Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wonder Woman, Architecture and Mortality

Full September solicits are up:

Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Gods walk among us. To them, our lives are playthings. Only one woman would dare to protect humanity from the wrath of such strange and powerful forces. But is she one of us – or one of them?

As I said on Tumblr, this makes me feel a lot better. Remember the opening to the 90s Kevin Sorbo Hercules? That's what this sounds like, and that's what Wonder Woman is supposed to me. She's supposed to be a modern Hercules in female form.

Not only that? No man-hating. Nothing about fearing Diana's wrath. Nothing about having to learn how men aren't evil. Nothing about the Amazons making war on humanity. Even the fluff on the end for the new readers to be intrigued about her origins doesn't imply anything bad about her personally, just puts her origins in question. Basically, a complete departure from the past year of "Will Wonder Woman be evil?" and the whole Flashpoint angle of "How did Wonder Woman go evil?" Hell, there's not even anything about having to adjust to men or teach the isolationist Amazons that men don't suck. She is straight up presented as a protector of humanity from the wrath of the Gods.

After the trajectory of the past year? I'm elated.

They'll emphasize the warrior, I'm sure. Azzarello doesn't shy from violence, and his portrayal of Diana in Superman #210-211 was heavy on the warrior side with a extra helping of cold restraint. It didn't bother me there, because of the stress of the "You really have to fight your best friend Superman and stop him from hurting a lot of people" setup on her side. It also didn't present Diana as a danger to humanity, just an opponent that would be able to defeat Superman. He gets her away from him by asking her to save two lives. If that's Azzarello's take here? If she's a dangerous woman, but not to humanity and her primary focus is saving lives? It's a lot better than what we've seen lately, and this solicit suggests that's what we'll get.

Really, the only solicit that could make me happier would be "Grant Morrison contacted WM Marston and Elizabeth Holloway with a Oujia Board, and will be presenting his masterpiece once Greg Rucka is finished editing all the inadvertant sexism out of it. See you in September!"

The other thing that has me optimistic is that I got Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality in the mail today. I am shocked that no one has ever recommended this to me. This is a story where the DCU's most stubborn skeptic, his daughter, and a crew of unused comic book characters team up to battle the combined might of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid. Inside, Azzarello writes an argument for the reboot 4 years before the reboot.

It's also a great story that uses first-person narration to maximum effect. You get a look at how Dr. Thirteen sees himself and the people around him, and a sense of what he's in denial about and what he feels but won't narrate. You also sympathize with someone who is a wholly stubborn and often rude character, and want him to succeed and survive. That takes a little skill. The rest of the cast is peppered with people who are, at their concepts, completely ridiculous. They are the silliness DC often tries to sweep under the rug, and Azzarello digs them up for a meta-commentary made for adults. He uses them as characters with natural emotions and complex reactions without losing that commentary, and puts them in a serious situation where we actually worry about them without dropping the innocence or charm inherent in the characters. Chiang's simple, classic style is a big part of this, because we get an old comic book feel with modern artistic techniques.

This is very good sign for a Wonder Woman reboot team, because that's actually exactly what the Wonder Woman franchise needs. It needs someone to take some of the old silly concepts and bring them into the modern era without dropping the innocence or charm to them. It needs someone who can present Diana as a serious hero, and even emphasize the aggressive and active parts of her nature, without losing her humanity. And make no mistake, that is what we constantly lose in the endless rush to badassify Wonder Woman. We lose the little touches of her as a person, the impulsive young woman who lept into the ocean because someone needed her, the healer who worked tirelessly to save a sick man, the daughter who went behind her mother's back in order to earn her place in society, the hopeful explorer that was the first person to leave home for three thousand years, the woman who doesn't quite understand how men work, the visitor to a foreign land... All of these traits that surface off of the battlefield that are increasingly lost as writers emphasize the warrior in Diana. They tell us they do this because it makes her more flawed, more human, but really every time they take her from those soft moments they take her a little further away from her humanity and her relatability.

I'm not going to pin my hopes on seeing all of the potential in Diana's character in this reboot, but the subtle and complex characterization of Dr. Thirteen in this book tells me that this creative team has the skill to write her on the battlefield without completely abandoning the softer facets of her personality. And the use of the other characters in this book tell me that they can take franchise elements that aren't often taken seriously and use them as story elements with enough humor that they aren't warped but don't detract from the seriousness of the story. All with some obvious metacommentary because Wonder Woman is built on metacommentary about the genre and adventure stories in general.

If anything, this little book may have set the bar a bit high for this team. Still, this is more optimistic than I've felt about a Wonder Woman comic all year.


  1. The Doctor Thirteen story was originally the second one, in a Spectre book, that was mediocre at best. But oh...the Doctor Thirteen portion was fabulous. And only became more so, the further into it one got. And the art was so pretty. And now, simply because of this story, Infectious Lass is now my favorite member of the Legion.

    So yes, I think Diana is in good hands.

  2. I'm really glad you liked the book, Ragnell - I originally bought it mainly for Cliff Chiang's artwork, and was quite pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the story as well. Isn't it awesome how he manages to make Dr. Thirteen cling to his scepticism even when the supernatural is wreaking havok all around him? Actually, to me that was the most surprising, that Brian Azzarello could be funny.

    I will buy the new Wonder Woman book, and again the main draw for me will be Chiang, but I'm also cautiously optimistic about its perspectives!

    Sally, I'd never heard of Infectious Lass before reading Dr. Thirteen, but I LOVED her on sight.


  3. I adore Architecture and Mortality, it's one of the few TPBs I actually own. I was completely unfamiliar with all of the characters, and it was still amazing. Apparently this reboot is going to have an I, Vampire book in it? Since I've only encountered I, Vampire in this Doctor 13 book, I am extremely puzzled by that :P

  4. Thanks for this, I hadn't heard of the Doctor 13 series, and your reaction to it does make me much more optimistic about the new WW series.

    Also, the absolute first thing I thought when I read that solicit was "...a time of myth and legend! When the ancient gods were petty and cruel, and they plagued mankind with suffering!..." Good thing I have a fond memory of Herc and Xena. ;)

  5. "This is very good sign for a Wonder Woman reboot team, because that's actually exactly what the Wonder Woman franchise needs. It needs someone to take some of the old silly concepts and bring them into the modern era without dropping the innocence or charm to them."

    If this was the hope, I fear that it has failed to pan out in a rather spectacular way. Vertigo writers soil everything they touch; they think all comics need "sophistication and complexity" which in practice means "dark, violent, and depressing."