The world we live in is one in which most artists have to have a fill-in issue several issues into their run on a comic. It’s an unfortunate reality, but if it’s going to happen, it’s nice when editorial is smart about it. “Wonder Woman” #5 is the perfect example of a smart fill-in issue.
With Zeus out of the picture, Poseidon makes his move, and Diana, rather than fight the angry god, turns his attention toward Hera in a clever bit of plotting that raises the book far above your typical “hero punches villain” trope.
Brian Azzarello’s “Wonder Woman” has been smart all along, but what he does with Diana in this issue is so much better than we usually see in comics that it’s almost alarming. For starters, Azzarello (and I’m sure Cliff Chiang, and for this issue Tony Akins) chooses to make Poseidon’s physical representation a giant sea monster/fish creature, rather than the standard attractive, bare-chested “human” male with a trident and white beard. The sea monster incarnation is infinitely more interesting, as have all the ideas been for this book so far. In addition, once Poseidon shows up in London to fight with Wonder Woman, instead of just battling him, Azzarello’s Diana turns Poseidon onto the trail of another god, effortlessly channeling his bid for power at someone else. It’s clever and bold and exactly what I’m looking for, not just in a Wonder Woman book, but in any good comic.
If you have to find a fill-in for Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins is a great pick. He has a similar sensibility and thus the issue doesn’t feel like a huge departure from what readers expect from the series. Additionally, thanks to series’ colorist Matthew Wilson, the issue maintains the tone Azzarello, Chiang and Wilson have established thus far. Akins does a great job with the story and he seems to relay it almost effortlessly, easily maintaining everything great that has come before him. My sole complaint, which I admit is a rather large one, is that his Diana doesn’t quite look and feel right. She’s a bit inconsistent throughout the story and only really feels like Diana/Wonder Woman when she finally dons the costume. It’s strange because Akins take on all the other characters, especially Zola and Hermes, are wonderful. It’s almost as if he couldn’t quite decide on what his Diana should look like and as a result she’s almost a moving target within the book, none of them quite resonating. In all other ways, his art is a great fit, particularly when it comes to Poseidon and his bizarre and very literal cadre of seahorses.
“Wonder Woman” is the bright shining star of DC Comics’ new 52. It’s a book many had their eyes on thanks to such an innovative and bold choice of creative team; but it’s also a book that had many fans skeptical given the troubled history of the book. It’s nice to see such a fantastic payoff, with Diana again in a truly wonderful and well-considered book.