The Bride Wore Hands


On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.

I’m going to have to interrupt the discussion of Gail Simone’s late-00s run on Wonder Woman to go back to where Wonder Wednesday began, looking at the current “New 52” incarnation of Wonder Woman. The second trade collection of the new series just arrived, and I’ve waited too long not to dig in immediately.

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s a good start.

Wonder Woman vol. 2: Guts, DC Comics, 2012.

I’ve already talked about how, try as I might, I just can’t get into the New 52, DC Comics’ one-and-a-half-year-old reboot in which a few popular characters continued as if nothing happened (Batman, Green Lantern), others had their histories radically revised (Superman, Batgirl, Flash) and many started over entirely (Supergirl, Superboy, Firestorm). At first the official rhetoric was that most of the stories from before the reboot “still happened” in one form or another in the new continuity, but it soon became clear that (a) that wasn’t true and (b) DC hadn’t bothered to work these details out before leaping into the change. DC editorial decided, for example, that “Red Robin” Tim Drake had never been Robin after the first few months of New 52 comics had made it very clear that he had been. And, as has been much discussed, some of the new costumes—especially copublisher Jim Lee’s redesign of Superman’s iconic uniform—are pathetic.

And I certainly did give it even more of a chance than was reasonable, reading the first five issues of every single one of the first wave of 52 new or relaunched titles. But at best, I can’t see this new status quo as anything other than an alternate universe in which, at best, a few good stories might be told, while the “real” Superman, Wonder Woman and company are out there somewhere in Limbo, waiting for their chance to return. It’s very much like Marvel’s “Heroes Reborn” experiment of the 1990s, in which the company turned over some of its most prominent properties (Avengers, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor) to Image Comics cofounders Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee, both of whom were prominently involved in the New 52 as well. Heroes Reborn took place in a pocket universe while other heroes carried on business as usual in the regular Marvel Universe, whereas this time everybody has been swept up into some testosterone-drenched, “extreme” version of the DC universe, but I still can’t help thinking of it as a temporary thing because, well, it’s stupid, and a lot of DC fans are flocking to Marvel because of it.

Wonder Woman, of course, is one of the heroes who started over from scratch in the reboot, because DC can’t go for more than a few years without trying to “fix” her. At least this time she’s not the new hero on the block, like she was after the 1980s Crisis on Infinite Earths, but we don’t really know much about what she’s been up to or whether her life and adventures, and her supporting cast and rogue’s gallery, had any resemblance to what they were before the reboot. And honestly, I doubt anyone’s even figured that out yet.

In the first six issues of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang’s new Wonder Woman series, we discovered that in this new reality, the traditional story that Diana was made from clay by her mother and given life and powers by the gods was a lie, and that her actual origin is the same as so many demigods and other figures in Greek myth: Zeus can’t keep it in his pants. Now, that pissed a number of Wonder Woman fans off, and I didn’t like it much either, but it’s hard for me to get too worked up about any great heresies about this Wonder Woman.  She’s not, and she’s never going to be, “my” Wonder Woman. She’s a Wonder Woman, and she’s the Wonder Woman of the moment, but ultimately she’s just another alternate-reality version of the character, who isn’t and is never going to be the iconic heroine that I have an investment in.

So to me it’s not really a question of “what have they done to Wonder Woman??” because I’ve come to terms with the fact that this ain’t her, and I really don’t think the New 52 reality as a whole is going to pan out all that long. That’s why, even though I think her hooking up with Superman over in Geoff Johns’s Justice League is a stupid, stupid idea, I don’t get too incensed, because that’s not really Wonder Woman, and that’s not really Superman. The real Superman’s married, for one thing, and he has better fashion sense than that. So the question is, do I enjoy the story that’s being told, regardless of how canonical I think it is? And so far I’ve actually been enjoying Azzarello’s take quite a bit. There’s a strong touch of horror, inventive new takes on the gods, and a lot of clever touches of mythological logic that I enjoy. I’ve said before that it’s strongly reminiscent of Mike Carey’s Lucifer series, and it continues to be in this second collection, charmingly called Guts. But there are considerably worse influences to have.

I say all this because I’ve known for a while that the first issue in this second volume was going to test my equanimity. It’s the one that caused a number of fans, and particularly some notable feminist comics bloggers, to give up the series entirely. So let’s jump right into it.

Holy crap, just look at that cover. Cliff Chiang is amazing.

Wonder Woman #7, DC Comics, May 2012.

