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Wonder Woman #18 – Review

WONDER WOMAN #18

By: Brian Azzarello (story), Goran Sudzuka & Cliff Chiang (art), Tony Akins (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: Who’s fastest—old god, new god, or demi-goddess?

The Review: I’ve officially reviewed Azzarello’s Wonder Woman for over a year and a half now, and I still feel like I haven’t quite grasped the nature of his craft just yet.  He doesn’t quite fall into any easy category.  He’s not really a character writer in the vein of Pete Tomasi or Paul Cornell; an ideas-man like Grant Morrison or Jonathan Hickman; or a weaver of universes like Brian Michael Bendis or Geoff Johns.  Of all writers, he truly stands alone.

In fact, Azzarello has something of all three elements in his writing, with such equal weight that it’s easy to take his work for granted.  While there aren’t any striking personalities in this title, over time the voices of the characters have grown distinct and recognizable, even unattached to a face.  Azzarello’s ideas are no less profound for being based in myth rather than science.  And by bringing old and new gods together, he’s done some of the most intriguing world-building of all.

That last part may be the most exciting thing going for this issue.  Wonder Woman facing off against the Olympic pantheon never gets old, especially if her opponent is as unconventional as Hermes, whose speed and trickery proves more of a challenge than expected.  But once Orion thunders onto the scene through a Boom-Tube, snatching her up on his Astro Harness as they race against the messenger god through an underground labyrinth—well, it’s hard to resist the allure of that.

So this title has never lacked in action; answers are where it proves deficient.  After all the drama and effort it takes for Wonder Woman to finally confront Hermes, you never do get a clear reason why he stole Zola’s baby in the first place.  He gives a strong hint (“Zola’s baby—it’s well-being was charged to me.”) that only begs more questions (Who?  Why?  When?), which is frustrating given how long we’ve been following this specific plot thread.

If you think Hermes’ vagueness is irritating, that has nothing on Ares’ motivations.  It’s clearly a surprise to all of us that he—spoiler alert—returns the baby to Zola himself, but it cannot help raising a lot of suspicion.  Some, like Lennox, take the act at face value (“I was wrong about ‘im, Diana.”), though others who know better warn against it (Strife: “Oh, Lennox, but you weren’t.”).  The fact is you don’t know why Ares does it.  Neither his morose monologue nor Demeter’s almost unreadable explanation help you in this regard, though taken together they suggest that living and taking glory on the “precipice, where life and death heave against each other” has grown tiresome to Ares, and he’d rather “surpass” his own nature and role for a different kind of existence.

Azzarello does seem to like operating by suggestion alone, rather than giving us hard facts we can really play with.  The First Born’s history with his family, for example, is full of ambiguous references that we can only guess at.  Previously, we were led to believe his exile was purely a product of Zeus’ fear of an overthrow.  Now, Poseidon seems to suggest that the conflict was less one-sided than that, and the First Born actually agrees.  “[Zeus] showed you mercy, believing that you would learn something from it,” the sea god says.

“And what is that?” the First Born sneers.

Humility.”

“Heh.  He was wrong.”

This issue suffers a bit from the mish-mash of artists, each popping up in various parts of the story.  But if you’re gonna do that, make sure you don’t include someone of Chiang’s caliber in the mix, since his clean, classy art is guaranteed to show up everyone else in the book.  Akins’ figures look positively garish and uncoordinated by comparison, and Sudzuka doesn’t fare much better.  I can only imagine how much better the underground chase scene would have looked had Chiang handled it himself.

Conclusion: An appropriate resolution with a satisfying finish, but without much substance or development to back it up.  Uneven art doesn’t help, either.

Grade: B-

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Sheesh—Orion is really earning his canine nickname in this incarnation.  He’s way flirtier (in that groan-worthy way that kind of really makes sense for a war god—“Y’know, you’re kinda cute when you get mad.”) than I remember.  Wonder Woman’s reaction to his overtures is perfect: “Ugh…”

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2 Responses

  1. Still enjoying this series, but damn that issue was a hot mess. The only pages that looked good were Chiang’s. I’m not a big Akins fan, but he and Kano have done some serviceable work on this title before. Not this time – his work and Sudzuka’s looked like the rush job it probably was.

    On a plot level, this was equally disorienting. I would not have known this was the conclusion to a plot arc if Azzarello wasn’t announcing it. I also wanted to like the family gathering at the end, but Azzarello did not earn it.

    I am relatively confident this was a blip on the radar, but definitely a low point for the series so far.

    • To be honest, I’ve never really enjoyed Akins work on this series, but since I’m not really an art critic, I’ve tried not to let my own preferences affect my judgment much. I just wish that if Chiang can’t work on an issue, someone other than Akins will fill in.

      I sort of felt the same as you during the final family scene, but at the same time, there was a comfortableness and familiarity among them that felt genuine. I think the timing was only slightly premature, but otherwise, Azzarello put in enough work to give the characters that sense of togetherness.

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