Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood

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Amidst DC’s relaunch with the New 52, every title in their collection was restarted at issue #1, with numerous changes to continuity being established and laid forth in the ensuing comics.  Some things have changed, many remain the same, and some characters and events are as yet unknown as to how they play into this new multiverse.

I’d already read the first three trades of the newest Superman, so I knew that even the most seminal of characters would be facing some changes.  That being said, reading this Wonder Woman trade has only further proven to me that there is an inherent flaw in the way writers choose to tell Diana’s story. There have been numerous continuity shifts throughout the run of DC comics, but for the pillar characters of Superman and Batman, much of their mythology remains unchanged.  Superman was sent to Earth from a dying Krypton by his parents; Batman watched his parents be gunned down in Crime Alley.  The minor details may shift over the years, but these basic tropes are kept in place.

…And then there’s Diana. Over the years her origin has been rewritten countless times. She was the shaped from clay, she was Hippolyta’s child brought forth by the Gods.  Now, it is revealed that she is the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus.  These constant changes to the core being of a character as seminal as Wonder Woman have helped keep her from attaining the same mythological weight as her fellow heroes.   With so many changes, Diana’s history feels uncertain. Whereas Batman and Superman have certain facets of their history that remain unchanged, Diana’s is more blurry. Yes, she’s always an Amazon who travels to man’s world, but her motives and backstory vary enough to keep a clear image of her purpose from forming.  It leaves her character feeling uneven and ungrounded, something that is not true of the other key DC heroes. While Batman and Superman’s stories can generally be read as a single narrative despite the reboots and continuity shifts, Diana’s are often completely rewritten, making it difficult to align her stories into one cohesive history.

This leaves us with little choice but to approach each run on the title as self-contained. That being said, Brian Azzarello’s run so far has been quite well done. Wonder Woman, upon learning that Zeus is her father, strikes out on her own and attempts to defend a young girl (pregnant with Zeus’s child) from Hera’s wrath.  The goddess has vowed to destroy her husband’s mistress and unborn child (obnoxiously blaming the young girl who didn’t even know she was sleeping with a god rather than blame her philandering husband).  Diana does what she can to stop Hera, though facing off against numerous gods proves to be difficult.

I appreciate the fact that Azzarello enlists less common gods for his story. We get to see lesser names like Hermes and Strife, rather than solely focusing on the biggies like Ares and Zeus.  I enjoyed seeing Wonder Woman branch out within the mythology, acknowledging that there are more than just a small handful of gods to work with.  That being said, one minor issue I took with the story was the fact that Azzarello bounces back and forth between the Greek and Roman naming of the gods.  Within one scene, the same character refers to the king of the gods as both Zeus and Jupiter, and while both are technically the same name for one being, the inconsistency bothered me. Perhaps it was intentional to keep from locking in to a single mythology, pointing out that these are the gods of numerous civilizations. Nevertheless, it was a small detail that bugged me while reading, and took me out of the story a bit.

Overall Aazarello’s story was engaging and enjoyable, but at the same time I still can’t get over the fact that Diana’s story over the years is so disjointed. This is no fault of Azzarello’s, but rather the result of numerous writers reworking Diana’s origin, motives, and history.  Her story has a much less solid foundation than Superman or Batman’s, providing less for future writers to build upon.  Though one of the core three, Diana’s continues to remain the weakest of the three stories. It’s a shame, because it really feels like there is so much there to work with. No one can seem to agree on how she should be portrayed though: fierce warrior ready to fight at any given moment, proponent for peace who believes all life is sacred, or a combination of both?  Only when this motivation is worked out once and for all will her character be able to gain a more firm footing within the continuity.

-Jess

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The Multiversity

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Have I mentioned how much I love Grant Morrison?

DC has gone back and forth with the concept of the multiverse for decades now. It existed, then it didn’t, then it did again. The idea was always interesting to me, but I must admit that at times I found it downright confusing.  The earliest hints of it, when all we had were Earths 1 and 2, was confusing enough, but at least could mostly be kept straight.  Once they threw in numerous Earths though, I got a little lost.  I’m on more firm ground now, but only after fumbling my way though multiple trades spanning decades of publication, constantly asking Mistah J to explain who is from which Earth or what makes that Earth different from another (the man has the patience of a saint).

I wish I could have had a collection like Multiversity earlier on in my readings.  Loosely interconnected stories about the various 52 Earths that comprise the multiverse, Grant Morrison’s Multiveristy attempts to explain just what the heck is going on in DC Comics after the New 52 launch.  Many of the issues collected here are just brief asides, meant to fill us in on what numerous obscure characters are up to in this new reality (Captain Carrot! You’re back!).  Occasionally people from various Earths will interact, reminding the reader that the worlds are all interconnected, but for the most part they exist on their own, and their stories merely help to flesh out this newly formed multiverse.

My favorite collection in this trade is smack dab in the middle, in which Grant Morrison puts together a handy-dandy compendium about each and every Earth in the multiverse.  He writes a brief summary of each world, noting who are the key heroes on that world, or what might set it apart from others.  He does this for EVERY Earth.

Well, almost every one. Since Morrison is a genius, he’s far too intelligent to shackle the entire DC writing team with his vision of the entire multiverse (at least that’s what I’m choosing to believe).  He left seven of the worlds as mysteries, saying that little is known about them at this time. This is brilliant, and you can’t tell me otherwise. Those worlds can remain mysterious until a time arises that a writer can make use of one of them, and create their own Earth within the multiverse that can play into a future story.  Much better planning that forcing a writer to work with what you’ve already roughly laid out, no?

They may not be super detailed, but the Earth descriptions are just enough to make me want to read more about many of them.  My favorite by far is hardly mentioned in this trade, sadly: Earth 11, a.k.a. the Girl Power Earth (that’s what I call it, at least) where women are the primary heroes.

Um…YES PLEASE. Somebody needs to write the heck out of an Earth 11 comic right now, thanks.

Given how obvious it is that DC wanted to create a natural jumping-on point for new readers, a series like Multiversity is only logical.  Morrison brought plenty of talent and creativity to it to keep the series from feeling stiff or encyclopedic, which I greatly appreciated.  There’s no doubt in my mind that many of these Earths will play into other New 52 comics (many already have, in fact) so I’m grateful for this primer on the various Earths I may encounter in my reading.

If only this existed back in my early days of reading “the shelf”, maybe I wouldn’t have been so utterly confused as to what the heck was going on. Oh well, if anything it shows me how far I’ve come, so I can’t really complain.

-Jess