Monday, November 3, 2014

Godhood, Womanhood, and Humanity: Wonder Woman #35

The following is my review of Wonder Woman #35, which was posted on

What does it mean to be a goddess? What does it mean to be a warrior? What does it mean to be a mother, daughter, or woman? These are all some of the profound questions that Brian Azzarello has been exploring since his run on Wonder Woman began at the onset of the New 52 relaunch. These questions have been the main driving force in the battles that Wonder Woman has fought. While she hasn't had many clear answers, she has confronted many challenges that have made it very difficult to be the Wonder Woman that inspires feminists and perverse male fantasies alike. And despite plenty of complications and allies/enemies/frenemies, she has always risen to the occasion.

This ability to keep fighting, even in the face of gods and the deranged offspring they sire, is part of what makes Wonder Woman who she is. Since this series began, she has been in a constant fight against an endless horde of gods, demigods, and monsters attempting to ascend to the throne of Olympus. At times, it has been like Game of Thrones, but with less full-frontal nudity.  

Wonder Woman #35 is supposed to be the end of that fight. However, it does not unfold like a heavyweight title fight that people overpay to see on pay-per-view. It's a fight that highlights everything that makes Wonder Woman more than just a woman and a warrior. Essentially, it exposes what makes her so wonderful.

This fight began when Wonder Woman crossed paths with Zola, a young woman who became the latest in the Jerry Springer style affairs of Mount Olympus found out she was pregnant. The fight can only end when the First Born, who claims to be the true heir to Olympus in Zeus' absence, is defeated. In this sense it doesn't just parallel Game of Thrones. It parallels the struggles that have plagued royalty since kings foolishly believed that power struggles wouldn't complicate family affairs. It also sets the stage for a bitter struggle that forces Wonder Woman to fight with more than just her fists.

That said, most of the story is built around the same format as that final boss battles in a Street Fighter game. Wonder Woman gets pretty roughed up by the First Born. Even Poseidon gets involved since no Greco-Roman god misses out on a chance to usurp the power of a family member. It's a struggle where Wonder Woman is badly overmatched in many respects. But instead of following the same formula that every bad sports movie has followed since the Karate Kid, Wonder Woman rises to the occasion in a different way.

While Wonder Woman is a warrior capable of going toe-to-toe with gods, aliens, and the Lex Luthors of the world, she is also capable of great compassion and empathy. In many ways, this acts as one of her greatest warriors as a weapon. And what makes the struggle in Wonder Woman #35 so satisfying is that she uses this weapon to great effect. Her capacity for mercy and compassion help change the tone of the battle at one point. It acts as a reminder that there are more ways to win a battle than just carrying a bigger sword or relying on the infidelities of the gods.

This helps set Wonder Woman apart from the other gods and demigods that surround her. She has a chance at numerous points in the battle to kill. And unlike Batman, she has no issues with killing. She's even pointed out at times that the reason she doesn't have rogues gallery that requires numerous spin-offs and sequels is because she "takes care of them" as she once described it. However, that doesn't always mean slitting throats or snapping necks. As the God of War, she is in a position to kill the First Born, but she doesn't. That alone says a lot about her because the First Born gave her plenty of reasons to be "taken care of."

In many respects, the First Born is the opposite of Wonder Woman. He will not show mercy or compassion. Even when Wonder Woman gives him a chance, he literally throws it away. She even points out his inability to understand these concepts, but in a manner far more effective and painful than therapy or counseling. That's not to say she's exceedingly kind in how she defeats the First Born. She's still a warrior. She can't be too understanding in the same way the Amish can't be too tech savvy. But she gives context to her actions, expressing faith in the ability of even the First Born to learn compassion.

It isn't just the First Born that Wonder Woman tries to beat with compassion either. She needs that same compassion to deal with a striking (and somewhat contrived) revelation about Zola and her son, Zeke. It's another situation that deals in old school royal conflicts that usually don't have peaceful resolutions. But Wonder Woman is able to inspire compassion, even among gods who aren't in a position to make use of it. That inspiration is among her greatest strengths, at least among those who haven't earned her wrath.

But as inspiring as Wonder Woman is, the characters that benefit are lacking in the same depth. The final revelations about Zola and her son are among the weakest parts of this struggle. These revelations are akin to someone being stranded on a desert island for three years only to find out there was a luxury resort with a yacht and a helicopter pad on the other side of the island. It takes away some of the humanity that has helped make Wonder Woman's struggle so compelling. While it does address some plot holes as only depraved Greco-Roman Mythology could, it feels incomplete.

That feeling of incompleteness doesn't detract from Wonder Woman's strengths, but it does detract from the story. Wonder Woman #35 is presented as a culmination of so many plots and conflicts. While it does address the major plots, it negates many of the smaller sub-plots. It still finishes the story, but only to the extent that it took the express lane in lieu of the more enjoyable scenic route. It's a story that has required Wonder Woman to utilize all her strengths for all the right reasons. For her, it's a testament to what makes her one of the most iconic characters in comics, female or otherwise.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

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