Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Horrible Idea With A Passably Good Execution: Wonder Woman: Blood Flops For Fans!

The Good: Engaging enough story out of context, Fine character motivations
The Bad: Terrible reworking of the character based on her history, Mostly mediocre artwork
The Basics: For DC’s “The New 52” rework of Wonder Woman comes a story that pretty much guts the character we know and love completely with Wonder Woman: Blood.

I am a good enough reviewer to be able to be honest when I am biased going into an experience and when I am a fan of something. I am a fan of Wonder Woman and I was incredibly biased against Wonder Woman: Blood before I read it. All I knew about the “New 52” reboot of the Wonder Woman comic book (and the Wonder Woman mythos) was that Wonder Woman was being given a father for the first time in her history and her father would be Zeus (this is not a spoiler, as this is revealed in the first chapter of Wonder Woman: Blood).

As a fan of Wonder Woman, this immediately struck me as one of the worst ideas that the executives and creative forces at DC Comics could come up with. I can only suspect that such executives looked at the general demographics and discovered that while people had a pretty firm idea of the origins of Superman or Batman, they had no idea of how Wonder Woman came to be (or knew that there were some contradictory origin stories) and they decided to make a juicy reboot to get new readers. But as a fan of Wonder Woman, the idea that Zeus is Wonder Woman’s father is about as boneheaded as the idea of rebooting Kal-El’s story to have him crash land in midtown Detroit or have a new origin for Aquaman where he actually comes from the planet Tunaton Tiberius XII (an all-crystal planet). But, apparently eager for neophytes and more than willing to piss off the fans of the established Wonder Woman to sell books, Wonder Woman: Blood witlessly reinvents the wheel.

This is an exceptionally problematic thing for devoted Wonder Woman readers as Wonder Woman spent the year prior to this volume struggling to find herself through an altered reality that was Odyssey (volume 1 is reviewed here!). That divergence in the main story of Wonder Woman worked because reality was fundamentally altered and the quest for Diana was to work her way back to the world she knew. Plagued by visions of her home and her old superheroine self, she struggled to rediscover her true nature and restore reality. So, it feels like a pretty low mindfuck to loyal readers to have our hero restored only to have her completely changed as the post-Flashpoint reboot did.

Hera, the Greek goddess, is bringing her vengeance to Earth by transforming a horse into two mythical creatures that are beset upon a woman, Zola. Zola is rescued by Hermes, who gives her a key that teleports her to London and the home of Diana (who is already Wonder Woman). Suiting up, Wonder Woman dispatches Hera’s minions and begins to take care of Zola, who is pregnant with Zeus’s child. When Strife intervenes, as Hermes (who is wounded), Wonder Woman, and Zola teleport to Themyscira, Diana learns from Hippolyta her true origins. Not made of clay at all, Hippolyta was impregnated by Zeus and Diana is the result of that union.

Treated as an outcast by her sisters on the island, upon learning her true origins, Diana returns to London where she barhops and protects Zola from harm (ultimately in the form of Strife). When Hera brings her wrath to Themyscira, Diana and a Lennox lure Poseidon and Hades out into the open to attempt to negotiate with them to put Hera back in her place.

First, as much as I loathed the fundamental idea of the reboot of the character in Wonder Woman: Blood, Brian Azzarello does a decent job with the story. Azzarello, who impressed me before with Luthor (reviewed here!), gives Diana a distinctive and interesting voice. Despite my serious problems with the plot, Wonder Woman: Blood moves at a decent clip and creates a character who is interesting for her reaction to having her world turned upside down. Diana stands up for herself in a way that is compelling and empowering, which is exactly what Diana’s story is supposed to be about.

Hera is characterized with surprisingly little characterization. She is the jealous bitch goddess in Wonder Woman: Blood. There is nothing to her motivation but the desire to get revenge upon those who have been with her husband. Zeus, absent for the entirety of Wonder Woman: Blood, is only defined by how others refer to him and as a result, Hera comes across as a strange emotional simpleton. In fact, Hera might be the least compelling villain for Wonder Woman as she exhibits no emotional intelligence and somehow expects Zeus’s ingrained behaviors of thousands of years will abruptly change. Hardly an example for the modern woman, Hera is petty, jealous, irrational, and stupid.

Sadly, this reflects poorly on both Azzarello and Wonder Woman. The hero is best defined by the strength and intensity of the villain. In this case, Diana manages to avoid the crazed wife of her biological father while her people are essentially laid to waste. Keeping Zola safe is hardly presented in an interesting way because avoiding someone who is not exactly hunting you down is hardly a compelling conflict.

Strife, on the other hand, makes for an interesting morally-ambiguous antagonist in Wonder Woman: Blood. However, despite her being a distinct addition to the Wonder Woman mythos, Strife actually highlights how poor the artwork is in this first volume. As someone who has been studying more and more DC Comics, I have noticed a past trend that seems to be true for the books compiled into Wonder Woman: Blood; DC illustrates which books it is betting on for reboots by giving them fantastic artists. DC was not betting on Wonder Woman in the New 52. Cliff Chiang and Tony Atkins present Wonder Woman in very blockish terms. Strife looks like a bobble head or Mr. Burns from the episode of The Simpsons where they did an homage to The X-Files (“The Springfield Files”).

While the colors in Wonder Woman: Blood are vibrant enough, the artwork is largely simplistic and uninspired. The new outfit is not nearly as distinctive or interesting as the Odyssey reimagining of it and despite the final act of this book, Wonder Woman: Blood just feels like the talents involved did not care enough to give it their best.

For other Wonder Woman volumes, please check out my reviews of:
Gods And Mortals by George Perez
Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Gods by George Perez
Beauty And The Beasts By George Perez
Destiny Calling By George Perez
The Contest By William Messner-Loebs
Wonder Woman: Lifelines By John Byrne
Paradise Lost By Phil Jimenez
Down To Earth By Greg Rucka
Eyes Of The Gorgon By Greg Rucka
Land Of The Dead By Greg Rucka
Mission's End By Greg Rucka
The Hiketeia


For other book reviews, please be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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