DC Comic’s New 52 reboot brought changes to several characters in their world. Heroes and villains were born anew. Some received divorces (well, editorial annulments). Some received new relationships. All of them got costumes with collars, and many of them were handed freshly scrubbed and sparkling origin stories. A new coat of paint to cover up layers of old, peeling wallpaper and spackle isn’t the worst idea. It helps to greet buyers, weary of yesterday’s stories, with open arms – to make them feel welcome in a house and universe that’s been lived in for a long time.
However, when you remodel histories and modernize them you have to be mindful of respecting what was present before you started bulldozing. Has DC done that with Wonder Woman? Yes, but also no.
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman has a lot of hash marks in the positive column. Besides seeing her as the strong and skilled warrior (the tone is set from the first issue when she encounters her first foes – she doesn’t use the lasso, she uses a sword), we see her emotions and struggles. She is treated like an outcast by some in Themyscira, and you can tell how much it weighs on her. She’s not a paragon of virtue and nobility; she has problems just like humans and it’s refreshing seeing her more grounded and real. I like the way she solves problems, too. She’s clever; she does things like playing Hades and Poseidon for fools and roping them into helping her trick Hera.
The story as I’ve read it so far (up to issue 8) doesn’t deal with problems of the mortal world. Diana’s not stopping a war or saving humanity, and it’s interesting and enjoyable to see her among her peers – gods and demi-gods and creatures. Plus, I like seeing characters like Hermes developed and part of the regular cast.
Also, I want to marry Chiang’s art.
But, on the other side, there’s one big mark that takes up most of the negative column: Wonder Woman gets a father. I read the reveal scene. I did a double take. I read it again in case it was a fantasy sequence or I’d crossed my eyes. Anything to prove I was mistaken about what I had just seen. But no. Zeus is the clay daddy. And hey, Hera finds out and she wants Diana and Hippolyta’s heads. Did my Wonder Woman just turn into Hercules: The Legendary Journeys?
That’s a bit dramatic, but I sure wasn’t happy. It’s just one change, but it gets under my skin. The fact that Hippolyta sculpted her daughter from clay made her special. When the comic was released two years ago, Azzarello told The New York Post, “Everybody’s got a father,. Even if he’s not the nicest guy in the world.”
No, Wonder Woman didn’t have a father. She was born solely of her mother’s love. The race of Amazons was created with compassion from the goddesses of Olympus. Hippolyta wanted a child and was instructed to go to the shore and shape a baby from clay. She had to put her heart into it. It’s heavily implied if she didn’t work with love and intensity and passion that nothing would have happened. That Artemis, Aphrodite, and the others would have said, “Eh, too bad. You didn’t want it enough.”
I think being fatherless made Diana a stronger character, certainly a unique character, and emphasized the Amazon mythology. To take that element away cheapens her story – and Hippolyta’s.
Disliking one aspect of a story shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it almost is on this one for me. I like too much about Azzarello’s run to push it aside entirely, but the Zeus factor is always in the back of my head. Whenever I pick up an issue, it brings a touch of bitterness with it.
That may not be entirely fair to the work, but then again, I don’t think it was entirely fair to Wonder Woman either.