Goodbye For Now, Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman welcomes you to my office.

Wonder Woman welcomes you to my office.

When people walk into my office for the first time, they immediately notice two things: My Beatles poster and a framed picture of Wonder Woman, illustrated by the incomparable George Perez, which occupies a place of honor on the bookshelf. She’s not just a character I’ve loved since childhood, but also a source of inspiration; a symbol of strength and inherent goodness. Wonder Woman is the reason I fell for superhero comics as a child, and I’ve been known to say that it would be a cold day in hell before I stopped buying her book.

That day arrived a few Wednesdays ago when I asked the owner of my LCS to drop Wonder Woman from my pull list.

For months, I’d been waiting for the comic to recapture the magic of its first glorious issues after the relaunch. I even changed my expectations to “solidly enjoyable.” At this point, it’s crystal clear that Brian Azzarello is not going to write the Wonder Woman comic I want to read. There’s a big disconnect between Cliff Chiang’s show-stopping, vibrant presentation of the character and the narrative, in which Wonder Woman remains frustratingly underdeveloped.

Right around this time last year, V. pointed out that the character — so strong and imposing early on — is naïve and easily duped. In exchange for her friend Zola’s freedom, she gives Eros’ guns to Hades and trusts him not to shoot her. He totally does. She has no idea that, for a really long time, the Amazons have mated to get pregnant, killed the men afterward and then discarded any male offspring. When it appears that the god War has tricked her and absconded with Zola’s newborn, Diana has an OMG-how-could-I-be-so stupid meltdown instead of springing back into action like a boss.

What bothers me most is that Wonder Woman is the least interesting player in her own book, which, no matter what the title says, is an ensemble affair. Batman may have a supporting cast, but Scott Snyder never lets you forget that the Dark Knight is, for better or worse, at the center of everything. But Azzarello seems like he’s having a lot more fun with Wonder Woman’s colorful half-siblings and the swaggering Orion, who has some of the best lines and gets to do stuff like this:

There’s a perfectly good explanation!

Out of all the incarnations of Wonder Woman that come to mind, I can’t think of one who would let a guy smack her on the ass without jacking him up. But when Orion does so in issue #17, she’s too distracted by Zola’s outburst to do more than yell at him. After swooping in to save Wonder Woman from Hermes’ talons in issue #18, Orion tells her that the butt-slap was just his way of getting some of her DNA for tracking purposes. “You think …  it was out of affection?” Gee, why would Wonder Woman assume that it was some kind of pass, especially since Orion refers to her as “legs?” And it’s not like those “Channel 52″ backup stories are suggesting that he might be competition for Superman, Diana’s beloved.

It’s a given that Diana is a warrior who loves everyone and fearlessly protects those in need, but what are her hopes, dreams and fears? What makes this Wonder Woman tick? Well, who knows? There’s been almost no examination of the early revelations that Zeus is her dad and the Amazons are the equivalent of black widows. The reader can be forgiven for wondering how those bombshells might affect Diana’s sense of herself and her culture, or for assuming that the writer cares enough about the character to provide insight.

I want to know what this woman is thinking.

I want to know what this woman is thinking.

This quote from Azzarello in a CBR interview is revealing:

“When we started this thing, we realized there’s not a lot you can do with someone as iconic as Wonder Woman. You can’t really reinvent the wheel, but you can put on some really sick chrome hubcaps.”

Pardon me for a moment.

If “there’s not a lot you can do,” then why bother? Do editorial mandates preclude one from exhibiting any passion for a character whatsoever?

“She’s very iconic. But you ask people about her, and they have no idea. The TV show with Lynda Carter is probably the best they can do.”

Here’s the thing, though: After 18 issues, I still know virtually nothing about her. Continuing to buy this book out of loyalty, always a risky enterprise, amounts to co-signing a vision that leaves me disappointed every month. However, there are plenty of readers who consider Azzarello’s vision to be a breath of fresh air — even the best Wonder Woman story in recent memory. In all sincerity, good for them.

Nothing in comics is static, so I sincerely hope this is only a temporary separation. Maybe there’s a writer waiting in the wings who has a killer storyline in mind and some real enthusiasm for Wonder Woman. Not just as a remote icon who looks great in fight sequences, but as a unique, well-defined character who lives and breathes in the reader’s imagination. A fan’s hope springs eternal.

