Break From Batman: Wonder Woman, Vol. 1 and best December comics list

2012 is over but we can’t start 2013 without first talking about all the great comics that came out in December! Here we have the breakdown of all the comics I really enjoyed last month and I definitely had a lot to choose from. I’ve also included a brief review of…

Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood

Is it just me or is Wonder Woman getting rebooted every couple of years or so? I’ve never read any of her comics before the New 52 so I’m an outside observer here but it looks to me like every new creative team on the book tries to reinvent the world’s most famous female superhero. Does she fly? Does she not? Does she own an invisible jet? Should she wear pants or a skirt or maybe those star spangled tights? Is she saving a city like the boys are or is she protecting the world at large? What if we threw all the Amazon stuff out the window and just gave her a white catsuit and made her more of a spy or something? It’s as though Wonder Woman became a success and nobody responsible quite understands how. It’s like someone caught lightning in a bottle back in 1941 and no one can figure out how to open the lid and make any use of it.

Now, with the New 52 the approach seems to be a focus more on Wonder Woman’s relationship with classic Greek mythology, her role as a warrior, and, surprisingly, turning the book into more of an ensemble piece rather than just being about the solo adventures of Wonder Woman. I’m fine with it, but from what I understand in just a couple of quick Google searches is that despite having a top-notch writer and artist working on the book many traditional Wonder Woman fans HATE this series. Why? Well for a lot of different reasons. As I said earlier, Wonder Woman’s depiction is constantly shifting and so what we end up with is a fan base made up of people with vastly different ideas on what the character should be. One thing they all appear to agree on, however, is the origin: Wonder Woman was created without a man. This very foundation of her character is eliminated in the New 52, replaced with a method of conception more commonly seen in Greek heroes, one that I won’t spoil for you here. Another important aspect, one that actually stood out to me but I haven’t really seen utilized in the cartoons or animated movies either so it might not be too obvious, but shouldn’t the Amazon be more of a paradise? Here the Amazon is a bit of a mess whereas it would have arguably made Wonder Woman more incredible if it were a utopia she chose to walk away from to come save all of us. Still, as someone who has never been terribly invested in Wonder Woman or fully understood her story none of those things really dragged the book down for me and I had a good time reading Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood.

The ensemble cast and creative use of all the Greek pantheon in a modern day, real-world setting reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman . It’s nowhere near that quality, but I found myself enjoying the unique spin on recognizable characters and how they behave in an age that’s all but forgotten them. The book’s greatest strength comes from the artwork by Cliff Chiang but sadly he was unable to illustrate the entire arc and I’m a stickler for consistency in the graphic novels I read. I don’t mind it when a different artist comes in for a flashback issue or something because then a style change fits the narrative but whenever the final 2 chapters of a 6 part story have a different look it’s pretty disappointing and disrupts the flow.

So would I recommend this? If you don’t know anything about Wonder Woman then I say yes, absolutely go check this out. I love Greek mythology so it was easy for me to instantly sink my teeth into this and understand what was going on even though I didn’t know much of anything about Wonder Woman. This approach to the character is the most accessible that I’ve witnessed. I will say that you’ll find it odd reconciling in your head how this Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman of Geoff Johns’ Justice League relate! They feel like entirely different characters so it’s probably best not to worry yourself over it. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman would never even have the time to do what’s going on in Justice League because what’s happening here is quite big and would consume all her time. Whereas Batman, Flash, and the rest are fighting villains of the night and resting or living an average life in the day, Wonder Woman is constantly on the run in Vol. 1 Blood from gods, Centaurs, and other magical creatures trying to kill the innocent life Diana is determined to protect. It’s not your traditional superhero story by a long shot. It’s more in line with fantasy or horror than super heroics. So if seeing Greek gods squabble in the 21st century sounds cool to you then you’re going to get a kick out of this whether you’re Wonder Woman initiated or not. But if you’re a longtime fan of Princess Diana then you might have a lot to complain about.

As for bonus material, there are a few pages of cover sketches and character designs but nothing too exciting. Just once I’d like to see a few sentences by the artist or the writer talking about the creative process but oh well. You can find this book for $15.63 on Amazon which is cheaper than it would’ve cost you for the monthly issues.

SCORE: 7.5/10

 

Best December Comics That I Read

Star Wars: Purge – The Tyrant’s Fist #1

Dark Horse

New Reader Friendliness:   High

Genre: It’s Star Wars. If you don’t know what that is then I don’t know what to say

This was my first time reading a Star Wars comic book. I had totally fallen out of love with this universe several years ago due to the awful Star Wars Prequels. By the way, if you don’t understand why those prequels were bad, I recommend you look up the Red Letter Media reviews of those films on Youtube or on their official website. What we have here is a book that takes place between the old and new trilogies. It’s a story about Darth Vader tracking down the renegade Jedis and I must say that I like what I see here so far. It’s not terribly complicated nor does it present anything I’ve never seen before but it’s just good to see Darth Vader act like a bad ass again. This issue was enjoyable enough that I’ll definitely be coming back next month to see what happens in the conclusion of this short 2-part tale.

Daredevil #21

Marvel

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

Genre:   Superhero

When is this series not good? This is the final issue of an arc in which an unseen villain has tried to turn all of Daredevil’s friends against him by making the Man Without Fear look like he’s lost his marbles. It’s also featured some very, very trippy imagery and a very unique bad guy who makes creative use of portals. Good villain, really original plot, and just a great way to wrap up that story without returning to the status quo. When Daredevil inevitably clears his name there are some real consequences here and his relationship with everyone is altered. I don’t like it when a character is killed off in a comic, that’s pretty pointless. It’s the shakeup of their livelihood that keeps a series fresh.

