Wonder Woman #13
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Pencils: Tony Akins
Inkers: Dan Green with Tony Akins
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
In Antarctica, a scientific expedition seeks a nameless being.
In Olympus, Apollo hosts a party for his siblings to explain the two-part prophecy he is acting upon: “The first being that there is war looming that threatens all of us…And second, that a child of Zeus would slay one of us, and take a throne for themselves.” There are doubters in the family and they remain wary of each other and the prophecy until Apollo unveils that those gathered may not be the most powerful children of Zeus. He names Diana of Themyscira, the Last Amazon to hold their attention.
Meanwhile Diana seeks a replacement for Hermes in her own war band, and she learns of a half-sister (another of Zeus’s children) who may be useful to her cause. She travels to Libya to seek her sister Siracca, with the warning that the demigod doesn’t trust Diana because she has spared Hera’s life – Hera, Zeus’s vengeful wife, has killed two of the seven children of her cheating husband.
And that’s when things go full-circle back to the distrust that all of Zeus’s children hold against each other.
Wonder Woman has always been one of those comics that I thought had a fairly obvious approach that is rarely played with: as a demigod heavily steeped in Greek mythology, the material is already written for the taking. Super heroes as a concept are modern day gods and titans and myths, and Greek mythology has essentially laid out every archetype and trope we read about. While we’ve seen various gods and mythological ties to Wonder Woman over the decades, it’s never been as embraced as tightly as it is now.
I’ve always had the idea that Wonder Woman should be a full on Greek tragedy of Olympic proportions, playing up the Goddess Among Mere Mortals act even among her crime fighting friends. She’s an Amazonian warrior and demi-god, her tasks and burdens should be monumental and beyond the ken of even her closest allies. Her adventures should be sagas worthy of the mythos she was tied to. Brian Azzarello kicked off his vision with just that mindset and maintains his breakneck pace.
The respect to the source material while applying a new take to it is more genuine than previous efforts. Unlike previous Wonder Woman stories, or even Marvel’s Thor, I feel like I’m reading a continuation of the mythology in the modern day, and not a retelling or repurposing of the characters. The drama and larger than life characterizations are just as natural and interesting here as they are in the old stories. The addition of Diana and her mission weaves smoothly into the ongoing narrative of the Olympians – it’s precisely the unique sort of book that DC needed to justify the relaunch and reintroduce the concept of Wonder Woman for current times.
The dialogue and wordplay is some of Azzarello’s best, especially the exchanges between the major gods and goddesses.
Tony Akins and Dan Green’s linework is gorgeous. From the start with Cliff Chiang, DC seemed committed to bucking expecations and stereotypes for the title – for one thing, the illustrative and grounded art styles assigned to the book help anyone looking for sexism or objectification at bay. For a book about a gorgeous woman in tights, the designs and poses for every character involved are realistic and well-designed – in this issue, I like how Akins has given every single character, male or female, their own unique build and body language.
And secondly, thanks to Akins and colorist Matthew Wilson (and Chiang), the book doesn’t look like a standard superhero title of recent years. That’s a good thing, because it’s not. Akins’ attention to detail with setting and backgrounds is what makes the issue relateable, it’s very believable. Even when Wonder Woman is suited up, this isn’t yet another superheroine in spandex, this is truly a demigoddess making her presence known, celebrating that little bit of goddess that elevates her among the rest.
The world design and character art styles fit very much in line with Azzarello’s writing style; when Azzarello was named over a year ago, there was skepticism as titles like his 100 Bullets came to mind – was this someone who could do Wonder Woman?
And the answer is “Yes”, because Azzarello’s approach to Wonder Woman isn’t about superheroics. You can read her in JLA, but in this title, it is very much the tightly written, character driven conspiracy drama that Azzarello excels at, except now his cast is truly composed of gods and kings, giving him a much larger playground. The action scenes play out precisely as they should – Diana is a skilled warrior against children with toys when she faces the Libyan army, but when faced with her own kin, the fear she feels is real. And despite being a demigoddess who flaunts it over the mortal world (why else wear the outfit?), she truly is compassionate to the people she protects. We don’t know she’s compassionate because we’re told she is, we know it because Azzarello writes it well with her enunciation and silences. We know because Tony Akins captures it in her eyes and posture. That same kindness translates to finely captured fury when the opportunity presents itself.
If you haven’t read Wonder Woman since the relaunch, now is the time. I’d liken issue #13 to “Season Two” of the series, especially given how DC has been handling the launch and cancellations every few waves of titles.
Of all the books since the relaunch, there are only a handful I’ve felt compelled to keep up on a release date basis, and Wonder Woman is the first book on that list. After a year, it continues to hold that spot. It holds this spot because thanks to taking chances and shifting focus with the rest of the DC Universe, finally Batman, the Green Lanterns, Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash all feel like their own unique titles and stories again, which only further highlights the grandeur of the Justice League. Wonder Woman just happens to be my favorite individual component since the relaunch, because it’s well crafted from letter to line to color. No other comic book out there comes close to competing with the niche Azzarello and these artists have gifted DC with.