By: Brian Azzarello (story) Goran Sudžuka (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: Diana learns that family reunions are indeed the worst.

The Review: The end of Villains Month marks the official start of the DCU’s third year since its relaunch.  Needless to say, its landscape has changed a great deal during this period of time.  Nearly half of the original 52 titles are with us no longer, most of them deservedly, and many of those that are left have lost the spirit that made them seem so exciting when they debuted.  Only a few, like Wonder Woman, remain steadfast to the direction and principles they started with.

As critical as I’ve been about certain points of execution, I have to admire how Azzarello has managed to stick to his guns on this title, somehow staying above the fray of tacky promotional campaigns, pointless crossovers, and pushy Big Events.  In a market saturated with angst and loud, hyperactive action, the fact that Wonder Woman still makes a living off mythological intrigue and family dynamics is remarkable indeed.

The Olympian dramas have very much the same tone of the original Greek myths, particularly in the distantly interested way the gods carry about their business.  It’s a credit to Azzarello’s consistency that by now, you recognize each of their individual personalities, and the various grudges and goals they bring to the table.  Such familiarity is crucial for reading between their lines to feel out the true intent underneath.  When Diana apologizes for killing Ares, Hephaestus tells her he’s “grateful” she made that choice.  Is he simply expressing brotherly compassion, in keeping with his kinder demeanor, or does his gratitude harbor a more sinister meaning?  This is, after all, the same god of war who’s fooled around with Hephaestus’ wife, as we’re reminded by Aphrodite’s “Hrmph.”

It’s easy to suspect even the most trustworthy of the Olympians because it’s become very clear that they don’t see things the way us mortals do.  You can see that from the way Hera puts the disfigured head of Lennox on display in Diana’s living room in a morbid sense of propriety (“He’s family.  And deserves a place of honor.”) to Strife lashing out at Aphrodite’s suggestion that she had a less than intimate relationship to Ares: “[D]on’t you dare to presume what kind of relationship we had, just ‘cause it wasn’t love, honey.”

More importantly, the Olympians have been operating this way for so long that change seems elusive.  Consider Apollo’s proposal that they accept Diana’s rejection of Ares’ old seat, to imagine an “Olympus without war[.]”  At the same time, he flatly denies Diana’s only request to restore Hera’s divinity, despite the fact that he moments earlier thanked for the boon of the First Born.  His reason?  “While your first act as an Olympian was mercy, [Hera’s] last act was treason.”  These are war words he’s using, which doesn’t bode well for someone claiming to “usher in a new, enlightened Olympian age…”

You can spend a good amount of time parsing through the gods’ exchanges to foresee what their next move will be, but Diana requires no amount of analysis at all.  Her directness is a purposeful contrast to her relatives’ tendency towards ambiguity, but it also frequently makes her the least interesting person in the room.  Part of this, too, comes from her lack of personal motivation.  Like most Greek heroes, there’s little that she does solely for herself; she’s only as active and compelling as her next mission, and at the moment, she has none.

Sudžuka seems to be emulating Cliff Chiang in his strong, though minimal, use of line, and this is a great improvement over the art he used to offer on past issues.  There’s still a slightly cartoonish quality that lingers in his work, however, especially during emotional scenes, and even more so when he draws the characters at a distance.  But taken together with Wilson’s always moody coloring, this is very competent bit of fill-in work by Sudžuka.

Conclusion: The appeal of this series remains subtle, especially given the flatness of its protagonist, but there’s a lot of interest to be mined from Azzarello’s subtlest work.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Milan seemed so fond of Cassandra once upon a time.  Wonder if that’ll change now that she’s gone and killed all his pet flies.  Clearly, she’s the bully of the Zeus siblings.

– Seriously, where’s Athena?  And Hestia?  Last I heard, these two are part of the major Olympians, too.