New 52 Trade Post: Wonder Woman Blood & Deathstroke Legacy

Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins
Collects Wonder Woman #1-8

I’ve been a fan of Wonder Woman on and off over the years. She was the first comic book character where I realized how important the creators writing and drawing the book were to my personal like or dislike of the story. I started reading when Artemis took over and then moved into the John Byrne stuff which I have all of, but didn’t particularly enjoy. From there I went in and out reading some of the Greg Rucka stuff, but not really getting into it and then really enjoying Gail Simone’s run and even digging the first trade of JMS’s run. Heck, I’ve even read three of the four trades that collect the old school stories where she has no powers and is just super groovy. But there also a lot of stuff in there that I haven’t read or didn’t like, so she can be kind of a crap shoot.

When I heard that Brian Azzarello was writing, I was hopefully optimistic, but not super-jazzed. See, I love his Vertigo work (Loveless to some extent, but definitely 100 Bullets), but the DC superhero stuff he’s done has been hit or miss, though I haven’t read his Superman or Batman stuff since they first came out. I was super excited to hear that Cliff Chiang was drawing on the book and knew that they worked really well together on the Doctor 13 stuff. With all that, plus a pretty favorable review on Preferred Podcast Matt and Brett Love Comics, it was pretty high on my list of New 52 comics to check out.

And, I’d definitely add this to the pile of WW comics I dig. It wasn’t shockingly new or different from the other stories I’ve read, but I thought Azz did a good job of addressing some of the familiar elements in different ways. For instance, there’s a big drama surrounding Diana’s lineage which turns out to not be what she thought it was. I’ve seen that bit before, but it was handled really well here. I’ve also seen Diana leaving the Amazons and operating on her own, but the reasons and resulting strange family dynamic make it interesting.

That last bit, the odd family dynamic created as the first arc carries on, is what I liked the best. The whole selfless, awesome warrior woman thing is cool and I’ve seen done a lot both well and poorly, but setting that idea in what’s essentially a dysfunctional family that doesn’t feel tacked on is impressive. On a related note, I also liked how Chiang and fellow artist Tony Akins designed some of the familiar Roman/Greek (forget which ones) gods in fun and interesting ways. Hermes looks rad, so do Nepture and Hades because they actually look different than the ways you usually see them in Wonder Woman comics. I just scoped it out and it looks like Azz and Chiang have stayed on the book for a while, so I’m in for at least one more of these trades!

Deathstroke Volume 1: Legacy (DC)
Written by Kyle Higgins, drawn by Joe Bennett with Eduardo Pansica
Collects Deathstroke #1-8

A few months back when I read through about half of the New 52 number one issues, Deathstroke was one of the ones that stuck out to me as being pretty interesting. I didn’t think it was the kind of thing that needed a whole new continuity relaunch to make sense, but it was a comic I enjoyed and wanted to see more of, hence my acquisition of the first trade.

There are three elements to this story that I like to different extents. You’ve got the general idea that people art starting to think Deathstroke has gone soft, so he takes all these ridiculously insane missions to show how badass he is. That’s rad. Then you’ve got this idea that someone he’s killed parents keep paying people to wear a pink and green mask/costume, though each costume is different. Why? Because those were the victim’s favorite colors. Really? That just seemed silly and took me out of the story because of how silly they always looked. Lastly and this gets into SPOILER TERRITORY, but a big part of the story revolves around Slade discovering that his assassin son is not actually dead, but in fact working with the parents of the above-mentioned victim. At first I was bummed that it was so quickly getting mired in Deathstroke’s crazy family stuff that became such a big part of the Titans comics for so long, tiresomely so. But then I realized that the story contained in this collection is actually very well self contained and didn’t need any outside explanations for new readers, which was the whole point of the New 52 relaunch, so I’m good on that.

Altogether, I thought this was a good, fun story worth checking out if you’re down for some melodramatic violence and giant sword action. I also dug Joe Bennett’s art which has kind of a Jim Calafiore feel to it, but a little looser. He handled everything from Clayface monsters to crazy armor well. I don’t believe this creative team stuck around after #8, so I’m not sure how things went after this. Anyone read those issues?

Trade Post: Wonder Woman Odyssey Volume 1

Wonder Woman: The Odyssey Volume 1 (DC)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski & Phil Hester, drawn by Don Kramer, Eduardo Pansica, Allan Goldman & Daniel Hdr
Collects Wonder Woman #600-606

A lot was made of JMS taking over Wonder Woman. People weren’t sure why yet another writer felt the need to screw with Diana’s origin again. Little did anyone know, at that time, that in a year or so it wouldn’t matter. Well, I kind of figured it wouldn’t matter, but in a different way. I assumed this would just be one of those stories with an ending that explained how everything was in an alternate universe and put things back to normal. You know, basic comic book stuff.

So, I went into reading this first volume of what would become Phil Hester completing the story from JMS’s outlines, with an open mind. And, honestly, it’s a fine comic. Diana gets re-envisioned as a younger member of the Amazons. In this new timeline, the Amazons have left Paradise Island and have moved all over the world. There’s also a kind of anti-Amazons causing trouble in various ways. And, of course, there’s enough hints dropped letting you know that something is wrong with this reality, which I assume lead back to the original WW coming back (or would have, if Flash Point/DCNu hadn’t gotten in the way, I really have no idea how this whole thing ended).

But, at the end of the day, does it matter? Considering the new direction DC has taken, probably not in a continuity sense. The real question is whether the story goes somewhere new and worthwhile, mattering artistically. I’m leaning towards no. I’ve read a lot of Wonder Woman comics over the years and nothing in this collection felt altogether interesting or groundbreaking. It doesn’t help that the original writer bailed on the book. If he didn’t care enough to finish, should the reader care enough to see it through to the end?

I don’t usually like JMS’s writing because he has a tendency to get Claremontian with his verbosity. However, I didn’t have that problem with whatever issues he actually wrote (Hester’s always solid in my book). On the other hand I love Don Kramer’s artwork. Unfortunately, he didn’t do the whole book and some of the fill-in guys lack basic composition and storytelling skills. Also, for whatever it’s worth, I had no problem with Wonder Woman’s new costume, even if I used it as a spring board for a Topless Robot list I wrote. I think it looked practical, modern and bad ass.

At the end of the day there wasn’t enough goodness in this book to get me excited about picking up the next volume. I’d probably read it eventually if someone gave me a copy, but I have no intention of seeking it out. If I get curious about how it ended or how it tied into the then-DCU, I’ll just check the Wiki page.