The gods of ancient Greece are up to their old tricks. Specifically, the “Zeus knocking up human women and Hera going after those women in a rage” tricks. Zola doesn’t even know she’s pregnant until Hermes shows up at her farm with a warning, followed closely by Hera’s centaur thugs. With some assistance from Hermes, Zola escapes and is introduced to Diana, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, who vows to protect her. Wonder Woman sweeps Zola and the wounded Hermes off to the island of the Amazons, where her mother, Hippolyta, reigns as queen. But Hera isn’t done. Furthermore, Hippolyta has been keeping a big secret and the island of the Amazons isn’t as safe as Wonder Woman thinks. Maybe no place is safe, now that other gods, too, are stirring to action.
One of the things most striking about Wonder Woman vol. 1: Blood is its unusual take on the Greek gods. The visuals are creative – Hades in particular looks eerie in a way I’d never seen before – and their roles in the story are just as interesting (expect to be surprised by Apollo). Hera has all the violent jealousy attributed to her by myth and her power manifests in creepy ways, as when she creates the centaurs by beheading two horses and summoning human(ish) torsos to claw their way out of the neck stumps. I also found it interesting to see Strife, a minor goddess, playing an active role as Hera’s daughter.
It’s also great to have a deeper look at Wonder Woman’s own mythos. I come to this New 52 volume as a DC Comics fan, but without much knowledge about their best-known heroine. This volume provides enough background – Wonder Woman’s real name, her origin as an Amazon – to give newcomers a good foundation. The fight scenes show some love to her lariat and indestructible bracelets, too.
It would be hard to discuss a superhero comic with this many female characters without considering how those characters are portrayed compared to, say, the images parodied in the website The Hawkeye Initiative. (This site humorously draws attention to two common, groan-worthy tropes of the style in which female superheroes are often drawn: absurdly impractical scanty costumes and backbreaking “action” poses that are obviously about sex appeal and nothing else.) My friends and I were pleased to observe that the cover of this book defies the latter trope, featuring a female superhero striking an action pose that’s more about action than about showing off her boobs and butt at the same time. The comic does a good job with this between the covers as well. In fact, Wonder Woman has not just fighting stances that make actual sense, but even a body type that suggests real muscles; no waif-fu going on here.
In terms of outfits, though, the comic is absolutely Hawkeye Initiative-worthy. While no actual naughty bits appear, combining the clothing of Hera, Strife, and even Zola into one outfit might still not get you service at your average cafe. (Hera, for instance, wears only a peacock-feather cloak, while Strife is dressed in what appears to be one long, haphazard strip of electrical tape, or possibly a scribble of Sharpie.) Compared with these three, the Amazons, wearing outfits that are basically Wonder Woman’s costume done in leather, appear practically Amish. That said, it’s nice that Wonder Woman herself is drawn in poses – and, for the most part, attire – that put her squarely in the frame of “Amazon warrior princess” rather than “sexpot.”
In addition to the outfits (or lack thereof – okay, I’ll stop), it’s worth noting that there is a sex scene, frank discussion of sex, and more than a little gore. This is especially good to know given that the cover doesn’t really imply any of these things. I can easily see a reader picking up this volume and being startled by some of the content.
This is an engaging story on a mythic scale. Incorporating emotional depth, development of the character’s canon, impressive battle scenes, and a fascinating and threatening version of the Greek pantheon, this volume feels really worthy of Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman, vol. 1: Blood
by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins
DC Comics, 2012