BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood


I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t regularly read Wonder Woman. I love Wonder Woman. For some reason, however, I have never dedicated myself to following her comics run the way I did with characters like Batwoman or Batgirl. A little while ago, I decided I needed to rectify this, so I took the first step and purchased Blood, the first volume of her New 52 run. I already had misgivings about this choice, however, given the creative team assigned to restart her series. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang received the assignment to revamp Diana of Themyscira for the New 52 reboot. I’ve already voiced my disdain for Azzarello’s handling of Joker in his eponymous graphic novel, and I’m not really a fan of Chiang’s blocky art style that he too often uses for comics. I know he can do solid art. I’ve featured it here before at the den. However, for this run, he chose to go with this unimpressive, somewhat unfinished, rather juvenile art style, which is wholly unfitting for Greek royalty.

However, it’s the changes that Azzarello made to Wonder Woman’s origin story that ultimately twigged me off completely. There are certain things that are fundamental to Wonder Woman’s existence. Not physical things, like her invisible jet or lasso of truth or bullet-deflecting arm bracers. No, more elemental than that. More important. More significant.

One of the most significant points of Wonder Woman’s origin story was that she was never born of man. At all. Period. She was the purest form of woman to exist, formed by her mother’s hands from the clay of Themyscira and granted life and her powers by the gods themselves. No man played a role in her birth or upbringing. No man interfered in her existence until the unanticipated and jarring arrival of Steve Trevor to the island of the Amazons.

Clearly, this is not something that’s a big deal to Azzarello, but it’s a huge deal to the character. Yeah, the “man” in question is a god, but this change matters. You’ve taken away Wonder Woman’s uniqueness and basically made her the unanticipated end result of a one-night-stand. That’s a big deal. Just like changing her “weapons” are a big deal (for all her strength, Wonder Woman was always a pacifist; yeah, she could do damage to you if she really wanted to, but rarely did she ever want to harm). Just like changing her association with WWII is a big deal.

Okay, this is a total tangent, but humor me for a moment here. World War II was a huge turning point for women, both in the military and in the general workforce. It was finally women’s chance to move into professional roles traditionally reserved for men and show our viability as workers as well as (or, for some, instead of) wives and mothers. Women played an incredibly significant role during the second World War, across all the military branches. My grandmother served during this time, in the U.S. Navy WAVES. Just like Diana Prince, when she came to “man’s world” to help defeat the evil that was raining fire and horror down upon Europe.

Wonder Woman is so intrinsically linked with World War II that changing this part of her origin story would be as sacrilegious as saying that Superman’s world didn’t explode or Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t murdered when he was a boy. In fact, I would argue that it’s even worse, because the representation embedded in Wonder Woman’s WWII connection is based in reality (sorry, Krypton and Mr. and Mrs. Wayne, but you simply are not real). Her role in WWII was emblematic of the real roles of all the women who served, who similarly stepped out of the familiarity of their previous lives to serve a greater purpose, even while facing opposition from the very men they were trying to help…and in so doing, learned more about the depths of their own strength. This wasn’t the case with WWI. It makes no sense to now change Wonder Woman’s storyline for this new movie. The only reason that I can assume why they really made the change? Because Captain America is associated with WWII. Well, so what? Just because everyone dragged their feet on greenlighting a Wonder Woman movie until after Captain

BookBin2012: The Joker

I’ve accumulated a bit of a BookBin backlog and I’m starting to already forget my thoughts on the books that I’ve finished. That won’t be much of a problem with this entry.

I’m not really sure why I picked up Brian Azzarello’s The Joker. I could tell from the artwork that it was based on the Joker as portrayed by Heath Ledger in the Christopher Nolan Batman universe. I make no secret of the fact that I really dislike Nolan’s take on the Dark Knight. I have no interest in seeing this summer’s final offering. I’ll probably rent it later on. Then again, probably not. I guess it all depends on that day’s level of rental-related sadomasochism.

However, I know that Azzarello’s work with 100 Bullets is considered by many to be a graphic novel masterpiece (I’ve yet to experience it, but am willing to take other opinions into consideration).

The problem, however, is that no amount of creativity on Azzarello’s part is going to eliminate the fact that the foundation of this Joker was laid by Nolan. Did I mention that I really don’t like his translation of the Joker?

Well, I don’t.

Therefore, I didn’t really like this graphic novel.

One of the things that I’ve always liked about other interpretations of the Joker is that he is a dark, damaged, duplicitous criminal mastermind, worthy of being considered one of Batman’s number one opponents. Even in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, this darker version of the Joker carried within him a sharpness of wit and humor that were completely lacking in Azzarello’s Joker. Instead, in this story he’s nothing more than a bottom-dollar gangster, taking out petty vengeance on those who “wronged” him while he was away at Arkham Asylum.

Also? I know I come back to this all the time, but the depiction of women in this novel was atrocious. Harley Quinn as a mute stripper? (I’m just assuming she’s supposed to be a mute in this storyline, since I don’t believe I read any lines from her at all…she was just in the background, looking naked and lascivious). And a completely unnecessary act of sexual violence to show what an unhinged badass the Joker really is?

Please stop. Stop now.

I will say this: As with The Killing Joke, what ultimately saved this novel wasn’t the writing but the artwork. The combination of Lee Bermejo’s art with Mick Gray’s ink, Patricia Mulvihill’s colors, and Robert Clark’s letters combine for a delicious panorama of the more sinister sides of Gotham City and its seedier inhabitants. Some of the panels are frame-worthy, they’re so viciously beautiful.

Final Verdict: As much as I love the artwork, this is another case of finding the story itself so repulsive and unimpressive that I’m going to have to pass. Already back at the library, where I should have left it in the first place.