Saturday, January 28, 2012

The $10 Million Comic Book

Marc Miyake left comment on "DC’s First Editorial Standards, Marvel Profanity":

Dear Jim,
Will Wonder Woman be in your upcoming post on the essential natures of classic characters? If she isn't, that's okay, because you've spent over a week on her.
I haven't commented lately because I felt completely lost in Aisle WW. An Azzupermarket isn't my kind of place to shop. Items arranged in a cryptic -- or chaotic? -- manner. Signs long on wordplay and short on help. A handful of customers in the store who sneer on simpletons like me who spend an hour looking for juice and leaving empty-handed. Yeah, I really want to go back there again.
Seriously, the last two posts lost me. I thought #1-3 would elucidate #4, but I ended up even more bewildered at Azzmart. I don't feel too bad since your non-comics friends were in the same boat. I've only read one WW comic since John Byrne's run in the 90s. And that issue didn't make much sense either.
What I don't understand is ... DC is part of a mass market entertainment company. Why can't its comics be as accessible as its movies? What if editors treated the New 52 like 52 movies on paper? Why keep producing niche products for the cognoscenti?
I keep hearing the argument that comics can't compete with movies, video games, whatever. So how was Shueisha able to sell over 230 million volumes of One Piece manga so far [as of 2010]; volume 61 set a new record for the highest initial print run of any book in Japan in history with 3.8 million copies (the previous record belonging to volume 60 with 3.4 million copies). Volume 60 is the first book to sell over two million copies in its opening week on Japan's Oricon book rankings. One Piece is currently ranked as the best-selling series of all time in manga history.

It's not as if the Japanese are lacking in entertainment options. Millions are choosing to read black and white manga without all the full-color bells and whistles that are standard in the US. Why? What are they doing right? Or even wrong, in your opinion?
What impresses me about the Japanese is how they manage to keep on coming up with new properties in new genres that are hard to pigeonhole. Calling One Piece a pirate comic makes one think of Pirates of the Caribbean or EC's New Trend Piracy. That label doesn't do One Piece justice. It's set in its own universe. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Piece#Setting>

I saw DEFIANT and Broadway as being in the Japanese genre-bending tradition. Those lines would have become even more diverse over time. If I had to pick one unreleased property to read, it'd be Spire. I'm listening to Ukrainian music at the moment. Fitting.
Why does diversity in comics work over there but not here? Yes, I know there are lots of nonsuperhero comics. I don't think comics will ever die because there will always be Alison Bechdels and the like who will express themselves through the medium. But the core of the industry remains a set of decades-old properties. Very different from the Japanese scene where series come and go and end. One Piece was planned to last five years -- it's lasted almost fifteen so far -- and "the author states, as of July 2007, that the ending will still be the one he had decided on from the beginning and he is committed to seeing it through to the end, no matter how many years it takes."
I've never read One Piece. But I respect creators who think things through. Who have structure in mind. Who know where they're going. That makes me want to invest in an epic. I don't want to deal with improv, with whatever stimuli the creators toss around to distract me while they figure out their next move.

Language and violence are stimuli. They really stir up some part of the audience. Anyone here remember a certain word in the Transformers movie from 1986? Shocking then, nothing now.

As we become accustomed to one level of stimuli, the creators feel they have to amp 'em up. More extreme! Push that button harder! Faster! Brute force is easy. Inspiring thoughts is hard.
But surely somebody among 300 million Americans can do that in comics.
As I read about Wonder Woman #1-4, I kept thinking, is this the best DC can do? Don't Diana and her audience deserve better?


Posted by Marc Miyake to Jim Shooter <http://www.jimshooter.com/> at January 27, 2012 1:45 PM 

ANSWER:

I won't be including Wonder Woman in my post about the essential natures of classic characters because I don't feel I have any special qualifications regarding her. The Marvel characters, yes, Superman, Superboy and the Legion, yes. Magnus, Solar, Turok and Samson, yes.

I have limited experience reading manga, but every manga story I have ever read was readable and had solid entertainment value. Even if the story wasn't about something of particular interest to me, I could see how it would be to the target audience. When the management of the big two and the creators realize what business they're actually in (the entertainment business, in case some of the aforementioned are reading this and wondering) then, maybe the American comics industry will have a chance to survive and thrive.

When Marv and Len used to say "female heros don't sell," or "westerns don't sell," or SF doesn't sell," or whatever, I'd always say "show me a good one."

Ahem....

Briefly, in shorthand....

The American comic book industry started out as a way to reprint syndicated strips and milk extra cash out of existing material. That worked, but comic book publishers quickly used up all the strips available. To keep the ball rolling, publishers commissioned new material, but they didn't want to pay more than they did for reprint rights, so new material was made for low pay under confiscatory rights conditions. No artist or writer wanted to be a comic book creator -- everyone wanted a syndicated strip, where the big money was. Therefore, comic books wound up with second-rate creators who couldn't make it in the big leagues, hacks, the rare significant talent who passed through on his or her way to greater things (Jules Feiffer comes to mind) and the occasional solid craftsman or even genius who arrived in the comic book biz for whatever reason and stuck with it.

Back in the early, big circulation days, publishers got lucky a few times with great properties created despite the lousy compensation and working conditions, creations that struck a chord -- Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel and others.  Mostly super heroes. Comic books had a great advantage with super heroes back when film special effects were limited, and low-res, limited budget TV was best suited to talking heads.

Later, a few more successes came along, also created under adverse conditions for the talent. Spider-Man, the Hulk, Wolverine...you know.

