“Keep me in your heart…” – A new god of war is crowned in the exceptional Wonder Woman #23

STK615965One of my first pop culture memories is watching the Lynda Carter “Wonder Woman” TV show while my mother did the ironing. I was obsessed with the show, even moreso than the episodes of Adam West’s “Batman” that were constantly on. I loved Wonder Woman, the way she fearlessly balanced her life, battling crime and always getting the answers she was looking for. I would make paper rings, color them gold and draw bright red crayon stars on them, stapling them around my wrists and pretend to deflect bullets and ninja stars my brother would attack me with. Wonder Woman was my hero, a woman who was powerful, fearless and utterly incapable of giving up or being stopped by any man she came across.

I’ve admitted many, many times that Wonder Woman is my favorite super hero and one of my favorite fictional characters. The problem, however, with being a fan of Diana is how poorly she’s been handled by DC. Yes, there are some great stories and she has such a fantastic history in the comic universe but DC has consistently tried to adapt the character to what the company believes are reader expectations. Is she a business woman, a freedom fighter, the Ally McBeal woman, a rage filled killer, or a woman of the people? The power of Wonder Woman is that she could be any of those people but the core of her character is being herself, facing anyone who would dare to challenge her and defending those she cares about.

ww23hairThe variety of ways to approach Wonder Woman are what demands that she not be approached like any other comic book character. A unique, creator controlled approach is needed for the character and Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have been able to carve out a place for the character, a woman of myth and power who’s neither defined by her past or by the fates others have decided for her. Much like Matt Fraction’s “Hawkeye,” Azzarello and Chiang have focused on one aspect of Wonder Woman’s personality, her focus on family, and have nearly recreated the character around the idea. In Wonder Woman #23, the creators put an end to  two years in stories and create a new status quo for the heroine which brings her even closer to the series’ central tenet.

Wonder Woman’s assembled family of fallen gods, civillians and her siblings is a fantastic way to  drive home the idea that family are the ones we care about but bringing Diana’s former mentor, War, into the equation complicates things. In only 23 issues, Azzarello has established War as a unique being, a man worn out by slaughter, seemingly on an endless vacation of human misery, whiskey neats and dealing with his family’s issues. However, he sees Wonder Woman as a daughter, a would-be-killer of unparalleled skill. It’s clear before the blood hits the floor that passing his title to Diana was something he saw as inevitable and wanted. Their methods may differ as well as their levels of compassion for the fallen but both are focused on being able to fight for a cause.

ww23zolaThe issue of family and legacy hangs over Wonder Woman #23. From Hera trying to protect Zola, Hell preparing to take his brother to the afterlife, Apollo standing over the broken body of his half brother to the final beautiful boat ride, the history these characters have and the one’s they’ve created for themselves are the only thing that can save them from what they’ve lost. The issue almost feels like it could be an end to a series but the promise of what could come for Diana, the new god of war, is what continues to make this a series defined by the voices of creators who are willing to take a character in bold but thoughtful new directions.

Stray ObservationsoVbC8G3A couple of surprises this week and a couple of books that stayed great. Let’s do it.

  • This is the first issue of Superman Unchained which felt like Scott Snyder was trying to do anything unique with the character. This week’s #3 may be a nearly note for note redux of “Whatever Happened to Peace, Justice and the American Way” but at least it’s not Action Comics.
  • Ending Batman’s mourning over Damian was certain to make Batman and Nightwing #23 work better than the previous 6 issues of the series. Alfred’s mourning over his surrogate son’s death is a heartbreaking sequence.
  • A great issue of Daredevil isn’t a surprise anymore but a one and done Silver Surfer story in this week’s #30 is one of those great singles guaranteed to be remembered for years.
  • Jeff Lemire continues to go wonderfully horrific in Animal Man #23 and the reconstruction of the Red is a great mix of terror and whimsy.
  • X-Men Legacy continues to be the best series of Marvel Now with a tragic story of David’s sense of division between two worlds, his father’s and his mother’s. His conversation with Blindfold at issue #15’s end is going to lead to some truly bleak stuff. I’m excited.
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