Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Wonder Woman has been one of the pillars of DC Comics for over seventy years. Despite failing to hit the sales levels of Batman, or even Superman, she is a character that has been blessed with fantastic creative teams and – by extension – creative runs. Her creator William Moulton Marston, Cary Bates, Dennis O’Neil, George Perez, Greg Rucka, and Gail Simone are some of the all time great writers that have had extended runs on the title. The list of artists is equally impressive: Harry G. Peter, Dick Giordano, Curt Swan, J.G. Jones, and (again) George Perez have lent their talents in illustrating DC’s most famous Amazon. Now, after three years and thirty five issues (plus a #0, a Villains’ Month issue, and an installment in Secret Origins #6), the creative team of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have wrapped up yet another a great run with the character.
Wonder Woman by Azzarello and Chiang (with art contributions by Tony Atkins and Goran Sudzuka) is not only an epic, complete story, but it may join the ranks of the Marston/Peter and Perez runs as a definitive take on the character. The events of Wonder Woman #35 lend credence to that notion. When the first issue hit shelves (and digital storefronts) on September 21, 2011, it was clear that Diana’s world would be vastly different from the one readers had known before, putting them on a level playing field with new readers. For some, the changes to this world were admittedly too different for their tastes. But those that walked away from this series early were too beholden to what had come before to realize that Diana herself, the titular and focal character, remained the same.
Yes, she no longer is born of clay life but instead a demigod, the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta. Yes, she is now Queen of the Amazons. Yes, she has replaced the fallen Ares to become the new God of War. But as she stated back in Wonder Woman #33, “My name is Diana. Those other words are just descriptions, not names.” This sentiment is reiterated once more as she literally throws down the gauntlet(s) to take on the First Born one final time. She rattles off the various titles she has acquired over the course of this run – Daughter, God of War, Wonder Woman – only to end with “But I only need be myself.” This has been a throughline of the series from the first issue, and it is a joy to see it carried on to the last.
Just as important to this run has been Zola and her child, Zeke. There survival has been one of the major plot elements throughout the series, and their roles are further elevated in this finale. In many ways, Zola has been the readers’ gateway into the series – a mere mortal thrust into this fantastic and frightening world. She has been kept grounded for the entirety of this story, which in turn adds to this issue’s turn of events. Azzarello confirms fan suspicions and reveals the child – fittingly referred to as “the last born” – to be Zeus reincarnate. However, with all the attention focused on Zeke, no one considered what lies beneath Zola’s meek exterior.
With the single swipe of a hand-turned-talon, Zola is no more. Her body is revealed to be a vessel for another of the Olympians – Athena. Rather than using this reveal as a fist-pumping moment, Azzarello and Chiang portray the internal struggle between Zola and Athena for this body. As she begs the question, “Diana, what’s happening to me?” it becomes clear how important Zola has not only been to the story, but to readers themselves. Chiang’s artwork is critical to this sequence, showing readers the anguish on Zola’s face. He and Azzarello have enabled readers to grow attached to this completely original character – a rarity in modern, Big Two comics. The prospect of losing her and becoming an empty husk, cast aside to be replaced by someone that has been absent from the story, makes the issue’s resolution all the more satisfying.
Diana may now be the God of War, but the story’s resolution is rooted in one of her core characteristics – love. William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman in the mold of his vision for the future, on that saw peaceful society lead by women and guided by the principle of loving submission. Though the defeat of the First Born turns that ideology on its head, the final pages reaffirm the characteristics that defined her over seventy years ago remain at the core of Wonder Woman.
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s final installment of Wonder Woman sticks the landing for this character-defining run. Going forward, this will be the version of the character that people will look to when asking “Who is Wonder Woman?” She is the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta. She is Queen of the Amazons. She is the God of War. Above all else, she is Diana. Wonder Woman #35 is not a perfect comic if only because no such thing truly exists.
Note: This review was originally published at InfiniteComix.com