WONDER WOMAN #33 (Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang) takes us one step closer to the end of Brian Azzarello’s horror-themed, blood soaked run on Wonder Woman.
WONDER WOMAN hasn’t been shy about telling us where the story is going: this plot is going to be resolved through violence, as it has so often given our protagonist and cast only violence as an answer to their problems.
In being a series primarily about violence, I think DC picked the best talent to come through it. Chiang writes all of the villains with a sense of self-importance and pumped up bravado. They are larger than life and inspire larger than life destruction. Chiang and the other artists always make sure to emphasize somber palettes that go from hot to cool with great finesse (sometimes on the same page) and always feature a sort of mythological inspired take on gore and carnage. WONDER WOMAN is in a place where it’s not quite a horror comic, but not quite a superhero tale either.
In between questions about morality and godhood, WONDER WOMAN feels like it’s circling around the ultimate question that Diana needs to ask herself – which one is more important?
I think the finale of this series is going to end with Wonder Woman finding out that it’s more or less a trick question.
I love Cliff Chiang’s art. There’s been other great artists on WONDER WOMAN rotating out every few issues, but you notice when It’s not Cliff Chiang even if you skip past the cover.
His art almost evokes 60’s and 70’s era comic books, and at the same time retaining its own modern inspirations. Chiang is the artist I would hire to re-do something like STRANGE TALES or even give more credence to the often shallow art direction that books like CONSTANTINE have had in the New 52.
Let me hand it to the issue: the build-up here works surprisingly well. Azzarello balanced the conversation between a subdued Wonder Woman and the bravado of The Firstborn with the battle on Themyscira very well. Not just because it was good use of “hot and cold” storytelling, but because the slower parts still feel like they’re building up to something. WONDER WOMAN #33 also goes out of its way to begin to tie up one of the dangling plot threads that this entire story has seemingly been about. If over the next two issues Azzarello and company can bring everything together, it might make WONDER WOMAN, warts and all, one of the first must-have complete stories in the New 52.
There’s an important subtext in this issue referring to how this series is built on violence, and it has to do with a literal lake of blood. What I like about WONDER WOMAN is that it can have a literal lake of blood but not feel on the nose, or like it was something the creative team was doing to seem grimy or edgier. Why I find that important is because WONDER WOMAN is arguably the best series so far (besides JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK) at actually telling a mature story, without resorting to the standard tactics employed by other DC writers right now.
When I first came on to review WONDER WOMAN, I lamented that the series really lacked a good starting point. Azzarello’s been committed to long format storytelling though, so it just means that WONDER WOMAN really has to be evaluated as one single, ongoing story than in an issue-by-issue format. Comic books can excel at both types of storytelling, but I feel like WONDER WOMAN is a series that has had a lot of fat.
A character remarks that her entire realm was destroyed in this issue, and the series never dwells on it. It’s all an excuse to justify the villain. Two characters pontificate on the nature of war and battle – a decision I think was ill advised. The events of this issue could stand on their own – WONDER WOMAN has been filled with philosophical meanderings on war and death but not in any particularly profound way. Azzarello is a brilliant writer – some of the time. Other times, he feels like a distilled Hideo Kojima, more interested in having characters comment on what’s going on than letting readers come to their own conclusions.
WONDER WOMAN’s finale is setting to be the best part of the story so far. Each issue raises the stakes and manages to build up the idea of a final confrontation between Wonder Woman and the Firstborn to incredible degrees. Here’s hoping we actually get to see it.