Holy crap, guys and gals. The New Gods are in the New 52.
And instead of being squandered or used carelessly, they get to be a part of what was already one of the most exciting series at DC Comics.
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Cliff Chiang
– Who is Orion – and what are the New Gods?!
– Massive changes are coming for Wonder Woman and the entire DC Universe!
– Get ready for round 1 of Wonder Woman vs. Orion!
Orion made his first full ‘New 52′ appearance in the final panels of “Wonder Woman” #14. The opening sequence of this issue is his, as well, as he comes to call for Milan (Wonder Woman’s half-brother). It’s clear that there is a positive connection between Orion and Milan, which lends us a little bit of indication as to how the New Gods relate to the Greek Gods. How do you take a concept that was made famous and classic by “King” Kirby and bring it into the present without dishonoring it? Well, trusting Brian Azzarello to fold those characters into a planned hierarchy of “gods” in the New 52 is a good start. It’s not presented as a gimmick. Azzarello and Chiang have already updated the roles and designs of the Greek gods for the “Wonder Woman” relaunch in a wholly inventive way. They look to do the same for the New Gods, incorporating them in a way that makes sense and serves the story. And if you don’t care about serving the story, then the promised Orion vs. Wonder Woman rumble is there for you too.
Meanwhile, Azzarello never loses sight of the complex character drama that he’s been weaving here. He’s juggling a lot of characters, but just a couple of scenes with Hera, Zola, Hephaestus, and Lennox bring us up to speed on where they are in the story and give us some time with the unique voices that Azzarello has lent to them. Zola and Hera are left to their own devices in a hotel room that offers a few solid chuckles.
Wonder Woman’s unique and varied family has been the overwhelming focus of the series so far. Azzarello takes full advantage of a dad-god that has slept with everything he’s come across. Each new sibling (or half-sibling) that Wonder Woman endeavors to meet gives him an excuse to write in an entirely new voice, as well as set up familial machinations and power plays. These power plays are mostly conveyed through smart dialogue, in which almost everything a character says has a ulterior motive or a double meaning behind it. Only occasionally do these plays on words seem on the nose. It also must be said that real people don’t talk like an Azzarello “Wonder Woman” script, but the dialogue is so clever that it doesn’t matter. You’d rather watch a bunch of all-powerful gods engaging in clever wordplay than engaging in naturalistic conversations. The speech is clever, but modern, without falling prey to being overly flowery or ornate.
There’s no other way to say it: Cliff Chiang is one of the best design artists in comics. Look around the New 52 at how many of the costumes are overly complicated, aren’t practical, and aren’t the least bit eye-catching or attractive. You can’t say that about any of Chiang’s work. On the contrary, every line on a costume feels like it belongs there and every character is interesting or appealing to look at. He continues to imbue Wonder Woman with an inherent power and regal nature, while Hela’s posture and facial expression exude her posh personality, and Zola’s sneer and slump beget her immaturity.
But the most impressive thing here is in the simplicity of his Orion redesign. It’s thoroughly modern, but doesn’t call attention to itself. There’s not a bunch of lines drawn all over just for the hell of it. (cough-Justice League-cough) It’s got the bold color scheme, the classic iconography, and “updates” Kirby’s Orion without complicating it. He’s done this for every character in the series. He’s given them elegant designs with a handful of distinct, defining features and has the restraint to know when nothing more is needed.
Azzarello and Chiang have redefined Wonder Woman for the New 52, but they went about it the right way. Dialogue that is clever and meaningful, but economical. Visual design-work that is just as economical, but incredibly appealing. They were the right team for a character that needed a boost back into prominence and they were the right team for bringing the New Gods back, if this issue is any indication. Basically, Azzarello and Chiang would be the right team for pretty much any DC book right now, because they approached their New 52 work as intelligently and carefully as they could have.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Buy.