My Review Procedure
First, I read the issue like anyone who buys it off the rack. I don’t make any notes, I don’t try to analyze on the fly. I just try to read it. Easier said than done, often. Some comic books these days are unreadable.
Some are such infuriating garbage that after a few pages I throw them in the trash to lie in disgrace amid the crumpled junk mail and wads of cat hair scraped off of the lint brush.
Some are so abstruse, incoherent or unfathomable that I bog down partway through. I check my e-mail. I heed the siren call of Solitaire. Checking the Weather Channel seems like fun. I never quite get through them. My attention drifts away and never comes back.
Assuming that my first attempt to read the issue in question succeeds and I make it to the end of the story, then I give it an editor’s reading, slowly and carefully. I do this several times, and do a lot of flipping back and forth, analyzing, comparing things, making notes and diagramming the story.
(ASIDE: If I were proofreading the thing, I’d read it one more time forcing myself to take a micro-pause after each word, and after each sentence to focus on those elements. Then I’d read it once backward. I only do that on my own manuscripts these days.)
This one did not end up in the bin with the Shoprite flyers and the fur wads. I made it all the way through, first try. That’s remarkable, considering.
The logo pops. Bold, blocky white letters on red.
The cover is divided roughly 60/40, top and bottom. The top part bears the logo, so the top image and bottom image are fairly balanced. The images are pretty graphically stylized. The large female figure in the top half wearing what I assume is a feathered cape has a bloody sword. There are many figures silhouetted in the background, some apparently with weapons, doing what, I don’t know. Thrashing around. A battle maybe. There are black and red spatters everywhere, even on the logo.
The bottom half features Wonder Woman’s face as if reflected in a puddle, a little distorted. I suppose Wonder Woman’s Q-Score is high enough, at this point, that pretty much everyone likely to see this image knows it’s her. She’s shouting or screaming. The puddle seems to be trickling down from the red background of the top half of the cover, suggesting, perhaps, that it’s a pool of blood. Blood spilled by the bloody sword, feather-caped woman?
Whatever. I’d buy this book off of the rack just because the cover is groovy, graphic and intriguing, albeit mysterious. A lot of thinking, a lot of skill and talent went into the creation of this cover. Being in the design/supervising designers biz myself, I am more susceptible to groovy graphics than most.
JayJay the Blog Elf, a superb graphic designer, may wish to make a comment here, or if she doesn’t, this is the sort of comment she might make: “Well, duh.” (JayJay here. How could I improve on such eloquence?)
Cover by Cliff Chiang.
Brian Azzarello wrote this thing. It’s not a story. It’s a bunch of Lego blocks that form nothing yet, but, who knows, we may be on our way to a little Lego rowboat. Or, maybe a Lego aircraft carrier. Miscellaneous pieces. It’s not a story.
It’s not all bad, either.
This thing starts in Darfur. Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang did insufficient research. What is represented here doesn’t even rise to the level of glib shorthand. It’s bogus. It’s lame.
In the midst of a nonsensical, badly imagined Darfur firefight, with many bodies strewn around, two unusual beings, apparently unconcerned by the violence all around, meet in a very improbable bar. One being is black—not African, mind you, really black. He looks young and robust. His mouth and eyes glow. He wears no shoes—and the creators make a point of showing us that—but otherwise dresses in normal-ish clothes. The other being is an old, thin, bearded, bald guy, also barefoot, also dressed in normal-ish clothes, though his are blood-spattered.
Old guy: “Hello, brother.”
Black guy: “Hell low, indeed.”
That is a prime example of Azzarello’s favorite trick. He has characters play off of, pun off of things said by other characters. This is not a distinctive trait of one particular character. They all do it.
A character called Strife: “Can’t you see I’m trying to be nice?”
Tall woman: “Trying. Yes, you are.”
His other trick is bridging from one scene to another by using quoted captions—either a pithy line from the preceding scene that applies to the next, or a pithy line from the next scene applicable to the ending circumstances of its predecessor.
The aforementioned tall woman might be Wonder Woman—she’s in civvies. Aha, on the third page she’s seen, she’s called “Diana.” That’s a clue for comics-savvy me (actually, I knew from the get-go), but wouldn’t some civilians still not know?
Strife, Diana and others are in a club in London.
So…even in new reader mode, I’m starting to get it. There are these supernatural beings—War, the black guy, Strife, maybe Diana, maybe a young woman referred to as Zola—walking around among human beings on Earth. There’s another guy, colored blue, who keeps himself mostly covered up, referred to as Hermes. P.S., Strife is blue the first time we see her, and thereafter is a more human color. What?
Okay. Even some civilians know, I think, that Wonder Woman has something to do with Greek mythology—Amazons and whatnot. Hermes, I guess, makes sense. But…War? If we have Hermes, why not Ares? And who the Hell is Strife?
I also wonder about this: people didn’t seem to be aware of War and the black guy, but it would appear, from the fact that they have been served beverages, waiters or waitresses, at least, are aware of Strife, Hermes and Co.
