Review by Ian Keogh
DC’s 2011 project of wiping the continuity slate clean and restarting from scratch was not generally well received. However, an exception that most can agree on is Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s thoughtful reworking of Wonder Woman, which eventually earned a reprint in DC’s Absolute format.
Their view of the old gods with whom Diana and the Amazons associate is of vengeful and violent beings considering humanity an irrelevancy beneath their notice and collateral damage in their immortal petty squabbles. They’ve been presented as such before in Wonder Woman, but never so irredeemably. At issue is Zeus having made a human woman pregnant, in mythology not uncommon, but usually swiftly followed by the vengeance of his wife Hera, whose choice is to murder the unknowing accomplice, not confront the serial offender. Wonder Woman sees her duty being to protect Zola, the pregnant woman, which puts her in conflict with the gods. It’s both ageless and very modern. Azzarello treats the circumstances one way, but it’s easy to imagine the participants screaming at each other across the set of the Jeremy Kyle show.
Both the themes and the presentation of this Wonder Woman incarnation are far more adult than earlier versions, but Azzarello’s writing is also more adult, in a way that deters the prurient thrillseeker, although Chiang’s art is surprisingly bloody. By halfway through they’ve reconstituted what Wonder Woman is, by implication accounting for her abilities, and set her on a path of isolation away from the Amazons. This is a rebirth of sorts, perhaps a reconstitution, but without discarding Wonder Woman’s previous history, although, admittedly, some might view it that way.
Chiang’s designs for the gods are interesting. Only Hera resembles her classical example in flowing gowns, with the remainder very distinct and 21st century, but without a unity of design, which is extended to mythical creatures also. Tony Akins draws the final chapters, and the gods he designs are equally impressive, and more horrific than those conceived by Chiang, Poseidon not at all human and Hades memorably creepy. Akins, though is not as comfortable with people or movement as Chiang.
Blood begins a long form story that runs throughout the six volumes created by Azzarello, Chiang and other collaborators. It’s broken down into episodes for the sake of publishing convenience, but everything feeds into the bigger picture, as seen by readers being shown the conversations between several gods who have no contact with Diana just yet. Key to the plot is Zeus being nowhere to be found after his latest indiscretion, evading the considerable locating talents of other gods. By the end it’s apparent enough of them consider there’s now a vacancy, and they’re just the one to fill it.
There’s a puzzling presence in Lennox, who would appear to be John Constantine in all but name, yet has been introduced with a different purpose. He plays a part, but as an awkward derivative intrusion in a series where clever reformulation is otherwise prioritised. Still, as noted, the long term is the bigger picture, and a surprise leads into Guts.
In addition to the two hardcover, slipcased Absolute editions, anyone prepared to really commit to the series can pick up Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang Omnibus.