The comic book industry, by and large, from its beginnings has had a schlock mentality, a quick buck mentality. Most publishers thought comic books were a fad that would run its course (Martin Goodman comes to mind). Many were surprised to find themselves still in business years later.

The quickest, easiest way to make a buck in this business since the early days has pretty much always been to stick with the heaviest hitters of the past. But decades of schlock thinking at the top, decades of unguided, misguided or just plain bad creative work has desecrated and distorted some of those characters almost to the point that they are unrecognizable (the current Wonder Woman comes to mind. And did someone say the new Superboy is a robot? What?). Their equity has eroded.

At Marvel, I used to joke about making a comic book with the same budget as a low-budget movie. The $10 million Comic Book, I called it. With the budget to do it right, with the best talent actually doing the job rather than being self-indulgent, actually creating something brilliantly entertaining for millions rather than pandering to the few hard-cores left, I know we could create the next thing to strike a chord. Of course, it wouldn't really take $10 million.  It wouldn't even take a million. The point was that with the budget of a small film we'd have a shot (in truth, many shots) to come up with something that would blow people's minds and sweep the country. The world. 230 million copies sold is not out of reach.

Black and white or not, manga is relatively high budget compared to American comics. Top creators make money like rock stars. The money American top creators make, or ever made in comics does not begin to compare. Even the Image guys at their peak. Monkey Punch once came to visit Marvel. When I told him what we paid artists he was appalled.

So, to me, the answer is intelligent management and serious commitment by a major publisher. The $10 million comic book(s) need not be super hero. They need to be good ones.

Don't hold your breath.

Sounds like the author of One Piece has integrity, something in short supply in the comic book industry here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

DC’s First Editorial Standards, Marvel Profanity


Not Who Are These Guys 

Sorry. It’s taking longer than I thought to put the reference together for that post, which is about the essential natures of classic characters.

Coming soon.


Clean Up on Aisle WW

In my review of New 52 Wonder Woman #1-4, I complained about Wonder Woman head butting a centaur. Seemed to me that would hurt her as much as the centaur. Several commenters insisted that the head butt is a legitimate hand-to-hand (head-to-head?) combat tactic.

I suppose that if you slammed the hardest part of your head into the squishier, more breakable parts of someone else’s, the nose and mouth, for instance, they will be hurt worse than you so I concede the point. But, don’t you just hate it when you get those nasty tooth shards stuck in your forehead?

Anonymous/TKay pointed out that the first page of #3 was in medias res, that is, it was actually the last page. He’s almost right. The second page is the last page, and when I checked it out again, the meaning of Hippolyta’s words, mysterious to me on my readings, became clear.

I am familiar with the technique. I’ve seen movies that used it, though I’m having trouble calling any to mind. I think Angels and Insects did, and if I remember right, I had no trouble with that. TKay said it took him three readings of WW #3 to suss it out. He said that a clue was that Aleka, who had been punched by Wonder Woman, was leaning on another Amazon’s shoulder.
WW 3, Page 1
Honestly, I took that as camaraderie.

Near the end of the book, Wonder Woman hit Aleka hard enough to send blood spewing, but there was no sign of damage to Aleka on page 1, presumably moments later.
WW 3, Page 17
Moreover, the last page shows Wonder Woman, tossing down the torch and striding away from the pyres. Panels before, she vowed she was leaving never to return, and started walking away. On the last page, she’s well on her way—pyres behind her. The final panel shows her a substantial distance away from the pyres and the crowd. Hermes, Zola and Strife are trailing after her, also some distance from the pyres and the crowd.

But on the first page, Hermes, Zola and Strife are in front of the crowd, standing, facing the pyres. Near Aleka, in fact, in what seemed to be the center of the crowd. What did they do, decide to circle back, find a good viewing spot and watch the flames for a while?

The creators do not make it easy to follow along at home.

Most of all, I was so taken aback by Strife, who caused all the deaths, standing there among the mourners, her presence being tolerated by the Amazons, their Queen and Wonder Woman, that I was, what’s a good word…? Distracted.

Still, I probably should have figured out that the scene was in medias res. Sorry.

Other than that, I stand by what I said.

Everyone else is entitled to his or her opinion, too. You like what you like for whatever reasons. If something works for you, it works. Let freedom ring.

However, one other comment does merit a reply: Stuart Moore thought he’d better clue me in that “stories can be told all different ways…”

When have I ever said otherwise?

But whichever way you pick, you have to make it work. I take ‘em one at a time and I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.


DC’s First Editorial Standards, Marvel Profanity

This comment came in:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Wonder Woman #1 – 4, More":
I'd be curious to know Jim's opinion on profanity and so forth in comics. Frank Miller was openly critical of Garth Ennis' Preacher when it came out.
Posted by Anonymous to Jim Shooter at January 24, 2012 11:47 AM 

I replied:

Depends on the comic. When I was at Marvel and our newsstand comics were on spinner racks that touted them as wholesome entertainment for kids, I wouldn't allow profanity. In EPIC Comics, sure. In comics not limited by a commitment to the Comics Code or otherwise, then any non-actionable material is okay by me. Boiled Angel was okay by me, though not the sort of thing I particularly cared to read. Penthouse Comix were okay by me. Freedom of expression is okay by me. I am a supporter of CBLDF. The debate gets a little muddy with characters like Superman and Batman. Their comics were made for and sold to kids for a long time. Does the lingering perception that stories featuring them appeal to children limit them? That has been debated on and off here. I don't know. DC owns those particular characters and will make whatever judgment they see fit. If it were up to me, if I were managing the careers of those characters, I would probably keep them at the prime time broadcast TV level of mature content, and no more. If I were managing the career of Mickey Mouse, I'd keep him squeaky clean.  : )

Apropos of that, these are some things I came across recently:

Here’s the first anti-profanity memo I wrote at Marvel.
I sent several more such memos along the way after that. Some were a little more elaborate, but the drift was the same: no profanity in newsstand books and I wanted to be in the loop if someone planned to use hells or damns in, say, an all-direct book.

