Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Modern Mythology: Wonder Woman: Flesh Progresses Diana's Story Generally Well!

The Good: Character journeys, It's a fast read, Plot comes together well
The Bad: Most of the artwork is pretty bad, Meanders before it becomes focused
The Basics: Wonder Woman: Flesh might minimize Diana, but her story comes into focus in the bridge story that forces her to accept her new place.

I've had a distinctly mixed relationship with the New 52 version of Wonder Woman, who remains my favorite character in comic book history. The New 52 remade Diana's backstory in a way I found entirely unappealing and unnecessary. Furthermore, writer Brian Azzarello altered Diana's voice in such a way that the character seemed more bitchy than strong, more confrontational than philosophical. And her books have seldom given her the space to actually lead the title because they are so busy packing in a whole pantheon of characters to fill a much broader story. And the artwork has oscillated, but has generally been sub-par compared to the pre-New 52 texts.

By Wonder Woman: Flesh, Azzarello and the whole DC team have succeeded with their strategy. They wore me down. By Volume 5 of the New 52 Wonder Woman, there's simply no point in bitching about the retcon and the rework. It's done. Sure, it's a lousy strategy - the endurance of the publisher banking on outlasting the anger of the fans - but it works for those who have a truly beloved character. Wonder Woman is that for me and with Wonder Woman: Flesh, the story meanders, but comes to a point where it is clear that there is something going on that has the potential to be truly interesting.

The biggest problem with Wonder Woman: Flesh is that it is, essentially, a holding pattern. The book - at its best - is a character journey for the protagonist from denial to acceptance. Unfortunately, that character journey is minimized amid bigger plot activities and packing the book with peripheral characters who move Diana around more than she influences events.

Wonder Woman: Flesh follows directly on the heels of War (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss Flesh without addressing where War ended. That is largely because both books end with essentially the same thing. War had Ares being killed by Diana in the fight against the First Born, which gave her the mantle of God Of War; Wonder Woman: Flesh is about the confluence of events that force her to actually accept her new place in the pantheon of Olympian Gods.

Apollo, now the chief god among the Olympians, visits the Oracles, who tell him the story of the First Born. The First Born was cast out of Olympus and supposed to be killed, but was left to die. Raised by animals, he raised an army of animal creatures to make war on Olympus and now a prophecy indicates that either he or Apollo will rule Olympus and it appears Wonder Woman will be the deciding factor. Apollo calls a council of the gods and includes Wonder Woman, who denies her new mantle as God Of War. When Apollo refuses to restore Hera, Wonder Woman leaves the council and returns to London.

On Earth, Cassandra marshalls her forces to try to find the First Born, while Strife begins to sew discord between Diana and her allies. When Zola and her son take off, Diana enlists Artemis (Moon) to help her find her friend. The hunt comes to a head as Cassandra kidnapping Milan leads Orion to leap into action and the earthbound heroes come into direct conflict with Cassandra and the First Born's forces. But Apollo's demand for the First Born to submit leads to an unexpected result, which pushes Diana in a (somewhat) new direction.

When discussing the plot of Wonder Woman: Flesh it is germane to note that Diana's name seldom comes up. The reason for that is simple: Wonder Woman does not move the plot in Wonder Woman: Flesh. Instead, the other characters in the book have their machinations and eventually Diana starts a search for Zola and that puts her in the middle of, essentially, the conflict between Apollo and the forces of the First Born. It's not the most compelling Wonder Woman story.

What redeems Wonder Woman: Flesh is that in the course of the volume, Diana does make a choice and she finally accepts the potential realized in the last pages of War. The bridge story is not at all compelling on its own and it falls to the next volume to truly unlock the promise of Flesh, but it is enough to keep readers interested until that book.

The artwork in Wonder Woman: Flesh continues to be erratic. The characters are all recognizable, but many of the panels are under-detailed and the sense of movement between the panels and within panels is poorly rendered.

Ultimately, Wonder Woman: Flesh is just enough. It is enough story to justify itself, good-enough artwork to use the medium and enough to bring us back for the next one.

For the rest of the New 52 Wonder Woman, please check out my reviews of:
Volume 1 – Blood
Volume 2 – Guts
Volume 3 – Iron


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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