Gods be with you, Princess. Until we meet again …

54 thoughts on “Goodbye For Now, Wonder Woman

  1. There’s a part of me that absolutely loves what Azzarello has done with Wonder Woman, but there’s a little part of me that’s disgusted. I’m mostly referring to Orion and his frat boy persona. I won’t be dropping it, but the direction we’re going here isn’t one I’m in favor of.

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  2. Princess BG flipping a table says it all. Azzarello sounds like the Michael Bay of DC’s new 52. Some people love what he’s done as it’s a “breath of fresh air”, many despise it because the changes completely disregard established characters, canon, or any actual display of writing ability (oops, sorry. I think my Baytred is showing again). Wait him out. Eventually they’ll promote him to another title and he can leave your hero alone to ruin someone else’s for awhile.

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  3. FINALLY! Some sane talk about HOW upsetting this “reload” of WW is!!!! Not only have I been VERY disappointed; my DAUGHTERS whom I was sharing this story with ARE! They do NOT have the benefit of growing up reading her; all they see is ‘cheesey’ and ‘lame'; those are quotes… My 11 year old loves Birds of Prey MORE than my WW!!!! HEARTBREAKING for an old mom, let me tell you! I do not understand the need to turn her into such a wimpy unsure character… this is certainly NOT the best WW we’ve seen… No breath of fresh air here; just a deep, boring SIGH.

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  4. Great piece, Erika, I’m with you all the way – it’s about six months since I gave up on this book, and I don’t miss it in the least. It just seems to be rambling on and on with showy incidents and the introduction of sibling after sibling, without Diana ever stopping to reflect on things. I share your optimism that a Wonder Woman worthy of the name will one day return.

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  5. You’re a better woman than I, Erika. I couldn’t make it through the first year (though I have bought discounted copies since, in order to keep up on my website synopses and in hopes of doing an essay). It seemed to me that Diana was being defined by the men in her life. Diana. Wonder Woman. Defined by men. What? It also seemed to me that Diana was very non-female, not doing the things that ye average female would do, not approaching things from a female viewpoint, and yes, being rather unimportant except when required to save the day at the last moment. She was no longer an inspirational character, dealing with real-world issues on modern Earth, but rather gods, gods, and more gods who were concerned with mythological matters. She held no significance in the modern world. Worst of all, she was indelibly STUPID. (In one issue she was all “hack-gore-hack-oh, I LUV evwybody!” That was the last ish I read.) Was it male writer, or all those male gods she had to pal around with? Why didn’t her so-called best friend (a female) have a last name yet? Why was said best friend acting like a one-dimensional, male fantasy instead of a fleshed-out character? Nope, I couldn’t take it. I’ve tried several times to get up the nerve to read my Comixology library, but my stomach churns and my eyes begin to squint, almost closing in horror at the thought. No, DC killed Diana off in issue #600, June of 2010. Rest in peace, Diana, and in the future may DC try not so hard to sully your name.

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    • Well gee STRICkland, maybe she IS doing things from HER female POV, and not yours. You have to realize that she grew up in an enclosed world of ONLY amazons. Amazons who FIGHT and do masculine things.
      And I don’t think you can validly accuse Azzarello for not taking a female POV. He has a wife. He knows women well enough.
      The way he’s writing WW is true to the female character that is Diana. She is no ordinary woman, or Amazon for that matter.

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        • Yes good point mswuff. Who is this person?
          And masculine things? The only masculine thing that I can think of off hand is peeing standing up, and I do not think that women do that or Amazons. ; )
          The Amazons do not do “masculine things”. They do things.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Gawd, you little girls are dumb-azzes. “masculine” doens’t necessarily mean “man”. I didn’t say they pee standing up. I didn’t say they had penises either.

            Masculine: Hunting, fighting, etc.

            “Who is this person?”
            Okay little girls, pay attention to the conversation at hand, rather than the next dumbazz thing you’ll say to me or anyone else. the person in question was BRIAN AZZARELLO.

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  6. I hear ya. I’m real close to dropping this book as I have many others from DC’s “reboot”.

    I have wanted a WW book to really soar and I feel that the character has so much to offer, but if your thought is, “…we realized there’s not a lot you can do with someone as iconic as Wonder Woman.” then really, what is the point? People talk of WW as a warrior, which in my mind would have her as intelligent, strong and uncompromising as Russel Crowe’s character in Gladiator. Smart, tough, no nonsense. But for years now I see WW as unsure, or as in these issues (with Hades and the other gods) easily duped. They play her as more of a fool than a smart champion of the underdogs. Not digging it.