I never wrote a “guidelines” memo for Marvel Creators. I didn’t have to. The editors knew my feelings about staying within the same limits as broadcast, prime time TV in all our color comics, and unlike today’s editors, they actually exerted some governance over the books in their care. (As little as possible, mind you. My goal, and most of them agreed, was to encourage creators who had vision and some chops to do their thing and provide training and help those who needed it. But, I digress….)

My memos and directives about content weren’t meant for EPIC material. Archie knew what he was doing and didn’t need me honking at him. I think Archie drew the line at anything that would cause his books to be pulled off the stands and sold from behind the counter.


NEXT:  Made to Order

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wonder Woman #1 – 4, More


Later, on the beach, the Amazons burn their dead, or the first batch, anyway. It’s night. Many surviving Amazons look on. So does Zola. Hermes. Wonder Woman.

And Strife!

Strife?!

She’s human size now—she was gigantic, before, during the massacre—and she’s hangin’ out with the crowd to watch the funeral pyres burn.

What?!

She caused all these deaths!

Is it me? Or is it friggin’ inexplicable why she’s standing right there and no one who is watching the flames consume the body of their sister, mother, daughter, friend or comrade is doing anything?! Not any of the mighty Amazon warriors, not Queen Hippolyta…

…and not Wonder Woman!
You might say what can they do? She’s a god!

Well, seems to me I just saw a single arrow do some serious damage to her fellow-god Hermes.

Maybe that was a special, magical arrow, pooped by Hera herself. But, if so, nobody let me know. There is so much the creators of this thing don’t let you know. But, it doesn’t matter. If one of those burning corpses was my sister, I sure as hell would plant an arrow or two in that Strife bitch, consequences be damned.

And I’m not a mighty warrior. I’m a peaceful guy. But I’d be an enraged berserker right about then.

And I cannot believe that Wonder Woman, the Wonder Woman I know, who is noble and surpassingly courageous, would be deterred from action by any odds.

This is someone wearing a costume somewhat reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s. This cannot be Wonder Woman.

The real Wonder Woman kicks Strife’s heinous ass and brings her to justice. Or dies in the attempt. And don’t bet on her dying.

But, this impostor and her fellow Amazons seem to have a pretty laid back attitude about the massacre.

Dialogue for the Amazons I wish to contribute:

“Boy, Strife sure fooled us!”

“Yep, we were killing each other!”

“Because of her. But technically, she didn’t actually kill anyone.”

“Nope, it was all our fault. Silly us.”

“The gods are always pranking us, those scamps! But, that’s the way it goes.”

“You’re right. I’m a little miffed, but…hey, do you think her dress is made of electrical tape?”

Alone, on her knees in the city square, Hippolyta laments: “Diana…my child…I will spend a lifetime…to take back this day.”

What? She’s sad, I get that, but…what the hell does that mean? I don’t know.

The next day. More funeral pyres are being built.

Aleka blames WW-impostor for the many Amazon dead. She’s the one who brought the “musk,” Hermes, and the mortal, Zola, to Paradise Island.

What exactly do the musk and the mortal have to do with the massacre? And how is it WW-impostor’s fault?

Hmm….

Well, I suppose WW-impostor thought that Paradise Island would be a good place to hide Zola from Hera, and a good place for Hermes to recuperate. So…I guess…if it wasn’t for the musk and the mortal, WW-impostor wouldn’t have come home, and therefore, Strife might have gone to London for her stated purpose: “…to embrace my little sister.” Therefore, Strife’s explosive arrival and the ensuing massacre are little sister WW-impostor’s fault. Sort of. You think that’s what dimbulb Aleka meant?

I think Aleka is just annoyed by the fact that WW-impostor bested her with effortless ease three times by my count.

Aleka calls WW-impostor “Clay.”

Strife, who is gigantic again, is lounging on the beach where more funeral pyres are being built and bunches more bodies are being gathered for burning. Being gigantic is apparently a thing Strife can do, and Wikipedia confirms that Eris/Strife “…is only a little thing at first, but thereafter strides on the earth with her head striking heaven.” Strife laughs at WW-impostor being called Clay.

Aleka and other Amazons whine a little to Strife about causing the slaughter and now, mocking them. They whine. That’s all.
Looming Strife, quick with the quips, laughs at them and makes a snarky reply.

Pause.

I keep wondering about Paradise Island. Per Hera: “That cockless coop, improperly named….” Good line! Paradise Island is populated only by women, the Amazons. The Amazons live as if in ancient Greek times. They practice combat a lot. They are in constant preparation for war. With swords, bows, spears, axes, etc.

War against whom?!

Couldn’t one B-2 erase Paradise Island easily? Couldn’t a SEAL team with a Marine amphibious assault force behind them wipe out these classical age woman warriors without breaking a sweat? Who are they training to fight? Jason and the Argonauts?

Another thing: WW-impostor’s alleged creation from clay seems to be a one-off, so presumably they need male input in one way or another to make more Amazons….

…but males are “musk,” which is despised.

Okay. Can’t wait to find out how making new little Amazons works. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for the info.

We are expected to simply accept whatever we are shown about Paradise Island. I guess anything we’re not shown is none of our business.

