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Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood, Vol. 2: Guts

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Rain Partier

Postby LOLtron » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:44 pm

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood, Vol. 2: Guts

 Published by DC Comics, 2012, 2013 respectively

 Written by Brian Azzarello; Art by Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins; Coloured by Matthew Wilson; Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher; Additional Ink and Art by Dan Green and Kano

I finally sat down and read the New 52 Wonder Woman trades, Blood and Guts. Together they include the first twelve issues of the series. As I’ve said before, I haven’t been reading a lot of DC’s new titles (mostly the odd trade here and there) and I’ve never been a regular Woman Wonder reader. I’ve caught some feedback on this series, but I went in with very little in the way expectations.

Expectations have always been a burden for Wonder Woman. When Marston created her, he described her as, “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.” Every couple of years, it seems, some new writer has to try his hand—it’s almost always a guy—at what that means exactly. And that’s too bad. Diana is an iconic character, one of the few genuinely iconic characters, and she can’t be forced into any given mold. I wouldn’t be the first to suggest they just stick to writing good stories and allow her to develop out of her own strengths.


Looking at Azzarello, Chiang, and Akins’ version, the first you notice about this Wonder Woman is that this is the Vertigo version of the character. Of course, Azzarello has a long history with that imprint. Reading these books I was impressed with how deftly it ties the supernatural and mythological together with the superhero genre. Of course, the supernatural and mythological aren’t new to superhero comics, but like Sandman and its spin offs, Azzarello’s Wonder Woman really feels like it’s another world. A world of magic and dark forces.

The story begins with Zeus. After knocking up yet another mortal, he disappears, deserting his throne and precipitating a war of succession. Diana is drawn into the center of the conflict when she chooses to defend the pregnant women, Zola, against Hera (true to mythological form, Hera takes out her anger at her husband’s infidelities on the women and their offspring). The story quickly moves from the modern world, to Paradise Island, Hades, and the throne of Olympus and the cast grows to include Hermes, Eris (Strife), Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Hephaestus, and more, with Diana making allies and enemies at every turn. I like Chiang’s character designs with one exception: Aphrodite. She is presented as a nude woman, but we never actually see what she looks like—and that’s somewhat predictable as you can’t really have blatant nudity in a comic pitched at a general audience—and in their effort to obscure her appearance, they keep placing her head out of panel. Instead of thinking ‘goddess of love,’ I reminded of Ms Bellum from the Powerpuff Girls. Put something on her and stop being coy.

There were a couple of other things I didn’t like. First, Chiang is the principle artist for the title, but Akins was bought in to do about a third of these issues. Recently Brandon Graham made the point that, while there are artists who can get an issue out each month, when you know the artist you want on a title can’t, maybe the title’s schedule should be changed to accommodate that artist. Second, this Diana is a little naïve. She is brave, skillful, a woman of integrity, and I get that she’s young and learning, but she doesn’t seem to understand, well, where babies come from. One issue describes how Amazons reproduce, and the consequences of producing a male child. This turned off some readers, but the idea actually draws on Greek Amazon myths so I’m okay with it. Azzarello is looking to the origin source matter after all. Still, Diana is as surprised to learn this as the readers are, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Azzarello may have a perfectly good explanation for why a 23 year old wouldn’t know this, but he really needs to share it with his readers.

The third problem I had isn’t really the story’s problem as much as it’s mine, but I bring it up because of the importance this version of Wonder Woman places in going back to the character’s mythological roots: Amazon’s aren’t Greeks. They’re a part of Greek myth, but in Greek myth they are a barbarian people, typically at war with the Greeks. And by ‘barbarian’ I mean foreigners. I have long had an interest in the history, and social history, in ancient Greece. While the Greek’s are rightfully praised for many things, they were also a bunch of xenophobic misogynists. Most of the places they listed as homes for the Amazons coincide with the territory of a very real people, the Sarmatians. The Sarmatians lived around the Black Sea and their women actually did go into battle with their men. Archeologists have found weapons in many of their women’s graves. In the eyes of their Greek neighbors this was a terrible inversion of the natural order. But in the DC Universe Amazons are Greeks, and in this latest incarnation of Wonder Women they still are. It would be interesting to have a version of Amazons drawn from what we know of Sarmatian history and mythology. (By the way, the modern Ossetians are direct descendants of the Sarmatians. If you want to see what a Greek was probably thinking when he thought ‘Amazon,’ google ‘Ossetian.’)

My little rant (thank you for your patience) notwithstanding, this book has a lot of promise. If these stories are left to develop out of Diana’s strengths we could have the beginnings of a true hero’s journey. I am skeptical that DC will do that, they seem intent on rebooting everything every two or three years, but the potential for something great is here.

