By Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (art), Matthew Wilson (colors), Jarred K. Fletcher (letters)

Minhquan Nguyen and I both felt strongly about this book and wanted to give it a review. Rather than publish two separate reviews, we decided to co-author one together. Two opinions for the price of one! Let us know what you think of this format!

The Story: Diana discovers that the gods are up to no good, and its up to her to save the life of a young mortal woman in their sights.

What I liked: Although this issue obviously doesn’t follow the enormous Odyssey storyline in terms of continuity, it feels like it could have from a character standpoint–and that’s a fantastic thing. Odyssey was all about building Diana up as the strong, powerful and compassionate hero we know and love, and that is exactly the Diana that this book delivers. Thank the gods–I’ve missed her a great deal. I love that her first act is defending a woman; it has echoes of The Hiketeia, one of my favorite Wonder Woman stories. Instead of simply standing up to Batman though, here Diana is forced to stand up to the gods and their minions. It is really wonderful to see the pantheon involved so early and directly, and it’s handled so well that I didn’t feel any inkling of longing for Themyscira, Hippolyta, or any of the other traditional trappings of a new Wonder Woman beginning. The script is tightly reigned, with no unnecessary dialog or exposition, and is extremely well directed–whether it was Azzarello’s script, Chiang’s visual storytelling, or a fortunate combination of both elements working in synch, there is not a wasted gesture, action, panel or word to be found in the whole of the book.

Also, can I just say how nice it is to have a Wonder Woman book with a normally sized creative team? Because it is.

What I didn’t like: This is a minor and more personal point, but Chiang’s artwork just isn’t for me. I winced when I saw the first reveal of the cover image, and nothing I saw in this issue has changed my mind. He is an extremely talented visual storyteller, but his heavy-handed inks and spartan details just do not appeal to me. (And neither does Diana’s new costume accessories. Although I like the overall design of the costume very much, trading the gold trim for silver was a big mistake in my opinion, and makes her look far less striking.) While the visuals aren’t nearly offputting enough to keep me away from this excellent book, I will definitely be reading it in spite of them, which is a real shame.

Grade: B+

Agreed: Azzarello made a risky choice, waiting until midway through the issue before letting Diana take the stage, but the payoff really worked.  Diana demonstrates her trademark no-nonsense fortitude, perceptive intelligence, and firm compassion immediately, and as the action gets hot, she only continues to embolden those qualities.  If her latching onto that rampaging centaur’s torso with her legs and leveraging herself up to headbutt him doesn’t speak to just how hardcore this lady is, I don’t know what else it will take to convince people.

A lot of writers have tried to mix Greek mythology into Wonder Woman’s stories, with varying degrees of corniness and innovation.  What makes Azzarello’s use of the gods in this issue so striking is their inhuman, actually alien conception.  Not until he actually reveals his name do you realize the insanely tall, pale blue, Roswell-eyed man with the winged bird feet is Hermes.  This seems more of a proto-Greecian, Mycenaean take on the gods, more fantastic and much darker than the idealized pantheon we’re used to.  Take this and the scene of a body clawing its way out of the decapitated torso of a horse, and Azzarello is sure living up to his goal of making this a “horror” book.

On the contrary: Chiang’s sparser style has a certain appeal to me.  Though sparse and sketchy, it has surprising depth, rarely looking flat for all it skimps on hatching and shading (in so small part due to Wilson’s rich gradients of color).  Chiang delivers a very poised, but nonetheless energetic sense of movement to the action.  I can’t explain it, but there’s something inherently and irresistibly mysterious to everything he draws.

Final Word: If you’re out to take a classic character and simultaneously remind people why she’s great and revitalize her mythos, this is the way to do it.  The story stays true to Wonder Woman’s core elements yet reveals a compelling new side to her.

Grade: A-

-Minhquan Nguyen