Well it’s all about mythology really, except when it is not. As a relative stranger to the Wonder Woman character, I relished the idea of starting anew with the advent of #1. What came about was completely unexpected; instead of a solid character exposition, I entered the rebuilding of a character mythos. In any case I was enthralled by the incredible artwork of Cliff Chiang and the impressive personalisation of the Zeus family. It began with a shocking about turn of Diana’s origin, where it was revealed that she actually had a father. Not only was she not borne of clay to a city of Amazonians, but to a very real and tangible God. This places Diana in all kinds of confrontations personally and societally. She no longer stood as an emissary of Themyscira, but as a deity who eventually becomes the Goddess of War.
This family of Greek Gods has been constructed sibling by sibling by Azzarello, as two rival factions disputing the throne of Zeus. As the supreme God of sky and thunder travelled to Earth, he took a mate in the form of a young female called Zola and left her pregnant with his child. This progeny would be the last born, and in the absence of Zeus, would take their rightly place on the throne. All thirty-five issues focused upon this one storyline, and we saw family member upon family member fight for their place, betray their siblings and take a side that benefitted them most. All except Diana.
There is one fact that needs to remembered throughout these issues because it is one of the hardest to focus upon. One of my complaints about the book was that we saw very little of Wonder Woman throughout some of the issues, but her role remained consistent. She was to protect Zola no matter the circumstance, and shield her newborn brother from harm. Whilst the family fought one another relentlessly, and bartered for allegiances, Diana remained firm to her convictions. This is where her role faded into the background somewhat because the story manoeuvred around her. The character exposition throughout was fantastic, especially with her brother Hermes, her sister Eris and her mother Hippolyta. The facets of their personalities are so well developed that the story draws out their natural inclinations towards selfish acquisition of power in the pursuit of Zeus’ throne. As the supporting cast make their plays, Diana remains stoic in her position and actively rejects and pursuit of power, demonstrated quite poignantly by her rejection of the God of War title. Because she is so resolute, there is little to test her resolve outside of a physical confrontation. The reason why I have yet to review this title is because no single issue showed Diana’s magnificence off the battlefield. Each story arc seemed to be a variation of alluring potential allies, losing the baby, a physical confrontation, rescuing the baby, discovering a betrayal and repeat. However as we reached it’s ending, the conclusion was coherently written and beautifully depicted.
Azzarello has a slow paced and succinct style. His dialogue is short but oh so important, which is quite befitting of Wonder Woman in general. Each character is quite distinct in personality, which is also helped by the fact they look completely different. Cliff Chiang, though didn’t not draw the entire run, enjoyed great delights at creating characters like the First Born, Poseidon and Hades. He has a thick pencilling style and emphatic positioning during fights. The poignancy of the final fights between the Minotaur and First Born against Diana are amazing. He focuses closely on certain blows and is not afraid to make the scene violent or bloody. Given the façade of the First Born, this is certainly not out of place. On the reverse side to this, Cliff is also able to being attention to the emotional turmoil of the cast, including baby Zeke himself. He brings the epic feel to the book that it most definitely required given the mythological nature of the story. Huge amounts of credit must be given to Matt Wilson, who is given a bright array of colours to contend with, especially considering the bountiful variety of costumes. The scene is also set atop a mountain, which makes it all the more impressive to view.
The final showdown was a glorious platform for highlighting what makes Wonder Woman so amazing: her defiance, her determination, and her unerring drive to do what is right. This is where the mythological Gods crumble around her, because she may be one of them, but she is so much more than them. Her lack of selfishness is exemplary and makes her stand out from almost everyone around her. The Gods may have Zeus to idolise and look up to, but in comparison to Diana, he is unworthy of this praise. Her battle with the Minotaur was gruesome and almost a devastating loss, but it is the personification of compassion that inspires her adversary to deliver the same. This extremely important plot point takes us back to a panel in Wonder Woman #0 where she refuses to kill the very same creature. Even the final fate of the First Born revolves around her empathetic nature to enact change around her. It is such a beautiful sight.
The final pages see the secret of Zola and Zeke revealed, and as important as it is to complete the plot, the tale has already been already told. The world created by Azzarello is unlike anything else in the new 52. There maybe stories about new Gods and superheroes but none of them deliver the authenticity of the Greek mythology that this comic bases itself on. Chiang and Wilson produce the most breathtakingly imaginative natural environments but keep it ever so simple. Though we saw little of Diana in some issues, her nobility shines throughout, and even more interestingly it was Ares, the original God of War who taught her as a child how to be a gallant warrior. He saw her as a worthy successor to himself but berated her for showing mercy to the Minotaur. Even as a young adult, Diana had a steadfast grip on her principles and as she eventually succeeded as the God of War, compassion did not leave her side. Ultimately Wonder Woman’s actions raise her above the realm of Gods and her courage and bravery reigns over them all.
“Thank you First Born for reminding me who I am”