Anyway….

Later, in Amazon Town, WW-impostor chats with still-giant Strife. It’s all cool. Polite. Friendly enough.

At first. Then, WW-impostor, Hermes, Zola and Strife get into some strife about how people can be cruel. Like, oh, say, Strife.

Strife reveals that daddy Zeus, when drunk once, let her in on the fact that he was WW-impostor’s father.

Hippolyta and entourage show up. Hippolyta admits that she had a tryst with Zeus, got pregnant and bore WW-impostor. She made up a story about WW-impostor being made from clay and animated by the gods as part of a cover up to keep Hera from finding out.
WW-impostor is shocked and angry. I’m not quite sure why. Her thought process, I suppose, goes like this: “Let’s see…my father was the king of the gods, I was conceived and born in the normal way, and I’m not actually a glob of clay brought to life. My mother and some co-conspirators lied to me about the whole deal. Made from clay. That seemed reasonable. I bought it. But it’s a lie! I’m so upset.”

Anyway….

WW-impostor is angry and storms away.
She smashes a lot of trees and stuff on the way to the beach. Comic book characters who are angry or upset usually smash stuff. Crushing bricks is popular. It was cool the first time Stan and Steve’s Spider-Man did it.

It’s dark by now.

On the beach, Aleka and a horde of Amazons who have, one would guess, spent the day building pyres and stacking corpses on them see WW-impostor arriving.

Why is she going to the beach? Is she going to swim to London?

Aleka accuses WW-impostor of bringing shame to their island. WW-impostor slugs her. Fourth time she’s humbled Aleka, the big, stupid, punching-bag chump who never learns.

WW-impostor ignites the funeral pyres by blowing flames from a torch to all the pyres with super-breath like Superman of the 1960’s.

She says, “The only shame on this island is mine.” She’s leaving and never coming back, taking the shame with her, as it were. And she is no longer “Diana,” the oddly Roman name Hippolyta gave her, nor is she “Clay,” because she wasn’t/isn’t—she is Wonder Woman, she says. There is significance to this pronouncement that escapes me.

At some unspecified time, Bright-eyes strides through a stupidly unlikely firefight in Darfur, unconcerned, apparently unnoticed by the combatants. He enters a stupidly unlikely bar. The only living being there is an elderly guy called “War.” At some point earlier, I forget where, Ares was mentioned, and in the same balloon, called War. So, it’s Ares, or War. A god.

Makes sense, I suppose, that Bright-eyes would find War hanging around in Darfur. Drinking heavily. I guess presiding over humans slaughtering each other troubles even War. Bright-eyes and War talk.
Cut to a nightclub in London. WW-impostor is there, in civvies, listening to the band with a seltzer and grapefruit juice in hand. She looks, grim, serious.

Hermes and Zola are there, too. Oh, my gods, Strife is also there!
Why not? On Paradise Island, this pithless pretender, WW-impostor, was willing to hang around and chat with Strife, who was responsible for the deaths of many Amazons. Why not go clubbing with her?

No one notices that Hermes is blue, or has bird feet. No one in this comic book would notice winged monkeys flying out of his butt. Strife is flesh-colored in the first panel of this sequence, thereafter, for a while, she’s blue. No one notices. No one would notice flaming hippos leaping out of her nose.

WW-impostor is cold and snotty to Strife. Well, that’s a step in the right direction. Strife is unctuously snide. WW-impostor is annoyed.
Cut to Paradise Island. There’s a nasty storm going on. Hippolyta knows what it means. Hera has come.

Pause.

Let me get this straight. Hippolyta knew that Hera was somehow aware—nobody told me how—that Zola and the embryo she carries were on Paradise Island. She didn’t think it was worth mentioning to WW-impostor or anyone except Dessa, Hippolyta’s assistant. She didn’t say, “Hey, you know, Diana, it really isn’t safe here, why don’t you give your buddy Batman a ring and see if you can hang out in the Batcave for a while. Maybe that nice Green Lantern fellow will whip up a cloaking thingamadoodle to keep you from being scryed upon.”

No one wondered why Strife, Hera’s legitimate daughter, just happened to turn up when she did. And wouldn’t it at least occur to someone that she might have her mother’s interests at heart?

Nah.

Momma Hera heard Strife’s revelation about WW-impostor being Zeus’s bastard child over the scryer! I wonder if Hera is pissed that Strife had been withholding that tidbit of information from her?

If so, it’s not mentioned.

Strife is aware that Hera is tuned in, but either confident that mommy won’t spank her or willing to risk it for some reason.

And why did Strife bring it up when she did? She likes to cause trouble, yes, got it. But, presumably she’d known this info for a while. Why then, at that particular moment? Maybe there’s a reason.

There’s probably a reason.

There are very few reasons set forth for anything in this book.

We readers will probably never know why Strife felt that was just the right time to play that card. It came at a good time for the creators to stir their little stew pot, though. That’s the reason, I bet.

Again, I marvel at the fact that scryer-equipped Hera knows only what the creators need her to know. She found out about Zola. But not WW-impostor. Surely she knew of Hippolyta and her daughter. Did she buy the made-of-clay story? Did it ever occur to her to wonder just which gods animated the clay baby? Can they even do that?

Everyone in this book knows only what the creators need them to know. WW-impostor and even Hermes apparently don’t know Hera can scry. Or else they’d be in the Batcave under a glowing, green cloaking thingamadoodle.

They know Hera has ways of finding things out, like about Zeus knocking up some skinny girl in rural Virginia. How do they suppose Hera did that?

