Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ladies be fightin'

Book: The New 52: Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood
Author: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Cliff Chiang, Tony Atkins
Published: 2012 (DC) (this collection)

I got some great advice at Free Comic Book Day. (This aside is going into its own parenthesis so I can point out that A., technically it's Free Comic Book Day EVERY day at the library, and B., the library welcomes girls who wear cute dresses while debating the character arcs of Batman villains and etc., and I feel like I have to point this out because one of my friends said she got looked at funny for wearing her Derby dress to get her new issue of Hellboy at her local 'shop, whereas I wore one of my favorite dresses to the library and got nothing but good reading suggestions. JUST SAYIN', y'all.)

So the continuity and history and backstories of superhero comics are especially intimidating, what with their 60+ years of history and baggage and reboots and such. And when I brought this up as a major barrier of my own comics reading, one of our esteemed speakers said like it was the most obvious thing in the world, "Just start reading what looks interesting and make your own connections."

(Another aside: I mentioned I was a Doctor Who fan, and that made them both chuckle and say I got no room to talk. At first it sounds equivalent, right, but really, even though there's 50 years of TV shows and numerous storylines, Doctors and companions and villains, formats, spinoffs, and media-leaping - really, it all goes back to the one core concept of a madman in a blue box. Comics are not nearly as neat and tidy. SO THERE.)

We spent at least an hour in the stacks Mystery Science 3000-ing Main's collection, and I saw this Wonder Woman comic that I liked the look and sound of. Wonder Woman finds out her origins are different than she's been told in a way that would both make her more a part of her Amazonian tribe and start a war among the gods. It's called Blood and it's drawn in my favorite bold-lined bright-colored style, and who cares what everyone says about Wonder Woman and the New 52 reboot, this is gonna be AWESOME -

...and it's about womenz fighting over a man. That is the whole story, at least in this volume, and the implications of that are far-reaching enough to put me off the rest of the story (sorry, Paul Harvey).

 It turns out Wonder Woman's mom Queen of the Amazons didn't make her out of clay because she wanted a kid so bad, as in the legend that had always made WW feel like an outsider. Nope, philandering Zeus came to the Queen and the strong lady got weak in the knees for an even stronger man and they got all busy and made Wonder Woman.

So fast forward to now, and Hera, Zeus's wife, knows he's been around while they're married and she's hella jealous and the discovery of one more of his outside children doesn't make her mad at him, oh no, she goes on the warpath to find that skank who bore his illegitimate daughter and turns the skank to stone.

And then somehow Zeus has died and so there's a power vacuum that all the boys rush to fill. Nobody once thinks or says, "Hey, you know, Hera's been here like this whole time, maybe she knows something about ruling heaven. Can't we just like combine the thrones and make one giant one for her that'll be big enough for her ego?" Nobody once thinks or says, "You know, there's at least one legit daughter floating around here, and sure, she's prone to chaos, but you know, her half-sister, the Amazonian warrior who pledges to help keep justice and the peace and suchnot, she seems pretty solid. Why not throw her hat in the ring as a consideration, at least?" NOPE.

Of course, Wonder Woman would refuse, and that's why despite her story I still like her as a character here. She is a noble I can get behind - truly trying to do the right thing as defined by what would do the least harm to everybody involved. She's realistically conflicted when she learns where she actually came from; it means she is actually one of the Amazons and not the outsider that she's never wanted to be. On the other hand, her dad was a jerk sperm donor and her mom didn't turn out as the independent woman she wanted her to be. This makes Wonder Woman run away, then come back too late, and it also made me want to hug her as a sister in solidarity. Parents are weird, man, and how're you supposed to forge your own way while honoring where you came from, especially if that changes so hard?

So I liked her, and I really liked Hera's peacock motif - although guys, the dress she was wearing in the preliminary sketches extra bit at the back was GORGEOUS so WHY WAS SHE NAKED UNDER HER CLOAK IN THE ACTUAL STORY? I don't know. But I loved Hades's design, too: he was a rather small, mostly-human shaped guy with a too-wide grin and a wreath of lit candles on his head that dripped wax in a thick veil over his eyes. Creepy and insightful portrayal of a dude who, when you read it properly, isn't actually the prince of hell but the underground, which is rather more calm and existentially terrifying than the fire and brimstone of Christianity. 

But the rest of it I will abandon to go find less misogynist stories (before you laugh, I know librarians who specialize in this stuff, so it's possible I swear) to connect. Wonder Woman is awesome and we should keep her that way, y'all. I'm still sold on that bit.

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