
The writing just feels smart! The use of so many clues from Greek Mythology give it richness. I kept noticing what I knew were clues, but not quite seeing where everything was going, but once Hermes was identified, I realized that the Mystery Man in Singapore was Apollo, God of the Sun (“The Sun of a King”) and that peacock feathers are sacred to Hera, Queen of the Gods. Upon finishing the issue, I flipped it over and re-read it, taking in all the clues and foreshadowing.
The dialogue between Apollo (the Mystery Man) and the Oracles over the battle sequence is unconventional and dare I say, even a tad challenging. I like that! I don’t like being written down to. Brian Azzarello is just putting it out there and telling readers to keep up! I’d rather be slightly challenged than bored. The dialogue is good overall. It was a tiny bit choppy in a couple of spots, so I had to read some exchanges twice to “get” them. Wonder Woman, as I said, doesn’t get enough dialogue in my opinion, though, making her just a tad too much of a cypher by this issue’s end.
Cliff Chiang is one of my favorite pencillers working in comics, but his style is normally incredibly sleek and streamlined. Here, to fit the darker, super natural tone of the book, he’s roughed his usual style up, making it a lot “dirtier.” But I still like it! The fact that he CAN adapt his work to fit the book’s voice is impressive.
As for that tone… I am a bit worried that some readers will be disappointed that this book isn’t more “super heroic.” At least at this point, it appears to be a dark, super natural thriller, seeped in Greek Mythology. I personally think it works, but I can see where others might not. Hopefully, fans will react to the strong storytelling and art and embrace it, despite the lack of mad scientists and killer robots. (At least for now.)
WONDER WOMAN #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art and Cover by Cliff Chiang