It's hard to imagine a more grounded superhero story than Azzarello's Wonder Woman, but the danger of the fanboy-moment with reintroducing Jack Kirby's New Gods might prove a challenge…
Wonder Woman #16Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang
Publication Date: 2013-03
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman has been a stunning read since issue one. Keeping the title isolated from the rest of DC's New 52 has provided Azzarello with an avenue to really do Wonder Woman justice. And this has paid off in big ways both critically and commercially. Diana has been enlisting her half-siblings from around the world in her quest to save her newest half-sister, Zola’s child, who was kidnapped by the group of Olympians bent on keeping their power and making sure the prophecy of their doom doesn’t come to fruition.
Last month’s Wonder Woman #15 introduced Orion -- formerly of the New Gods, now of who-knows-yet -- as well as another of Diana’s siblings, Milan, a seer with schizophrenia based on real-life avant garde musician Wesley Willis. And just like Willis, Milan very much dislikes anger and violence. In an ongoing theme for Wonder Woman, Diana again shows her compassionate side while dealing with the mentally anguished Milan who simply wants to be at peace with his inner demons as well as the external animosity between Wonder Woman and Orion. In a way, they both stop simply because Milan is the means to attain the information they both need: the location of Zola’s child. For Diana, it means being one step closer to fulfilling her promise to Zola. For Orion, it potentially means preemptively halting the destruction of the universe. It’s Diana that kneels down to lend a hand to her brother, a man in constant pain because of his amazing gift, a gift both parties are reluctantly eager to exploit.
One of the best elements of Azzarello’s Wonder Woman has been the level of ethical ambiguity that’s come with his reinterpretation of the Amazons, the Greek gods, and Diana herself. It seems to be a common thread between Zeus’ illicit children that their gifts are also great curses upon their lives. Milan’s is that he sees everything. Many a college student has been strung out on psychedelics and claimed to have seen everything all at once, and most will say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Milan’s “gift” gives him the ability to see more in an instant than a human brain should be able to handle, and he deals with it everyday of his very long life. Milan is just the means to an end, no matter how much Diana or Orion care for him. But, when dealing with gods and the end of all things, sometimes you’ve got to cross the line and get a little dirty.
Zola and Hera’s adventures in humanity bring a whole lot of fun to Wonder Woman #16. The girls are out for a drink because what else do you do when you’re waiting for a group of demigods to save a baby from a group of Olympian gods in what could result in an all-out war? Zola’s got her Jack n’ Coke all ordered up while newly mortal Hera takes her sweet time perusing the menu, fawning over the variety of choices that exist beyond the wine they served exclusively on Mt. Olympus. Though their sequences are short, the dialogue between Zola, Hera, and third wheel Ares is some of the most enjoyable to read. While Zola started out as the damsel in distress just waiting around to be captured/saved/traded, she’s really come into her own as a quick-witted juxtaposition to the heavy-handedness of the affairs of gods.
Wonder Woman #16 continues to pave the way for the return of Jack Kirby’s New Gods and a whole new era for DC’s New 52. Obviously, the connections with Darkseid and Apokolips are present because of Orion’s use of the boom tube technology, but as it stands, Orion’s mission is purely Earth-based. Although, throughout the issue’s events, Zola’s baby is referred to as the “New God”, which calls into question just exactly how Brian Azzarello plans on reintroducing the residents of New Genesis and how they fit into the greater universe.