Pick of the Week
What did the
- Pick of the Week - 05.22.2013 - Daredevil #26
- Pick of the Week - 05.15.2013 - Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher #1
- Pick of the Week - 05.08.2013 - Thor: God of Thunder #8
- Pick of the Week - 05.01.2013 - Animal Man #20
- Pick of the Week - 04.24.2013 - Uncanny Avengers #7
Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG
Size: 32 pages
To use political parlance, it’s important to shore up your base. Not all of the new DC #1 issues can be winners. Even if most of them are pretty good, in order to stand out in this comic market, a book has to be exemplary. Knowing that, DC focused their best talent on the properties that really matter to them. You’ve got Grant Morrison doing Superman, Scott Snyder on Batman, Geoff Johns on Aquaman and Green Lantern. In terms of DC comics, everything else is secondary. Except Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman is a title that’s always had a strike against it. That strike is, of course, a girl. You can hedge all you want, but creators have had a hell of a time finding a way to make Diana enticing to a mostly male audience for years without resorting to making her into a super-sexy nymph, which would also have been silly. Wonder Woman has had some great moments in ensemble settings, but never seemed to take her place in the in popularity ranks next to Batman and Superman. It wasn’t for want of trying. Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, mainstream (!) author Jodi Piccoult, Allen Heinberg, and most recently J. Michael Straczynski have all taken a swing at the Princess, with varying degrees of success, but never got her to the top of the charts. The most recent effort badly missed the mark, when it misunderstood what sort of changes were needed.
But this? This is something.
Right away, this seems to be the same Wonder Woman we’ve always known. The costume is a little rejiggered, but it’s basically the classic style. She’s a big lady, standing tall, with broad shoulders. Yes, there was a bit of a sideboob shot, but compared to what’s happening over in Catwoman, you can hardly say they’ve oversexualized her for sales purposes. In this issue, she’s a straight up action star, with the power of a god. Finally, instead of redesigning Wonder Woman again, they’ve redesigned the actual gods around her, and wouldn’t you know it? I, a person who has maybe bought one issue of Wonder Woman in my entire life, am interested.
Writer Brian Azzarello took a different approach with this book than most of the other #1 issues. There was no long inner monologue of explanation of who she is and why she’s here and what she’s doing in this brave new world. Nope. We’re thrown in at the beginning of some problem with the classical Greek gods, and Wonder Woman is the X factor who’s going to mess up their plans. There’s action, intrigue, and personal, if not godly, intrigue. You get to see Wonder Woman actually fight like the raging Amazon she is with tactics that look real, despite being performed on a centaur. You want to know more about everyone around her, because they haven’t really told you anything. Not in way that’s confusing, but in a way that makes you want to stick around. But Wonder Woman? She doesn’t need explaining. It’s all there in her actions and very few words she speaks. Azzarello’s work is most impressive in its relative effortlessness. Take a flip through some of the other relaunch books this week, and see the globs of text all over those pretty pictures. Now look at the economy of words on the Wonder Woman pages. That economy was also delivered without sacrificing clarity, which is hopefully a sign of a lesson learned from some of Azzarello’s earlier DC projects. This is a guy who knows his stuff, and is bringing it all to bear by not actually doing too much.
None of Azzarello’s work would have been successful without the right artist. From the very first cover image we saw, and perhaps even before that, it’s clear that Cliff Chiang is that artist. Comic book pages that are sparse on the text need a very skilled sequential artist, and Chiang brings both that talent, and the special kind of elegance that only he can draw. Chiang explained to us, and it’s evident, that he is using a rougher style than we’re used to seeing from him. His past linework was so smooth that it almost seemed to be done by computer. Here Chiang wanted to prove that he’s doing this work all analog, and it works so well, adding a touch of grime to this story featuring ageless and ancients gods brawling with one another. The beautifully choreographed fight sequences crackle with movement, and the slightly more scratchy line give it some extra life as well. Chiang, like Azzarello brought all his skill and experience to bear in this issue, and it shows mightily.
Chiang also gets extra points for the wonderful designs of these Greek gods. It’s a different look at them, and I was especially impressed with Hermes, who even has a unique body shape, just slightly unhuman and avian. I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for other members of the pantheon.
I want to make sure I give Matthew Wilson he due as well. I’ve mostly seen his work at Marvel, so I was surprised he was coloring this book. I noticed it immediately and flipped around to find the credit. When I saw Wilson’s name, I wasn’t surprised. He’s among the best of the latest vanguard of colorists, where taste and restraint have become their calling card. Wilson is the perfect colorist for this art, and fans of the book should consider themselves lucky to have him.
There wasn’t really much DC could do to get me interested in a Wonder Woman book. From my relative disinterest in the property, to the weight of all those many false starts, I just wasn’t all that interested. I don’t even consider myself that much of a Brian Azzarello fan. But this is why comics is an art and not a science. You throw all these things together, and you just might find some magic, and there is a lot of magic in Wonder Woman #1.
I shouldn’t have mentioned the sideboob, I know.