Four volumes in, and yet, I’m still in love with this Shakespearean/twisted family plot writer Brian Azzarello has cooked up for Wonder Woman from the get-go in the New 52. Self contained from the rest of the DC Universe, zero editorial interference, makes no apologies of being different from past Wonder Woman interpretations, and is one of (or only?) comics out there where none of the characters, even our main heroine, have inner thoughts and convey their thoughts and feelings through words, expressions, and hidden agendas. Yes, Brian Azzarello’s WW is something of a series I’ve loved from the beginning and with volume 4, where things setup from the start, begin to making big payoffs that will change the current WW for the next volumes to come.
WONDER WOMAN VOL.4: WAR collects issues #19 - #23. After the happy ending in volume 3 with Zeke, the baby of prophecy, finally being returned to his mother Zola, the dysfunctional family under Wonder Woman have finally come together. But now that sides have been taken between Apollo as ruler of New Olympus and Wonder Woman, Apollo is getting desperate to destroy Zeke. But the inner workings of the Gods continue their own agendas, where they now wager the wildcard factor to change the whole demographics between Apollo and Wonder Woman: The First Born. The First Born wants to destroy everything and rule Olympus as his birthright and no can stand before his might, and see’s Zeke as another stepping stone to his ascension. Now Wonder Woman and her family must take down the First Born, even if it means going to Orion’s home world of New Genesis to plan and prepare for battle.
Whereas volume 3 was slow in plot but heavy on character building (well technically the whole series has been about character building), volume 4 picks up the pace with the First Born finally coming into the main plot that stands in the way of our heroes. This makes it where there is more action than any previous volume before it. And when someone as powerful as the First Born takes on Wonder Woman and her family, you know the stakes are going to shoot up through the roof and something is going to give.
This makes volume a perfect balance of action and character/world building. Apollo’s desperation to destroy Zeke allow for a Moon/Wonder Woman fight (round 2!), First Born taking on Wonder Woman, Orion, and Lennox in London (they tear that city up), to even having one final battle in issue 23 with First Born with his entire army against our heroes in a shocking and actual status quo changing effect from here on out. So while action has been the more secondary commodity in Azzarello’s WW series, volume 4 has half the book dedicated to action and I do not think it disappoints.
And while the action has been beefed up in this volume, this volume still has it’s share of character and world building as this series has been known for. We get to see the odd family ties Wonder Woman has made like Orion, Hera, Ares, and Zola actually getting along with one another. We get to see Wonder Woman get back at Orion for his little butt slap in volume 3 (I’m sure many people wanted to see her knock him one and you fans will finally get your fan service). We get more deep family agendas from Poseidon and Hades now. And the biggest selling point is Orion and his home world New Genesis.
Orion hasn’t done much in terms of his character or inclusion, but now we see more about him and New Genesis. Azzarello maintains many of Jack Kirby’s influences and origins for Orion in his secret power – his pre-52 origin fans knew him as the son of Darkseid, where it never actual answers that here -. But plenty of great aspects that we only get a glimpse of New Genesis, I hope we’ll see more of in the future.
As for art, series regular Cliff Chiang does most of these issues and his art is perfect. Since the New 52, Chiang has done 3 or 4 issues then Goran Sudzuka took over for a few fill-in issues and then Chiang again. Sudzuka does issues #19 and some of #20’, and while his art is good and only gotten better, but he doesn’t have that same level as Chiang. Thankfully, Chiang does some of #20 and does 21-23 and to gorgeous results. His art style for BOOM tubes, to the techno/organic world of New Genesis, Chiang hits all cylinders for his art and nails it on the game changing issue 23.
Now I have no real faults with this series, because I love it, even with the little flaws. Yet there are still a few that might be different from readers’ perspective. The concept of the series going after the baby, Zeke, has gone on a little too far. Issues 19 and 20 still have it where the characters have concentrated on attacking and protecting Zeke still, so some readers might feel burnt out on this plotline. Thankfully though, the whole demographics change with New Genesis and the big finale issue 23.
Secondly, the final payoff in issue 23 might make readers feel like Azzarello took too long to get to. Once you read that last issue, you’ll see this was really what Azzarello had in mind since the get-go, and you have to wonder why it took this long or was required to do so. It taking 23 issues to tell Azzarello’s point, you might wonder if taking four volumes was really necessary. I know this series is about the deep family conflict, but I know plenty of people who feel this series is slow and I can see their reasons.
And thirdly, and I do not consider this a flaw by any stretch of the means, but I am curious why $23 for only 5 issues. Most DC hardcovers at $22.99 books are at least 6 issues, where this is not the case. There is no additional pages per the issues and I wonder why DC couldn’t have lowered the price to an even $19.99 or given fans the VILLAINS MONTH issue #23.2, the origin issue of First Born to make up for the price of the book. I notice DC and Marvel are subtlety increasing the cover price of their trades and this might have something to do with it. But again, not a real flaw but an observation.
WONDER WOMAN VOL.4: WAR continues and concludes another chapter in Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang’s Odyssey-like adventures. This volumes continues on the heavy family politics, the world building, more big action than ever before, and the game changing issue 23 that you’ll eat up. But the idea that Azzarello is still sort of stuck on chasing Zeke (for a bit) and that it took 23 issues to get to the real heart of the series is questionable. But I still love the hell out of this series and gladly give it 5 stars.
As someone who is reading the singles and double dipping into the trades (I love it that much), things will become more focused on Diana on her new role to come. And, I am saddened (or happy for those who despise this series) to say for fans of this creative team, that both Azzarello and Chiang will leave this series sometime this year of 2014. It hasn’t been posted which issue thus far, but judging by the number of issues completed, I think it will get up volume 6 or volume 7.