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Archive for the category “Wonder Woman”

The 30 Sexiest Comic Heroines – #10-1

It’s been a long, fun and interesting journey to get to the end, and I feel pretty confidant about these final choices. However, the list went through a few changes and edits while I was putting it together and I figured it’s only appropriate to recognize some of the honorable mentions who almost made this list.

Some came down to personal preference, like Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat. While she’s definitely got her fans, I’ve never really enjoyed the character or understood her appeal. For similar reasons, Power Girl was not really considered either.

A couple of notable omissions are anti-heroes like Emma Frost, Harley Quinn and Catwoman. All certainly have their appeal, but I’ve chosen to save them for another take on this list where we look at the sexy side of villainy. This list is more about acknowledging heroic women with strong moral ideals, and those characters just didn’t seem to fit the overall theme.

And then there’s a few who just didn’t make the cut because I only had thirty spots. Some notable ones include the Huntress, Renee Montoya as The Question, Flash’s love interests Iris West and Patty Spivot, Rachel Summers, Dazzler and Mary Marvel.

Carol Danvers

#10. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel)

Whether she’s going by Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel, the alien-enhanced U.S. airforce captain is one of the most powerful and capable women in the Marvel universe. But don’t blame yourself if you haven’t heard of her; Carol’s gone through some serious down times; she’s been an alcoholic and was even put in a coma for years when the then Brotherhood member Rogue absorbed all of her powers. But she’s also been a valued member and even leader of the Avengers, and has been starring in some of the better comics Marvel has been publishing in recent years. And in a few years she’ll be coming to the big screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

From a personality standpoint, I tend to describe Carol as a cross between two DC heroes: Wonder Woman and Hal Jordan. She’s a warrior, a leader and a negotiator, but she’s also an adventurer and an explorer. And a bit of a dork. She’s a devoted Star Wars fan and even has a dog named “Chewie”. But perhaps the blonde bombshell’s most admirable trait is that the character has overcome so much adversity to be better than ever. Perseverance under pressure is always cool, and trust me; people want a significant other who is inspirational on some level.

Sue Storm

#9. Sue Storm (The Invisible Woman)

When compiling this list, Susan Storm was a name that came to mind a little late in the game, but once I thought about her she quickly ascended the ranks. I am a huge Fantastic Four fan and have a deep love for all of the characters, and Sue is pretty near the top of that list. More commonly known as the Invisible Woman, Sue is known both for her signature ability to vanish from sight as well as her energy shields that arguably make her the most dangerous member of the Fantastic Four. But while the FF are adventurers, scientists and superheroes, they are above all else, family. And Sue is really the glue that holds it all together.

It’s said that you can best judge the character of the person you’re dating by how they treat the people around them. If that’s the case, Sue is one of the best catches in comics. She is the older sister that both cares for Johnny and makes sure that his ego doesn’t get out of line. Even without their romantic interest, Susan is a grounding force for Reed Richards, reminding him that there are more important things than science and work. Ben Grimm can count her perhaps his best emotional support; she has helped keep from falling into despair. Sue is a woman whose presence strengthens everyone around her and makes them better than they may be. Hard not to fall for someone like that.

Jean

8. Jean Grey (Marvel Girl/Phoenix)

Jean Grey was probably modeled off of Sue Storm and serves a similar function for her team. But I think Jean stands out a little bit more and is a better, more interesting character, so she narrowly edges out Sue. Throughout her history, Jean has been many things. Marvel Girl was a quiet introvert, Phoenix was a more outgoing and passionate person, Dark Phoenix was an extremely powerful megalomaniac with a dominatrix thing going… Pardon me, I seem to have lost my train of thought there for a moment. My point is that the appeal of Jean is sort of a mix between the “girl next door” archetype and the “danger is sexy” trope I’ve brought up a couple of times. On one hand she’s this incredibly nice, loving person who will do anything to help other people. On the other hand there’s a monster inside of her that can be incredibly damaging when it gets loose.

That mix of elements is probably what most defines Jean. Whatever you’re attracted to, it’s likely you can find at least some of it in the character of Jean Grey. And while that is great, it is a bit of a double-edged sword for the purposes of this list. Her personality is harder to nail down and thus it’s harder to analyze what exactly makes her so appealing. But then, there’s a lot of appeal in that too; she’s got layers, so she’ll always be interesting. If perhaps fatally so.

Black Canary

#7. Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary)

Ah, Black Canary. Crime-fighting martial arts expert, flirty and witty girlfriend of Green Arrow, brilliant and capable leader of the Birds of Prey, wearer of fishnet leggings, owner of an excellent singing voice… what’s not to love? For those not familiar with the comic version of Black Canary (or any of her excellent animated counterparts), Dinah is kind of a softer version of Black Widow. And no, I don’t mean more vulnerable, I just mean that she doesn’t have the colorful past history that Romanoff has. So she’s got a lot of the appeal of a dangerous, knowledgeable woman who’s on top of things, but doesn’t come with so much baggage. That makes her a little less intimidating.

