On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
Wonder Woman vol. 3: Iron, DC Comics, 2013.
Well, the third trade collection of the current series of Wonder Woman has been out for a few weeks now, so I guess it’s high time I talked about it here. As any reader of this feature knows by now, I’m not a fan of the “New 52” reboot of DC Comics’ entire superhero line, but Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman series has been pretty entertaining so far, largely thanks to its virtual nonparticipation in the new continuity. No other superheroes or supervillains popping up—not even Wondy’s much-ballyhooed romance with Superman has penetrated its pages. Sure, it’s a different Wonder Woman than before, and I’m not entirely on board with all the changes, but it’s been a diverting adventure through an interesting take on Greek myth, if one that unfolds at a sometimes frustratingly lackadaisical pace.
Wonder Woman #0, DC Comics, November 2012.
The November 2012 issue of all of DC Comics’ relaunched titles was an “issue zero,” focusing on the back story of the characters in the new continuity. For most of them, including any of the initial 52 titles that hadn’t been canceled yet, that fell between issues 12 and 13. Wonder Woman—the fourth series by that name—was one of those.
The weird thing about Wonder Woman #0 is that it’s written as if it’s a reprint of a story from an earlier, simpler time—or that’s the conceit, anyway. When it comes right down to it neither the style of Brian Azzarello’s writing or Cliff Chiang’s art is particularly different than normal, but there are a few superficial trappings to add just a taste of the flavor of the Silver Age. There are breathless, overblown narrative boxes with lots of exclamation points and alliteration. There are cute nicknames in the credits and a banner on page one explaining just who the heck our heroine is. Perhaps most retro of all, the issue has a self-contained story with an actual beginning, middle and end, not just 1/32 of a story like most issues in this series and so many others. And it’s as close to a Wonder Tot as we’re likely to get in the New 52, so I’ll take it.
Actually, the Diana shown here is a lot like the original Wonder Girl, back when she was just stories of Wonder Woman as a teenager. Even her outfit is reminiscent of the original Wonder Girl getup (and the original Wonder Woman uniform, for that matter).
It’s her twelfth birthday, which she celebrates in the Amazon way—by going on a quest to win her mother the queen a suitable gift so that she can celebrate at all, and then competing against her sisters in tournaments of skill. One redhead Amazon really seems to be out to get Diana, which I assume to be a callback to Orana and Artemis in past stories. But this is also part of Azzarello’s notion that Diana grew up sneered at by her fellow Amazons because she was supposedly made out of clay (which was true in the old continuity but isn’t anymore). This isn’t an entirely new idea; Gail Simone’s retelling several years before had some other Amazons hating and fearing Diana for being a baby at all on an island where nobody else was breeding.
As the omniscient narrator keeps pointing out, it’s no longer true that Diana was made from clay. Unbeknownst to her, she’s actually the daughter of Zeus. Now, I’ve already talked about why I don’t like this development: Wonder Woman’s whole deal is being a powerful woman from a whole culture of powerful women who don’t need men, so the idea of owing her power to the great father god seems like a huge step backward.
In this issue we find out that she owes way more than that to powerful male father figures—that despite coming from a whole culture of women warriors, it was actually Ares, god of war, who taught Diana how to fight. I cannot begin to express what a needless revision to Wonder Woman’s history this is as far as her being a badass warrior; being the pupil of Ares himself doesn’t really improve her martial pedigree over being the greatest of Amazon warriors, unless you’re just really into patriarchal structures. So here, too, she becomes a great Amazon warrior, because she’s been studying with War on the sly. What’s up with all this creeping patriarchy, Azzarello?
On her 13th birthday, Ares takes Diana to a minotaur’s labyrinth to get a suitably heroic gift for her mother. She uses her lasso for a trail so that she won’t get lost, which is a heretofore unknown quality of the magic lasso—being magically long. She finds the minotaur, fights it and defeats it, but then pisses Ares off when she refuses to kill the beast-man.
So now they’re quitsies, which accounts for some bad blood between Ares and Diana, but we don’t really know if they’ve had any of the long-standing enmity that the God of War had with Wonder Woman in previous continuity, or whether they just stayed away from each other. It’s impressive how little we know about Wonder Woman still, many issues into the new continuity, because Azzarello has been telling his story of the children of Zeus very slowly, and not really getting into back story much.
Wonder Woman #13, DC Comics, December 2012.
Speaking of the children of Zeus, when we get back to the story in the present day, we meet a new one we hadn’t heard about before. Well, not “new” exactly. In fact he’s very, very old. He’s called the First Born, and apparently that’s exactly what he is—the first-born son of Zeus and Hera. Why haven’t we heard about him before? Well, he’d been disposed of, for some reason we’ll be hearing about later. But now he’s back, found by an expedition in Antarctica who seem to be expecting him.
Oh yeah, and he bites one guy’s head off. But not out of malice or anything. That’s just how he learns language, apparently, by eating brains. Somehow Starfire’s method of learning language by tongue-kissing in New Teen Titans seems so much more mannerly in comparison.
