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

The Story: A sibling rivalry to end all sibling rivalries.

The Review: I take back everything I ever said about Geoff Johns and his decompressed style of writing.  I think it’s safe to say that Azzarello has taken decompression to a whole new level on Wonder Woman, with entire issues going by that have only so much to say for themselves.  Not that every issue (or even every comic, come to that) has to be packed with action or direct confrontation, but the pace of advancement on this series has gotten quite ridiculous.

Azzarello’s problem is in his choice of intrigue, which is almost purely speculative.  No other writer indulges so much in the stimulation of euphemism, vagaries, double-meanings, and almost nothing else as Azzarello does.  And for a long while, he got away with it.  His reconstruction of what a Wonder Woman comic could look like kept us entranced at first, but there has to be a point when he stops building and starts living in the house he has built.

Azzarello senses this, or seems to, as this issue is almost purely action from beginning to end, interspersed with the kind of direct drama lacking in earlier issues.  But even here, he seems reluctant to let the plot run wild, revealing or accomplishing more than he has in mind.  After all the trouble of gathering the surviving demigod children of Zeus (plus Hermes and Orion) in one room, the only things we get out of it is Cassandra learning a factoid we all knew anyway and Diana once again inadvertently emasculating a loved one.

What really bothers you about this scene is how undeserved Cassandra’s victory seems.  Even though she does possess weaponry capable of injuring a New God and quite some numbers of minions, at no point does she appear to have the clear upper hand over our heroes.  Perhaps Milan recognizes this, which explains why he feels confident enough to defy Cassandra, despite her threats.  Whether he does or doesn’t, it’s not great that Diana has neither the confidence nor competence to save Milan without giving Cassandra what she wants.  More than humiliating Milan after his one moment of uncharacteristic courage, Diana’s actions reflect poorly on her.

As much as you might admire Diana’s hyper-awareness for the safety of others, it’s pretty clear that she doesn’t have much perceptiveness beyond that.  Either that, or she doesn’t appreciate the need the men in her life have to stand up for themselves.  Maybe this is the natural backlash from the reversal of gender roles inherent in Wonder Woman’s life, but then there’s Zola, taking off with Zeke, intent on taking care of the two of them herself.  True, Strife had a part in driving Zola away, but the pattern is pretty clear: Diana’s little family is stifling under her well-intentioned protectiveness, and they want the opportunity to protect themselves for once.  If Diana’s wise, she’ll let them.  Perhaps then, and only then, will she finally be forced to find a purpose that’s hers and hers alone, rather than subjected to the needs of others.

There’s another reason why you come away from the action sequences in this issue frustrated and underwhelmed: Sudžuka’s uninspired and lifeless visuals.  It’s a little outrageous that for a title starring one of the DCU’s master warriors, an all-out battle could look so bland and lame.  There is no sense of strategy or tactic in Diana’s (or anyone else’s) fighting beyond punching and slashing at the nearest target, and their movements betray no finesse or experience.  This, on top of Sudžuka’s steep decline in detail and clarity once the panel shrinks, makes the whole issue look rather dull.

Conclusion: It may go against Azzarello’s grain, but he has to start considering bringing a little more spectacle to this series, seeing how his plot developments bear less and less fruit with every issue.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – You have to admit, Apollo has been finding some pretty twisted ways to torture the First Born into submission, although we all know the only thing Apollo’s succeeding in doing is making his beatdown even worse once the First Born escapes.