Ever since its New 52 reboot, “Wonder Woman” has focused heavily on Diana’s Olympian origins. Retconned from a mere Amazon princess to the demigoddess daughter of Zeus himself, she’s faced challenges inspired heavily by Greek myth in a book that’s felt more than a little like DC’s answer to Marvel’s “Hercules.” Writer Brian Azzarello and artists Cliff Chiang and Goran Sudzuka stay within this mold in “Wonder Woman” #20, an issue that slowly advances Azzarello’s plot but ultimately feels formulaic and rushed.
In early issues, Wonder Woman had to protect the pregnant Zola; now that Zola’s son is born, Wonder Woman has to protect him. Azzarello has made a lot of hay out of people wanting to kill this kid, and he doesn’t seem like stopping any time soon. But twenty issues is an awful long time for such a repetitive plotline, and frankly, the whole creative team seems a little bored of the story. Cliff Chiang splits art duties with Goran Sudzuka, and while both turn in workmanlike performances, one can’t help but feel that as one of DC’s “big three,” Wonder Woman deserves something a little more inspired. The editing is a bit sloppy as well; there are obvious mistakes in the faux-Olympian dialogue, like using the words “wiles” for “while” and “descendancy” (misspelled in the book) for “descent.” The dialogue is a bit off-key all around; it’s perhaps no surprise that Azzarello, best known for his crime comics, has a tin ear for mythic-sounding dialogue but manages to give the thuggish backup character Lennox plenty of personality.
As mentioned, the art looks rushed throughout the issue, but there are elements that stand out. Cliff Chiang’s redesigns for the Olympian gods are wonderful, breaking out of the sandals-and-togas vibe that most artists can’t seem to escape: Apollo dresses in business casual but has skin the deep purple of a sunspot; Dionysus is a razor-toothed emo kid; Poseidon is a magnificent monster amalgamated from various sea creatures, with barely any humanity at all. Matthew Wilson’s colors also carry a lot of weight. They’re universally lush and rich, and give all the gods and goddesses a sense of otherworldliness.
All this isn’t to say that fans of the current incarnation of Wonder Woman won’t find anything to like in this issue. For those dedicated to Diana’s supporting cast, there’s an intriguing hint of backstory for Lennox and a nice Olympian power struggle. Wonder Woman herself gets a few pages of full-on slugfest, made interesting by her unwillingness to remove the armbands that dampen her true power. Overall, though, “Wonder Woman” #20 feels a bit like a filler issue: the pieces are here, but not much is done with them, and the writing, art and editing all feel like a race to the newsstands. With a bit of tending, this could become a strong book, but DC needs to make a commitment to provide its flagship female character with stronger art and a bit more direction.