And see, this is what I’m talking about when I talk about how slow Azzarello’s story unfolds. We check in with the First Born periodically in the seven issues collected in this volume, but we still have no idea how he fits into anything. Wonder Woman never meets the guy, nor even hears about him. It’ll happen, eventually, but for now he’s just off on his own separate adventure.
Meanwhile, Apollo’s having a pool party with various other children of Zeus—these being the well-known ones of the Greek pantheon. Since Zeus has gone missing, Apollo has appointed himself king of the gods, but there’s this pesky prophecy to contend with—that a child of Zeus would kill of one of them and seize the throne. Now, it looks like we’ve just met a pretty freaking likely contender to fulfill that prophecy, but we’ll see whether Azz goes the obvious route. Eventually.
Meanwhile, Lennox—the gruff British demigod who’s been helping Diana out—is also making with the exposition, explaining that Zeus had seven children in the 20th century, including the two of them. (But not including the baby of Diana’s friend Zola, who’s obviously of the 21st century. I’d say the first child of Zeus of the 21st century, but with his pants problems that’s not the safest bet.) Of those seven, only five are left alive, because Hera is the jealous type.
They have to find Zola’s baby, who was abducted by Hermes right after he helped them save the kid from being murdered by Hera. Oh, and Hera’s hanging around Diana too, having been stripped of her godly powers and immortality, and you can imagine how Zola feels about that. But Hera turned the Amazons to statues and snakes, and Diana holds out hope that somehow she can make the Queen of the Gods undo what she did.
Lennox sends Diana off to find Siracca—“the wind”—one of her half-siblings who might be able to help. That takes her to Libya to find this new sister, but first she has to save a little girl from some terrible soldiers. Can this adorable moppet help Diana find the mysterious Siracca? Spoiler warning: Yes.
Wonder Woman #14, DC Comics, January 2013.
We start off with a little more stuff with that giant naked guy on the South Pole. I’m way more curious about the guys who found him than I am about the First Born himself. Who are these people? How do they know so much about him, when nobody else knows that he even exists? What do they want? Well, we find out a little bit about the how, but nothing about the who or the why. Not yet, and presumably not for a long time.
We do find out a bit more about the First Born himself, though, courtesy of the mysterious know-it-alls. Anyone who knows anything about the Greek Gods knows that the king of the gods pretty much always gets killed by his son, who then takes over the throne. Zeus killed his father Chronos, who had killed his father Uranus. It’s just what they do. The same prophecy was made when the First Born was first born, so Zeus naturally ordered him killed.
So that adorable little girl from last issue was Siracca herself, surprising pretty much no one, and she’s busily attacking Diana for hanging out with Hera, seeing as how Hera totally killed Siracca’s mother, and her too for that matter. And now she’s a seriously pissed-off poltergeist.
Of course, Wonder Woman wins her over, because that’s what she does. What Siracca does is control the winds and hear anything said anywhere through them, but at the moment that’s no help in finding the baby. So she sends Diana on another quest to find another sibling, this one named Milan.
And then we meet the New Gods. Or rather we begin to. This is notable for a number of reasons. One, this is the first time that any other preexisting DC Comics character has appeared in this series—other than the gods and other creatures of Greek myth, that is. Second, I think it’s the first time we’ve seen any of the New Gods in the New 52, other than the villainous Darkseid. We only get a shadowy glimpse of Highfather, leader of the good guys, but we’ll be seeing a lot of Orion. There’s some threat to the Source, the force they serve (not to be confused with the Force), and it’s coming from Earth. Orion had better go check it out!
Wonder Woman #15, DC Comics, February 2013.
So it turns out that Milan is… Wesley Willis, essentially. If you’re not familiar with the paranoid schizophrenic punk singer-songwriter from Chicago who died at 40 ten years ago, well, he was a lot like this guy. Not only does this crazy homeless dude with a bandana over his eyes look a lot like Willis, but he greets people with headbutts and has a tendency to recite advertising slogans.
And it turns out that he’s an old pal of Orion’s, while Orion… well, he seems like a regular dude. Unlike the original character by Jack Kirby, who was always deadly serious and dramatic and full of rage, this Orion is a way more casual, speaking in slang and generally seeming like your average American jock. I don’t know what the back story of this version of Orion is (the original was the semi-heroic son of Darkseid, obsessed with killing his father), but aside from the outfit he doesn’t seem anything like the Orion I know. And his mission has something to do with the children of Zeus, because everything has to do with the children of Zeus. The spacefaring New Gods were never even related to the old gods in the old continuity, but now, who the heck knows?
Oh, and Hephaestus shows up out of the blue to give Diana a power-up: Now she can make swords magically appear out of her bracelets! So she’s got that going for her, which is nice.
Speaking of power-ups, the First Born’s helpers help him find his armor and weapons and stuff. Oh, and one of his uncles sends ice giants to try to kill him. You’d think it would be Poseidon, because, you know, water, but apparently it’s Hades. Go figure.
Next time: The stunning conclusion! OK, nowhere even remotely near the conclusion of anything. But the last half of this particular volume, anyway.