Originally Published at Power Honor Grace

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<( ' . ' )>

Postby Keb » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:59 am

Nice review. I agree with a lot of your points, especially about the art. TBH, I am not a fan of the art on this title and it feels a little off to me, but nonetheless it's quite good.

One thing I do like is the design of the gods. I like that they're not all too human and that some of them are more animal-like. I especially liked the design for Poseidon and Hermes. It ramps up the fantasy element of the series and I think that's key to the telling of the story.

I think you've discussed the Amazon/Greek conundrum on the site before. I remember at least reading about it either here or at one of your blogs.

I haven't read the 2nd book yet and probably won't for a while (DC's paperback policy is anus) but I'm looking forward to reading more when I do.
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Expert Post Whore

Postby covalesky » Sat Jan 26, 2013 6:04 am

this is the Vertigo version of the character

Best argument ever.

Cool review.
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Rain Partier

Postby HNutz » Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:30 am

"Almost all of them by guys"... I don't really care about that. Good storytelling is good storytelling.

Just like how folks were up in arms about Azzarello being a non-Brit and writing Hellblazer.
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Garofani Spruzzo

Rain Partier

Postby Garofani Spruzzo » Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:46 am

HNutz wrote:"Almost all of them by guys"... I don't really care about that. Good storytelling is good storytelling.

Reading the essay, I have to ask myself that if a female character written by "guys"--(equivalent to what is that, exactly, characters written by "gals"? "Chicks"?)--is presumed to be inferior to a female character written by a female, what does this tell us about essays on female characters written by by "guys"? What about the fact that Stephanie Meyer created two of the worst-written male characters I've ever read a sentence about, is that because she's a "gal"? Or just a bad writer? Either way, female readers loved those myths about masculinity. Some of them even found them sexy, but we can presume most of them can tell fiction from reality, I do hope.

"I wouldn’t be the first to suggest they just stick to writing good stories and allow her to develop out of her own strengths."

No matter how it may seem, or what rhetoric you use, writers don't actually just "allow" characters to develop strengths or anything else. The plan and they plot that growth. Only in hindsight does it actually appear to have developed organically, and mostly to readers.
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David Bird

rubber spoon

Postby David Bird » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:42 pm

Keb: Yes I have made the Greek/Amazon point before. I thought of not including the point in the review, but apparently I can't shut up about it.

Squid: Ordinarily I wouldn't consider gender when it comes to writing characters, but Wonder Woman is something of a special case. She was actually created as a female role model, to represent an ideal woman, so whenever she's re-booted the questions arise: What is Wonder Woman? What is Wonder Woman supposed to mean? In that context it is appropriate to point out that she is an ideal female character created by men. I don't have a problem with men creating an ideal woman, but it is worth noting.

As for character development, I guess we could argue that letting characters develop organically versus planning and plotting is the difference between literature and genre writing (one of them, anyway), but when a comics character has been around for decades, her development shouldn't be confused with some sort of master plan. With an iconic character like Wonder Woman, you can ask, What Would Diana Do? There are things she would do and things she wouldn't do. There's a scene the second book, where she's talking to Hades about love (I am not going to spoil anything with specifics) and her sincerity is questioned. Her answer might seem a bit strange, but it feels like something Diana would say. When I talk about letting them develop out of their own strengths, what I mean is putting a character in a given situation and allowing them to respond according to their established character, and then carrying the consequences of that forward in the story.

As for 'guys,' people here still say guys. We even refer to mixed groups collectively as 'guys.' No one says 'gals.'
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S.F. Jude Terror


Postby S.F. Jude Terror » Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:01 pm

I never read a single Wonder Woman comic book before this one. The concept never interested me. I did read this because I heard so many good things about it, and it was pretty good. I don't know that I expected or received any messages about the ideal woman from it. It's been a fun story though.
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<( ' . ' )>

Postby Keb » Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:24 pm

Squid reading Twilight? :?

I think Azzarello has a definite story beginning and ending in mind. He's the kind of writer who has a plan for his stories and will get there in a set amount of time. This story absolutely has that feel to it as well. With that said, I don't see a lot, if any organic character development in a lot of his work and I don't see that happening here either.

As for dudes writing chicks, when I write stories my protagonists are almost always males. In the rare case I do have a female protagonist, she never feels genuine enough for me. That's a bias I always carry with me when going in to a story with a female lead though. In Wonder Woman's case I find that she is usually more male-centered than other comic book women. She is pretty much a tomboy in a sense that she's usually a girl surrounded by dudes and she tends to clash with other females.

I don't know if you guys are familiar with 100 Bullets (you should be) but I found WW's naïve behavior similar to Dizzy's in the opening story.

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