Just to recap, Wonder Woman has been protecting this young woman, Zola, who got knocked up by Zeus in a one-night stand. A number of the gods of Olympus want to kill her because of a prophecy about a child of Zeus who will kill to take the throne. And at least a couple have decided to help Diana protect her, Hermes and some gruff British demigod named Lennox. But that wasn’t enough to keep Hades from dragging Zola off to Hell, so now they have to go down to get her.

In this issue, they seek help from a couple of other gods whom we’re seeing in this series for the first time. First there’s Eros, a cocky young man with twin golden pistols that he uses to, you guessed it, make people fall in love.  Unlike some of Chiang’s more fantastical designs for the other gods, Eros just looks like a handsome guy in his young 20s.

Cutest face-off ever.

Hephaestus is much more monstrous-looking, with a toothy, simian mouth and hands like molten rock. But as Eros says, looks can be deceiving. The smith god is only too happy to arm Diana and her allies for the conflict with his uncle Hades.

Now that’s a face you can trust.

But he also tells her something she really, really doesn’t want to hear. It turns out that all the assistants in his smithy are Amazons—male Amazons. They’re the male babies that the Amazons abandon. According to Hephaestus—and the other gods present seem to know this already—the Amazons go to sea twice a century to seduce sailors, seduce them for their man-seed, and then kill them. So, basically the Amazons are monsters, and always have been. Hephaestus, humane guy that he is, takes the Amazons’ rejects—their boy children—from them in exchange for weapons.

Aye, the lusty booty.

Needless to say, Wonder Woman doesn’t take this at all well, and has it out with Hephaestus about her seemingly enslaved brothers. Mind you, we don’t go back to Paradise Island at all in this volume, so we’ll have to wait to find out what, if anything, Hippolyta has to say for herself. It could be a distortion or a wacky misunderstanding. But when we saw the Amazons, Hera had turned them to snakes and their queen to stone, so she’s not in a position to say much just at the moment.

Still, it’s interesting that Diana doesn’t seem to have much of a reaction at all to this revelation about the character of her mother and sisters. She’s shaken, sure, but more concerned with the immediate question of the plight of her long-lost brothers. I guess this version of Diana isn’t much for dwelling on things. She’s a woman of action.

This is where you say “Whaat? Wonder Woman with guns?” But we’ve seen those pistols before.

Wonder Woman #8, DC Comics, June 2012.

Hephaestus arms Diana heavily for her trip to the underworld, and insists that she take Eros’s golden pistols as well. Diana won’t let anyone come with her, except Hermes, who’s her ticket down there. And when she arrives, she finds a Hell that looks pretty much like London, complete with Big Ben and The Burghers of Calais (somehow it cracks me up that that particular Rodin sculpture is so ubiquitous, even Hell has one). Azzarello adds some delightfully creepy touches here, as Hermes explains that everything around them is made of the souls of the dead.

Well, that’s not at all disturbing.

They find Zola fairly quickly, but of course Hades isn’t ready to let her go. Not without a fight, or a bargain. Having previously been promised a queen—by Wonder Woman, who’s apparently not as incapable of lying as most previous iterations have been—Hades accepts Eros’s golden pistols as an acceptable trade for letting Zola. And, of course, as a way of getting what he wants. No sooner does he get them than he shoots Diana right through the heart.

Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame. You give love a bad name.

Does this mean … wedding bells?  Well, we’ll just have to see won’t we?

I guess that’s one way to tie the knot.

Wonder Woman #9, DC Comics, July 2012.

There’s going to be a wedding! Everybody’s talking about it, or at least War and Strife are. (War has yet to really do anything in this comic, but we check in with him from time to time anyway.) And the good guys are, too, at least insofar as they’re plotting to put a stop to it.

It cracks me up that War looks like Brian Azzarello.

Tony Akins comes in to draw this issue and the next, and he does a good job capturing Chiang’s character designs, but it can’t help but feel like a bit of a letdown after the stellar work Chiang’s been doing on the series, comparatively rough and plain. One clever thing Akins does, though, is never let us get a good look at Aphrodite. Not at her nakedness, because you can have as much gore as you want in a mainstream comic these days but no naughty bits, but also not at her face, leaving it to the imagination.

Waiting for her wedding, Diana finds out that her haunted-seeming maid is in fact Hades’s ex-wife Persephone, kept there in eternal punishment, which really bodes well for Wondy’s own impending nuptials.

Well, at least he and his dad are close.

Hades also sits in a throne made of his dad, Chronos, so really he’s just a cold-blooded little mofo. I guess ruling the land of the dead can do that for a guy.

She’s really let herself go since the wedding.

Wonder Woman #10, DC Comics, August 2012.