Another key aspect of Canary is that while she is completely viable as a solo character, she has some key relationships that really flesh out her character. She’s the sometimes girlfriend, sometimes wife of Green Arrow, and while they have their issues they are an excellent example of a couple that respects each other’s abilities and support one another. So she’s got a pretty good history of being a loyal, supportive and loving partner. Definitely a plus. She’s also a big sister of sorts to Barbara Gordon and Huntress, her Birds of Prey teammates. She’s helps keep Helena’s dark side in check, and helps keep Barbara optimistic during some of the toughest times of her life. So, take everything awesome about Sue Storm and everything awesome about Black Widow and you get Dinah Lance.

Lois

#6. Lois Lane

As probably the first significant female character in comic books, Lois Lane has a very long history and not all of it is good. She started as a constant damsel in distress for Superman adventures; some could argue that falling through the sky to be saved by Superman was her defining trait. Fortunately, Lois Lane has evolved into a much more fleshed out character. She’s smart and extremely quick-witted, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and perhaps most importantly, she’s just as relentless about pursuing truth and justice as Superman. Lois is the kind of reporter who doesn’t care what feathers she ruffles or what personal danger she puts herself through; where there is crime and corruption, she will be there to shine a light on it.

Lois is arguably intended to be the “feminine ideal” in the same way Superman is for men. She’s independent, intelligent, confident and passionate. She’s got respect for herself and expects everyone else to respect her in turn. Her moral center is what drives her work and she is always trying to help other people. One could argue that this is an impossible standard. But much like Superman, I think Lois Lane is a pretty good role model for anyone. She fights for what she wants and does it for the right reasons and without compromising her integrity or her self respect.

Wonder Woman

#5. Diana of Themyscira (Wonder Woman)

If you’re read more than a few of my columns, you’re probably well aware of my undying love for Wonder Woman. Diana is my favorite superhero, but I don’t think she outranks the other four women ahead of her. The iconic prototype for female superheroes, Diana combines the physical strength and martial skill of male heroes like Superman and Batman, and adds a more feminine touch to it. Wonder Woman’s primary traits are her unconditional love and her honesty. Diana cares about everyone, fights for everyone, and tries to make life better for as many people as possible. She is also extremely honest and expects the same out of others, and isn’t afraid to use force (and a magic lasso) to get it.

Women love her because she’s a symbol that women can have strength and skill, and that they deserve equal respect. Men love her because even though she is representative of female strength, she is an equalist; men and women should be respected equally. She’s physically stunning and imposing, but also emotionally vulnerable. She’s supportive and caring but also has high standards. She’s fierce and competitive and driven but also gentle and kind and wise. By whatever measure one wants to measure beauty, Wonder Woman is going to knock it out of the park.

Zatanna

4. Zatanna Zatara

Many women who have made this list are physically imposing and a lot of the appeal is that they are stronger than the man or woman who is crushing on the character. Strength is largely attractive because we equate it with security, and safety is conducive to intimacy which paves the way for sexual fireworks. But there’s the opposite end of that too, and Zatanna’s a perfect example. DC’s most famous magician is generally depicted as petite and not the best hand to hand fighter. Her sex appeal isn’t in her physical power; Zatanna’s more the kind of person one describes as “cute” or “adorable”. Which I totally go for. See Gordon, Barbara. She’s outgoing, flirtatious, unpredictable and likes to create her own fun. Without being too stereotypical, I’d have to imagine that many comic book fans like me tend to be more on the introverted side and creatures of habit. If opposites attract, it’s no surprise so many of us love Zatanna.

But the cool thing about Zatanna is that her magical powers make her both one of the best escape artists and potentially one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe. She has unbelievable magic power at her disposal and has used it to help save the world numerous times. But if left to her own devices she’d rather use her gifts to put on a show and entertain others. She is a performer, the center of attention who manages to do so without being arrogant or annoying.

Starfire

#3. Koriand’r (Starfire)

Starfire is sadly a name that is synonymous with controversy. Many artists have made her the poster child for stripperiffic, impractical costumes that make her a sex object. Sadly, some writers have also found it acceptable to strip away her personality as much as her clothes, making her something that is less of an actual character and more of a pin-up model. These are all valid arguments, but sadly it has taken away from a very simple fact; when written with some actual care, Koriand’r is one of the most fun, likable, and yes, genuinely sexy characters in comics. After all, she’s a Marv Wolfman creation and Marv simply doesn’t create bad characters, especially when they are one of the main characters of a long running and beloved comic book series like The New Teen Titans.

