Review by Ian Keogh
Brian Azzarello’s stint on Wonder Woman lasts 36 episodes all told. They can be broken down into individual sections, but he’s basically telling one big story, and although Wonder Woman is the title character and the most prominent, she’s really the leading role in an ensemble cast. It’s a more adult version of Wonder Woman than has previously been the case, both in terms of themes and presentation, but this is without overly sexualising the cast.
The starting point is Zeus once again unable to resist sleeping with a human woman, getting her pregnant, then disappearing, leaving a vacancy on the throne. Assorted of his relatives see themselves ideally placed to fill that vacancy, but none can see off the others through brute force alone, so they’ve learned to manipulate humans and each other. They’re forever shifting alliances, and always prioritise their own interests, while viewing any humans in their way as collateral damage. With Wonder Woman vowing to protect humans, conflict is inevitable.
Cliff Chiang is the credited artist, and he designs the conceptually interesting new versions of the Greek gods. They’re very different from portrayals in previous Wonder Woman stories, and deliberately designed as mismatched rather than to a formula. Tony Akins should also be credited as the designer of Posiedon and Hades, two very different looking people with Hades the creepiest among some strong contenders. There’s greater decoration to Akins’ pages, but Chiang is the stronger storyteller, although there’s no flash to his work. There’s less contrast when he’s splitting the chapters with Goran Sudžuka, who has similar strengths.
Wonder Woman’s origin has always been that she was shaped from clay and given life as a favour to her mother Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Azzarello has no truck with that nonsense, supplying a far more likely alternative, which may annoy long time fans. He also tinkers a little with other aspects of Wonder Woman, although these can be more easily ignored if not liked. Among those jostling for the throne are Zeus’ assorted children with human mothers, and Wonder Woman is more closely allied with these, the exception being a brute imprisoned for centuries and referred to as the First Born, playing a large part over the second half.
The length of the story allows for some diversions, and there are some puzzling inclusions, Orion of the New Gods for one. He hangs around for a fair while, but ultimately has little purpose. The same may be assumed with regard to other people, but ultimately everyone else is there for a reason, and we’re shown by the end that some of those reasons are clever.
This Wonder Woman run was rightly acclaimed from early on, and has already been split over two Absolute editions, which DC are relatively careful about restricting to the real highlights of their back catalogue. It remains a thrilling, twisting read, and if you have the money this is an ideal way to absorb it. Alternatively, used copies of the six paperbacks are still easily found. Blood, Guts, Iron, War, Flesh and Bones have evocative titles, all smartly relevant. Follow the links for greater information about the plots.