Comics You Should Be Reading: Wonder Woman
Despite her popularity (and all-around coolness), Wonder Woman's a character that's tough to write. Besides the obvious fact of her gender, how do you distinguish her from a character like Superman? They have similar powers, they're both good people, they're both leaders... what makes them different? To answer that question, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang—the writer and artist behind the new Wonder Woman series—have turned to the character's roots in Greek mythology. The results are, to put it simply, excellent.
Wonder Woman, which so far has released seven issues, is one-third superhero story, one-third Greek myth and one-third family drama. In it, our title heroine ends up protecting a mortal girl named Zola who's said to be carrying Zeus' child. Hera, Zeus' jealous wife, is outraged, and sends assassins to erase any signs of her husband's infidelity. Wonder Woman won't let an innocent girl be killed, though, which unfortunately traps her in a violent power struggle between immortals. See, Zeus has actually somehow disappeared from Mt. Olympus, leaving his throne vacant. Hera obviously wants it for herself, but so does every other god, which is bound to cause some trouble.
With a strong basis in centuries-old stories, Azzarello and Chiang's Wonder Woman is sure to please any Greek geeks out there; so far Wonder Woman's had to do stuff like strike a deal between Poseidon and Hades (who both think their claim to Zeus' throne is most legit), pay a visit to Hephaestus, pal around with Hermes, and more. But it would be wrong to say this book's stuck in the past; despite its ancient characters, it actually feels incredibly sharp and modern, due in large part to Cliff Chiang's incredibly animated pencils. Chiang's one of the most talented and interesting artists working on monthly comics today; his work has an energy that few can match. The way he choreographs action scenes is especially impressive; his books really move.
Besides the amazing art and epic background, here are the three coolest features of Wonder Woman:
1. A relatable heroine. Even though Wonder Woman's basically a goddess (who happens to hang out with Superman and Batman), Azzarello finds a clever way to make her sympathetic. In the second issue of this series, she learns that she's been lied to her whole life about who she is and where she came from—she, too, is the product of infidelity with Zeus, which makes her one of Hera's top targets and gives her a serious identity crisis, something we can all understand.
2. High stakes. When you play with immortal gods and monsters, you've got some heavy stuff going on. Everything that happens in Wonder Woman does so on an epic scale. When Hera learns Wonder Woman's one of Zeus' illicit children, for instance, she basically destroys Wonder Woman's home (turning her mom to stone and the rest of her Amazon sisters to snakes). Geez.
3. A strong lead, but not always in the way you think. Wonder Woman's greatest strength is her compassion. That's something Azzarello understands; although this girl can fight, it's very rarely her first course of action. Instead, Wonder Woman consistently tries to bring peace, understanding and justice to the situations around her. It's more proactively superheroic than we're used to seeing from guys like Superman and Batman, and it's really refreshing (of course, when she does have to fight it's awesome).
If this sounds like a series you might enjoy, the seventh issue of Azzarello and Chiang's Wonder Woman dropped just this past week. The hardcover collection containing those issues will be out in June, but most comic shops should still have the single issues in stock now. If you want an easy way to try the book out, Comixology has the whole series available digitally, and the first issue will probably tell you whether or not you'll like the rest of it. But for fans of epic, compassionate heroines and beautiful comic art, Wonder Woman's pretty definitely a winner.