It's easy to stick with the status quo; in many ways, it's the familiar refrain of far too many superhero comics. To a lesser extent, repeating the same pattern is also a popular one, and at first it looked like "Wonder Woman" would slip down that route. But in "Wonder Woman" #23 (closing out the title's second year when you include the issue #0), Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang serve up a sudden swerve, and in doing so things have suddenly gotten much more interesting.
Even when "Wonder Woman" hits similar territory, it's still entertaining. Wonder Woman going up against her godly relatives has been the major thrust of the title these past two years, and like a bad penny, they keep coming back no matter how many times she smacks them down. At the end of the second year of the title, there's no denying that the big battle against the First Born has felt a little familiar -- at least at first.
Ultimately, that's why events needed a change, and Azzarello does just that. Now, it could easily be a temporary shift and something for which there will be a resolution sooner than later. At least for now, this feels like something Azzarello's in for the long haul. It's a moment that promises a lot of conflict -- both internal and external -- for Wonder Woman, because it's a change for her that in many ways goes against everything that she stands for even as it's something she's familiar with. In other words, it's the perfect sort of dilemma to saddle Diana with for the duration. There are all sorts of story hooks that Azzarello can launch off of here, and in many ways the sky's the limit. While we haven't had too much with Apollo being the new ruler of Olympus (the big ending to the first year of the title), this feels a bit harder to ignore.
Chiang's art is impeccable as ever. In the "sentences you never thought you'd have to write," category, there's no one else who could draw Wonder Woman swinging a jackal-headed monster around with her lasso and give it such force and energy. Not only does it look great and fluid, but Chiang's cleverly tilted the contents of the panel just a bit, giving us the off-kilter feeling that all those around her are also feeling as the monster zooms through the air. I also was especially impressed with War's usage of his abilities this issue and how Chiang drew that moment; up until now, after all, Chiang has been deliberately drawing him as a feeble, aged, non-threatening person. There's no direct transformation of the character in that splash where all is revealed, but there's sudden such power and danger surrounding him on all sides that it takes you aback just a bit. That's the mark of a good artist.
"Wonder Woman" #23 and the series as a whole has walked to the beat of its own drum, and this is no exception. Will these changes be integrated into the rest of the DC Universe? Who knows? More importantly, I find myself unable to worry about it. It's a clever shift, and I want to see how Azzarello, Chiang, and the rest of the artist rotation deal with this in the months to come. Consider me properly psyched for the start of the title's third year. Well done, all involved.