DC NEW 52: WONDER WOMAN #1

WONDER WOMAN #1  (DC)  “The Visitation” = Brian Azzarello, writer.  Cliff Chiang, artist & cover.  Matthew Wilson, colorist.  Jared K. Fletcher, letters. 

WONDER WOMAN was not one of the NEW 52 books that I selected to follow (at least for the first 3 issues).  “MIKE’S DC9” (I fly in style) were intended to be ACTION COMICS, ANIMAL MAN, AQUAMAN, BATMAN, BATMAN & ROBIN, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT, BATWOMAN, FRANKENSTEIN:AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E., and JUSTICE LEAGUE.

When I looked through the PREVIEWS guide for September 2011 releases, I decided not to pick up WONDER WOMAN.  While I appreciate and admire the skills of writer Brian Azzarello, it was the art that persuaded me to pass by this book.  The cover art and sample pages just didn’t look that great to me, and I thought it might take away from the overall enjoyment of the book and possibly hinder the storytelling properties. (Bad art has been known to depreciate a good story before, you know.)  It was an impulse decision, which usually turn out to be right at least 50% of the time.

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Time passes by.  Many comics reviewers are expecting  WONDER WOMAN to be one of the better NEW 52  books , and reverse buyers’ remorse sets in.  So, while I was visiting Captain Blue Hen Comics today I looked through the pages of WONDER WOMAN #1, scanned it , and put it back on the new releases shelf.  After browsing through the store some more, I picked it up and scanned it a second time, only to put it back again.  After I completed my purchase and was leaving the store I noticed a display case with a statue of Wonder Woman in front of the cover to the issue. The sign says  = buy a copy of this and win a chance to get this! . . . . .   I went back to the new release shelves, and for the third time picked up WONDER WOMAN #1 - - but this time I bought it. Impulsive. Or destiny calling.

Glad I did.  I really like this book!  = love the story, love the art.  Are you ready for “MIKE’S DC10”? (Still taking to the skies).  You may stop reading here if you have been convinced to pick up your own copy. Beyond this point there may be spoilers.

So, what happens in Issue #1?

Wonder Woman (sleeping in a London hotel room - - that needs explained) gets recruited to rescue and protect an Earth woman from mythic assassins who want to kill her because she is pregnant with a special child.  (Seems like Zeus really likes one-night stands on Earth).   A secondary storyline involves a well-dressed, dark-skinned man with what looks like latent energy lurking inside where his eyeballs should be as well as an energy filled mouth rather than teeth.  For some reason, that doesn’t seem to frighten the three female escorts he serves champagne to - - at least not until his inflammatory powers manifest.  At first I thought it was a typo when he referred to himself as “the sun of a king.”   I get it now.  Based on the prophesy he hears, he obviously has a high-powered father that may be connected to others in this story - - we’ll see.   Lastly, the whereabouts of Zeus are unknown. The oracles hint that he doesn’t exist . . . . yet.

What did I like about Issue #1?

1) I especially like the way this book opens up and appreciate the pacing and the way Azzarello builds suspense quickly.  The first two pages made me apprehensive and then it cuts away to another scene and leaves the reader hanging in anticipation.  The next scene does the same thing = creates apprehension and suspense and then cuts away to a third scene employing the same progression yet again until the last two events overlap in violent action.  Whew!  I was completely hooked by the time I got to Page 8!

2) It didn’t take long to get comfortable with the art style that Cliff Chiang employs here.  If I had to compare it, I’d say it seems like a blend of classic Don Heck with flavoring by Alex Maleev. 

3) I like the air of mystery throughout the entire book, with many details left unexplained.  Based on some of the characters seen so far, it seems as if Azzarello is going to be exploring the darker side of Greek mythology.  Hermes is depicted as a rather ghostly, alien-looking messenger/courier rather than the sleek, handsome wing-footed athlete we normally see in comics.  The centaurs seen crashing the Virginia cabin are also more monstrous in appearance and aggressive rather than regal looking and noble.  Also appreciated is the nod to Shakespeare’s MacBeth with a scene that reminds of the prophesying three witches (except it occurs in modern times - those are three fine bitches - and that’s not MacBeth asking for the fortune-telling).

4) The art is not afraid to reflect the brutal/hostile/dark nature of the story.  There are some images in here that might disturb very young readers (decapitated horses, etc.)

What didn’t I like?

1) This is pretty minor and doesn’t bother me because I like the stories of THE NEW 52 so far. Every book is continued to the next issue.  I think I remember reading that DC intended to give readers all the bang for their buck with complete issue stories rather than extended arcs and crossovers.  I’m going to overlook that for now, realizing that they need to introduce characters, and create enough conflict in the first issue to bring the reader back a month later.  None of the books so far have been origin stories - - which actually read better when they occur a couple issues into a new series.  Hopefully, these opening arcs will be short  and the origins will follow.  Then maybe we’ll see the complete-in-one-telling stories appear.

Do I love, like, dislike, or hate this book?

I’m actually loving this book, which says a lot because I have never been very fond of Wonder Woman before.  Most stories left me with a “nice, but so what?”  attitude.  I think the difference here is that Azzarello is putting mystery and suspense into the mix and it makes for a much better read.  It’s also darker, which along with the aggressive, in-charge Wonder Woman from the 3-issue Flashpoint mini-series have totally changed my impression of this character.  I’m interested now.

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