Title: Wonder Women: Blood (Volume 1)
Editor: Brian Azzarello (Writer), Cliff Chiang (Illustrator), Tony Akins (Illustrator)
Star Rating: * * *
Genre: Graphic Novel, Superhero
In 2011, the entire DC universe was rebooted, giving the company a chance to take a new look at their characters. Years of history were wiped out, and the timeline was set just a few years after the main superheroes had started their careers. Wonder Woman underwent some of the biggest changes, and her entire world and supporting cast were restructured into a book that had a lot more in common with a horror novel than your typical superhero comic.
The book begins with an attack on a young woman called Zola because she is pregnant with Zeus’ child. She is taken into Wonder Woman’s protection, and this is the beginning of a story about the disappearance of Zeus and the vacuum of power that he has left in his wake. Along the way, Wonder Woman discovers that everything she believed about her past is a lie, and she’s forced to engage with the political machinations of the Greek pantheon in an attempt to save the life of Zola and understand herself.
The absolute best part of Wonder Woman: Blood is the art. Cliff Chiang has an amazing style that I adore. The line work is bold and heavy, giving both the characters and their environment weight. Unlike the recent trend of overworked line art (see all of the various lines on Superman and Batman lately), Chiang’s pencils are simpler and quite a bit messier than what the other new-52 volumes have been showcasing. Wonder Woman herself looks strong and study. She’s attractive, but her muscles are developed, and you can see how her body is definitely one that could manage a superhero profession. The rest of the character designs absolutely blew me away. Rather than draw the Greek gods as human beings with togas, Chiang has created very intricate designs that are meant to reflect the purpose of the God, and showcase their inhumanity. For example, Hades has the head of a burning candle, Poseidon is a monstrous sea creature, and Hermes is a strange half-bird, half-man creature. These strange appearances add to the feeling of other-worldliness that the book is trying to foster.
The story of the book is also strong. Azzarello has a solid idea of who he wants Wonder Woman to be, and what her world is like. He’s stripped down much of the previous canon’s details in order to get back to the story of Wonder Woman as a superhero and daughter of the Amazons.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out how amazing it is to see a superhero book in the new-52 populated by mostly women characters (at least so far). Wonder Woman has no love interest in this first volume (Superman is nowhere to be found, thank goodness), and many of the supporting cast members are women. This is a refreshing change for a superhero comic book.
My first issue with this revamp of Wonder Woman concerns the changes to her canon. While reboots are a chance to try new things, Wonder Woman is one of DC’s central three characters. The foundational histories of Batman and Superman are rarely fiddled with much outside of parallel universe volumes. Here, however, almost everything we once knew about Wonder Woman is thrown out the window. While still an Amazon princess, she’s not beloved of her people, and she was not born out of clay to be a child of the entire island. Instead, she is a child of Zeus and Queen Hippolyta, and this fact was hidden from her for many years.
The original Wonder Woman was founded in a culture of female empowerment. The Amazons were an example of how women could be leaders and creators, and Wonder Woman’s mission was to bring their lessons about peace and diplomacy to the rest of the world. The original Themyscira had elements of a utopia, but this revamp frames the island nation much differently. The sisterhood is fractured, and Wonder Woman is an unwanted representative. The messages of truth and love that underlie the original Wonder Woman are hard to see in this new volume that is all about lies and power. For all the good that this book introduced, these changes make it all but impossible for me to enjoy Wonder Woman’s story because I feel like this isn’t a story about her anymore.
One of the other issues that I had with the book’s writing is how we are thrown into Wonder Woman’s story without much background. While normally I would say that this is okay given the long history that the character has had, this revamp has changed so much about Wonder Woman’s past that I don’t really know what to think about who she was before the start of this volume. What is her role on the Justice League (and no, I don’t want to go actually read the Justice League to figure that out) and in society at large? So much of Wonder Woman’s canon is about her as an outsider among “men”, and the fact that this discussion was missing makes me wonder how the changes that Azzarello implemented affect her original mission as a diplomat as well as a superhero.
Finally, while Cliff Chiang’s pencils on this volume were wonderful, unfortunately, he was not the only artist. Tony Akins took over in the later part of the book, and I felt like his addition created a jarring shift in art direction. Akins is not a bad artist by any means, but he was trying to copy Chiang’s style and it was very obvious that this was outside of his comfort zone. I would have preferred to see him draw in whatever style he felt most comfortable in rather than try to emulate Chiang’s very unique form. However, any artist would have had a hard time following Chiang since he put such an interesting and bold spin on the usual style used in superhero comics.
This revamp of the Wonder Woman comic was very enjoyable, but I really wish that it had been about a character other than Wonder Woman. I thought that the ideas were interesting and the presentation stunning, but I never could get past my discomfort about the changes to the main character’s origins. A horror story about the Greek pantheon is a great idea, but not at the expense of most of the things that I loved about Diana and her world. So I am left with a bitter feeling after finishing Blood, and a desire to stick with the Rucka and Simone runs instead.