They don’t suppose. Nobody in this book thinks. They just dance when the creators pull their strings.

Anyway….

Hera takes a big axe and goes out in the rain to confront Hera. Hera is wearing only her peacock feather cape again. Uh-oh.

Back to the nightclub in London.

WW-impostor continues being cold to Strife. The subject of Hera comes up. Strife puts her hand on Zola’s tummy and makes a remark about extracting “it,” the child in the making. She’s kidding, I think. Maybe.

WW-impostor takes it seriously enough to pin Strife’s offending hand to a table using a jagged, broken champagne flute.

Looks like I was right that arrows could have done her some damage. Strife leaves bleeding and in a snit.
Back to Paradise Island. Hera is furious with Hippolyta. Hippolyta gives Hera the axe. She brought it for Hera to use to cut her, Hippolyta’s head off.

The Amazons come to the defense of their Queen.
Oh, so now they’re ready to try firing some arrows at a god.

Hera relents a little. She decides not to cut Hippolyta’s head off. But….
Back to London, in WW-impostor’s home, Zola and WW-impostor talk about their troubles. Zola can’t go home again. WW-impostor can’t let her. Because of Hera? I guess WW-impostor thinks it’s safer here in London, out clubbing with gods, including Hera’s legitimate daughter who she has just royally pissed off. Then again, WW-impostor thought Paradise Island would be safe. Not so much, as it turns out, but WW-impostor doesn’t know that yet.

Talk of home and family makes WW-impostor decide to go back to Paradise Island. Right now.
Remember, the big, emotional exit, taking with her “the shame?”

Guess it wasn’t that big a deal after all.

False drama. Never mind.

She trades Hermes her sword and shield for his kerykeion, the staff with the snakes thing. He didn’t have it with him when we first saw him, he didn’t have it when he was brought to the Paradise Island, but later, there it was, conveniently serving as a crutch. Oh, these gods are tricky.

The kerykeion works like the key Hermes gave Zola. It teleports WW-impostor back to Paradise Island.

Hera has, apparently, turned Hippolyta to stone and all the Amazons to snakes. WW-impostor apologizes to her stone mother for leaving in a huff. No reaction whatsoever to the Amazons’ being snaked or Mom’s being stoned.
In Darfur, Bright-eyes and War finish their chat. Either it was a looong chat or the creators arbitrarily broke it in two and stuck it at either end of the rest of the stuff.
Despite his ad hoc oracles’ warning that there is trouble ahead that will not end “good” for him, Bright-eyes is apparently interested in trying to usurp his father’s throne. War doesn’t want to be a player. He’ll “sit this one out.”

That’s it for #1 – 4.


Conclusions

Well, I made it through all four and didn’t throw any of them away in disgust, so there’s that.

I think I nailed it yesterday. I said,”…the creators are going for “moments” rather than story, sound and fury rather than substance…and some puerile titillation.”

They succeed pretty well at those things. Nice moments and clever bits happen along regularly. The occasional good line is said. Intense emotions, battles, and drama abound. Then there’s the T&A. It’s not too over the top, though.

The art is appealing and usually conveys information well, including subtleties. When it doesn’t show something clearly, it seems to be unwisely on purpose.

However….

This collection of events makes no sense. The behavior of the characters makes no sense. Very little justification of anything is offered, not that the events and the behavior of the characters could be justified.

And it’s not Wonder Woman. Carol A. Strickland likened it to Xena. Not a bad call, but Xena: Warrior Princess makes a lot more sense.

I don’t like New 52 Wonder Woman, the comic book. The moments and such aren’t enough to overcome the irrationality and occasional stupidity of the characters and the ill-conceived, logic-free situations they muddle through.

And of course, creators Azzarello and Chiang make not the slightest nod to the fact that this collection of events is being published in a periodical format. Issues just start right into the latest batch of events.
I tried that myself today. Anybody notice? I just picked up the review from where I left it and pressed on.

If anyone tunes in to this blog for the first time today, I wonder if they’ll be confused. Think they’ll have the patience to check out previous posts?


NEXT: Who Are These Guys?

No, not Azzarello and Chiang

Sunday, January 22, 2012

WONDER WOMAN #1 - 4

Here I sit, drinking seltzer and grapefruit juice out of my classic Wonder Woman Toon Tumbler. How perfect.

An Interesting Analysis 


This comment came in, thank you, Ms. Carol A. Strickland.  She has interesting things to say. I recommend checking out her views on the New 52 WonderWoman.

Carol A. Strickland has left a new comment on your post "WONDER WOMAN #4 – A Review":

I didn't look at the book as an individual work. I've been following Wonder Woman for about as long as I can remember. I've been looking for her since issue #600, but she hasn't shown her face except in a 90s RetroActive issue.

This is not Wonder Woman; nor is it an engaging story. From what I've been able to gather, DC is publishing "(Xena and) THE NEW OLYMPIANS." Certainly in the past couple years DC has done its darnedest to strip any of the specialness from its number-one heroine, the lady whose licensing makes them so much money.

I discussed the reboot on my blog: http://carolastrickland.blogspot.com/2012/01/illusory-wonder-woman.html
Posted by Carol A. Strickland to Jim Shooter at January 19, 2012 11:37 AM 
I did not read her analysis until after I completed my own.




Start at the Beginning


Jeremy had this to say:
Jeremy has left a new comment on your post "WONDER WOMAN #4 – A Review":

I disagree vehemently with "Every issue should be an entry point". I would never recommend jumping into a story in the middle of its tenure. Its like watching a random new episode of The Wire, and then whining about being confused about the plot and the characters. Well no shit, buddy! Those episodes and these issues are all part of the same story. You want to properly enjoy it, you start at the beginning.

