Wonder Woman Vol. 4 – New 52 (REVIEW)

Wonder Woman Vol. 4 (New 52)
Publisher: DC Comics © 2011-2014
Collection: #0, #1-35, #23.2 & Secret Origins #6 (Vol. 1 – Blood, Vol. 2 – Guts, Vol. 3 – Iron, Vol. 4 – War, Vol. 5 – Flesh, Vol. 6 – Bones)
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Wonder Woman created by: William Moulton Marston

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I’ll be honest – I never actually picked up and read a Wonder Woman comic until the New 52! What, you may be crying. Blasphemy shouted from the top of the mountains from many fans. I will admit I grew up reading more Marvel than DC, I was not around when the Lynda Carter series was around therefore I had little exposure. Everything I knew of Wonder Woman prior to this was the DC Animated Universe and the straight-to-home video 2009 release. One problem was that DC is known for all these different universes and reboots so where was the jumping off point for Wonder Woman? Was I to go to the Golden Age? Should I go to the Perez run? The New 52 was meant to be a jumping off point for new readers so this was my chance and to help rope me in was Brian Azzarello who I knew and adored due to his Joker graphic novel and other work on Batman. At the same time this sounded like something way out of Azzarello’s field given his background was more street level, pulp and noir with thing likes 100 Bullets and his current masterpiece Moonshine. With all of these things I had to pick this series up for myself and follow it.

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The New 52 Wonder Woman is a brand new, exciting and updated take on Wonder Woman. In this it is established how Wonder Woman is something of an outsider to her Amazon sisters given she was made from clay and well, you all know the tale probably. Queen’s daughter’s or not you know how they say ‘kids can be mean.’ With that said, it appears Diana never cared much for Amazon society all that much. Another monkey wrench goes thrown in the mix here to further rock Diana’s origin. It turns out Wonder Woman truly does have a father. Diana is the child of an affair between her mother Hippolyta and the god Zeus. Meanwhile, Zeus is missing and his son Apollo looks to take over Mount Olympus and with Zeus missing he has been up to his usual philandering and now a young girl is pregnant with his child. Expanding on all of this dramatic is tension is Zeus’ wife, Hera; need I remind you about the scorn of a woman, especially of a woman like Hera?

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Azzarello truly brought something new, fresh and most of all original to the table with his run. Wonder Woman is not perfect throughout this run and neither is Paradise Island, as Azzarello even argued with the character that perfection does not breed good stories or any story telling whatsoever. Diana still carries that warmth, love and passion but we see her attitude towards her Amazon sisters, this lone wolf status of hers and impatience at times. Love and peace are important underscores to the origin of Wonder Woman no doubt but at times these virtues become overly emphasized to something hardly believable at all. He could have easily retreaded other stories featuring Cheetah or ambassador missions for peace but he did not. Why bother when those stories already exist and are probably on your shelf to read anytime. Gone are things like Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, the Wonder Girls and more. I for one do not miss Steve Trevor in this run as Azzarello does not bog this story down with any kind of forced romance. Azzarello has erected a new supporting cast for her composed 98% of the ancient Greek Gods, who come off as something of a crime family all with their own agendas, with Diana stuck in the middle though she never asked for this and I would argue is above all of their politics and bullshit (for lack of a better term). The supporting cast is rather large and expansive, sometimes changing a bit as they drop in from issue to issue. At times the run amounts to something of a soap opera as characters go in and out and even change. Enemies turn allies and traitors; it is quite dramatic and well… Greek. Yet, even with this large supporting cast the crux and focus maintains on Diana, not once does one of her supporting characters start to take over as one could or may have happened with Steve Trevor.

