Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The New 52, Wonder Woman and a Formal Apology


I haven’t really made any secret about my not being a fan of DC’s The New 52. In fact, after sampling most of the line, I wrote DC off shortly after the line’s launch and haven’t looked back. And I’ve been relatively happy in that decision as I’ve had folks fill me in on the various story developments for the last year and a half.

Well, as it turns out, I shouldn’t have written the entire line off as this weekend, a good friend demanded that I buy and read Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman series. After a little hemming and hawing, I caved. I read Wonder Woman. Scratch that, I devoured it. In a few short hours, I caught up with the series and was actually angry when I finally caught up and had nothing new to read.  


So here I am now, standing before you all, admitting that I was wrong. Not about The New 52 as a whole. No, I still think most of that is kind of a hot mess. I was wrong about there being nothing for me.

THE PERFECT WONDER WOMAN

Azarello gives us what is, for my money, the best iteration of the character we’ve ever gotten. Make no mistake, there have been great runs on Wonder Woman, but they're few and far between and the character always seems to be one that writers struggle with. She’s in man’s world on a mission of peace, but she’s also a warrior. Kinda hard to rationalize a message of peace when you’re always kicking ass.

So Azzarello has gotten rid of the mission of peace. But here’s the thing, this version of Wonder Woman will always try the peaceful resolution to a conflict before tearing someone a new one. Hell, there’s more than a couple of fights that end with Wonder Woman winning her opponent over via dialog instead of fisticuffs.

MYTHS FOR A MODERN AGE

Wonder Woman has always been steeped in Greek mythology and the gods and goddesses have always retained an old world look and feel about them. Azzarello keeps the Greek pantheon, but along with artist Cliff Chiang, has updated each one to operate in a modern setting. Ares is an old, almost emotionless man seemingly unphased by anything except extreme acts of violence. Eros has traded his bow and arrow for pistols and Eris is a bitchy alt girl. They still embody forces of nature and human emotions, but they also live firmly in this 21st Century.

WONDER WOMAN IS NOW DIVINE

A key part of the Wonder Woman origin has always been that she was molded from clay by her mother Hippolyta and granted life by the gods. Azzarello made a big change to this and it was one that some fans were outraged over. Wonder Woman has been rebooted quite a few times, and there have ben multiple changes to the character, but the sculpted-from-clay origin has always been left intact. And it seemed that way in this new series until Azzarello reveals a few issues in that Wonder Woman was lied to. Her mother did not sculpt her from clay. Wonder Woman is actually a daughter of Zeus himself, her true origin kept a secret for fear (rightfully so) that an angry Hera would seek revenge. A huge departure from tradition to be sure, but one that just makes sense. It not only explains why Wonder Woman is stronger than your average Amazon, but it makes her whole existence more…. Mythological. I’m actually surprised it took more than 70 years for this reveal to happen.

THE ART IS AMAZING

We’re seeing a lot of artists working for the Big Two these days that up until a few years ago would never have been allowed to do their thing on a franchise character. But you know what? We’re all the better for it, and such is the case with Wonder Woman and Cliff Chiang. I can’t heap enough praise on his art. I just can’t. Suffice it to say that as much as Brian Azzarello is redefining everything that is awesome about the character, so too is Cliff Chiang redefining the character’s look and the world she operates in.

This current run of Wonder Woman isn’t just a standout for DC’s line, but it’ll be one of those runs that people look back as being a defining moment for the character. This series will be the one people hand to readers both old and new who want to know why Wonder Woman matters.

And I’m kicking myself in the ass for joining the party so late. So, sorry New 52. It turns out there is one book that is for me.

3 comments:

  1. I think we have similar feeling about the New DC, but this sounds really good, I'll have to check it out. Just out of curiosity, could this story have been told in the old DC continuity or do you feel like this story is better because it is in the continuity free new DC?

    On a somewhat related note, after creating the best (or at least my favorite) comic book animated series/universe, DC ended that as well and now each movie is stand alone (the situation is only mildly similar to the comic book situation) but the Wonder Woman animated movie is definitely my favorite of the that line. One of the best things about it is all the crazy violence. It actually got an R rated for violence the first time it was submitted and had to be edited down to a PG-13. I saw it at NYCC a few years ago and at the talk back, Bruce Timm said if it sold well enough, they might release the R rated cut. I was very hopeful, but apparently sales were poor...

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  2. There's the kicker. Most of this new series could have been told in the previous continuity. As the series begins, it's clear Wonder Woman has been doing her thing for a little while. People know who she is wherever she arrives somewhere. In fact, none of this book really lines up to the rest of The New 52.

    Maybe that's why I love it so much...

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  3. That's what I figured, dense continuity be damned, it all depends on the creative team to make a character accessible to a wider audience or to drag them down by continuity. The new Hawkeye series is a prime example of a character with a long and rich history (or convoluted... how many times has he died?), but you need no prior knowledge of the character to enjoy the hell out of every issue.

    For the record, if you had said WW benefited from new DC, I would've said it sounds like it would've made a great All Star Wonder Woman :)

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