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  7. So, I think we had very similar reactions to…all of this. I was excited by the first couple issues where she was an action oriented Wonder Woman who was a smidge too violent for some long time fans, but was still interesting.
    I think you did a great job of putting into perspective what I’ve been wrestling with about this book since the 0 issue. It has ceased to be interesting because the writer is not interested in the character and is therefore using her as window dressing to a story he wants to tell.
    I’ve been fighting it, but I think your article along with my utter disappointment in the resolution of the last issue have finally convinced me t drop it. I will now be spending $3 a month on DC comics rather than 6.
    I still have a lot of hope for the future though. I’m not a fan who just throws up my arms and declares myself done with company x. I’ll just go on buying the comics I enjoy and hope that somewhere down the line DC tells a story that I’m interested in reading. Right now, we’re just not on the same page in what we want from comics.

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  8. the issue of not knowing a lot of the new wonder woman’s background isnt just an issue of wonder woman but the whole 52. a lot has changed and they are telling us in doses when and where it fits. short of them doing a mini series showing the complete history of the new universe i dont see how they can show us everything right away. its all about patience and timing. for example: finally raven has appeared in the new 52 two months ago after not showing up since the relaunch. there are a lot of changes i did not like and still dont get why they had to make them despite the “reasonings” behind them (i.e. being zesu’s daughter). i also am not one of these people who are raving that this is the greatest wonder woman story ever (that’s just blasphemy. someone obviously didnt read ANY of george perez’ run). that being said i do like the series. as with everything i accept the truth: what is is. its not like dc is going to let me write wonder woman. you got to accept what is put before you. what that is done then you can look at things more objectively. doesnt mean you will like a series (gave batman a chance but its too gross and dark for my delicate heart) but it lets you suppress what ever prejudices you might have. it took me a few issues but i did get into/start to enjoy the series. i by no means love it and quite frankly i would like the old dcu back but thats not going to happen so…acceptance. yes i have questions but like i said before you just have to wait til they are told. the same storyline has been going on since issue one so they havent had time to stop and focus on anything but that. as far as how she is being portrayed i see no problems. i have every, and i mean every wonder woman comic ever printed including mini-series. she is partly the reason i got into dc and most definitely the reason i ever watched or read justice league. i doubt there are many, if any who love and respect her as much as i do. she is more than just a “superheo” to me. she is me, she represents who and what i am and strive to be. like diana i worship the greek gods, i am a peaceful warrior, i am all about female empowerment and joining all (people, countries, religions) together as one and living in harmony. christians say “what would jesus do” i say ” what would wonder woman do”. she really has helped me to calm the storm that rages in my heart, and i will always give thanks to for that. diana is a little naive and innocent just like me and there is nothing wrong with that. the majority look down upon us for that but i say “so be it” i’d rather be naive and innocent any day then jaded and mean for one second

    Goddess bless :)

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  9. Excellent essay, Erika.

    I am still stuck on Orion slapping Wonder Woman on the ass!

    I don’t care the why of it. It is fucking absurd and unacceptable for a character of her caliber. It doesn’t even fit the damn narrative of Azzarello’s lights-on-nobody-home version of Diana. I think he did it because he could. I also don’t think he likes her very much. I think he likes her fans even less.

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    • I agree with you totally V! I do think that Azzarello does NOT like WW/Diana at all. I think that the boy’s club running DC kind of resent her, and I loath them for it. She is now a secondary character in her own book… try doing that kind of jank to BM or SM and see what happens.
      I am glad that you have said what you feel and how you feel about this latest Azzarello WW E. My heart was broken by this several books ago. It pained me to drop her title but I had to because I just could not take it anymore.
      As for those who think that this WW is a breath of fresh air, I truly believe that then never understood this character at all, and Cderosby is right when he says that WW has been Michael Bayed, kind of like being Britta-ed (because she is the WORST!)
      I will come back home to Wonder Woman’s book when Azzerello gets gone, and I pray that it is soon.

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      • “I think that the boy’s club running DC kind of resent her…” That’s been pretty clear from Amazons Attack! (2007) onward.

