In issue twenty-three of Wonder Woman, Diana had to kill her mentor, the God of War, in order to also slay the First-Born son of Zeus and Hera. By committing murder, she presumably avoided the destruction of Earth and her ramshackle family. It made as much sense as most sacrificial killings do in comics, with the one bonus being that this killing had at least been layered into the thematic fabric of the book from the first issue. See, there's been a prophecy popping up throughout Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman run, stating that a god would be killed by one of Zeus' children. Every Greek god believed this child would then rise to the throne, so Wondie's spent most of Azz's plot scraping together all the other known demi-gods (of which she's one now, thanks to the New 52 reboot), in a bid to protect her new-found brothers and sisters. So it's a fine twist of the knife that after all her efforts, Wonder Woman now finds herself with a new title in a family she's been running from since, again, issue one.
I appreciate Azzarello and company's boldness in turning Wonder Woman from an adventure title to a horror comic, and from issue to issue, I've been entertained by Diana's choices, while flummoxed by some of Azzrello's. Unlike most New 52 books, the art feels distinct and non-exploitative, thanks to Cliff Chiang; there is a clear vision and story driving the plot forward. Consequently, each time I finish a story beat, I feel like something momentous has happened, even when Wondie's only added Orion to her team, a feat you wouldn't think could take twenty-two pages. I'm not sure what more I could ask from a comic coming out of DC's stable right now. And yet ...
And yet I yearn for more from Wonder Woman. Her new job title opens up endless story paths to explore, but in some ways, it feels like the most obvious route to take the character, i.e., she's a warrior, so make her the avatar of War. This is not exactly a knock on Azzarello; he's usually not my cup of tea, and what he did to the Amazons was weirdly unnecessary and brutal, but his work on Diana contains the most clear-headed and inclusive writing I've ever seen from him. While I think making Diana the Goddess of War is a sensible decision, given the book's current trajectory, I find myself longing for the days where superheroes spoke less deftly/conclusively about identity politics. When they could be many things (like in the Silver Age, where anyone could turn into or fall in love with a horse!!!), and playing with the conflicted image at their cores brought about fascinating, bizarre results.
Wonder Woman doesn't make sense to most people. She's a warrior and a diplomat, she's a human being but she's actually been shaped from clay, or she's a demigod; she's a woman but she throws down like a man. "She's too many things," Warner Brothers cries. "It's too hard to deliver all the things she is in a movie that needs to make millions and millions of dollars!" To which I respond, comic books are insane. If you think a guy dressing up like a giant bat because his parents were murdered before his eyes makes sense, then more power to you. But without context and conflict, that idea makes no sense whatsoever, and everyone needs to stop treating Batman like he's a sacred cow without context. He's an image, to be played with; if you didn't understand that by the end of Grant Morrison's run, then go back and read it again. He's only an optimal man because Morrison injects a conflicted image into a completely uncomplicated character. By giving him a biological son, he lightened Bats up, and made always having a plan seem more important. A light Batman is much more dynamic than a dark one, because his gargoyle-like form already telegraphs brooding. Why not bounce that image off a brighter one? Shallow playboy Bruce Wayne may have once performed that function, but given that the millionaire's just as much Bob Kane's wish fulfillment as Batman, then a Robin will always be necessary to provide a heartfelt counterpoint to our tortured hero.
(But enough about Batman. I'm really starting to hate that guy -- or, more to the point, people's insistence that he's cool because modern takes on him are all broody and edgy or whatever. Stop killing Robins and tell me a story with nuanced conflict, darnit! That includes you, Grant Morrison, meta-textual for killing Robin purposes aside.)
Back to Wonder Woman. If she's only one decisive thing, what story is there left to tell? She's a warrior, so now of course, she's the Goddess of War. Not to be all, "Hey, where's the beef?" But seriously where is it? Conflict is generated by two images acting in opposition to one another, and you'd think in a medium as visual as comics, you'd see that happening more often in the superhero genre. Heroes and villains often perform in contrast to one another, but rarely are they viewed as opposite sides of the same coin, outside of lip service given to that very idea. Identity and choosing identity is such a huge swatch of superheroes' DNA, I don't see what's wrong with taking the time to parse out what every facet of a character means, before having them make a choice. It could even lead to some pretty entertaining stories, in my opinion, as well as some awful, well-remembered ones. So, listen up, editorial and WB! Let Wonder Woman be all the things! So when she makes a choice, it'll actually count for something.
Wonder Woman #23: Brian Azzarello, Writer; Cliff Chiang, Art; Matthew Wilson, Colorist; Jared K. Fletcher, Letterer.