Diana is back. And it is good. Very, very good.
Yes, this is an excellent issue of “Wonder Woman,” something I had wondered if I would ever get to say again after the mess that was “Odyssey.” Thanks to the mis-handling of Wonder Woman for the past year, this was the one book I was excited to see relaunched, especially when Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang were attached as the creative team. Azzarello tends to approach superheroes in a way that goes a bit against the grain, and Chiang is nothing short of a dream on whatever project he’s working on, so expectations were naturally high. This book had a lot to live up to both because of the creative team and because well. . . it’s Wonder Woman. I’m happy to report that what we got is excellent on all fronts.
Azzarello doesn’t spend a lot of time in Diana’s head, or learning about her origin, or fussing with what may (or may not) have come before, and it’s a great decision. We are plunged into the action: gods being manipulative gods, magical protectors, prophesized rivalries, mythological pregnancies, mortals in dire straights, and Diana kicking ass and taking names. The story stands on its own powerfully without a mess of back-story or history lessons and is confident in both its plotting and character work. You can feel absolutely that Azzarello has a vision for Diana and her world, and so far it’s a vision that I’m delighted to watch unfold.
Azzarello leans heavily on the mythology in this issue, and it’s clear that that’s where he’s heading, in general. This book is full of gods but Azzarello does it in a way that feels modern and unique. It’s a way that I’ve been waiting for someone to do Wonder Woman’s book for a very long time. Here mortals collide with the gods in both traditional ways (Zeus is still “Mr. Shenanigans”) and in wholly new ways (Apollo creates oracles out of some attractive groupies, Hera creates centaur warriors out of magic and horses) and it all works seamlessly together to create a fascinating and surprising tale.
Cliff Chiang’s art is flat out phenomenal. His Diana is powerful, confident, beautiful, strong, and — my personal favorite — tall as the day is long. The character design is gorgeously creative and, like the story itself, feels smart and new. Diana’s costume (pants or no pants, etc.) has been discussed ad nauseam of course, but I will say, whether you like pants or no, Chiang is the one you want to be drawing it. And if we can get rid of the silly choker and armband, I’m all for this costume and its silver that no longer has to clash with gold (which has always bothered me and I don’t care how canon it is).
Chiang’s characters actually “act” and their expressions match their dialog perfectly. The storytelling is nearly perfect in its precision and Chiang’s action scenes are epic and fluid, if a bit gory. The gore is a bit thick compared to “Wonder Woman” arcs past, but it’s so well done that it didn’t bother me. Or, perhaps all of the new DCU #1’s have upped the gore to such a degree that I’ve already been desensitized. Either way, if gore bothers you, there is definitely some to be had here, but it doesn’t feel exploitative. Rather, it seemed just the nature of telling an adult superhero tale, and telling it well, without pulled punches.
Matthew Wilson’s colors are exceptional. Sometimes I think the best colorists are the ones that I don’t even notice until I go back a second time to focus on the coloring. That’s how Wilson’s colors feel here: so on-point as to almost not be noticeable. But when you look again, you’ll notice the nuance Wilson finds in everything — the layering of his nighttime scenes, the starkness of a battle fought on a farm in broad daylight, the pop of otherworldly blue light from a magical key — it’s all here and it’s glorious.
Azzarello and Chiang have created a book worthy of Wonder Woman, herself – a hell of a ride – beautiful and smart, fast-paced and epic – from start to finish. Standing at the top of the new DCU 52, second perhaps only to “Batwoman” #1, “Wonder Woman” #1 is a must read for any fan.