Personally, I'm sick of the constant need for "jumping on points". You start at the beginning of the story, whether it be a new #1 or issue #678 like today's Amazing Spider-Man. That's it. I don't want to go back to the Shooter era where EVERY SINGLE ISSUE the characters have to re-introduce themselves through captions, thought bubbles, and clumsy expositional dialog. Every damn issue of Claremont's X-men he has to introduce the characters AGAIN, explain their powers AGAIN, etc. It's tiring.

Marvel has a "Previously on..." page in the beginning, and that's about as far as I want it to go.

Posted by Jeremy to Jim Shooter at January 18, 2012 5:31 PM 

Regarding “It’s tiring,” my answer was “I never told anyone to do it badly.”

But, okay, fair enough. The story has only been running for four issues. Nine more bucks bought me #1-3, and now I have the entire run to date—as of the day I got the books, anyway. I understand that #5 came out Wednesday.
So, from the beginning….

The story starts in Singapore, at night, with a long shot of the city. Green captions seem to have someone’s dialogue in them. A reply comes in a black caption.

Three beautiful young women are on a high terrace of what is probably a hotel. With them is a man in a three-piece suit. His skin is black, really black, with grayish purple areas I take to be highlights. No eyeballs has he, but a glow comes from where they ought to be. His mouth glows too. The young women apparently do not notice anything unusual about the guy. By the way, much later, we will see that he isn’t wearing shoes or socks with his three-piece, an interesting sartorial choice. The women apparently didn’t notice that either, or were cool with it.

What?

So…there’ll be some payoff, some aha! revelation later of why three women find the black-black, glowing eyes, glowing mouth, barefoot guy unremarkable, right?

Nah.

Anyway….

The conversation begun in the green and black captions continues, so anyone paying reasonable attention might possibly guess that the green captions belonged to one of the young women and the black caption belonged to Bright-eyes.

Bright-eyes says he’s the “…sun of a king.”

A commenter clued me in to the fact that Bright-eyes is Apollo, the sun god, which I did not gather from reading issue #4 earlier.

That being the case, I forgive the pun. It’s the kind of lame-o, little private drollery to amuse oneself that someone might actually say if one happened to be a sun god, child of god-king Zeus. Come on, how many failed witticisms, bad jokes and lame puns a day do you make?

I do my best to pretend I don’t know Bright-eyes is Apollo and focus on only what’s here, what’s presented.

Bright-eyes talks a little about the family, his philandering father, his father’s jealous wife (who obviously is not his mother). His dad is “missing,” by the way.

Glowing eyes and mouth, sun-pun, Lothario-like father, jealous wife-of-father, the fact that the book is about an Amazon, therefore linked to Greek mythology—pretty much everybody knows Wonder Woman is an Amazon, right?—and, well, maybe I would have figured out that Bright-eyes is Apollo. Maybe. The black-black skin seems un-sunny. Puzzling.

The whole thing is puzzling. How does this weird-looking guy get the three beautiful young women up to his hotel room? My wanting to know that has nothing to do with the fact that I am a weird-looking guy.

Comic book readers have been conditioned to accept the damndest things. It’s just easier to shrug and get on with the show than it is to ponder such madness. So many of us cheerfully accept so many things that are absurd on the face of them that writers don’t even bother to give logic-seekers a hook to hang their hats on.

Am I the only one who cares about such things?

Bright-eyes lays hands upon the young women, whose eyes roll up. They float into the air, apparently, or he picks them up somehow, evidenced by their feet being off the deck, their chic pumps—at least one pair of intriguing sandal toes, for interested parties—gracefully falling away.
The young women’s champagne glasses are dropped over the railing. Look out below.
Cut to a barn in Virginia.

Wait a minute! What happened to the women with the groovy shoes?

Dunno. I wade on.

A mysterious figure, apparently female, wearing a peacock-feather cloak and hood, enters the barn. Glowy-lines might indicate that she just teleported in. Whatever.

There are two horses in the barn (that are shown).

I’m guessing here, but apparently a bunch of weapons that were hidden under the female figure’s cloak fall out, or she poops them. I’m ready to believe anything at this point.

She does something I take to be magical to a scythe she finds in the barn. Why she didn’t just use one of the bladed instruments that came from under her cape rather than doctor up a rusty old one that happened to be there, I don’t know. She kills both of the horses seen. Chops their horsey heads off.

Don’t know what happens to feather-cape woman. But from one of the headless horse’s necks, human hands and arms push up out of the bloody mangled horseflesh. Then, what might be a human head pushes out. What? There’s a person inside the dead horse? I am completely at sea, here. I have no idea what’s going on.

Cut to an exterior shot of a house. Is that the barn from the previous scene in the background? Looks like it might be.

Inside the house (apparently) a guy who is flesh-colored in the first panel then blue thereafter, with a WWI U.S. Army helmet, bird feet, little wings on his bird-ankles and bizarre, inhuman eyes is facing off with a young woman holding a pump-action, 16-gauge (I’m guessing) shotgun. Three rounds, assuming a magazine plug, probably five if not. But, I digress….

Bird-foot is warning her—her name is Zola—that someone is coming to kill her. She demands that he leave. She has no discernible reaction to his bird-feet, etc.

Sigh.
Centaurs (!) attack. A white horse-body one and a black or grey horse-body one.

