Review: Wonder Woman #1 by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang & Wilson

Wonder Woman #1

Written by Brian Azzarello

Art by Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson

I was excited to hear Brian Azzarello was re-imagining Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman has always been one of my favorite DC characters through thick and thin, and when I heard of his plan to really embrace mythology for his retelling, I was thrilled. Cliff Chiang is one of my favorite artists. After Human Target, Dr. Thirteen, and Green Arrow/Black Canary, I grew to enjoy his stylized, refreshing take on superheroes and action choreography. Unfortunately, the first issue is marred by a slow start to what could have been a defining DC experience for their masthead heroine.

The book opens with an obsidian man entertaining three women in his high rise. Meanwhile, a woman appears on a Virginia farm and sends two centaur to attack the farm’s owner, who is protected by Hermes, the Greek messenger god himself. Hermes sends the woman to London, to Wonder Woman, who simply suits up, takes the woman back to the farm, and attempts to beat some answers out of the attackers. A prophecy is made, and further plot points are set up.

Wonder Woman doesn’t appear until halfway through the book, but when she does, this is definitely an Amazon warrior – cheap shots are taken, limbs are cleaved, and yes, the bracelets deflect projectiles. Like Deathstroke, Wonder Woman doesn’t hold back in relishing the honestly brutal world it seeks to present. It’s a strength of Azzarello’s. And because she’s taking it out on mythological monsters, even her hapless farmgirl can’t hold it against her.

Where it stumbles is the fact that this is Wonder Woman’s relaunch, her representation. We’ve already had the embarrassment of the pilot, but this is DC’s chance to really find new footing for the audiences old and new. The book took some risks that might not pay off. Azzarello’s script has all the hooks needed to engage the reader, but this is one of the few New 52 titles I’ve read where going in blind for the ride detracted. I’m fine with the concept and accepting the first half, but Wonder Woman’s introduction lacked punch and…well, wonder. She carries herself well in battle, but I really feel this script could have had names replaced and worked as any other generic superhero title with the right tweaks. The dialogue also lacks character, and feels hollow at times. The issue as a whole just doesn’t feel finished, on the script end.

The second risk is the art. Cliff Chiang does gorgeous work, stylized characters, excellent expressions (especially the eyes), and fantastical beasts. The backgrounds, people, every day objects, action sequences; they’re all wonderful, and I hope this book works so that I can watch Chiang develop. That said, it still lacks the visual punch that the Justice League, Superman, or Batman have gotten in their titles. I’m not saying Cliff Chiang is a bad fit for the book at all, and perhaps this understated look is part of Wonder Woman’s reinvention as a strong niche character that won’t be hampered by being one of “The Big Three” anymore. As a longtime fan, I can honestly say that’s a potential plus, being free of any expectation or legacy. I like this new artistic approach, I just worry.

Matthew Wilson’s colors are as beautiful as ever. You may have seen his work in Wolverine, Secret Avengers, or Red Skull. He brings a lush, dreamy tone to Chiang’s pencils that doesn’t over-render the world, adding to the brutally honest feeling the entire book has going for it.

Wonder Woman #1 is a toss up. On one hand, it’s an interesting premise with a prestigious writer behind it and an art team that clearly has a passion for the book. It’s just a little light on content, confidence, and consistence for a first issue. Don’t expect Wonder Woman to go big or bend the genre like other New DCU titles, but do give it a chance and let the story unfurl.

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