I've been a big fan of the re-launch of "Wonder Woman" helped by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, and Tony Akins; it's been one of the huge out-and-out success stories and has grabbed my attention month in and month out. So why is it, then, that "Wonder Woman" #18 feels so anti-climactic even as it wraps up a major storyline?
First, credit where it's due: it's not a problem with the art. Chiang's three pages at the end of the book are just lovely, with his depictions of Wonder Woman and her supporting cast all beautiful. The figures are all perfectly chiseled, with each having a different body type and look even as the seven of them all stand and sit around one another. Akins and Dan Green also tackle some of the pages as well, and by now it's no secret that Akins and Green have proven themselves to be a strong substitute for when Chiang isn't available. They handle the main battle sequence for "Wonder Woman" #18, and the action flows smoothly and they make Demeter's realm feel both familiar yet alien. Goran Sudzuka also steps in to draw part of the issue, and having enjoyed his art ever since "Outlaw Nation" back in the day, it's no small surprise that he's another good fit for the book. He also draws in that clean, uncluttered style that "Wonder Woman" has come to embrace, and his pages of the First Born concluding his battle with Poseidon are handsome and easy to follow. He's another good choice for someone to pitch in on this book as need be.
I think the problem with "Wonder Woman" #18 is that it feels almost too easy, in terms of plotting. The big battle this issue ends up almost superfluous and unnecessary; it's a delaying tactic when the dust has settled, distracting us from what's really happening. And while there's no doubt in my mind that this is a set-up for bigger stories to come involving debts to be paid, in the here-and-now it's disappointing because it's so sudden and short.
That's also the same problem with the b-plot involving the First Born and Poseidon. Once again, there's no doubt in my mind that this isn't the end of this story, that sooner or later there's going to get a follow-up. But for now, once again, the immediate resolution is so effortless on one party's side that it feels almost like it wasn't important enough and is being discarded for now. That's not the feel you should get from a big storyline that's been building for a while.
Still, there are some nice bits here and there in "Wonder Woman" #18 when it comes to Azzarello's script. I love Demeter's incisive analysis of the relationship between Ares and Wonder Woman, for example, and why Ares would hate her. His take on Orion is also a blast; every time he speaks I can't help but chuckle. This slightly lunk-headed, swaggering machismo take is different than what we've had in the past, but it strangely fits in a way that I wouldn't have thought possible. Then again, if there's one thing Azzarello has shown us in "Wonder Woman," it's that he's the king of re-imagining gods of all shapes and sizes, and Orion is no exception to that rule.
"Wonder Woman" #18 is a bit of a let-down, if only because the series on the whole is normally so much stronger than this. Hopefully next month will pick things back up again, but for a book that is normally great, a just-average issue is a real disappointment in comparison.