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  11. Thanks for all of the thoughtful feedback, everyone. Knowing that others are troubled by this comic book’s direction makes me feel like my expectations are reasonable and that I’m not alone. All the praise for this particular series on message boards left me feeling confused, like there was some awesome story I was missing. Again, no disrespect to the people who are genuinely enjoying what Azzarello’s doing. It just didn’t make sense to keep buying something that I wasn’t looking forward to reading — especially given my affection for Wonder Woman. It looks like he’s on the book for the next year, though.

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      • Me as well.
        I guess this means that I won’t be reading about my favourite super for at least another full year. : (

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    • Amongst my own friends in the fan community you’re article sums up the general feeling perfectly, truth is we’re find the same issues awkward, first was the sense Diana is a supporting character in her own book, to the disconnect with the wider DCU. I won’t even begin with Orion.

      Again the first year worked for me – I was prepared to wait and see how the story played out – for example I didn’t accept at face value Hepheastus’ story regarding the male babies. I was waiting for the restoration of the Amazons. For some connect to the wider DCU. Yet the first to that was Andy Diggle in Young Romance!

      If I was characterise the second year it would be the slow place and lack of Diana’s character development / resolution of the Amazons condition / history has been frustrating.

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  12. Is funny because I also dropped the comic as well. When I saw the slap I was like “no way”, then when I saw the preview of #19 cover WW kissing Orion in that way I said forget it. I want to be supported of her character but I will not be support it of Azzarello. Then another thing that really turned me off was a recent interview where Azzarello kept raving about adding more characters to the story and we will see more of Zola’s son and blah blah blah blah blah, nothing about Wonder Woman and her character development, no bringing back the amazons or Hippolytta, I mean it’s been so upsetting the only way to coupe is by dropping the tittle. I also have to say with heart wrenching; “see you in Justice League Wonder Woman but your own title is finish for me my darling, until the next one! “

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  13. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the cover though. Most of the previous WW-covers didn’t reflect the interior in the slightest.

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  14. Did any of you catch the Independent Lens program on PBS last night Wonder Women? Really great to watch with my daughters! Hope ya’ll caught it or watch it when you can…

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  16. The WW I grew up with is a pale, pale, watered down shadow of the incredible person Ive known for the past 38 years.
    Its crystal clear to me that DC hate WW. they dont treat her with any respect.

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  17. There’s already 700+ comics about Wonder Woman, Azzarello is taking the smart decision to forego characterisation in favour of mythology. He’s telling a long-form story, giving up at this point seems premature. It might be better read through trade paperbacks maybe? Idk.

    And – “not a lot you can do with WW” – possibly means everything has already been done? Simone/Rucka mastered characterisation already, seems sill to do it again, we already know the woman. The development of Diana is more subtle in this series – e.g. being largely unaffected by Ero’s guns, because she loves everyone. This is the same strong compassion we’ve seen her exhibit before, but we’re not beaten over the head with it.

    A mythos is being built here, and that hasn’t really been done with zeal since Perez. It’s not perfect (e.g. her feminist aspect), but its a vivid and intriguing tale, it’s a shame fans are so resistant to change.

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    • I see where you are coming from and appreciate your comments. Lots of people seem to like the comic. However, I was very open to the reboot and was even willing to see where Azzarello was going with the new, controversial history of the Amazons. Having stuck with it for 18 issues, I’d say I gave it more than a fair shot. I don’t think it’s about resisting change so much as believing that the current storyline is unfulfilling.

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      • You’re certainly not alone in thinking this. As a lot of the comments on the post show + the readership level itself, more and more people aren’t buying the comic. I’ve come to the character quite recently, so I guess it must be a little frustrating to see a character you’re very invested in not really feature in her own series. For new readers though, it’s a god compromise; Azzarello is trying something new and was, at first, bringing a lot of new readers onboard. And if they wanted more character development, they could go back and read the pre-flashpoint arcs. But for the old readership, there is always that risk of alienation, and I guess it wasn’t balanced quite right. I really hope this style of storytelling stays though, as there isn’t much else like it in the New 52.

        I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but if it’s any consolation, Grant Morrison looks to be doing a limited run of the series, and seems to concentrating more on feminism: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/grant-morrison-talks-robin-death-and-action-comics.html

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  19. My friends, you need to read the latest issue if you want to see Diana acting like a boss. An epic takedown of Orion and a compliment from Ares that highlights what Diana’s been doing these past few months. Diana’s army. It’s brilliant.

