DC 52: Wonder Woman

Another of my FP blog reviews of the major DC Comics relaunch of 52 series re-starting at issue 1:

Wonder Woman #1

Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang

DC Comics

The new skyscraper skyline of Shanghai is our opening scene as a rich businessman on a penthouse balcony plies three attractive women with drink and impresses them with his pedigree, telling them he is the son of a king. Actually he tells them he is the sun of a king, which is the first hint that the new Wonder Woman is going to delve back into Classical mythology. There’s a feeling something bad is going to happen, and I’m not just talking about a sleazy rich man hitting on women, there’s something else going on here, he’s not interested in them for sex and so it proves when he callously works an enchantment to to use the women as a form of oracle, not caring what this will do to these mortal women he’s co-opted.

On the other side of the world, in rural Virginia a female figure, naked save for a cloak of peacock feathers, approaches a dilapidated farm and enters the barn. The horses react violently to her presence – they are right to be afraid of her. She crosses to the wall and removes a scythe from its holder before turning to one stall and, in a frankly disgusting, vile scene, decpaitates the horse; the remaining headless body shudders and from the ruined neck a new figure emerges… Meanwhile inside the farmhouse a young woman, Zola, is arguing with a strangely garbed man; he is trying to tell her she is in danger and must flee but, understandably she is rather more concerned with a strange man being in her home uninvited. When a pair of centaur assassins strike, shooting him with an arrow she realises he was telling her the truth, a little too late. In desperation he throws her a key which magically transports her to another place.

Zola finds herself in a woman’s apartment in London (cue the sight of Big Ben to visually confirm the location). She is a little thrown from the sudden transportation across several thousand miles. Cautiously, nervously she approaches the only occupant of the room, a sleeping woman, who wakes instantly and demands to know who she is and why she is there. Zola explains, at least as much as she can given the odd circumstances. I’m Diana, the woman tells her, getting out of bed and crossing to her wardrobe, stripping off bedclothes as she goes, opening the doors to reveal Amazonian battle gear. “You’re… Wonder Woman?” gasps Zola. Our Amazon fixes her with a stare: “Diana,” she answers emphatically, leaving me wondering if in this new continuity she has either stopped using or been told to stop using the Wonder Woman name…

Diana plans to use the key to return to the Virginia farm, but Zola grabs her arm and is transported with her – she’d decided she’s safer alongside our heroine. On their return they are set upon right away by the pair of centaur assassins; despite telling Zola to stay near her they become separated, with Zola running, pursued by one hunter while Diana fights the other. Of course our heroine overcomes them, just in time, and protects Zola. They find the critically injured man from earlier still in her home, he calls Diana over and she realises he is Hermes, messenger of the gods and that there is a lot more to this than she yet knows… And no more than that, don’t want to spoil the ending, but suffice to say there’s a revelation that is quite in keeping with the eternal soap opera antics of the Olympians.

Overall I found this a reasonable read but for some reason not a brilliant one and I’m not sure why – I’ve had a deep love of Classical myth for decades and while I appreciate the return to the mythological roots I still wasn’t quite sucked into the events here; perhaps I will be if I pick up the next issue. And the fact Diana prefers Diana to Wonder Woman is possibly telling of how she sees herself in this new continuity. But it still felt that there was something lacking somewhere – Wonder Woman, as many have said, is difficult to write for as the character deserves, and although this is solid enough it felt like it was lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, but perhaps that will come as the series unfolds? Cliff Chiang’s artwork is nice, working well and clearly without showboating and it is nice to see a superheroine depicted as physically attractive, athletic – sexy even, in the almost nude bedroom scene – but not ridiculously over-developed (thank you). My main quibble, though, was with the awful scene in the barn and the equine decapitation – that’s a personal thing, mind you, some will just see it as part of the story, a nasty thing by the bad guys, but I can’t abide even fictional violence against animals and I’m really not sure we needed to see that event depicted as graphically as it was shown. Other than that, as I said not bad but I’m not quite convinced yet, although I would certainly be willing to give it more time with another issue or two.