Comic Review: Wonder Woman Volume 1 & 2: Blood & Guts by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang

I had a bit of a Wonder Woman-filled weekend, watching the DC Original Animated movie and then reading the first two volumes of the newest on-going comic. Based on the titles it seems to be appropriate to review these two volumes of the New 52 Wonder Woman series together.

Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood
Wonder Woman Volume 2: Guts
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Cliff Chiang & Tony Akins

DC Comics
144 pages
Comics / Superheroines / Mythology

Find Volume 1 & Volume 2 on Goodreads

Order Volume 1 & Volume 2 from Amazon

Volume 1: Blood

The first six issues of the critically acclaimed new WONDER WOMAN series are collected in hardcover! Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, has kept a secret from her daughter all her life – and when Wonder Woman learns who her father is, her life will shatter like brittle clay. The only one more shocked than Diana by this revelation? Bloodthirsty Hera – so why is her sinister daughter, Strife, so eager for the truth to be told? Superstar writer Brian Azzarello creates a new direction for one of DC's best-known heroes, with spectacular art by Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins!

Volume 2: Guts

Wonder Woman goes to hell! After playing Poseidon, Hades, and Hera against each other, Hades strikes back by kidnapping Zola and trapping her in the Underworld. It's up to Wonder Woman — with a little help from the God of Love and the God of Smiths — to break Zola out. But what is Hades' real game, and once you get into the land of the dead, how exactly do you get out?

I hate to admit this, but I don’t know much about Wonder Woman other than what’s out there in the public pop culture consciousness. The television show was before my time and for whatever reason I gravitated to Batgirl, Batwoman and a slew of Vertigo heroines before Wonder Woman every time. With the opportunity to review the up-coming third volume in the current on-going series and several reviews saying the series is pretty awesome, I thought this weekend was a good time to educate myself on all things Princess Diana of Themyscira.

For lack of a better analogy, Wonder Woman is the Justice League’s Thor. Her background and on-going family life is steeped in mythology and feuds between all-powerful gods. I suppose that may be one of the reasons barring Hollywood from turning this recognizable character into a profitable television or movie series. By the end of the second volume, it’s not Diana’s story. It’s the story of Hera’s jealousy of her husband Zeus’s extra-marital affairs with mortals. It’s the story of Poseidon and Hades fighting for the throne of Zeus after he goes missing. It’s the story of Apollo coming in to mess everything up with the help of his sister Artemis. It’s Strife causing… well, strife and chaos for enjoyment. It’s Eros with a pair of golden guns instead of arrows, Demeter quietly plotting in the forest, Hermes being a part-time badass, and then there is Hephaestus and Aphrodite being the unlikeliest pairing.

It’s gods behaving badly with Diana stuck in the middle, acting as protector for a mortal girl who finds herself pregnant with Zeus’ love child. With a prophecy hanging over the heads of the gods, everyone wants that kid dead and Diana isn’t having any of that. With some seemingly unlikely allies, she spends two volumes trying to get Zola through pregnancy of a little demigod while so many of Diana’s powerful relatives are out for everyone’s blood. All the while Diana is slowly learning the truth about her own history and the not so squeaky clean history of the Amazon warriors.

This series is crazy. And awesome in only the way that a story can be when nothing can be considered too farfetched or outlandish. Hades being a little book with candles for hair getting married in the underworld? Totally works. Hera being the worst of jilted jealous wives being behind all this epic madness? Makes perfect sense. A giant monster whale fish thing in the Thames getting into an argument with previously mentioned candle-headed Hades? Awesome. There is nothing too crazy for this series and all the crazy makes perfect sense. And I was even surprised by the turn at the end of the second volume.

With all the gods and mythology interwoven into the story, Wonder Woman often becomes a supporting player in her own title. She’s still the heroine, but more often than not, the main focus is on one of the more powerful and egotistical characters. She remains a strong solid force, taking chances to do what’s right and protect this vulnerable human from a barrage of powerful gods and demigods, but she often takes a backseat for the stories of more flashy characters. This feels much more like an ensemble comic than any Batman or Superman comic would, but because so many of the supporting characters are such forces of nature (sometimes literally), it only bothers me a little.

This Wonder Woman series is compulsively readable and hard to put down. I read each six issue volume in one sitting within a few hours of each other, and I had difficulty keeping myself from going straight into volume 3. The artwork is clean and consistent, only a little bit flashy when characters require it. Above all the character design, especially of the various gods and goddesses, is fascinating and very distinctive. While Wonder Woman isn’t wearing pants at any point, she’s drawn in a manner that isn’t as sexualized as I’ve seen in past WW comics. While she’s still in the strapless bathing suit getup, her breasts aren’t bigger than her head and cleavage is kept to a minimum. For the first time, I might have just liked her getup.

So good job Brian Azzzarello and Cliff Chiang, you have won me over. I am no longer a Wonder Woman fan in name only, but an actual fan with background and canon about the current incarnation of  this female heavyweight. Wonder Woman is unlike any of the other superhero comics I’ve read (though admittedly I tend to stick to the Bat family) and it has left me wanting to more of this crazy family drama.

 

I got these volumes from the library because the Austin library is really awesome.