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    • I still get it. So, I shall see this afternoon … and report back. It’s too bad Akins is drawing it. I loathe his rendering of her. And even if what you say is true … I still think 19 issues to get to something good is a bit much.

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      • Well the good news is that the art is by Sudzuka. He did a few pages last issue, the ones featuring the First Born and Cassandra. He doesn’t look like Chiang exactly but he’s pretty darn good. I wouldn’t mind if he were the permanent fill-in artist.

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    • I actually felt that “takedown” in today’s issue was very out of character for WW. I think I get Vanessa’s point more now, Azzarello doesn’t seem terribly interested in representing the wonder woman we’ve come to know. It was a great issue still, but Diana wouldn’t respond to sexism with sexual assault :/

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  22. Forgive me for largely pasting in a comment I’ve made elsewhere, but honestly I’m overjoyed that people are starting to see (or at least write about) what’s bothered me about the Azzarello run almost from the beginning.

    I dropped Azzarello’s Wonder Woman after #9 (because I kept forgetting to tell my shop after #7) because it’s poorly written from Diana’s standpoint. First, foremost and unforgivably Brian’s Diana is a complete and utter idiot. Blissfully unaware that every woman on the island was mocking her. “Clay baby, indeed.”

    If the Amazons are fully capable of giving birth, why did Hippolyta even make up the clay baby origin? Could have been just another sailor; under those conditions, the story is pointless. If the Amazons hate men (you’d have to in order to mate and murder them, and get rid of any male offspring), why is Diana in the outside world? What is her mission and purpose? (What the hell was she doing in London at the beginning of the series?) Why would the Amazons try to convince Diana that they are anything other than what they are? She was obviously kept from their normal behaviors, but why?

    Not only the Amazons, but all the gods (except dumb ol’ Hera!) were also in on Diana’s parentage in this version, so they also toy with and mock the demi-god.

    I’ve perused the occasional issue since I dropped WW from my pull list and it really hasn’t gotten any better.

    Diana hasn’t fared any better in Justice League. Her character arc there is tied and in service to Superman’s story.

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    • You have raised some excellent questions. The most controversial aspects of this comic strike me as pointless. The lack of examination of the character, her culture and her purpose – especially in the context of a relaunch, for crying out loud – makes no sense. I’m not saying we needed a year of backstory or a thesis on the Amazons, but it’s baffling that “Wonder Woman” has revealed so little about the character. And whatever traits she does display, at least outside of her obvious physical powers, are either disappointing or uninteresting.

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  23. Sorry I’m so late to this party and no one will probably read this. I have been very disappointed in this version of WW as well. At one point in the 70’s (yes, I am an old man) this was the only DC comic I was buying when Roy Thomas took it over. My main problem is the one stated above by another reader, it seems she is not the main character in her own book. The other is, I do not see any change in the near future. None of the current story lines seem to have any clear goal to improve or enlighten her. It also seems a completely different character that is being written in Supes & JL. Just have to wait it out but, unfortunately, sales rule so it may be a while.

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  24. I have to say this but this line has been bugging the socks off of me:

    “You can’t really reinvent the wheel, but you can put on some really sick chrome hubcaps.”

    Azzarello’s attempt to be ‘cool and street’ and “down with the kids” using the term phrase “sick chrome hubcaps.”

    Who says hubcaps anymore???
    RIMS! DUDE RIMS! ; )

    If he had said “totes” anywhere in that quote I would have had to sic my two nephews on him for trying to be with it. : )

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  26. I’m VERY late to this but I wanted to say thanks for writing. I just read the trade of the first six issues, which I thought would be a good jumping-on point (as I have not consistently bought Wonder Woman before). I was almost constantly confused by what was going on, in terms of both character and plot (Why even bring the “clay” origin into the New 52 if it’s going to be immediately thrown out? Who is Lennox and why does everyone immediately trust him? How does grabbing one of Hades’s candles and Hermes’s staff… do whatever happened at the end of #6?), and from this and other articles it doesn’t sound like it gets much better.

    I’ve got to wonder if Azzarello’s pitch for the series included the phrase “there’s not a lot you can do with someone as iconic as Wonder Woman.” I’d rather have someone say “I’ve got so many ideas for what I want to do with this character.”

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