Five things I loved about Absolute Wonder Woman

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Absolute Wonder Woman.

Absolute Wonder Woman book cover. Cliff Chiang art.

And some things I liked about Wonder Woman ’77

What it is: Absolute Wonder Woman, a deluxe edition hardcover (DC Comics, 484 pps, $163CDN) that collects the first 18 issues of a new Wonder Woman comic that was part of the the New 52. The New 52 was a comics universe-spanning clean-up instigated by DC in 2011.

Who it’s by: Writer Brian Azzarello (perhaps best known for 100 Bullets, a Vertigo Comics series with an intriguing premise, and one that borrowed heavily from film noir tropes) and artist Cliff Chiang (Harvard grad, DC Comics editorial-assistant-turned-illustrator).

Why you should read it: With the Wonder Woman movie set for a June 2 release, we need to hunker down and prepare ourselves for an onslaught of Wonder marketing. At a $160CDN cover price, Absolute Wonder Woman separates the fanboys from the casual admirers; it may not be the best place to start for beginners, but it does offer a fresh take on the character while offering enough signature moves to show why she has endured for over seven decades. (It should be noted that these 18 issues have been previously collected in two much lower-priced trade paperbacks, albeit without the production values and additional art that appends the story.)

What I loved about it: First, Absolute Wonder Woman is a beautiful package, no doubt. The book is sturdily bound, with glossy pages and digital processes that make the colours practically psychedelic in intensity.

Second, the humour. Azzarello gets a lot of mileage out of the whole gods-walk-among-us thing. One of my favourite scenes occurs later in the story, when Zola, one of the few humans in the story, goes out for drinks with Hera, wife of Zeus (who has gotten Zola pregnant; Wonder Woman has sworn to protect Zola from Zeus’ other offspring, who want to kill Zola and her baby. Long story), to a New York bar. The panels in which Hera tries to decide on a craft cocktail are a pure delight.

Third: the art. I like, but don’t love, Cliff Chiang’s clean-line, aggressive but somewhat stiff figures (I actually preferred the four issues of fill-in art by Tony Aikins). That said, there are moments in this saga when Chiang’s layouts, backgrounds and figures combine brilliantly with the colours (by Matthew Wilson), such as when, in the penultimate issue, Wonder Woman descends into the realm of Demeter, aka Harvest, aka the Queen of the Roots.

Fourth: Speaking of Demeter (and Hera, and Zeus), a lot of gods and goddesses (half-siblings of Wonder Woman; all offspring of that randy old goat Zeus) traipse through the 400-plus pages of this epic, and sometimes keeping track of who’s who and what’s motivating them is difficult. Still, the book lights up whenever War, Strife or Hermes appear on the scene.

Fifth: Continuity, or the lack thereof. I’m still not sure how this 18-part story fits into older or even current Wonder Woman mythology, since Azzarello has added an element to Wonder Woman’s origin that I don’t think was there before. Conspicuous by his absence (but not missed by this reader) is Steve Taylor, the American intelligence officer whom Diana (Wonder Woman) returns to the U.S., thus ending the Amazons’ self-imposed isolation on Paradise Island, as per the accepted origin story. When this story picks up, the 23-year-old Wonder Woman is living in London, with no mention of how or why she’s there. Which is absolutely fine with me.

In all, Absolute Wonder Woman is a fun read, and beautiful to look at. Fans of the original run of the 2012 series will definitely find much to ogle here.

And then there’s this:

Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 2 ($22.99CDN, softcover) collects stories from two issues of DC’s Wonder Woman ’77, a series that follows in the tail-wagging-dog path set by the similarly nostalgia-themed Batman ’66. Both are based on the TV series starring their respective characters, and thus are more concerned with fun and whimsy than continuity. This collection features a variety of writers (Amy Chu, Trina Robbins, Amanda Deibert, Ruth Fletcher, Christos Gage, Marc Andreyko) and artists (Dario Brizuela, Tom Derenick, Cat Staggs, Staz Johnson, Richard Ortiz). I particularly enjoyed the work by artists Ortiz and Duce in the first story, Cat Staggs (who really captures the look of Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman) in “Reverend Mike Loves You” about a missionary in South America who isn’t what he seems, and Duce again in the final story, “Seeing Stars.” Speaking of which, the latter is one of two stories that feature aliens – were they that big a part of the TV series? Also, bonus points to writer Amy Chu for contributing the most ’70s story here, “World Collide”, which stars a (fictional) funk band, Superfunk. Good for her for going there.

Wonder Woman '77 Volume 2. Jason Badower cover art.

Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 2. Jason Badower cover art.

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