"Wonder Woman" #7 by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang is easily the most difficult review I've had to write yet. Even now I remain incredibly conflicted.
Unfortunately, though "Wonder Woman" continues to be compelling, well written and beautifully drawn, there are plot developments and character reveals in this issue that will be difficult for long-time (and new?) readers to swallow. In this issue, Azzarello presents The Amazons as the absolute worst kind of people -- killers, borderline rapists, baby killers, abandoners and liars. Although there is some basis in mythology for making those choices, it's a very extreme decision to embrace all of them all at once. It also seems rather unbalanced as we're presented with none of the things that might be redeeming about The Amazons -- exceptional warriors of honor and heart or any number of other attributes. Since Azzarello also killed them all off several issues ago, there is no chance for redemption. In the end it feels like needlessly dragging them through the mud.
Azzarello's take on Wonder Woman has seemed to be one of stripping away everything Diana thinks she knows and believes. There's an interesting story there in breaking down a character and building them back up, but in this case I'm just not sure it's worth it.
For starters, this plot development simply doesn't make much sense. If this is a part of The Amazon culture, then why wouldn't Diana know about it? How can Diana be who we know her to be -- good and proud, strong and brave, honest and true, full of compassion and power -- and come from and/or agree with the supposed ways of Azzarello's Amazons? If The Amazons do not believe their actions to be shameful (and they do not seem to) then why hide them from Diana or anyone else? If Diana did not know, as Azzarello's story seems to imply, then we must assume Diana to be a naïve fool at best and galactically stupid at worst. If Diana is a naïve fool unaware she was raised by killers, rapists, liars and abandoners, how can we believe that she would she grow into the honorable, heroic and compassionate person she is when these are the people who raised her? Lastly, perhaps Azzarello is suggesting Diana's origin for coming to man's world (to help them, to bring them compassion, etc.) is different than what we know it to be. However, since he has not said as much, we must assume her mission is the same. Why would a group of dishonorable liars, thieves, killers, etc., send the best of themselves to man's world with a mission of any sort other than utter destruction? In the end, it's a bold and risky idea that feels executed for shock value and doesn't stand up to examination.
"Wonder Woman" has been a stand out among the New 52 and even this issue is in general a solid, well written book with one of the best artists in all of comics illustrating it beautifully, but I'm beginning to find the world and characters unrecognizable. I'm in favor of a fresh take on things and I was willing to accept new developments -- even those I didn't like (such as Wonder Woman being revealed to be the daughter of Zeus and thus a demi-god) because I don't believe the best work can come from being slavishly devoted to everything that came before, but this goes too far and is too profound a slap in the face.
As a feminist comics reader, it is tough to find great books starring female characters and I hoped that with such a fantastic creative team as Azzarello and Chiang we had found it in "Wonder Woman," a book and character deserving nothing but the best. However, The Amazons as an idea are not simply one-dimensional monsters -- flawed though they may be (as any fictional character or people should be) -- and presenting them as such sends a horrible message, especially in a medium and genre with so few positive strong female portrayals. At the end of the day, I tend to choose story over all else and if this truly served the story I would agree to come along, but Azzarello just doesn't get us there and as a result the book feels like a huge misstep in what was until now a fantastic run.