In an industry where comics starring female characters are hardly the majority, it's especially nice that we've had three of those titles from major publishers ("Alabaster: Wolves" #5, "Batwoman" #12, and "Wonder Woman" #12) deliver such strong issues in the same week. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang wrap up the first year of "Wonder Woman" with a surprise or two. Except, of course, that looking back through the first eleven issues the information's been under our noses all along.
Introduced in "Wonder Woman" #1 as a woman bearing the child of Zeus that might be the one prophesized to kill one of the Greek Gods and take their place, Zola's position in the title has shifted from center stage to sidelines over the course of this year. With her child's birth finally upon us, though, it's hard to ignore the character this month. And for those of who you have managed to avoid spoilers up until this point, we'll just say that the end of this phase of the story is just the beginning for something bigger.
What's important is that Wonder Woman isn't lost in the shuffle in her own title. She's still the one who makes most of the major events happen. She's fighting for the survival of both Zola and her baby; she's the one who needs to find some way to stop the Greek pantheon from attacking; and she's the one with whom the responsibility is sitting on the shoulders of when the dust settles. While I'd like to start getting some glimpses of her personal life ("Wonder Woman" #1-12 have been a non-stop sprint for the character ever since she woke up in her home in London back in issue #1), for now I feel like this strong, personable character is getting a good display from Azzarello.
As good as Tony Akins has proven himself as the second artist for "Wonder Woman," there's no denying how great Chiang's art looks. From the very first page, his art shines; that early panel with Zola surrounded by Apollo, Artemis, Hera and Strife is wonderful, with each of them gazing at Wonder Woman and Hermes with a slightly different expectation. The range from Hera's disdain to Strife's boredom is great, and the flip side of Wonder Woman with compassion and Hermes with determination is just as good. Throughout the issue there are great little touches; the way Chiang draws Wonder Woman deflecting Artemis's projectiles is lively and appropriate, and Zola's terror on her face as the fall begins is all too appropriate. It's Hera that gets a lot of the attention this month, though, and appropriately so. As the major villain of the first year, her presence is important here and Chiang gives her visually so many great moments and expressions that it cements her self-proclaimed authority and power.
As for the cliffhangers? Well, it's fun to go back and read the first issue now and see the hints that were dropped even then. It all makes sense, something that doesn't always exist with a big surprise moment (or two) to grab the reader's attention. I groaned at the first one because it made perfect sense and was set up earlier, but the second one actually made me gasp a bit. Once again, it's something that fits perfectly with everything we've seen over the course of the first year, and it makes me all the more eager to see Year Two.
"Wonder Woman" #12 is exactly the right way to close out the first year of this comic (and the upcoming second collection, "Wonder Woman: Guts"). I'm just as much a fan of "Wonder Woman" now as I was a year ago, and that's thanks to Azzarello, Chiang and Akins. As always, this is a must-read.