Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Cliff Chiang
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Cliff Chiang
Size: 32 pages
They say war is old men talking and young men dying.
In his earthly guise as Brian Azzarello, the Greek god War has viewed the battlefield from either end of time’s gauntlet, both schemer and scout, a general in his tent and a hapless bugler at the tip of the spear. With the ferocious Wonder Woman #23, War mustered all against the hulking First Born as every klaxon in London wailed. It was the last stand of a bearded warrior rallying the spirits of his every veteran kinsman through the ages, each marching to their own songs, bearing the weight of all those things they carried. When we first met War in this particular tale, the graying ex-pat dislodged himself from the third world’s surliest cantina a tired drunk all-too accustomed to foreign occupation. He was War without purpose, just numb complacency.
Justly, War is commonly cast posturing in the antagonist’s corner, the embodiment of wanton destruction and aimless conflict. But as with every peculiar adjustment to his pantheon, Azzarello looked on War with keener eyes. This god of carnage also represents valiant endeavor, a hot spur not toward sport or malice but the safeguard of family and country. Today War fought the good fight — a task he’s so rarely called to do — and won.
That War doubles as a cameo for the writer does surprisingly little to diminish the poignancy of this heroic bow and the accompanying pomp and circumstance. How they pulled that off continues to astonish. What began as a sight gag about a creator’s public persona and temperament ended with raised gooseflesh. It was Viggo opening the giant doors in the one movie and then the bit with the endless wave of day-glo ghost pirates in the next, all at once, somber and joyous. Chiang renders War’s eyes as tiny black voids, yet the old cuss seems nimble, soulful.
It’s an issues that might change the pace of breathing, with high flying heroics and grave, cruelly deliberate pathos. Matthew Wilson does some ingenious work with the background color, especially with a vibrant jolt of yellow as the tide suddenly turns in the battle between Orion and the First Born.
This triumph of character, for both War and his protege Wonder Woman, helped rekindle my enthusiasm for a run that’s proven ever interesting, if not consistently engaging. A journey to the updated Fourth World and New Genesis easily garnered my attention, and with Cliff Chiang’s continued presence, I’ve fallen back in love with one of my favorite New 52 offerings from the first wave. It’s unfortunate, then, that DC’s Villains Month looms as an unwanted diversion from Azzarello’s next promising chapter. Diana’s newfound burden as surrogate Goddess of War ought to provide some tantalizing internal conflict, something this run so often shies from when compared with the more introspective depictions of, say, Superman or Batman. Though Diana’s done her fair share of reacting, the depth of her self-reflection is limited by Azzarello’s narrative distance. The perspective sets the book apart and contributes to the allure and romance of Wonder Woman as a well-established force of nature and silent sufferer, but it often positions our heroine out from arms’ length.
This month, Diana reveals something of herself in a struggle to define the warrior she aspires to be. A berserker rage and denial of self fails her, just as War warned. Having set down her crown and bracers, it seems Diana has finally succumbed to doubt. Her very mythology lies in ruin. She has failed to keep her charges safe. The temptation to abandon her gear, the icons of her role as a defender, and meet the First Born on his own savage terms, ultimately proves too much. Only when she concedes to fake it til she makes it — to behave as her ideal self might behave, despite any inadequacy she feels toward pursuing that end — does she accomplish that bittersweet victory. War is dead. Long live War.
It feels like a bleak third act, but not arrived at through abject nihilism. Azzarello and Chiange seem to be ushering Diana through her own trials of Hercules, piling tragedy upon character building tragedy. Sure, Wonder Woman has been thrust headlong into Greek myth with controversial revisions to her celebrated origins, but if her tenure as Goddess of War is anything like her courtship with Death, it’s Diana who’ll render the redefinition and not the other way around. She subverts destiny. There is hope in a newborn baby. There is courage in the meek and the outcast.
The good fight goes on.
…is a lover, but he’ll fight for you.