So for those who may only know Starfire for being the subject of some incredibly poor writing and shameless artwork, let me explain what it is that makes us love Kori. First, it’s important to understand that she is very much a counterpart to fellow Teen Titan member Raven. Raven is an introverted pacifist who keeps her emotions bottled up. Starfire is an extremely curious and outgoing person who loves life and tries to squeeze as much out of every day as possible. For those who read Red Hood and the Outlaws and took issue with her having sex with two guys really quickly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Women are people, not things; they deserve sexual autonomy and Kori has always had that. She’s not going to wait around for a boy she likes to make a move; she’ll take the first step because life is too short to wait. What is out of character was the lack of emotion involved; Kori is all emotion; joy and anger and sadness, all felt intensely and coming across transparently. That’s what readers love about Kori, and that’s why she’s so high on this list.

Rogue

#2. Anna Marie (Rogue)

An often repeated phrase in this series has been “danger is exciting, and thus danger is sexy”. Rogue may be that truth to the absolute extreme; her mutation causes her to drain the life force, powers and memories of anyone who comes in contact with her skin. Super deadly. Even worse? Rogue couldn’t control it for the longest time; so she literally could not have sex ever without killing someone. That’s way beyond forbidden fruit there. On its own, it may have kept Rogue from ever being considered attractive by some. But when you take that power and mix it with a feisty, flirty powerhouse with a Southern accent, you have perhaps the most sexually frustrating character in comics. And one of the most common fan crushes in the industry.

Heck, for many of us, seeing and hearing Rogue on the 1990’s X-Men cartoon was the spark that made us realize that we actually did want to have a girlfriend. It also made us feel incredibly bad for Rogue and her main love interest, Gambit. These two always seemed to be made for each other, enjoying each other’s company and obviously caring for each other even they were butting heads. But Rogue’s mutation made it impossible to even kiss for more than a moment. Rogue raises a lot of questions for readers; would we be able to be a committed lover to someone if sexual contact was out of the question. For many, Rogue was worth it. So she went from being this incredibly source of sexual frustration to helping us realize there are more important things.

Storm

#1. Ororo Munroe (Storm)

Trying to pick the top woman for this list was very difficult, but ultimate I feel confident in putting Storm at the top of this list. Ororo has consistently been a major part of the X-Men for a long time and has maintained a high level of popularity from her initial appearances and all the way to today. Other than Wonder Woman, she’s probably the most well known female superhero to the general public. And she has many of the same traits that Diana has. She’s got power, both physically (she’s usually depicted as six feet tall and very well muscled) and because of her ability to control the weather. But she’s also a gentle, loving soul who is very much a pacifist and a nurturer. Somehow she manages to come across as both wise beyond her years and able to enjoy life with reckless abandon.

Ororo’s definitely got some of the exotic appeal to her, and not just because she’s one of the few truly iconic black female characters in comics. The white hair and blue eyes would stand out even if she were a real person. Many of her earlier appearances put her in the position of a stranger in a strange land, someone who isn’t used to Western customs or ideals. Though it isn’t as drastic as say, Kitty Pryde, Storm has still shown considerable growth. She started as a young, almost naive woman who felt out of place to a woman who felt at home with the X-Men and was soon capable of leading them. Ororo has many aspects that could appeal to someone, whether they want someone who is strong and steady, emotionally vulnerable, wise or curious, mature or young at heart. And unlike some characters, Ororo’s personality seems to blend perfectly into one definite character, as opposed to various interpretations that don’t always match up.

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Graphic Novel Review – Wonder Woman: Flesh & Bones

I tried to write this review without giving away any major spoilers from these books or the earlier ones in the series, but I soon realized that the major plot detail at the end of War plays such a pivotal role in these volumes that I need to spoil at least some of it in order to properly describe what Wonder Woman is going through as a character. If you do not wish to be spoiled, please save this review until a later time when I will not ruin your reading experience.

Goddess of War

Volume Five: Flesh

In the aftermath of Wonder Woman #23, Ares has been slain and left Olympus needing a new God of War. That role falls to Diana, who Ares had been grooming from the throne from a young age, despite her tendency to show mercy on the battlefield. The First Born also suffered a defeat at the hands of Wonder Woman and Apollo, the current King of Heaven, takes advantage by enslaving his eldest brother. He tortures the First Born in several sickening ways in an attempt to break him, which proves a difficult task.

It is worth noting that this particular volume is almost more about the First Born than it is about Wonder Woman, and that is okay. The First Born is a new villain in Wonder Woman mythos and isn’t based off a Greek god, so he requires some development. The first issue in the book is actual The First Born #1 from DC’s Villains Month from 2013. It tells the story of how Zeus left him to die, and how he did not die. I won’t spoil any more details than that, but I will say that Azzarello does a masterful job of building up a villain with a sympathetic backstory, but making him so monstrous that we don’t ever feel truly sympathetic towards him.

