Keep the “Wonder” In Wonder Woman

Against my better judgement, I’m playing the old comic book fan card.  You know the one: the “I’m quitting this comic because of a creative change!”

Let me explain.  A few years ago, DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe and called the (sort of) reboot “The New 52.”  In the (sort of) new DC Universe, super heroes have only been around for about five years.

Some of the (sort of) rebooted titles have languished due to the change, but others have flourished, such as Wonder Woman.

You should know before The New 52, I never bought a Wonder Woman comic book in my life.  Truthfully, I wasn’t very excited about buying it for the first time ever as a thirty-something, but the fact is that Brian Azzarello is a master storyteller, Cliff Chiang is a fantastic artist, and I could not resist their combined talent.

Their Wonder Woman is rooted deeply in Greek mythology, which is totally in keeping with her history.  The Greek Gods are important characters in her title, but they are nothing like you’ve seen before.  Azzarello revitalized an already wildly popular character by making her appeal to a larger audience.  Azzarello’s interviews before the title’s release describing his plans for Wonder Woman and the Gods’ incorporation proved the main reason I came aboard.

Furthermore, Chiang draws an attractive, respectable Wonder Woman.  I’m not embarrassed for my wife to see my Wonder Woman books lying around.  I’m not worried about my small daughters’ sense of body image when they look at Chiang’s Wonder Woman on the covers.  Chiang draws her beautifully.  She is large and feminine.  She is powerful and graceful.   Her costume could be manipulated into something skimpy and trashy, but Chiang makes it appropriate and even regal.

Wonder Woman has been an intelligent, exciting story concerning Wonder Woman and her Greek God family with dynamic, attractive art that celebrates Wonder Woman’s heroism.

I worry that all that is going to change.

Azzarello and Chiang are leaving the title.  They said in the beginning they had a three-year story to tell, and that third year is about over.

A few days ago, DC announced the new Wonder Woman team.  I at first felt pretty good about it.  The writer is Meredith Finch, who is, of course, a woman.  A woman writing Wonder Woman is always a good thing in my book.  Meredith’s husband, David, will be the artist.  Uh-oh.  David Finch is an engaging artist, but his women tend to appear more like pin-up models.  My red flag is going up.

To make matters worse, Meredith Finch is on record as saying she wants to veer away from the Greek mythology and focus more on Wonder Woman’s interactions with her fellow Amazons and the Justice League.

Here is where I play my comic book fan card and scream, “I’m out!”

Here’s why: I don’t want the overly sexual Wonder Woman that Finch will most likely depict in his art.  I certainly don’t want a Wonder Woman title where she is primarily interacting with the Justice  League.  You know where I can get that?  The Justice League books.  Or the Superman and Wonder Woman book.  When I read a Wonder Woman book, I want it to be a unique experience, something specific to the character that sets her apart from her shared universe.  The Finch team seems intent upon returning Wonder Woman to the status quo.

I get it.  Wonder Woman is going to be in the new Superman movie.  It will also have Batman with probable appearances by Aquaman and Cyborg.  I suspect the rest of the Justice League will show up as well.  They want to position Wonder Woman to capitalize off of the movie, and they want to position the movie to capitalize off of Wonder Woman.  I think they call that corporate synchronization.

I understand their intentions, but it’s a shame.  Azzarello and Chiang made a character I previously refused to read my favorite DC title, a title I regularly told people who don’t read comic books to check out.

So I’m playing the comic book fan card: I’m out.

Chiang vs. Finch

Wonder Woman: Guts by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang – A Book Review

Guts is the second volume of Wonder Woman’s New 52 iteration.  Now, I have to admit, I’ve never particularly been a Wonder Woman fan.  I mean, sure, as a young boy, I liked her just as much as the next young boy, but I never read her comics.  But, when DC decided to (sort of) reboot their shared universe with the New 52, and when I learned that Brian Azzarello would be taking over Wonder Woman, well, even as a thirty-five year old man with a wife and two daughters, I couldn’t resist.  Azzarello is a superb writer.  He’s multifaceted, visionary, and merciless to his characters.  Plus, in the months preceding the series’ debut, he spoke at length about how his version would focus upon the Greek Gods and have more in common with horror than super hero adventures.

He had me at Greek Gods.

I haven’t reviewed the first volume of Wonder Woman yet because, while I loved it, I frankly wanted to wait and see if the second volume would sustain my interest.  Not only did it sustain my interest, it in fact increased my interest.

