Of all the major characters/series that have transitioned into DC’s New 52 Wonder Woman may be the only one to do so smoothly, and in fact even get better. This was because, well, her series was never that good, or at least not remarkable. Sure, Wonder Woman is iconic, and likeable, and always had the potential to be a great character, but she also always tended to serve as a great foil for other DC characters, especially in the JLA team context. On her own, somehow, she tended to get caught up in more mundane (American) cultural politics, with some writers wanting to pull her into small-time fights defending girls from abusive boyfriends. And while that’s a good cause, Wonder Woman is an epic character, a mythic character, literally, because she’s an Amazon, and the daughter of Hippolyta, an actual character from Greek myths.
What writers and editorial teams did in the New 52 was give Diana a mythic world to operate in. Or, that is, a mythic level in DC Earth. The premise being that, like Thor and Hercules in the Marvel Universe, the ancient Greek gods, and their children, and their demi-god children, and even famous Greek heroes from the Iliad and Odyssey, never left, and in fact still operate/meddle in human affairs. And, as a demi-god herself (daughter of Zeus, it turns out!) Wonder Woman considers herself responsible for protecting the Earth from this meddling.
And although there are some things I don’t like about this neo-Greek myth world, like when men (not ordinary ones, but from Greek myth—but still, men) come onto Themyscira, the Amazon island, and kinda taking over, without the Amazons making too much of a fuss, it’s still at least unexpected, and interesting enough to make me care, especially the inter-office politics between the Amazons.
The overarching story arc of the current collection of issues, War, is that Zeus has disappeared, probably/possibly dead, leaving the rest of the pantheon to fight it out over rule of ‘Heaven’ (everything but the ocean and the underworld, and including Earth). Hera, in somewhat lame plot twist, since she is and could be a powerful character, loses her immortality. Also, Ares, the God of War (here just called War by his siblings) has either become a raging alcoholic, or senile, or both, but has ended up hanging around Wonder Woman’s cohort.
By the time this volume, War, starts, Apollo has stepped up to the throne, allied with Dionysus and Artemis/Moon, though with at least two rival siblings to worry about: the first sibling being Zeus’ first born son, called, simply First Born. I’ve looked into this, and I think he’s an invention by the current creative team and not an actual old-time Greek god, though I might be wrong. In any case, he’s badass enough to take on his uncle, Poseidon, who, along with his brother Hades, seem to be playing everybody.
The kicker is that, before he disappeared, Zeus did what he does best, and had sex with yet another mortal woman, producing a new baby son, and Zeus’ final child is Heaven’s true heir. Or, so says Poseidon. So now a lot of folks want to get their hands on the child, including the First Born, and Apollo, to kill him. Wonder Woman, along with War, Orion (a character from old New Gods series, here kind of reinvented, but with his own mythology and, perhaps, motivations) and some others (including the now mortal Hera) is just trying to protect the child from all these factions.
Wonder Woman as a character has grown, with more depth, and an angry aggro side. She still has the same basic look of blue panties and bustier, and though it looks good as always, and is of course iconic, and has imprinted itself into my brain by now, I wouldn’t complain if she started wearing pants or something a little more dignified, though that’s probably heresy to most fans. Still, by now the bustier is an armored breastplate at least. Artist Cliff Chiang does a good job with the artwork, though I did like Wonder Woman’s incarnations a few volumes back when she was drawn a little more badass—taller, and with bigger guns (her arms I mean—what did you think I was referring to?).
I have a fairly big quibble with writer Brian Azzarello over Orion’s calling Wonder Woman “Legs.” Not even old school Green Arrow could get away with that! It does reveal something about Orion’s character and his arrogance, but I just don’t think Wonder Woman would tolerate that kind of treatment for even a second. I know, the circumstances of the story are such that she may not be able to choose her allies at this point, but that one scene? Where she kisses him in order to distract him so as to get close enough to grab his balls and threaten to rip them off? Wonder Woman wouldn’t do that, sorry. She doesn’t need to. She’s frickin Amazon royalty.
But besides that, the familial power struggle and intrigue make for a great story. And the action on Earth feels ‘worldly,’ taking place in London, with some of the characters having British accents (Mount Olympus I assume is still in Greece). I just like Wonder Woman having her own world and affairs, away from her JLA teammates, but with plenty of her own allies and enemies (and those in-between) to serve as foils for her, instead of her doing it for others.
If you’re interested, and you’re not on board already, you might want to start a volume or two before War, since there are a lot of characters to learn about and keep track of — though Azzarello does a good job balancing the needs of the already-following with the needs of newcomers, without too much exposition, but enough, mostly in dialogue. In any case, if you like this volume, it’ll probably make want to go back to check out earlier ones.
DC’s New 52 may or may not have been necessary, and I suspect it finally drove away a lot of older readers (or maybe just me) but it has opened up opportunities for other characters, notably female ones, like Batgirl, Black Canary and the Birds of Prey ladies, to ‘come into their own’ (depending on who’s writing them). Maybe it’s strange that it took this bigger change in the DC world for Wonder Woman to do so, but, result: success.
P.S. If you’d like a refresher in Greek Mythology in sequential art form, you might check out the interes
ting work (supposedly for children) by George O’Connor, in titles like Hera, Hades, and Zeus. Also, for a classic art/text combo try the D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.