Volume five also serves as a showcase for Azzarello’s large cast of characters. They have all gone through something and lost something and are very well defined. Zola starts to feel the weight of the sacrifices others are making for her and strikes out on her own to take care of her child. Strife, driven by grief at the loss of War, lives up to her namesake by cruelly manipulating Wonder Woman and her surviving allies. Hermes continues to deliver piercingly accurate messages. But it is Hera who has probably my favorite moment in the book, with possibly the best one-liner ever.

First Born

Wonder Woman in Volume Five

Diana’s first major story in this book is her refusal to accept her mantle as the new God of War. While she is a warrior and did love Ares almost like a father, she is not like him. She is merciful and rational, while War was cruel and bordered on insanity. She’s also not keen on serving Apollo as one of the gods he is king of. It’s fun to see Diana stand her ground in the face of the Olympians, but it is also refreshing to see that just because she has Ares’ mantle doesn’t mean she is going to fundamentally change as a person.

Most of Diana’s attention is spent trying to save her brother Milan from Cassandra, a crazed sibling of hers who is devoted to the First Born and wants to find where he is. Milan’s gift of sight will point her in the way, but Milan refuses. The peril of their mutual friend brings Diana and Orion together once again, and while they still butt heads, it is clear that they make a good team. Diana again has to search for Zola when she runs off, but once she is found a much bigger problem arises; the First Born has escaped Apollo’s grasp, and makes his bid for the throne of Olympus.

Amazons

Volume Six: Bones

Diana has embraced her role as God of War, and now she has an army; the restored Amazons. Just in time, too. The First Born is the new King of Olympus and will bring death and destruction to the Earth. One by one, he targets the Olympians until all that is left is Hera, Artemis, Hermes and Diana, all on Paradise Island. It is all or nothing now, the epic final battle with the Throne of Olympus and the fate of the world in the balance.

Myself

Wonder Woman in Volume Six

I could literally gush forever about how amazing Wonder Woman is in this book. While many other characters have their moments, this is the final chapter and Diana takes center stage. It is glorious. First she boldly embraces her role as interim Queen of the Amazons, calling her people out on their failings, challenging them to think outside of themselves, and generally just being a morally just and uncompromising leader. I love watching Diana stick up for what is right.

But then there is her interaction with the First Born in the spectacular final issues. Azzarello has set up the whole book as a study in the duality of Diana’s nature. She is a warrior who loves peace. She will kill to save lives. She possesses great strength but holds herself in check for the sake of those she loves. And with the threat the First Born poses, it seems that she will have to give in to her more monstrous nature and be the Goddess of War to defeat him. After all, she is an Olympian, and none of them are blameless in this epic.

Diana’s speech to the First Born in the final battle is a defining moment for me; it shows Wonder Woman in the most dire of circumstances, but approaching it as she always has. And it’s refreshing to see her prove everybody else wrong, and show that sometimes it is better to be human than to be a god.

Goodbye

Final Thoughts

Read these books. End of story. If you love Wonder Woman or if you’ve never read a Wonder Woman book in your life, it doesn’t matter. The story does justice to the term “epic”, the cast of characters is colorful and memorable, and Wonder Woman is shown to be a spectacular hero, different from but just as worthy of fame as Superman and Batman. Azzarello takes chances and lays down the foundation for a new era of Wonder Woman comics, setting the standard at a very high level. And Cliff Chiang’s art makes Azzarello’s story one of the most beautiful comic books out there.

Graphic Novel Review – Wonder Woman: Iron & War

Issue #12 of Wonder Woman marked the first full year of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s run ends with two important developments. First, Hera’s gambit that Zeus will return to his throne when she gives it to Apollo fails miserably, and the new King of Olympus rewards her betrayal by making her mortal. Second is that Zola’s son is finally born, but what should be a joyful moment turns to one of the most difficult emotional blows when one of Diana’s closest allies kidnaps the baby. Which brings us to the next volume of this series.

Volume Three

Volume Three: Iron

Iron is the longest Volume in the run, collecting issues #13-18 as well as the special #0 issue (more on that in a minute). It’s also probably my least favorite part of the story as Azzarello introduces us to several new characters. Diana meets Siracca, one of her sisters who is essentially a goddess of the wind, and also to another sibling; Milan, a demigod cursed with the ability to see through the eyes of every fly on earth. While these are characters ostensibly serve a purpose in helping Diana find Zola’s missing child, they are introduced in a somewhat clumsy fashion that has always left me somewhat underwhelmed. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that Diana eventually rescues the child, but where she finds it and who helps her are details I will spare for the sake of new readers.

