By: Brian Azzarello (story), Cliff Chiang (art), Matt Wilson (colors)
The Story: Just what every girl wants for her birthday—a romp with a murderous animal.
The Review: At his core, Azzarello is a mystery writer. Being a very good one, he has become very practiced in the art of misdirection. No one and nothing is ever as it seems in his tales. Even outside a pure detective or crime genre, he’ll lead you down a primrose path, making you think he’s telling one kind of story, only for you to suddenly find somewhere along the way, he veered you off into a different place altogether. Almost always, the detour is worth it.
So it goes here. The first page sets you up to believe this will be a joke issue, what with the outrageous claim that “this magnificent missive originally appeared in ‘All-Girl Adventure Tales for Men #41”—a very pointed, if bald-faced lie. At one point, you might even speculate the creators are merely killing time on a #0 issue forced upon them. It’s pretty easy to consider “Brian ‘Kiss My’ Azzarello” and “Cliff ‘Chump’ Chiang” in the credits as a thinly veiled middle finger to editorial.
Or it could just be Azzarello and friends having fun with the issue. Corniness can be good fun in small doses, so the young Princess Diana fetching a harpy egg for her birthday cake comes off with more charm than it has any right to do. Wisely, things get a little more serious from there. You can actually track the growing emotional weight of the issue, from the cheesy (“Great Hera!”) material in the early pages, to the teenage melodrama in the second act, to the life and death choices that make the climax and conclusion.
But Diana turns out not to be the only one making such choices. In many ways, this issue is less about our heroine and more about her divine mentor. We learn that Ares, unlike his previous incarnation, has a more profound connection to the Amazon princess than we ever believed. We see that even as he trains her into the champion warrior she is today, something about her changes him, or perhaps reinforces a change that was already taking place.
Azzarello’s narration gets a bit over-the-top, in the Golden Age manner this tale is clearly trying to evoke, but it’s this emphatic, exclamatory style of writing which tells you that important and monumental developments are happening, unseen. “Diana’s words shake War to his core!” he tells us, and we know from that point on, Ares is no longer the brawny god who proclaims with ever-increasing bravado, “I be blood! I be guts! I be iron! I be War!” He has perhaps started on the path to becoming the lanky, almost wizened character we know of him now.
Rendered in near-perfect Golden Age style, Chiang proves that his art is as classy and timeless as the heroine he draws. He draws the perfect young Princess Diana: beautiful, but still obviously a girl, without any overt sexualization. There’s also quite a bit of strong emotional work in this issue, again surprising you how much he can convey through such a minimum of lines. After all, War doesn’t even have eyes, yet you can see the pride and joy crinkling around his mouth and temples. Simplicity seems the key to Chiang’s appeal; cut away the fat and let the purity of the moment come through. Kudos also to Wilson for some lush, vibrant Golden Age colors.
Conclusion: Unlike some of the other #0 issues, this one doesn’t really offer major revelations or clear hints of what’s to come, but it does provide some insights that may prove more valuable in the long run.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Here’s an interesting plus side of the magic lasso: it apparently has the physics-defying power to extend itself indefinitely—though I imagine it must be a pain to wind that thing up at some point.
– Special appreciation to letterer Jared Fletcher for the cloudy thought bubbles and kooky-looking sound effects.