Hades still isn’t content. Even though he shot Diana to make her love him, he’s still not convinced that she does, maybe because he’s a candle-headed little boy. I’m just saying.

Fortunately, he has a way of finding out. Wonder Woman’s lasso makes someone incapable of telling a lie, so he ties it around her like a noose and demands to know whether she loves him. And … she does!

Well, I’m glad that’s settled.

But she is not having this atmosphere of distrust. As soon as he pulls that little stunt, the wedding’s off.  And honestly, I’m sure she’d never have gone through with it but it gives her the convenient moment of moral indignation she needs to rebel. And rebel she does, with all the hordes of Hell in hot pursuit.

Yeah, her wedding dress has hands hanging from it. Because of the awesome.

Everything in this arc feels a little bit drawn-out, just because of the nagging feeling that it shouldn’t have to take 12 issues to tell this story, but it feels especially so in this issue because of page after page with just a few lines of dialogue, without Chiang’s dazzling art to distract us. But there are a lot of clever twists in the issue as well. Diana does love Hades, like she said, because she loves everyone. (And that’s the truest nod to the Wonder Woman I know that I’ve seen in this series so far.) But Eros’s pistols didn’t work on her, and the explanation for that is slightly contrived, but in a clever way.

You know it’s true.

And the coda to the story, which I won’t spoil, is actually surprisingly sweet.

Sorry, fellas, this seat’s taken.

Wonder Woman #11, DC Comics, September 2012.

Cliff Chiang’s back! And just in time for us to meet more of the Olympian pantheon. First Demeter, who’s all green and kind of disturbing looking, halfway between a Skrull and a female Swamp Thing. Then Artemis, who’s luminous and (sometimes) antler-headed, glowing like the moon.

When the moon hits your chest like a big sweater vest…

Now that Zola’s been rescued from Hades, Apollo and Artemis come after her, leading to a knock-down, drag-out fight between them and Diana, Hermes and Lennox (who appears to have skin as hard as stone, and just as crackable). The trash talk in the fight scenes seems like of simplistic and empty after Gail Simone’s run, but not everyone can have her flair for dialogue.

Strife’s just enjoying the show.

Not to mince words, but the good guys lose and Zola gets dragged off by the gods. Again. This is all part of Apollo’s plot to take over Zeus’s throne, but exactly what his plot is is kind of muddled and confusing. Suffice it to say that it involves a deal with Hera, who’s no fan of Zola or Wonder Woman or any reminders of her absent husband’s infidelity.

Well, that’s one way to end the conflict.

Wonder Woman #12, DC Comics, October 2012.

If anything, things only get more confusing in this issue. Hera takes her vengeance on Zola, or tries to. Apollo seizes the throne and exiles Hera, making her (for the moment) mortal. Zola and her baby are hidden away yet again. Okay, fine so far.

Man, Zola just does not let up with the casual-sex sass.

But the there’s Diana’s battle with Artemis, her namesake. Powerful as she is, Diana is obviously outmatched when she’s battling a god. That is, until she takes he bracelets off. Somehow that unleashes some crazy inner power that gets her eyes glowing and allows her to kick Artemis’s ass in hand-to-hand combat.  What on high Olympus is this? Some new Zeus-born power set that hasn’t been seen before?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t turn off again until she puts her bracelets back on and her eyes go back to normal. I do not even know what the hell this is supposed to mean.

Um, what?

But see, that’s what I mean about this not being my Wonder Woman. It’s just another reminder that we don’t really know who the hell this Wonder Woman is, but whoever it is, it’s not the Diana we know. So I’ll stay tuned for the time being, because the story’s piqued my interest. Not because she’s Wonder Woman, but because I’m awfully curious to find out what the heck her story is.

To that end, there are a couple of enticing threads left loose at the end of this first arc. One has to do with the ongoing saga of Zola and her baby, and the other is a new wrinkle: a helmet that can only be Orion’s, and the sound of a Boom Tube. It’s time to see how the New Gods fit in to this new universe, and what if anything they have to do with the old gods. To the best of my recollection, this is the first glimpse we’ve had of any other DC character in this series, aside from Hippolyta and the Greek gods, who hardly count. I’m kind of impressed that Azzarelo managed to keep the rest of the New 52 at bay in his own little Elseworld this long, really.

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  1. sundari

    1 / 24 / 2013 10:38 pm

    Rob Liefeld’s involved… I know he’s not the artist (you can tell by the lack of pouches and sensible chest to waist ratios), but could his involvement be why there’s hardly any panels that show anybody’s feet? COINCIDENCE?





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