There are two new additions to Diana’s team that contribute a lot of entertainment. Wonder Woman takes the now mortal Hera under her protection, partially out of sympathy but also because Hera may be the only one who can save her mother and the Amazons from the curse she put them under. Hera’s adjustment to being mortal and the naturally combative relationship she has with Zola are glorious highlights of the story. The other addition is Orion, who longtime readers will know from Jack Kirby’s New Gods stories as the biological son of Darkseid and the adoptive son of Highfather. Orion is sent by his father to Earth to protect a new threat that could destroy all life.

And while that is heavily implied to be Zola’s child, the book also introduces a new villain who is clearly the real threat; the First Born of Zeus. This ancient godling has dug his way out of the Earth’s core where he was banished, and now looks to claim Olympus for his own, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

Ares

Wonder Woman In Volume Three

There are two key dynamics of Diana that are explored in this volume, and they are very opposite of each other. Issue #0 is a highly stylized tribute to the Golden Age era of Wonder Woman stories, and tells of a teenage Diana’s life on Paradise Island. Diana is positively adorable as a child and Azzarello does a good job of keeping her in character with the Diana we know but keeping her younger, more naive, and more eager to prove herself. The primary focus here is that Ares, the God of War, sees potential in her to be the successor to his throne, and takes her under his wing. We see that Diana excels at combat and is certainly a brave and skilled warrior, but this issue also highlights a key difference between the two. Diana is merciful and peaceful by nature, while War is combative and ruthless. But this issue also shows a tender side to him as well.

But as for the main story, it becomes more obvious that Diana’s protective nature is less that of a guardian and more like a mother bear. She has to cope with Hera and Zola bickering, and Lennox and Orion bickering, and she somehow manages to pull them together and make them cooperate. And eventually, even become friends. She also sees her new siblings in a great deal of pain and gives them understanding and caring that they are probably not used to, and shows that love can be just as powerful a tool as aggression. Diana’s leadership, caring, and once again, the extreme lengths she will go to in order to protect the innocent in this mad power game of the gods, her defining attribute.

War

Volume Four: War

This volume contains only five issues, bringing the second year of the Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s run to its epic conclusion. And I do mean “epic”, as issue #23 may be the best issue of the whole run and is one of my ten favorite issues of any comic ever. But I am getting ahead of myself. At this point in the story, things have settled and everything is starting to build to the conclusion. The First Born wants to be King of Olympus and will stop at nothing to accomplish this goal, stepping on every god in his path, including his mother. Diana finds herself having to protect her new friends from a vengeful Artemis and a raging First Born, and sees herself pushed to her limits.

Fortunately, she has powerful allies that will help her. Orion’s character is humbled in this book, and he also shows a heroic streak and the ability to do what is right even when it goes against his father’s wishes. And though they may disagree on some issues, Ares has fallen firmly in the camp of helping Wonder Woman protect the world from the wrath of the First Born. And though she may be afraid of her potential, Diana also takes a key step on the road to becoming the goddess she was always meant to be.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman in Volume Four

Appropriately for a book called War, we see Wonder Woman at her most combative. She has epic brawls with Artemis and the First Born, and shows that when she is battling monsters, she is not afraid to go to a place where Superman and Batman would never go; taking one life to save others. Diana also gets into verbal confrontations with Highfather (not a guy you want to make angry) that likely would have turned into a fistfight if her friends weren’t threatened. And she gives Orion a taste of her own medicine in a very memorable way; though she kisses him as a way of admitting her attraction, she also insists that he respect her. When he makes a smartmouth comment, she insists he respects her with her fist.

Seeing Diana so angry, aggressive and desperate, but for the right reasons, makes her a very compelling and layered character. She’s not always serene, she has emotions and sometimes they overtake her. This is when Diana really comes into her own for me; she is vulnerable, but in that vulnerability her strength truly shines.

New Gods

Final Thoughts

These Volumes are not as consistently good as Volumes One and Two; Azzarello introduces several new characters and not all of them work, and the book lacks a certain focus at times. But the character work is still very strong and there is more of a focus on Diana and what she’s going through and not just the war she got pulled into. Volume Four is an incredibly high note however, as all of the exposition is out of the way and it is just five issues of rising action building to a perfect conclusion of the second act. And as an extra bonus, Tony Akins’ art manages to improve before he is replaced with the far superior Goran Sudzuka, who isn’t as good as Chiang but is a darn good artist in his own right. He is tasked with drawing many of Diana’s quieter emotions and he does so excellently. Just like the first two volumes, definitely pick these up.