Hmm, two centaurs, two horses butchered in the barn…. I flip back to the barn sequence and note that one of the murdered horses is white and one is black or grey. It takes me a minute—maybe I’m dense, but I finally put it together that these are those horses and the human head and arms pushing out from one of their necks was supposed to an indication that the murdered horses were transforming into centaurs. Chopping a horse’s head off, the horse growing a human upper body and becoming a centaur is a new one to me, sorry. Hey, I’m still struggling with the concept of Comet the Super Horse. And I wrote dialogue for him.

It seems that the centaurs took time to clean up a little before attacking. There’s no sign of any blood or gore. They wouldn’t want to be tracking that stuff in the house, I suppose.

The centaurs bear the weapons that feather cape woman pooped.

Bird-foot is impaled by an arrow fired by a centaur.

He flips Zola a key that teleports her away just before a blade swung by a centaur would have killed her.

She winds up in some woman’s bedroom in London. The woman is in bed, asleep.

Snoozy-Q wakes up in the last panel of page ten. On page eleven she bolts up and grabs Zola by the neck and hoists her off the floor, demonstrating considerable strength. Snoozy-Q quickly determines that this intruder is no threat and lets go.

Snoozy-Q apparently recognizes the key and apparently knows what it does.

Pause.

So, the key, one would think, would lend some credibility to Zola’s babbled tale of monsters trying to kill her. One would think Snoozy-Q would want to hear more, right now about the danger so great that the “man,” Zola mentions “threw” her the key to get her the Hades out of wherever she was (and send her directly to Snoozy-Q). One would think that Zola might mention that the man took an arrow in the gut. One would think that one of them, at least, would be worried about the man who, one might reasonably suspect, is still trapped back there with the monsters.

Nah.

Snoozy-Q gets dressed. She takes her time. One would think there’d be some urgency.

Nah.

We get two relatively mild tease-y, cheesecake-y panels. Ultimately, Snoozy-Q is revealed as, ta-da!—WONDER WOMAN…!

…though she insists her name is Diana.

So the title character makes her first appearance on page ten, asleep, unclothed, or mostly so. On page thirteen (!) she’s finally dressed as the title character.

WW asks for the key. We don’t know what her plan is. But it’s moot. Zola somehow, suddenly knows how to work the teleportation key and transports herself and Wonder Woman back to her home in rural Virginia. Near Culpeper, I hope. I like Culpeper.

The centaurs attack Wonder Woman and chase Zola, intent upon killing her. Wonder Woman, with both arms free, chooses to slam her head into one of the centaur’s heads. The centaur is disabled, at least for a while. WW is fine.
Go ahead, try this at home. Find someone stupid and bang heads with them. See how you both feel. That trick only works on TV, in the movies, and in this logic-challenged comic book. Is WW so impervious to harm that she would be unaffected by a wicked head impact? Maybe. But, only a moment earlier, she was desperately (judging from her expression) dodging the horsey-man’s hooves. So, she can’t be all that damage-proof.

Maybe WW has a new power I don’t know about—super-hard-headedness.

Anyway….

Wonder Woman saves Zola from the centaurs. They flee, one missing an arm.

Pause.

Now there are two centaurs roaming around Culpeper County, one frantically seeking a veterinarian. It’s okay. No veterinarian in this comic book will find centaurs at all unusual.

During the course of the battle, Wonder Woman proves that she is fast, agile, able to block incoming arrows with her bracelets, extremely hard-headed and strong enough/skilled enough to throw a sword a great distance to slice off a centaur’s arm.

And she carries a lasso! My, God, if she were wearing sandal toe pumps, I’d be in love!

Ahem.

Just kidding.

But, honestly, I can’t help thinking that the creators are going for “moments” rather than story, sound and fury rather than substance…and some puerile titillation.

Why is Zola running around in panties, a teddy and a plaid shirt?

My quick calculations say that if it’s just before dawn in Singapore (which it turns out to be), it’s 5-6 PM in Culpeper, and, oh, by the way, 10-11 PM in London (though if you look closely at Big Ben it’s either 12:05 AM or 1:00 AM). Wonder Woman goes to bed early, I guess. Probably some Amazon custom.

But, Zola is rather underdressed for late afternoon, don’t you think?

Anyway….

As the battle unfolds, green captions with someone’s dialogue in them and black captions with someone else’s appear. If you remember the green and black captions from page one and the first panel of page two, you might say, aha! It’s the young women and Bright-eyes talking in these captions! Right here in Culpeper County, all the way from Singapore!

I didn’t remember right away, but I sussed it out halfway through. Then I went back and reread all of the captions. The young women, apparently, have become oracles. I guess that happened when their eyes rolled up and they lost their pumps.

The oracles’ captions say a lot of cryptic stuff. “There is a storm gathering.” Uh-huh. It’s so vague that it doesn’t really serve as much of a tease, for me at least. The only intriguing thing the oracles have to say is that whatever trouble’s coming won’t end “good” for Bright-eyes.

Cutting back to Singapore for a panel or two at the beginning of this captions-over bit, showing the beginning of the oracles’ prophesying live, and then playing out the rest in captions over the battle scene would have avoided some confusion. But, avoiding confusion seems pretty low on the creators’ priority list.

Anyway….

Zola has run some distance away. Wonder Woman retrieves her by lassoing her and yanking her back. Zola flies an estimated 40 feet, reaching an estimated maximum altitude of 10-12 feet, landing hard on the ground in front of WW.
Do not try this at home.

But Zola is fine. Not so much as an “ouch.” No crying she makes.

Bird-foot staggers out of the badly battered house. He calls Wonder Woman “Amazon.” He says, “Take the girl and run to the ends of the Earth. Protect her… Or the Queen will see her dead.”

