"Wonder Woman" #19 will presumably be the first chapter of the fourth "Wonder Woman" collection, and with last month's retrieval of Zola's baby, it feels like the start of a new day. Brian Azzarello, Goran Sudzuka and Tony Akins pick up the pieces from everything that led up to this moment, and start re-arranging them in ways that portend good things to come.
Azzarello isn't afraid to shuffle the decks a bit with "Wonder Woman" #19. The issue opens with a reminder of the current status quo, and then he begins moving a few of the pieces off of the board. Is it temporary or permanent? That's hard to say, but for now Wonder Woman's got a few less allies than she did at the start of the issue, and of course that's the perfect time for others to strike against her. What's nice is that it feels like each of these departures makes sense; they aren't driven by big plot happenings, but rather from character traits that were already established up until this point.
That's a good thing because so much of "Wonder Woman" #19 could best be described as machinations. As each character plots to come out ahead, it's becoming rapidly clear that not only is this about to come crashing down around everyone, it's going to do so in a nasty and dangerous way. Each character whose motivation involves scheming does so in a way that fits specifically with their depiction up until now, and it's fun to see them all swirling around one another.
My favorite moment in this issue, though, has got to be the scenes with Zola and Hera. They're such an odd pairing (especially considering their history together in the first year of the series) that watching them bounce off of one another is a real joy. I have no idea where these two are headed, but that mixture of scorn and almost-affection that infuses their moments together is great. But then again, you could say that about almost any pairing here: Wonder Woman and Orion (with one exchange that will get a lot of people chuckling, no doubt), Wonder Woman and War, Orion and Zola, Poseidon and the First Born, Poseidon and Hades -- there's humor, there's drama, there's even a nasty little scuffle. "Wonder Woman" has become a good example of a character-driven story.
Sudzuka draws most of this issue, and I love that he's inking himself again. I first fell in love with Sudzuka's art when he provided both the pencils and inks many years ago in "Outlaw Nation," and while Sudzuka just providing pencils is still fun, this is the real deal. Gentle, soft ink lines create each of the characters, and Sudzuka is able to create a nice undercurrent of humor in moments like Hera and the baby interacting; it's not slapstick or outright comedy, but there's something about the expressions on their faces that can't keep you from laughing. I enjoy Akins's role as the second artist for "Wonder Woman" and he does a good job with the First Born sequence this month, but if he never needs to move on, I'd be delighted if Sudzuka took his place.
"Wonder Woman" #19 is another solid issue in an always fun series. Azzarello and company have clearly kicked off another six months or so of stories to form the fourth collection here; it's much to their credit that I'm not willing to wait until that collection surfaces, though. Good times.