Graphic Novel Review – Wonder Woman: Blood & Guts

Wonder Woman is my favorite comic book character because of the first thirty-six issues of her series DC’s The New 52 relaunch. While I had plenty of exposure to her growing up through various television shows and had read George Perez and Len Wein’s seminal book Gods and Mortals before I started buying comics regularly, this is the series that made me fall in love with the character and her world. Written by Brian Azzarello and usually drawn by Cliff Chiang, the relaunched series put Diana in the middle of an epic story of family and betrayal steeped in Greek mythology. Feeling more like high fantasy than a superhero book, the book had a unique identity among the books I was reading. Coupled with Chiang’s stellar artwork and a host of memorable characters, it quickly became the book I anticipated most every month.

Queen Diana

Recently, I bought Volume Six of the series, completing the Azzarello and Chiang run. Rather than simply dive into that book and finally get the conclusion, I grabbed Volume One and binge read all six volumes in succession. This seems to be the way the book was intended to be read; one common complaint about the series from detractors is that the pacing of the story is very slow. But when read all together instead of over a course of three years, the slower issues don’t feel like such a letdown. The book is paced more like a book than typical comic books, which I understand can be unfulfilling when you only get one chapter a month.

But reading it all together was extremely rewarding, as I got to once again grow with the characters and ride along on their journey. That experience has cemented this as one of my favorite runs of all time, and I decided that I will be reviewing all six volumes in succession here. While certain story elements will be spoiled, my goal here is to avoid discussing the little details. I want to instead focus on what each book reveals about Diana as a character as she goes through this adventure.

Poseidon

Volume One: Blood

Issue one of the book sets the plot in motion with an incredibly effective hook, especially if the reader is a fan of Greek mythology. When the goddess Hera attempts to have a woman named Zola killed, she is rescued by Hermes, the messenger god, who sends her to Diana to make sure she is protected. The reason she needs protection is that she is pregnant… by Zeus. Diana takes her to Themyscira to protect her from Hera, but this proves a dangerous place for her to be when Hera’s daughter, a contentious troublemaker named Strife, comes to the island and reveals that Diana is herself a daughter of Zeus. This puts her at odds with her mother, who always told her that she was created by the gods from clay.

The title of this book is appropriate for two reasons, Azzarello’s Wonder Woman run is a gory affair; the first issue alone sees horses decapitated so that they can be transformed into centaurs, one of which later has her arm removed by Diana’s sword. But it soon becomes clear that this is a story about family, both the one we are born into and the one we make for ourself. Diana’s revelation that she is truly her mother’s daughter is one she has trouble coping with, but it also puts her in perhaps the most notoriously awful family in the history of fiction. The Greek gods are always at each other’s throats, struggling for power and never letting go of old grudges.

Feeling no longer at home with the Amazons but not exactly at home among the warring gods, Diana ends up creating a new family for herself. She and Hermes work together to protect Zola and Diana’s unborn new sibling. They are soon joined by Lennox, another child of Zeus whose skin is made entirely of stone. Together this ragtag group of loosely related heroes have to contend not only with Hera’s wrath, but the ambition of Poseidon and Hades, both seeking to claim the throne that Zeus has abandoned. Also planning to usurp the throne of heaven is the sun god Apollo, who works from the shadows to plan his ascent.

Bracelets

Wonder Woman in Volume One

Though she is a late arrival in her first issue, Diana makes an immediate impact. This issue makes no attempt to hide the fact that Diana is an amazon and is thus very powerful. When Zola is teleported to her room by Hermes and Diana isn’t sure who she is or why she is there, she grabs Zola by the throat and it is intimidating. The fact that she is considerably taller doesn’t help matters. But when Diana realizes that she is frightened and in trouble, her mood immediately changes to one of compassion; she selflessly embraces the role of protector. Then she proceeds to kick centaur butt; if you’ve never seen Wonder Woman in action, this is one of the best examples of it as she shows how skilled she is as a fighter.

Diana is also shown to be at odds with her Amazon sisters. While her mother Hippolyta clearly loves her, it isn’t a sentiment shared by all of them, especially when she brings a pregnant girl and a male (divine though he may be) to their island. We get a sense that Wonder Woman’s loyalty is torn between the world at large that needs her protection, and the Amazons whose approval she is desperate to earn. But when it is revealed that her mother has lied to her about her parentage, Diana seems to clearly choose a side.

There has been a great deal of controversy about Wonder Woman’s revised origin as the daughter of Zeus, and to an extent I can understand why. The idea that Diana suddenly has a father and that years of continuity is thrown aside is potentially unsettling. But what I enjoy is that Diana never develops “daddy issues” or seems to care that Zeus is her father. After all, he’s not a man, he’s the king of the gods. She’s probably felt like his child all along in a sense, just not so literally. The only thing that matters is that she was lied to, and Diana despises dishonesty. As for my take on the whole thing, I think it’s a great move. It helps explain why Diana is so much more powerful than her Amazon sisters, and gives her a more direct connection to the Greek myths that serve as the background in her best stories, including this one.

