“Wonder Woman” is a comic that’s always been tied to the Greek gods, but under the care of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang that connection is especially strong. What’s been refreshing about this is their particular interpretation of the various gods. We’d seen a bit of this thinking from Greg Rucka and Matthew Clark during their stint on the book (with a redesign of Ares into a more modern look), but the pair take it to a whole new level with the new “Wonder Woman.” And in many ways, it’s a sign of their take on the book as a whole; it’s very familiar, but at the same time is a refreshing spin on the ideas.
A lot of “Wonder Woman” #4 is dealing with the aftermath of last month’s revelation that Wonder Woman is actually the daughter of Zeus. It was a nasty little discovery then, but Azzarello milks it for more than you would have initially expected. Both Wonder Woman and her mother Hippolyta deal with this information coming out in different ways, and it’s a great contrast between the pair; Wonder Woman in a club, Hippolyta bracing herself for the inevitable visit from Hera.
The idea of Wonder Woman at a club might sound odd, but Azzarello makes it work; Zola’s explaining to Hermes how Wonder Woman is using the experience makes sense, and more importantly it’s the beginning of the fleshing out of Zola from plot element into character. This issue actually starts putting a lot of meat on Zola’s bones, so to speak, and it’s a refreshing change to learn more about her besides “mother of Zeus’ next child.” And as for the scenes on Paradise Island, well, let’s just say that Azzarello and Chiang make this a thoroughly dramatic scene; both playing out, and then visiting again in the aftermath.
As the Greek god pantheon grows, each new interpretation stands out and feels like it’s truly part of a greater whole. The new Ares is the most dramatically different from what we’ve seen before, both in appearance and personality. Once again, though, Azzarello and Chiang have thought this through in a clever manner. Even more than the appearances of Hera, Hermes, or Strife, with Ares it’s hard to keep from shaking a real sense of danger as you read his scenes. He might not be the villain of the piece, but his undefeatable presence seeps through the page. If Azzarello ever has him declare war on Wonder Woman, it’s going to be a conflict to remember.
Four issues in, Chiang’s art is beautiful as ever. There are so many amazing moments here: the bloody handprint on Wonder Woman’s face, the grumbly Strife at the bar, the clink of champagne glasses, the final splash page set on Paradise Island. Each one is just dripping with emotion, pouring Azzarello’s ideas out to the reader in a way they can’t ignore. Chiang’s an amazing artist, and with each issue I’m that much more pleased and impressed with what he’s doing here.
“Wonder Woman” just gets better and better every month, and I’m already mentally allocating space on my bookshelves for a collected edition in 2012. Thanks to Azzarello and Chiang, “Wonder Woman” isn’t just good, it’s a must-read. This is, by far, one of the roaring successes of the DC Comics re-launch.