WONDER WOMAN #31 (Brian Azzarello & Goran Sudzuka)
With issue # 31, WONDER WOMAN’s definitely starting to hit a lull so it can more effectively build up familiarity with it cast of ever-growing gods, demigods and the mortals caught inbetween. Brian Azzarello has show that his area of expertise is character drama, writing WONDER WOMAN as a comic that drifts between family drama and supernatural horror (if not outright, certainly inspired by) As a series? It’s probably stood out most among The New 52 for having its own unique voice, even if that sometimes means that it could almost take place in its own universe.
Brian Azzarello has still been hit or miss when it comes to WONDER WOMAN. The series drags, to be sure, but this issue more than others might cement it’s all going to pay off eventually.
If the series can reach that eventual payoff, that would be absolutely fantastic and it’d also likely do it without requiring a massive crossover like the rest of the DC books.
Azarello actually shines in this book, even though it’s rather slow. He’s been fantastic at maintaining that although the gods have morals, they’re not traditionally identifiable compared to the human characters morality. Dionysus, since he was introduced, has been a great example of this and more than Hermes has shown the orange-and-blue morality that you come to expect through the rest of the Godly characters.
He’s motivated entirely by pleasure and sensation, but still views humanity as amazing and worth respecting, surprisingly so. Earlier in the series, giving Diana such a huge supporting cast (more than she’s possibly ever had) seemed like and odd fit for the character. You don’t really come to a series like WONDER WOMAN for the character drama, but that’s what this series has been able to deliver consistently. We’ve so far seen multiple different domains of the Greek pantheon of Gods as they exist in the DC universe, and each time tends to introduce some new facet of the world and a handful of new characters.
Goran Sudžuka shows back up on art duties after a brief disappearance, and the change is immediate and noticeable. The last few issues preceding this have really lacked having a strong artist on board, which is important when a book is tied so closely to the writer. Goran’s got a wonderful way with making characters seem to be identifiable from the backgrounds, but still wholly existing in the worlds representing in each panel. There’s a single macabre part of this book that serves to remind the reader that ultimately WONDER WOMAN is still a story steeped in myth – and that the Greek Myth’s were pretty disturbing, like all the time. Additionally, more characters need to make fun of Wonder Woman’s star-spangled briefs, that’s like the most acceptable and only dig that should ever be made against this character and when it’s done by one of the sassiest characters in the bunch it comes across as really endearing and silly.
What can really be said about this issue speaks volumes more about the entire series up till this point. WONDER WOMAN has no jump-on, no catch-up phase. If you’re reading WONDER WOMAN, it expects you to have been there from the very first issue. There’s a high volume of characters the series has juggled and they sometimes disappear for issues at a time, returning later. This issue deviates between Diana and Dionysus as point-of-view characters, and while there’s a sign of some real foot traction in one of these stories, I felt like this issue could have been spread out over two issues: one focusing on Dionysus and one focusing on the events of Paradise Island.
Events which I think needed a bit more build-up to then the sudden reveal given at the end of an issue. Azzarello’s consistently played the ‘twist’ card about every few issues in this series though, and he’s a damn fine writer that only now is it starting to grow stale and predictable. That could almost be seen as a dig at the larger DC universe post-Flashpoint. Earlier this month a Superman crossover named SUPERMAN: DOOMED started. A crossover which, cemented its central drama and struggle in one single issue.
WONDER WOMAN, is only going to tire out readers who have been there since the first issue and are looking for a point where the story might turn in on itself for a moment.
Scott Snyder’s done it a few times in Batman usually right before the storyarc breaks, and while it’s ambitious for Azzarello to be what – two years into this story, I can see new readers avoiding it because well, it’s been going on uninterrupted or deterred by crossovers for two years. It’s ambitious to be sure but when it gets to these points where it’s building up to an actual confrontation what would be a momentary lull in another series feels titanic.
WONDER WOMAN # 31 is walking into a movie right when it plays the trailer for the movie you really want to see.
I wish Brian Azzarello would learn to balance his cast of characters better. There are a lot of them to be sure, and I still don’t feel like the book has given certain characters enough of a spotlight that events around them carry as much meaning as they’d like them to have. A stable jumping on point, a moment to stop and reflect on what’s come before would be a great way for this book to start it’s next storyarc and I feel that if the series continues to march onward like this, it’s only going to hurt it in the long run. Luckily, even where the book has lagged in writing it’s more than made up for it in art and vice versa . Still, that’s a mark of luck; I can see one terrible issue ruining a series that hasn’t fallen below a solid average in its entire run.