Diana

Volume Two: Guts

Issue #6 ended with Diana manipulating Poseidon and Hades in order to draw Hera out and blinding her to Zola to prevent her from being hunted. It’s one of the brightest spots of Volume One, but just when Diana experiences a great triumph, she suffers a loss when Hades (who is referred to as “Hell” in this book) lures Zola into the underworld. Naturally, Diana takes it upon herself to rescue Zola, but not before taking a detour to Hephaestus, blacksmith of the gods, for some necessary upgrades to her armor and weapons. Diana’s journey into Hell’s realm takes up the bulk of this story and is full of plenty of fun twists, which I won’t spoil.

When Diana manages to save Zola, things go from bad to worse in a hurry. What was days to Diana and crew were months in hell for Zola, and consequently she is now in the final stages of her pregnancy. Apollo, along with his sister (and possibly lover) Artemis start to hunt the child as well. Apollo is doing this as a favor to Hera in exchange for Zeus’ throne, which leads to a climactic battle on Mount Olympus where Wonder Woman shows the full extent of her power for the first time.

Cuffs

Wonder Woman in Volume Two

While the first six issues showcase Diana’s protective instincts very well, this book expands upon the idea as Diana literally goes to hell and back to save Zola. A strong theme in this volume is Diana’s love for all human life. it is the driving force behind all of her actions and leads to some interesting discussion with Hephaestus and Hell. But while Diana is willing to put her life on the line for others, that same love makes her reluctant to accept help from her new teammates. She doesn’t want them to get hurt, but it’s also clear that she has some insecurity and wants to prove that she can do things by herself. I feel like this is a very good character flaw for Wonder Woman; as a product of a warrior culture, she should be competitive and independent, even when she needs to rely on the strength of others.

The final issue’s fight between Diana and Artemis is one of the coolest moments in any Wonder Woman book ever, but it also subtly introduces a new defining character trait. We see that Diana is always holding herself back, never embracing her true power because she is afraid to hurt others with it. And I like this idea, particularly as an evolution of the themes of loving submission that William Moulton Marston intended for the character. While his ideas probably went in some directions they didn’t need to, Azzarello isn’t afraid to address them. Instead, he uses this display of Diana’s power to show that the “Bracelets of Submission” do restrain her for our safety. Not hers, but for ours. The fact that Diana has truly godlike power but chooses to reign it in is an excellent modern interpretation.

Wonder Woman

Final Thoughts

Blood and Guts are an excellent start to the Azzarello and Chiang run. They aren’t afraid to make bold narrative decisions, but the true strength of the book is the excellent characterization. While Diana is the most fleshed out character, each of the gods feels very true to the classic mythos and Zola is a very likable character in her own right. Azzarello’s writing is certainly a major contributer, but Chiang’s beautiful artwork helps tremendously. His facial expressions and body language really help to sell what the characters are going through. And as a completely irrelevant point, I can’t get over the way he draws Diana’s hair. It’s gorgeous.

But while Cliff’s art is magnificent, back-up artist Tony Akins work on issues five, six, nine and ten are decidedly not. While Azzarello’s story is still compelling, these issues lose a lot of the magic because of poor artwork. I would have loved to have seen what Chiang could have done with the same material. Akins’ contributions are the sole reason why this run is not my favorite of all time, which is a shame.

But aside from that, it should be abundantly obvious that these books have my full recommendation. They are some of my favorite comics of all time. If you don’t love Wonder Woman before reading this book, you will after only a few issues.

Superhero Spotlight – Wonder Woman

Male superheroes largely outnumber female superheroes, which is an unfortunate trend of media that has persisted for centuries. This post is not meant to be an analysis of the reasons for this, or the negative impact that it has. I simply want to use it as context for the following statement.

There is a good debate over who the greatest superhero of all time is, but to me there is very little debate over who the greatest superheroine is. With all due respect to other female superheroes, many of which I genuinely love, there is only one superpowered woman in comic books that has managed to have an influence on pop culture on her own merit. While that is likely to start changing as more and more women develop an interest in comic books, for now, there isn’t a really a strong, solid argument for anyone else being the Queen of Comics. So today, the spotlight is on her.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

The Comic Book Origin

Princess Diana is the only daughter of Queen Hippolyte, the leader of the Amazons, an all-female race of ancient Greek warriors who are gifted with exceptional strength and long life. The Amazons live on the island of Themyscira where they have lived for centuries with little contact with the outside world, and consequently still live life as ancient Greeks did. A product of her culture, Diana has been trained as one of the most skilled fighters in the DC universe and is dangerous in armed and unarmed combat. The Princess’ life took a major turn when American Airforce Colonel Steve Trevor crashed his plane on Themyscira. After determining that he was not a threat, Hippolyte sanctioned a tournament to decide the greatest Amazon warrior, who would then escort Col. Trever back to his homeland in the world of man.

