Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood by Brian Azzarello
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wonder Woman has never been a title that I read on its own. In fact, I can only recall buying one issue in my life, and that was somewhere back in the the mists of my childhood because the cover grabbed me. Like many DC titles, however, I became at least mildly interested after the launch of the New 52, inasmuch as I followed it’s flagship title, Justice League. In those pages, I became interested in Wonder Woman as one of the primary three heroes in the DC Universe, now presented not as a character about whom my wife complains (“A Lasso of Truth? Really?”) as still being presented as inferior to male characters, but here painted as a strong character worthy of her Amazonian past.
So, I was glad to (finally) make the time to read the collected first volume of her initial story arc in the New 52.
I was impressed, but I’ll say up front that this collection didn’t absorb me like some of the other New 52 titles. The art I found to be a bit sporadic. While the cover art, being particularly poor, isn’t representative of the interior pages, I still found many of the pages displaying clunky characters drawn with heavy-handed lines and confusing movement from panel to panel. That said, there are moments of brilliance, particularly in the facial expressions of Queen Hera.
The writing far outshines the art, with delicate foreshadowing and powerful dialogue between many characters, but especially on the part of our protagonist (“Peace? Your mocking lips spit a word your tongue has never tasted.”). The movement of the story is well paced as collected into a graphic novel, though I’m not sure how it would have felt in individual issues. The balance between narrative, dialogue, and action is thoughtfully and intentionally achieved, and the action sequences are violently intense when present.
The first installment of Wonder Woman’s origin story is told here, as she realizes that the legend of the childhood in which she has grown up believing is a lie, and as she races to protect a girl pregnant with Zeus’ illegitimate child as the wrath of Olympus threatens to kill her where she stands. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this story is the way in which the legendary Greek gods and goddesses are portrayed, at times very thought-provoking (Hades with his face obscured by the burning candles on his head, or Ares as a rail-thin African warlord drinking in a bar), and at times with particular humor (Hermes sitting on a sofa with a remote control in hand and his leg in a splint).
I originally rated this story at three stars. Why? Well, first off, stars are so arbitrary, but necessary on Goodreads. Secondly, because this story, while well written, just didn’t move me along in it’s premise. As a hero story goes, it felt…dry to me, as much as the craft of the writing may have had shining moments. My final decision when writing this, though, is a four-star review, because the character development sinks in after letting the book sit for a day or two. In these pages, we meet Wonder Woman as a hero for today. She is a warrior, one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe (watching her lift a car is impressive enough, but the first panel in which she enters with a shield and battle axe will alter your perception of the character forever). I wish that I had read these issues when the New 52 originally launched, as it would have helped me to make more sense of the character in the pages of Justice League. Here, I was about twenty pages in before I truly heard her voice, but then there was no turning back. Because we also see Wonder Woman as a woman, insecure in her heritage, mourning the loss of her mother before she could make amends, strongly drawn to familial connections, and strongly persevering through her losses. If you imagined a flat or two-dimensional character here…if your perception of Wonder Woman as been that of my wife’s, a character with unrealized potential left to languish on the fringes of a male-dominated hero universe…then for that reason alone, I would recommend this book. Even if the story leaves you lagging behind a bit as it did me, you’ll be glad that you now truly know Diana, the Princess of the Amazons.