Roundtable Review | Wonder Woman #1

This week, we take a look the new Wonder Woman, penned by Chicago's own Brian Azzarello, and even have one of our correspondents check in from NYC. As always, check in on the rest of our comics reviews, including full coverage of the New 52, at TOC's Comics Shop.

Web Behrens: All right, TOC Team Geek, I imagine you'll have plenty to say about the content of this issue—and I'm sure readers want to know if it's any good (it is, very)—but I have to discuss form first. Specifically, Wonder Woman's costume: What the fuck, DC?! In the New 52, almost every character's costume design has been tweaked, some overhauled entirely. Ditto Diana—but, despite releasing New 52 promo art depicting her in long tights (shown above) similar to those she’d been wearing for a year, DC brass backtracked at some point this summer. Here's the first issue of her new series, and she's back in (a modified version of) her old one-piece bathing suit. Really?

Surely we can all agree how ridiculous this is. Why can't DC come correct? Here's the biggest shot they're ever going to have at gaining new readers, and they're pandering to the same old teen-hetero-male wank fantasies (even if Cliff Chiang's beautiful drawings of a strong Wonder Woman otherwise tone down the cheesecake). I just had a conversation about this in a local comics shop last night, with two (presumably straight) guys and a woman. Opinions were unanimous that this is not the right direction for mainstream superhero books in 2011.

For any readers who remain blithely unaware of the blatant sexism of dressing female characters in titillating peekaboo outfits, here's an image of the Justice League lineup with WW back in her leggings while all the guys show some leg.  Looks laughable, right? Even on Aquaman. A Photoshopped picture is worth a thousand words.

Overall, I really dig this issue; the team of Chiang and Chicago writer Brian Azzarello is a proven winner. But that costume pulls me right out of it. On top of the shorts (which at least don't leave her ass hanging out, which she's been reduced to in the past decade), I see Wonder Woman is also back in high heels. Again, really? This is what an Amazon warrior wears? When George Perez spearheaded the successful WW reboot almost 25 years ago, he did away with the heels. Over time, other female heroes sensibly followed suit, from Black Canary to Batwoman. That rattling sound you hear is me still shaking my head that DC has moved backward, not valiantly forward.

Jonathan Messinger: I have to admit, I didn't think too much about Wonder Woman's shorts, because I knew they were coming, and I was probably still reeling from the wankfest in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Diana is basically an Irish nun in comparison to Starfire in that book.

But here's my question to Web: What did you like about this issue? I don't mean that confrontationally, there are things I like about it, but I'm curious what's going to bring you back to this book, in spite of your ethical complaints. I felt like the staging here was pretty poorly done. A couple of centaurs go after a woman named Zola, to be put off momentarily by Hermes, who gives her a key that sends her to Diana, who then takes the key back to the centaurs. It's not that it's convoluted, it's that it's unnecessarily loopy.

The "Sun of a King" who frames the story here converts three groupies into oracles, and yet the oracles retain some of their trixie-speak. It feels like I'm being talked at through the whole book, even through the centaur fighting. I admire all of the elements Azzarello pulls into the story, and the fact that the pedal starts on the floor and never stops, but the way it was all brought together felt a little slapdash to me. I will say this, though: She headbutts a fucking centaur. If that's not the best single panel in all of the New 52, I don't know what is.

Kris Vire: And don't forget the mystery woman in the peacock cape (Hera, most likely) who enables (creates? frees?) the centaurs. I'm a little discombobulated, but intrigued by what Azzarello has in the works—not just for Diana, but apparently for revamping the DC versions of the Hellenic pantheon. Hermes, Zeus, Hera, the "Sun of a King" (Apollo, I suppose?)—the vein Azzarello's working is rife with possibility. And I prefer feeling like I need to catch up over another straightforward origin story.

Pants or (sigh) no pants, I love Chiang's badass, powerful Diana; the action sequence with her battling the centaurs is just gorgeous, even if it's marred slightly by the Trixie Oracles' distracting gibberish narration. What's oddest to me, plot-wise, is how collected this Zola remains throughout. I suppose we don't yet know her history, but if I suddenly found myself under attack by gods and monsters, I don't think I'd be sassing back at Wonder Woman.

Brent DiCrescenzo: Popped into Midtown Comics off Times Square. I've been reading comics my entire life, and I've never seen that kind of crowd in a comic store. Yeah, yeah, Times Square, but people were sucking up the New 52 like they were Red Eyes.
I absolutely adored this issue. It struck me as a hybrid of two of my favorite things in this genre: Fables and Samurai Jack. Having never been a big Wonder Woman reader, I only knew the basics: This busty brunette in a swimsuit comes from an island of Amazons. This modernization of Greek myths reminded me of how Fables breathes life into fairy tales. There's a lot of Greek myth packed into these panels, which like Samurai Jack, are framed with a cinematographer's eye. Chiang's pencils zip your eye around the page like great storyboards.
Centaurs grow from decapitated horses; Diana barrel rolls into a leg lock and centaur head-butt; Hermes pulls a spear tip slathered like a PB&J sandwich with chunky innards. It's violent, but so bright and clever it never slumps into the senseless gore porn of some other darkened DC titles we've seen the last two weeks. I had high hopes for this, and it delivered.

Web Behrens: You ask, what did I like? All of the stuff you guys already mentioned. Plus the logo, which is one of the best of all the books so far (and at this point, we've seen three-quarters of the New 52). Greek mythology is an incredibly rich vein to tap, and the best modern-day Wonder Woman writers (George Perez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone) know that, even as they fold in her own rogue's gallery (the Cheetah, Doctor Psycho, Giganta). So I'm stoked to see Azzarello putting his spin on the gods, which promises to be the most refeshing take since Rucka's run was foolishly cut short. We've got some great visuals here too: Apollo is, counter-intuitively, ebony-skinned—until he blazes, punishingly, like the sun. (Matthew Wilson's color job, by the way, shines throughout, even in the dark moody sequences.)

Sure, it's a decompressed first issue, but it's full of promise—and packs enough action to hook readers who need some instant gratification. Some day I'd love to read this creative team's take on Diana's early days—a Wonder Woman: Year One, in the vein of what Grant Morrison's doing in Action. But for now I'm happy to get a quality Wonder Woman book, even if her look is embarrassingly retro. (At least Black Canary and the Bat-family women are fully dressed.)

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