Hawkeye #5 & #6

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

Genre: Superhero… on his day off

This really doesn’t feel like your typical Marvel comic. At all. It feels like a fun, lighthearted indie book and I really can’t get enough of it. Marvel double-shipped this month with a conclusion to a fun two-parter that actually had a super villain in it and dealt with Shield stuff and there was also a Christmas special. Ever see an Avenger try and hook up a DVR? This is probably the funniest comic I read. You wouldn’t think that a book about one of the Avengers would be hilarious, but this one has at least 1 moment that legitimately makes me laugh out loud in each issue. You want a fun book, I recommend you check out Hawkeye.

Archer & Armstrong #5

Valiant

Genre:   Fantasy/Adventure

New Reader Friendliness:   High

So you missed out on the 4-part opening arc. Big deal. This issue brings you up to date on what’s happened so far and takes you on what’s sure to be another great journey. Archer & Armstrong is a wonderful adventure comic through and through with really amusing characters (think of a drunk Hagrid from Harry Potter teaming up with a kung-fu proficient Bobby Hill from King of the Hill). In the last arc there was a mishap that caused the accidental death of a wizard who it turns out had an immortal, ultimate-badass protector that would seek bloody vengeance on anyone who harmed his master. With everyone else at the scene dead by the end of that story the blame fell to Archer and so now our heroes are on the run from a guy who is pretty much unstoppable. Oh, and the ultimate-badass is also Armstrong’s brother! Dun-dun-dunnnn! Go pick it up.

Happy #3

Image

Genre:   NC-17 version of It’s a Wonderful Life

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

What a twist! Not only do we learn the protagonist’s backstory in this one but the entire series takes on a high level of emotional weight in this issue so we actually get invested in what’s happening. I was on the fence about this mini-series at first but I think I’m hooked now and will be sticking with it until the end. If you haven’t been keeping up, this series is about an ex-cop who starts seeing a flying blue pony.

Thor: God of Thunder #3

Marvel

Genre:   It’s really more fantasy than Super Hero

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

This might just be the best thing that’s come out of the whole Marvel NOW! launch for me. The artwork…man, dat art! These painted pages are absolutely jaw-droppingly stunning and the story is epic. I know the word “epic” gets thrown around a lot by this generation but trust me this thing is an epic. It’s spread across 3 different points in time, goes to the heavens and outer space, and it stars gods. It’s epic. Thor is chasing down a being known only as The God Butcher who has been offing deities for the past thousand years or so and only Thor can stop him. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read a Thor comic before, this was my first time too.

All-New X-Men #3 & #4

Marvel

Genre:   Superhero 

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

I’m really pleased to see that writer Brian Michael Bendis isn’t dragging this out. With a premise like pulling all the X-Men from the past into the future to snap Cyclops out of his villainous phase I was worried that they would hold off on their confrontation until the very end of the arc. Nope. They meet right here, right now and it’s what happens as a result of that confrontation that’s really interesting. This, Thor, and Indestructible Hulk have been the best Marvel books I’ve picked up from the Marvel NOW launch.

X-O: Manowar #8

Valiant 

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

Genre:   Sci-Fi

This is one of my favorites, honestly. I can’t wait to read more Valiant books because the three I read right now, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman, and X-O, are some of the most fun to watch unfold. They are such huge stories that are constantly building and building to something even larger. Here with X-O we began with ancient Visigoths and now we’re looking at a full-scale alien invasion in the present day with nothing but a ninja and a man in a super-powered suit standing in the way of total planetary destruction. It’s hard not to excited about opening a comic like that. Best of all, each issue starts off with a full page recap of everything that’s happened so far so just about anyone can pick this book up, read the synopsis and jump on board. Great art, fun action, an all-around good time.

Aquaman #15

DC 

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

Genre:   Superhero

This is must-reading if you picked up Justice League #15 this month. It picks up exactly where that issue left off and makes it pretty clear that this whole Throne of Atlantis thing is going to be one hell of a crossover event.

Rachel Rising #13

Abstract Studio

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

Genre:   Supernatural horror

I really want more people to read this book, but there just isn’t any good jumping-on point besides issue #1 I’m afraid. So please go out and pick up the trades. I believe there are two available right now and I can guarantee the series reads far better in a collected edition than as a monthly. This has been really superb both in its art as well as its story. The whole thing starts off with a girl who awakes from the dead and from then on we start unraveling a mystery that dates back to the Witch Trials. It’s really interesting stuff.

The Black Beetle #0

Dark Horse 

New Reader Friendliness:   High

Genre:   Superhero

This was absolute no-nonsense pulp at its best. Ever heard of the Black Beetle before? Neither have I, that’s because he didn’t exist until now. Francesco Francavilla, who you’ll likely be familiar with as the artist on all the Jim Gordon backups from Black Mirror, created him. He feels like an authentic 1940’s superhero dug out of obscurity and that’s probably what I loved most, that and the fact that he fights Nazis. Nazi giving Black Beetle trouble? BANG. He just shoots them. No dramatics. Done. Let’s go save the day. The art was terrific as well as I’m sure you can imagine if you read Black Mirror. He uses a very similar color scheme here that fits the material well. This was just a one-shot story so anybody can pick it up but I really sincerely hope that Francesco Francavilla expands on this world in the future.

That’s all of ’em. The best comics I read this month that were not Batman. What were the best comics that you read?

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