All righty, then. Feather cape woman must be the Queen, or her agent. Queeny is out to get Zola for some reason. Bird-foot wants to help Zola and presumes Wonder Woman will too. And she did, albeit largely in self-defense.

Wonder Woman calls Bird-foot “Hermes.” Hermes? With bird feet? Anyway, she knows the guy.

We saw Hermes take an arrow to the gut, but now his right bird-foot is damaged as well. Injury inflicted by the centaurs while Wonder Woman was languorously dressing? We’ll never know.

Hermes pulls the arrow out, its point trailing strands of tissue, covered with blood and red lumpy stuff. God guts. Yuck.

The following exchange occurs:

Hermes: “What did they do to me?”

Wonder Woman: “The impossible.”

Hermes: “Heh… That must have gone the way of the pantheon.”

I have no idea what that means. Do you?

There are a number of exchanges every once in a while in this story that baffle me….

Turns out that Zola is pregnant by Zeus, who was (presumably) previously alluded to by Bright-eyes on page two: “My father…gets around. Pisses his wife off to no end.”

If there was any doubt about who Hermes meant by “the Queen,” for sure, now, it’s Hera. Hera, famously jealous and vengeful. The attack on Zola was obviously motivated by Hera’s being pissed off at her and Hera’s hatred for the embryo Zola carries that is the product of her husband’s loins.

Hmmm….

What is it about this girl Zola that inspired the King of the Gods to have a fling with her? Am I wrong, or isn’t Zeus generally depicted pursuing only the most beautiful of mortal women, when he stooped to slumming among mortals? Zola doesn’t seem to me to fit the profile. She’s no Halle Berry.

So…there’ll be some payoff, some aha! revelation later of why Zeus chose Zola, right?

Not gonna hold my breath waiting….

Cut back to Singapore.

More unfathomable, cryptic prophecy from the floating, now sadly bereft-of-footwear young women. It makes a little more sense now that we’re clued in for sure that Bright-eye’s dad is Zeus. It’s still abstruse.

The sun is rising.

Bright-eyes incinerates the young women—no reason offered—and their blazing bones tumble down from the terrace. Look out below.

We meet Hera, the peacock feather-caped woman. Looks like my type, except for the slaughtering horses, murdering people thing. I mean, she’s obviously a little more mature than the standard comic book woman, but what a nice figure. I wonder if she has a lasso?! Or sandal toe pumps?!

She does a dressing scene reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s dressing scene. I guess nude with a cape is only for when she’s really out for blood. We also meet a blue-ish purple woman who calls Hera “mother,” and, in her conversation with Hera it is revealed that Hera’s husband, Zeus, is her father. A legitimate child.
Hera has a scrying pool. She knows that Wonder Woman has taken Zola and Hermes to Paradise Island, home of the Amazons.

The Amazons aren’t happy about a male being, Hermes, being on their all-women island, but, they accept it because Wonder Woman is their Princess, daughter of their Queen, Hippolyta.

So, Wonder Woman and mom hang out watching, along with many of Hippolyta’s subjects, a couple of Amazons wrestling. Well, they’re Amazons. I didn’t expect a sewing bee.

Wonder Woman has decided to protect Zola. She’s not siding with the philandering Zeus, she just feels bad for poor Zola, caught in the middle between Zeus and murderously jealous Hera.

Zola and the convalescing Hermes hang out in quarters overlooking the outdoor arena where the wrestling is going on. Zola tells Hermes that Zeus came to her as a truck driver…or a pool hustler…or a guy in a band…. Zola, like Zeus, gets around.
Hermes tells Zola the legend of Wonder Woman’s birth. Barren Hippolyta made a girl baby (of course) out of clay and “the gods” brought the clay-baby to life.

Meanwhile, a huge Amazon, Aleka, challenges Wonder Woman to a sporting combat. Aleka is armed with a sword and seems to be going for maiming or the kill. WW is armed with a staff and wins, fairly easily, it seems.

Meanwhile, an Amazon named Dessa asks Hippolyta why she seems troubled. Hippolyta tells her that she’s feeling fear. She knows that Hera knows (apparently she’s heard about that scrying pool) that Zola (and Zeus’s bastard in her womb) are on Paradise Island. Uh-oh.

That’s a cue. I hate cutesy cues.

Booom!

The bluish-purple woman who was talking with Hera earlier has arrived with a booom. As before, she is wearing what appears to be electrical tape.

The Amazons rush to defend their island from whatever caused the booom.

Bluish-electrical-tape woman makes the Amazons see each other as enemies. They ignore her and slaughter each other. Wonder Woman is immune to, or sees through Bluish-electrical tape’s ploy. She stops the slaughter, easily handling Aleka again.

Wonder Woman identifies Bluish-electrical-tape woman as the goddess “Strife.” Somebody clued me in to the fact that “Strife” was Greek goddess Eris, and I looked her up. “Strife” is a reasonably accurate presentation of Eris. But, forget that, let me just deal with what’s in front of me.
Strife informs WW that she’s come to Paris Island to embrace her “sister,” i.e., another daughter of Zeus’s, Wonder Woman.

Huh?

Hera, watching in her scrying pool notes this revelation.

What?

If I were a jealous spouse, if I had a scrying pool, wouldn’t I pretty well know all the dirt?

Hmmph.

MORE TOMORROW

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WONDER WOMAN #4 – A Review

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.)

Anyway….

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 Cover

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.



The Interior

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.”

Good grief.
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.”
Good grief.

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 end.

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?

Really?
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.

Sigh.

Okay.

NEXT: Wonder Woman #1-4