Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
May 22, 2012: Wonder Woman and Green Lantern are two of DC Entertainment’s oldest characters. But collections of their newly re-launched titles bring some surprising changes.
For example, we learned in 1942 that the child who would grow up to become Wonder Woman was a clay statue sculpted by Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, brought to life by the gods and granted their powers. In 2012, we learned that’s a lie.
The True, Honest-to-Gosh, Cross-My-Heart Origin of the Amazing Amazon comes to us in Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood ($22.99) arriving this month. Blood collects the first six issues of Wonder Woman, a title re-launched with DC’s other superhero titles in September as “The New 52.”
It’s clear that Blood has more than one meaning. First, the story involves the bloodline of the Greco-Roman gods, and secondly, it involves a lot of the red stuff. The plot is this: Father Zeus has disappeared, which sets various gods into violent motion against each other to claim his throne. Also, venomous Hera is trying to kill one of Zeus’ many lovers, a girl pregnant with a demigod that Wonder Woman has taken it upon herself to protect. As battles are won and lost, deals are brokered between power bases, and alliances shift. In the middle is the Amazing Amazon, who also must deal with the revelation of her true nature – and the fact her mother has been lying to her all along.
If this sounds more like a gang war than a superhero story, maybe it’s because Blood is written by Brian Azzarello, famed for the intricate crime noir 100 Bullets. He called the Greco-Roman gods “the original crime family” in a phone interview last year, motivated by “selfish” and “twisted” desires.
Artist Cliff Chiang does an imaginative job re-designing these centuries-old mythical beings – creatures who are, of course, free to appear as they like. Apollo is beautiful, as you’d expect, but looks carved from obsidian. Hermes is bird-like, with winged claws for feet. Hera is naked most of the time (except for her cloak of peacock feathers), but so bloody-minded and lethal you forget that pretty quickly. Ares is as old as war, and shows it. Poseidon and Hades are unearthly, and have to be seen to be believed. Not to mention that Chiang, abetted by Tony Akins, gives us a broad-shouldered, martial and plausible Wonder Warrior, who nevertheless retains a hard-edged Mediterranean beauty.
All of this is set against Diana’s shocking discovery about her origin, which I won’t spoil here. Well, except to say it’s an elegant explanation that befits Diana’s iconic status, without shredding what past writers have done.
But while Wonder Woman is going through big changes, writer (and DC Chief Creative Officer) writer Geoff Johns (and DC’s Chief Creative Officer) made subtle, almost minor changes to the Emerald Warrior in Green Lantern Volume 1: Sinestro ($22.99). That’s probably because Johns has already spent several years virtually re-creating Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, erasing decades of bad stories, clumsy mischaracterization and general mistreatment of one of DC’s signature characters.
The New 52 Green Lantern picks up right where the old title left off, with Jordan booted out of the Corps, his place as Green Lantern of Sector 2814 taken by his oldest arch-enemy, the red-skinned ex-Green Lantern Sinestro. Nobody is happy about this; not Jordan, not Sinestro, not the rest of the Corps. But the enigmatic Guardians of Oa are, as usual, executing some plan they won’t explain, and treating everyone like disposable tools. In the meantime, Sinestro has to eject from his home planet Korugar the evil yellow lantern corps he created, recruiting a reluctant Jordan to do so, just as the latter is trying to make up to Carol Ferris for years of neglect.
But while much of this may seem familiar, Johns has really upped the stakes, and the octane. The action is breathless, while every answer Johns gives just raises more questions. Meanwhile, artist Doug Mahnke – also retained from pre-New 52 title – has really found his groove, combining dramatic rendering with strong storytelling.
So what’s new is that Sinestro is no longer the cartoon bad guy he was in the 1960s, but a complex and tragic (but still really unpleasant) protagonist. And the Guardians may have crossed a line that can’t be ignored.
Meanwhile, Jordan must learn who he is without the ring. And Wonder Woman must learn who she is with her past ripped away. Given the status of these characters, those count as pretty big developments.
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at email@example.com.