With Guts, I have a lay of the land.  I’ve gotten used to Azzarello’s interpretation of the Greek Gods and his general “atmosphere” for Wonder Woman.  Now that I know what to expect in certain regards, I love the title all the more. His take on the Gods is unconventional, but that’s what makes it captivating.  He gives us just enough to make them recognizable, but changes everything else.  Make no mistake, however, this man knows his mythology.  At no time does he write a God “out of character.”  Of course, the genius is that these Gods have existed in world mythology for thousands of years, so that gives Azzarello a lot of wiggle room.

In Guts, Wonder Woman is trying to save a young woman who has been impregnated by a missing Zeus.  Hera, as usual, wants the girl dead, and is going to great lengths to make that happen.  Hermes is assisting Wonder Woman with the girl’s rescue, and before long Wonder Woman encounters Hephaestus, Demeter, Eros, Apollo, Artemis, Pandora, and Hades.  They are exactly like you’d expect and nothing like you’d expect, and that’s why I love this title.

There is a lot going on in this book, but I never felt overwhelmed or confused beyond comfort.  All literature should confuse a little, after all, for if the author makes everything crystal clear, well, that’s a little boring, isn’t it?  But like the Greek Gods, Wonder Woman is recognizable enough to satiate the fans, but she and her back story have also undergone a few tweaks that makes the character even more likable and, to be honest, respectable.

Chiang’s art is definitely a great match for Azzarello.  His Wonder Woman is attractive without being a sex object, powerful looking without losing her femininity, and is always drawn to look like the royal she is.  As a father of two small girls, I’m always searcing for female super heroes they can look up to that are not a facsimile of a male super hero or presented as a pin up model.  I got really excited when they were going to put pants on Wonder Woman because, you know, she’s basically wearing a bikini and I’d like her to put some clothes on for my daughters’ benefit.  Of course, they opted to keep the corset and bottoms.  Even with that being said, though, Chiang draws her in such a way that, again, she is beautifully rendered, but her clothes also completely cover her.  She is not drawn with ridiculous cleavage or wearing a g-string.  Admittedly, no matter how strongly she is written by Azzarello, if they did present her in such a fashion, I’d be too embarrassed to read her book.  As it stands, though, I’d have no problem with my daughters (if they were twelve or older) reading it.

I’ve read several of the New 52, and I have to say that Wonder Woman is so far the best when it comes to art, action, dialogue, characterization, plot complexity, and general coolness.  Even if you’ve never read the character, I urge you to do so.  And don’t worry, instead of your wife rolling her eyes at you for owning it, she might just pick it up and read it herself … so long as she doesn’t mind a little bit of Greek God horror.

Neil Young’s Greendale by Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang – A Book Review

The graphic novel Greendale serves as a companion piece to the Neil Young album and movie of the same name.  I was totally unfamiliar with both before reading the graphic novel, and, after a little bit of investigating, it seems you can enjoy the graphic novel with no knowledge of its sisters.

That being said, Greendale is an interesting book in many respects, and disappointing in others.

The story revolves around Sun Green, young woman who has inherited a mysterious connection to nature, as do all of the women in her family.  Sun is experiencing visions that she doesn’t quite understand, and when a stranger comes to the small town of Greendale, those visions are forced to become a reality – for better or for worse.

Greendale is set in 2003 and is a politically-charged, socially-relevant commentary on ecology as well as our military actions from that year on.  Joshua Dysart’s dialogue flows along nicely, and Cliff Chiang’s artwork is both pleasing to the eye and incredibly adept at conveying the characters’ moods, thoughts, and personalities.  However, the real star of this book is the colorist, Dave Stewart.  I read an advanced copy of Greendale that was mostly in black and white, but those few pages that were colored were astounding.  I can’t wait to see the final product to see the rest of Stewart’s colors.

On the other hand, Greendale is a convoluted plot that never made total sense.  There are far too many characters with similar names to keep track of, and, at times, I caught myself thinking, “What’s the point of this story?”  Yes, there is a lot of social and political criticism, but there’s also an underlying story involving mysticism that never really rises to the surface in any meaningful and satisfactory way.  I generally enjoy Vertigo’s offerings, but the plot of Greendale was a bit too heavy-handed and vague for my taste (which is a strange pairing).

The art is very pleasing, the coloring is fantastic, the dialogue isn’t bad, but the overall story failed to entice.