By Molly Jane Kremer. As the final chapter in one of the New52’s most well-received series, Brian Azzarello’s and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman ends this week with issue #35. Both men have worked on the book since the series (and the entire DC Universe) relaunched in September of 2011 (Azzarello a bit more than Chiang, who had a few fill-in artists to keep the book on schedule). Three successful years on a DC comic book is a true rarity; their run has lasted longer than most any other within the company (not counting a few of those blockbuster Bat-books, of course).
Azzarello and Chiang’s run has been critically acclaimed since the first issue debuted, partially because of the narrative’s independence from the rest of DC’s rebooted continuity. It was also a departure from previous incarnations of the character: no longer was Diana sculpted from clay by her mother, the Amazon queen Hippolyta. Instead, Hippolyta was yet another in a long string of Zeus’ countless paramours, and Diana was the secret fruit of that union. While many fans were upset by this change, it made room for some of the freshest Wonder Woman stories in years, a difficult accomplishment for a character created in 1941.
As with the rest of the series, we never get inside Wonder Woman’s head in this issue. There’s no narration from her perspective, no inner monologue or thought bubble to be seen. While it definitely keeps us at a distance from our titular heroine – would such an open advocate of love and compassion appreciate that barrier? – it still allows the creative team to show her putting her money where her mouth is instead of just telling us about it. Many books with female protagonists can go heavy on the “rah-rah girl power” rhetoric, but this Wonder Woman has never needed to resort to that sort of artless naivete, and never has. She’s a benevolent badass, without question or apology.
Diana has recently become the god of War, a title and stature both greatly deserved by one of DC’s storied “Trinity”, and that level of gravitas is reflected in the book. The series has been trending rather bleak of late; every occurrence seems to carry the weight of centuries, possibly due to Diana’s new divine obligations, and fitting for what is the looming end to a creator’s run. Rarely has there ever been anything flowery about Azzarello’s dialogue, and this issue is no exception. There is little humor in this issue either, unless you count Strife’s usual barbs, which while witty, aren’t exactly laugh-inducing. (And Diana’s off-putting reply of “Um… No?” to Poseidon on the first page felt incredibly incongruous instead of funny.)
A very jarring plot-twist involves the character Zola, who Diana has been protecting since the series began. Another former lover of Zeus (and mother of their child, Zeke), she attacks Poseidon when he reaches for her infant son, and slices his off one of his tentacles with a suddenly taloned hand. (The orange, birdlike eyes and talon claws Zola suddenly has are reminiscent of the goddess Athena’s appearance in the Wonder Woman origin story in last week’s Secret Origins #6.) One of the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, Athena’s absence in this series was particularly noticeable to even the casual mythology reader. At issue’s end, it’s revealed that Athena has been within Zola her whole life (“… my true nature has been… sleeping inside of her…”), which certainly explains her glaring absence for the last 34 issues. It’s a clever and intriguing curveball to throw at the reader, but the final issue is a curious point for such a bombshell reveal of a major character, and it’s a real shame that we won’t get to see more of this idea develop.
The coloring in this issue, by Matthew Wilson, cannot be complimented enough. His skill matches Cliff Chiang’s pencils and inks in every way: both are absolute masters of their craft. The entire issue is colored as though it were moving through the course of a night, beginning in reds and oranges before fading to bloody pinks and fuchsias, the colors of sunset (and guts). Then we move on to blues and indigos – the subtle hues of the predawn quiet – with Zola/Athena’s orange owl-eyes the only contrasting color (and does it ever pop) for three pages, only to have the issue end with Diana, Zola, and Zeke basking in a literal sunrise.
Azzarello’s and Chiang’s was a monumental run in the annals of this revered character. One creative team remaining with one character (and remaining this consistently good) for three years doesn’t happen in comics much these days, and DC’s New52 output will only be poorer for its loss. The new creative team starting Wonder Woman on the next issue doesn’t elicit much in the way of hope for this reader (which is funny, considering what a symbol of hope the character herself always has been), but there’s some consolation to be found in this run’s quality, its complexity, and ultimately, its completeness.
Written by Brian Azzarello.
Art by Cliff Chiang.
Colors by Matthew Wilson.
8 of out 10