Diana has some tense chitchat with Strife and we cutesy quoted-caption segue to somewhere else.
We eventually find out it’s Paradise Island. Hera, the Hera, Queen of the Greek Gods, one would assume has come to confront Hippolyta, the Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons! Okay, now it’s all Greek to me.
Cutesy quoted caption segue back to the club.
Things are said that are meaningless to my friend Andrew the set designer, Herb the financial wizard and Joe the lawyer, all smart people, all non-comics readers, who couldn’t make heads or tails out of this gobbledygook. They can watch any TV show and get the drift. They can see virtually any movie or read virtually any novel and follow it, but this comic book was unfathomable to them.
Comics-savvy me figures out that whoever the @#&% Strife is, she caused some problems between Diana, now referred to as “the Amazon,” and her mother. Hippolyta, I guess. There is no basis presented for such a guess, but I’ve been reading comics for 56 years. I didn’t read a lot of Wonder Woman along the way, but…I have developed good guessing instincts.
“…split happens,” says Strife. Good line.
There is strife between Diana and Strife. We gather that Diana is protective of Zola, and there is a suggestion that Zola is pregnant. Strife leaves the club with a wounded hand and there is another cutesy quoted caption segue back to Hippolyta and Hera.
Hippolyta has done something to piss Hera off.
With some wonderful dialogue, Azzarello gets the gist across, assuming one has the most rudimentary knowledge of Greek mythology. Zeus, Hera’s husband, impregnated Hippolyta, who bore a daughter. Diana? Maybe? Hera is mad-jealous and vengeful. I guess she just found out about it. Diana appears to be in her twenties, at least.
Hippolyta is actually properly contrite. She brought a giant axe with her when she approached Hera. She gives the axe to Hera! She kneels! The axe was for Hera’s convenience in cutting off her, Hippolyta’s head! Nice twist.
Hippolyta’s Amazons, all of them, against orders, rush to protect their Queen. They stand, bows drawn, to fire at Hera. No evidence of missing right breasts, if anybody was curious.
Hera, by the way, is inexplicably naked, except for her feathered cloak. It’s okay. Something, shadows, the cloak or the axe (it’s a biiig axe) always obscures her naughty bits.
Cutesy quoted caption segue back to Diana and Zola, home from the club, apparently living together. They have a conversation that is unfathomable. New readers, if they hadn’t already pitched this thing into the junk mail/cat hair receptacle do so here.
Even comics savvy people not current with WW, like, oh, say, me, are baffled. Zola talks about her lost home, father in jail, undisclosed mistakes her mother made. And there’s another suggestion that she’s pregnant. Diana says “…the fact that I was created from clay.” Zola responds, “But that’s not a fact anymore.”
Check, please. Taxi.
Later, Diana, wearing what appears enough like the Wonder Woman costume I know so that I’m pretty sure she’s the title character, approaches Hermes, who apparently also lives in the same apartment (or whatever dwelling) as Diana and Zola. WW bears a sword and shield. She trades them for Hermes’ staff.
Now I’m guessing, but I think they’re reasonable guesses that even many new readers might make….
Hermes’ staff enables WW to teleport to Paradise Island.
What motivated that move? Beats me.
There she finds empty Amazon armor and hordes of snakes. If one, even a new reader, were sufficiently engaged at this point to give it a bit of thought, one might guess that all-powerful Hera turned the Amazon warriors threatening her into snakes.
WW says some things we don’t have enough information to understand to her mother, Hippolyta, who is off panel.
Then it is revealed that Hippolyta has been turned (apparently) to stone. By Hera, one would assume.
The art is stylized. I’m okay with that. Chiang, though a little artsy-fartsy, tells the story well enough and the acting is good. I wish more of the artists I’ve had got that much done.
Azzarello is glib and too clever by half. Brian, stop it with the gimmicks, already. Stop trying to be a Writer and start being a writer.
There is no discernible nod to the fact that this thing was published in a serial format.
OPEN MESSAGE TO AZZARELLO AND DC COMICS:
EVERY ISSUE SHOULD BE AN ENTRY POINT!
This one isn’t.
Azzarello, don’t you understand that you’re excluding people? Lots of people?
I know that your editors and their bosses don’t understand that or give a damn. They’re lazy and/or stupid. But you seem like a clever fellow, bright enough. Don’t you want to reach more people? Don’t you want to entertain more people? Don’t you want more of an audience than however many read your previous issues (assuming that those issues explain what the Hell is going on) plus the few remaining steeped-in-comics-lore people who might be able to pick it up on the fly?
Or are you really screwing over the periodicals buyers and writing for the trade paperback buyers. Hey, it worked for Moore on Watchmen. He gave barely a nod to the initial, serialized presentation, and it didn’t sell all that well. But it has done wonderfully well as a collection in various trade formats. Is that what you’re going for?
Here’s the good news. The art is pretty groovy. The writing, despite its various self-indulgent riffs is actually clever in a good way most of the time. There do seem to be some things going on that might bear looking into. How much is this going to cost me? Three previous issues…nine bucks.
NEXT: Wonder Woman #1-4