Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wonder Woman: Then and Now (Part 1)

Not long ago Lee and I discussed the merits of the current iteration of Wonder Woman in her own book, written by Brian Azzarello and primarily drawn by Cliff Chiang.  We looked at only the first six issues and agreed to disagree.

That got me to thinking about how well the Azzarello version compares with the Perez version from 1987, which was the high point I had seen for the character.  So, I'm now comparing the first year of each book.  I'll start right off by saying that my comics reading taste has changed in the 25 years since the Perez version, which means I can't say how I would have viewed the Azzarello version back then.

Up front I'll remind everyone, and myself, that the Perez version is really all Perez on the art but Len Wein did most of the writing, with the exception of the first two issues that were written by Greg Potter (which gets a big "Who?" from me).  Perez is co-plotter on all the issues, though.

Coming as it did in the mid to late '80s, this was a huge improvement in Wonder Woman.  They had a clean slate because of Crisis on Infinite Earths and went with a heavily Greek mythology origin.  In fact, this is all a very linear telling of how Diana becomes Wonder Woman.  Hell, it's very linear on how the Amazons came to live on Paradise Island, too.  Diana doesn't show up until the last few pages of the first issue.

All that back story reminded me of something, too.  Diana's birth isn't so special as it's been heralded.  She's the spirit of a fetus that was in Hyppolyte when she was first killed in her pre-historic incarnation.  When all the other Amazon spirits of wrongly killed women are re-incarnated, Diana's spirit is left behind for a later arrival.  The rest of the Amazon's sort of pour into a lake/pond and come to the surface.  It's not clear what their bodies are formed from.  Rain drops?  Pond water?  Mud at the bottom?  Got me.  Anyway, eons later, and about 1964 in the time frame of this story, Diana is born when Hippolyte makes a clay baby by the shore (which should be a sand baby, you'd think), and, boom!, the gods impart fetus spirit into the clay, and there's baby Diana.

Seems to me the only thing that makes Diana different from the other Amazons is that she shows up as a baby, while they were all adults when they were re-incarnated.  Of course, the others had all been babies before they were killed in adulthood while Diana had never reached that point.  I guess I'm just not seeing what's special about Diana's birth.  Now, being raised in an all female, immortal society, that's different than any of the other Amazons.  It's a bit of a stretch into the Christian mythos (which drew on pagan mythos in the first place) to make Diana's birth all that special.

But enough of that.  Let's get back to the first year's stories.  Diana is born.  Steve Trevor crashes on Paradise Island (off shore, actually), when Ares tries to nuke the island.  Diana goes with Trevor to Boston.  Diana meets Professor Kapetelis and her daughter, Vanessa, quickly bonding to both.  Ares's son Phobos creates a demon called Decay who attacks Boston and is defeated by Diana.  Ares's son Deimos attacks Diana in Hades(?).  Diana decapitates him.  Ares tries to nuke the whole world, manipulating people in the US and USSR militiaries.  Ah, the good old days when the Soviet Union existed.  Anyway, Diana beats him by getting him to realize the obvious that if he nukes the world, there's no one to worship him and no one to rule, which will quickly lead to his existence fading away.  Diana is severely injured in all the fighting, and Steve Trevor's friend, Col Michealis, is killed.  That's done in 6 issues.

After that it's a bit more meandering.  Diana recovers on Paradise
Island, quite quickly.  Vanessa, who was prematurely aged by Decay, is healed back to being a teenager, too.  Zeus takes an interest in Paradise Island, with some instigating by Pan.  Basically, Zeus wants one big gang bang with the Amazons, him being the only male in the group.  First he wants Diana, though.  She says no and is sent into a challenge by Zeus.  She has to enter the sealed portal on Paradise Island
that the Amazons have been guarding all these centuries, with the occasional fatality.  Oh, before that, in issue 9, the Cheetah shows up and is defeated.  By the end of issue 12 Diana hasn't completed her mission but she's been hijacked into the big event cross over that was a drag on the DCU of the time, Millenium.

Now, by comparison, Azzarello has Diana rescue Zoe and Hera turn Hyppolyta into a statute (and the rest of the Amazons into snakes), then dupe Hades and Poseiden
into not fighting it out for Zeus's empty throne, all in the first 6 issues.  Oh, and Diana finds out she's the daughter of Zeus, not made from clay as she thought.  In the next 6 issues Diana finds out that the Amazons aren't reincarnated spirits of women wrongly killed by men.  They're predators who re-stock their ranks by seducing sailors, killing the sailors, then selling any male offspring to Hephaestus while raising the females as new Amazons.  She also goes to Hades, rescues Zola (who's had time pass at an accelerated rate so that she's now almost due in her pregnancy), and nearly ends up married to Hades.  Apollo and
Artemis scheme to have Apollo take Zeus's throne and dispose of Zola's baby, who's possibly prophesied to kill whoever takes the throne some time in the future.  Diana prevents that, but Hermes absconds with the baby as soon as it's born and takes it to Demeter to hide from all the forces.

That's the set up of what happens in each series in the first 12 issues.  Next time I'll compare and contrast.

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