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Back when DC first launched the New 52 I recall when they interviewed different people amongst DC like Lee, DiDio, Johns and so forth. One question they all got was “Who is the best Wonder Woman villain?” to which they all replied Cheetah with no real reason. Once the question is Azzarello he bluntly said no one, as Wonder Woman has no good villains. And to some degree he is right. That was one thing Azzarello set out to correct with his own new villain to be added to the pantheon of Greek gods. This villain being tied into the entire run, Diana’s background and being her complete opposite in every way was certainly a step up over Cheetah I would argue. Plus, going back to what I mentioned before it was much better than just recycling Ares again and again, which it seems many a writer does not mind. Add this to her warring family it felt like a new kind of threat for Wonder Woman, where by the end this actually felt like an actual television show season and not just a few different arcs or new stories each time. With that said, I would argue this is something of a long read that you have to stay committed to. Do not read the first six issues in one sitting and come back a month later for the next six.

 

Cliff Chiang our artist provided a wonderful new take as well for this series. Coming into this run I was unaware of this man but have nothing but excitement for when I hear his name attached to any other project now. Granted Jim Lee did the design for Wonder Woman of the New 52 which I do greatly enjoy. The silver replacing the gold was a nice touch, as gold seems to symbolize the old. Plus, the leggings she had prior to this run are gone which gained some mixed reception. Not to sound sexist but I am not a huge fan of Wonder Woman in the leggings or the design from Jim Lee in the 2010-2011 run. That costume just came off like she was doing her best 90’s Superboy cosplay. Anyways, Cliff Chiang at first to some may appear to have a slicker and cleaner look, which he argues against but I say he does when the time is needed. Half of the time Chiang has a sketchier and rougher look to his pencils, which is great when it comes to some of the horror vibe you get with Hades or the real visceral stuff regarding their new villain later in the run. His work does not represent the classical kind of comic book art with huge action, bulging muscle and so forth. No folks, this ain’t Jim Lee, Rob Liefield or Neal Adams. Design wise Chiang’s work comes off more as if an indie comic had done the pencils for Wonder Woman. I mean no criticism there either; this truly stands out from not only the other Wonder Woman titles but DC titles in general. Not once does he ever over-sexualize Wonder Woman. We already know Wonder Woman is sexy and he does too, so why beat a dead horse? At the same time she is not overly muscular. Diana here almost appears as a regular looking person. I tip my hat off to him in the designs for all of the Greek gods as well. Apollo looks something more akin to a dark, marble statue encasing the sun and dressed in a suit. If it were not for his inhuman exterior, his physique and sense of fashion could make him a GQ model. This is carried on throughout all of the Greek gods, who have a more modern, contemporary look. Gone are the togas and sandals. This was a welcome departure as I feel no need for these characters to still be stuck behind aesthetically by centuries. It gets to a point where you feel you are reading your grandparent’s comic books. One last thing was Chiang cover art work, which always jumped off the page at you, emboldened in action and at times had a Soviet socialist realism vibe to it, which as a history buff I love.

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Being the first Wonder Woman comic I ever picked up I cannot deny this is indeed my Wonder Woman! It went against the grain on everything I thought I knew about Wonder Woman. It felt as if everything before was a lie and Azzarello was taking the blinders off for me. Personally, I was never one for ancient Greek mythology, probably due to the lack of it being taught in school for me. With a new direction and design to these ancients thanks to Azzarello and Chiang I found myself more intrigued. As I looked back I did get the sense that yes, these mythical figures were like gangsters and back-stabbing politicians. Yes, the overly liberal politics and feminism are absent, more the former than the latter. And that was OK with me. Azzarello and Chiang did set out to write a political piece, propaganda or sociology thesis mind you. They set out to just tell a great story! Diana has all time to find herself as a feminist, first she has to find herself in general, tread through the issues at hand and save the world. Again, I understand this is an underscore to the character but at times can be over-burdening, tiresome and preachy. The Azzarello/Chiang run is instead more along the lines of an ancient Greek myth, something akin to the Odyssey perhaps. I cannot deny the ending was something I did not see coming and was not sure what to make of. That is not to say it is wholly bad, but needs digestion, at least on my part. In the end, a truly amazing and successful run that managed to sell well over 1.6 million Wonder Woman comics, with its Volume trade paperback still selling three years after its first publication and release. If you have never read Wonder Woman before then this is a great jumping off point. The film managed to take some influence from it therefore better get used to what Azzarello and Chiang left for us here, for the pot has certainly stirred.

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