Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Wonder Woman 10, "Vows"

Previously, in Wonder Woman: Diana, shot with Eros’s golden guns and betrothed to Hades, lord of the Underworld, was confronted with a noose made from her own golden lasso, that compels the truth from those bound by it. Hades’ intention is that she wear the noose and proclaim her love for him before the wedding. Meanwhile, while most of their Olympian family has refused the wedding invitation, a few have come to witness the nuptuals: Diana’s allies, Hephaestus, Eros, and her half-brother Lennox, and Strife, who’s always been a source of…well, you know.

The action in Wonder Woman #10 picks up at the moment Diana is asked to prove her love to Hades by wearing the Noose of Truth… and we discover that, whatever her feelings for the lord of Hell (in one sense, they surprise, but in a larger sense, we should have known she felt that way all along), she won’t be bound by anyone, especially not a creepy candle-headed little-boy uncle who doesn’t even trust her. And a chase/fight scene commences, including Hades’ ex-wives, the billion tormented souls of hell, and a giant effigy made of muscle and blood.

And although she gets an assist from her family, Diana doesn’t want any of it. It’s as if she’s heard the complaints that she’s a supporting character in her own book, telling her allies “This is my fight; you shouldn’t have come.” And then: “You, too, Strife? Why can’t any of you let me fight this alone?” Production schedules being what they are, I’m not sure if this is writer Brian Azzarello's response to  fan criticism; it’s just one more way any of us relate to our families, even when they’re trying to help.

Ultimately, the key to the story comes down to love. Last issue, Aphrodite begged off the wedding invitation, opining, “There isn’t space in hell for love; it’s too cluttered.” This issue, we see just how right she is, and what strength love brings to Diana, and what a weakness that lack of love brings to Hades. (Although we later see all hope isn’t lost there, either, as the twin gifts of Hephaestus and Diana may work some magic.) And, incidentally, we get to see the effects of love on the rest of the Olympian family, through the eyes of Hephaestus, who certainly has plenty of experience, given that he’s married to (and cuckholded by) Love herself.

Aside from the issue’s striking cover by regular artist Cliff Chiang, this issue’s art is split between Kano and regular fill-in Tony Akins (with inks by Dan Green). Their styles complement each other, and it’s not jarring at all when one artist’s work gives way to the next’s. (It helps that it’s timed for the exact moment when the action kicks up to a crescendo – well planned, editor Idelson!) Colorist Matthew Wilson reinforces the eerie environment of the Underworld, giving everyone’s skin an unsettling, greenish cast.

It’s unclear where the story goes from this point; aside from Zola’s impending baby, the immediate plot threads are all tied up for the time being. But with this issue, Azzarello put Diana solidly back in the spotlight, focusing on her most important asset. Fueled by love, as she says, winning isn’t always the goal. But with it, she knows she can never lose.



Martin Gray said...

Rob, that's a terrific review. Wouldn't you know it, I give up on the book and you make it sound really rather good - Diana front and centre? plot threads tied up? Blimey O'Reilly, maybe I should go back to the shop.

Thanks so much for reviewing this issue.

Rob S. said...

Sure thing, Mart. Don't let me get your hopes *too* far up, though -- did I mention the giant effigy made of muscle and blood? Pretty gross. But on balance, I think you'd probably enjoy it.

Tom Badguy said...

Good stuff, I enjoyed it.

Rob S. said...

Awesome, Tom! Thanks!

karl said...

At least Diana appears to be back at the centre of the action at last - do you think DC have finally listened to their despairing readers?
Nah, me neither. That would imply they made a mistake.
Good action sequence, though.

Rob S. said...

I'm not sure if it's a matter of making a mistake or not; I think more than anything, it's a matter of Azzarello writing for the trade. Not in the sense of extending the action for longer than it merits, but in pacing the story so that there are issues in which everything that happens is build-up.

Last issue -- which people were understandably frustrated with -- was pretty much all build-up to this one, as some pieces get shuffled on the game board, but we didn't have any satisfying moments of resolution, or even satisfying moments of action. That issue was totally in service to this one... I mentioned the foreshadowing in Aphrodite's speech, but there's even a transition in issue 9 (from Hephaestus's forge to the Underworld) that picks up its artistic resonance from what we learn in issue 10. Whereas issue 8 had a resolution plus setup (Zola is rescued, but Diana must now stay), issue 9 had nothing to satisfy readers in that sense.

I don't think it's necessarily a mistake to tell a story that requires a bird's-eye-view, but it has to be done knowing that the story will be judged by fans on an issue-by-issue basis, regardless... and be judged by a fanbase that doesn't necessarily have a lot of trust in the storytellers*, either, regardless of their skill.

*By which I mean Azz, Chiang & Co., as well as DC as a whole.