Despite her mother’s wishes, Diana entered the tournament secretly and proved herself the strongest of the Amazons. Her mother relented and allowed her to go into the outside world to return Steve home, and to work as an ambassador to the rest of the world. Gifted with her iconic Lasso of Truth and the Bracelets of Submission, she soon starts to defend the world from a variety of threats, embracing her new identity as Wonder Woman. Diana becomes a charter member of the Justice League and one of the DC Universe’s three most iconic superheroes, along with Superman and Batman.

Depending on the story, Diana was either formed from clay as a gift to Hippolyte from the Greek gods, or is the illegitimate daughter of Zeus. I prefer the later story as it fits more with classic Greek mythology tropes and explains why she is so much more powerful than her Amazon sisters, but feel free to use whichever origin you prefer as your person head canon.

Marston

The Real Life Origin

Wonder Woman made her debut in All-Star Comics #8 in December of 1941 and was created by psychologist William Moulton Marston, who would later gain fame for creating the systolic blood pressure test, the precursor to the polygraph test commonly referred to as a lie detector. Marston was a feminist who felt that comic readers needed a strong female role model and that Wonder Woman would appeal both to boys who were already into comics as well as to young girls. He was also a very odd cat with some unconventional ideas about gender roles that I don’t necessarily agree with, but this blog isn’t about him. However, I do want to spotlight one of his important quotes.

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power… The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

In simpler terms, Marston is expressing the need for female characters that are as independent and capable as men but are still written as women. It is important to understand that women in action and adventure genres were even more of a novelty in the 1940’s than they are now. Wonder Woman became a feminist icon, a hero to a generation of women who had shown their worth in the workplace when the men of America were fighting in World War II.

Perez

While Marston created the character, I want to give recognition to George Perez for his influential work on the character in the 1980’s following DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths. Along with Len Wein, Perez helped to shape the new status quo for the character, with more elements of Greek Mythology and grander stories as well as a more fleshed out personality. His work largely defined the character for the modern age and I recommend reading his Wonder Woman stories as an introduction to the character.

Modern Wonder Woman

What Does Wonder Woman Stand For?

Wonder Woman is a complex character with one of the more developed personalities in DC Comics, and she stands for a great many things. While it tempting is pin her as a champion of feminism or as a symbol of truth because of her Lasso of Truth, these are merely aspects to who she is. Diana is certainly a symbol of female empowerment; she doesn’t need a man to protect her or make decisions for her. She is also a symbol of truth, one of the most honest characters in comics largely because she has nothing she feels the need to hide. But there’s a lot more to her.

Diana is not just a symbol of equality between men and women, but for equality in general. She is an ambassador from a culture that has unique religious views and where homosexual relationships are part of everyday life. She worships Greek gods but respects other people and their beliefs, simply wishing to educate people on her culture without forcing it on others. While it is not often relevant to her adventures as Wonder Woman and DC tends not to discuss it much, Diana has been heavily implied to be bisexual by several writers and I would imagine that a good deal of her fanbase interprets her as such. So it isn’t just a gender issue; Wonder Woman is a symbol of the belief that all people, regardless of their religious, cultural, racial and sexual differences, should respect one another and treat each other with love and understanding.

Which brings me to what the real central theme of Wonder Woman as a character; love. Diana, as a character, has a deep love for humanity in all of its diversity. She is compassionate and understanding and while she is a trained warrior, would rather settle differences through diplomacy and compromise than at the edge of a blade. But she is also fiercely protective and has little tolerance for monsters, whether that monster be some legendary Greek beast or a psychopathic serial killer. Diana understands that sometimes you have to take a life to protect others, a more reasonable approach that the the strict morals of Superman and Batman. Essentially, Diana functions as a maternal figure; fiercely protective but also devoted to teaching people to be better than they are.

Chiang

What I Like About Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is my favorite comic book character and one of my favorite characters in any medium. On a base level I am drawn to her because I enjoy the epic mythological scope of her stories, which often times feel more like Lord of the Rings in tone than traditional supehero fare. That’s what drew to Wonder Woman comics, but I soon fell in love with Diana as a person. I appreciate the complexity of her personal ethics and the passion she has for teaching other people. Most superheroes are content to be detached symbols to normal people, but Diana is an activist who states her beliefs outright and for all of the world to see.

The short answer is that Diana is a symbol for the things I value most in this world; equality, understanding, love and protecting those who will stand up for these beliefs. She is the superhero that I most personally identify with and because of that she will always be my favorite.

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