This issue seemed to polarise fan opinion. Some felt that it was another strong instalment, with subterfuge, plotting and intrigue abound, featuring a fearsome and commanding Diana. Others felt that this was by far the weakest issue of the arc – with sub par art and poorly constructed narrative resulting in a confused mess of an issue, featuring a Diana who was being overshadowed by her supporting cast.
Diana actually gets a little action in this issue, although it seems the only times she would get to “do her thing” in this arc was always going to be against Hera’s Centaurs! In issue 1 she needlessly and cruelly amputated one of the Centaur’s arms – and this time she needlessly and cruelly squashes and kills said same Centaur! It seems that the “DCnU” Diana had completely lost the art of using her lasso to subdue her foes peacefully and instead merely resorted to extreme or lethal force as her default response. The Wonder Woman of old would have only used violence as a last resort and did not need to rely solely on her fists to resolve conflict – because she was a far smarter woman than that.
It was still unclear whether Wonder Woman had the ability to fly anymore – and in fact readers still knew very little about any of her abilities and what her power levels were supposed to be in this “New 52” Universe – primarily because she had done very little thus far other than talk a lot. Some questioned why, after almost six issues, readers were still left unsure as to who or what made this new, re-booted version of Wonder Woman actually tick? It was argued by Azzarello supporters that this was all part of his writing style and that he liked readers to take a journey of discovery with him. Other fans however countered that this lack of clarity was because the focus of the book was not on Wonder Woman at all – and that Azzarello clearly had a story to tell about the machinations of the Gods themselves. Diana was simply there as a “groupie”!
After Tony Atkins promising debut in the previous issue as the stand in artist for Cliff Chiang, the quality of art in this issue was markedly inferior in places. In particular, the sequence of panels depicting Diana’s “bait and switch” tactic was almost impossible to work out and determine what was actually happening without re-reading at least two or three times. Even Azzarello supporters on the forums who initially confidently stated they “understood exactly what had happened” then discovered through further debate that even amongst themselves, there were differing interpretations as to what exactly had happened and how it had happened!
The resulting question for the Editorial team was simple – was this a result of Azzarello’s densely layered writing style which tended to jump around rather erratically at times and was not always to everyone’s liking or understanding- was it because Atkins art was simply not up to the task of depicting the events in a clear and understandable manner – or was it a combination of both?
Some long term fans found the story was becoming tedious, with Diana’s lack of presence and ‘act first-ask questions later’ approach (on the rare occasions she was actually involved in any sort of action) totally out of keeping for the character. Newer fans however tended to like the “slow burn” of the storyline and enjoyed this new Diana with her bad-ass “Don’t mess with me” attitude. They also felt that now Diana was entering a new chapter in the arc -with her quest to retrieve Zola from the depths of Hades realm – the action would start to noticeably pick up.
Even the motives of the characters – which were so wrapped in vagueries and mystery – had left every reader seemingly having their own differing interpretations as to what was driving each of them. Some argued this was a good thing and forced the reader to think about the story on more than just a superficial level. Others argued however that reading a comic book should not be as hard to read as a multi-page novel – but should instead be about entertainment.
And “entertainment” seemed to be the key word here in the debate. Did this book deliver that same “joy and thrill” that used to be what Wonder Woman’s monthly adventures were all about – or did it now represent something entirely soulless and at odds from previous incarnations? Was it enjoyable to read – or was it too dense and too convoluted for its own good? And did it depict a Wonder Woman as she was created to be – or instead a distorted, rather cold and altogether un-relatable facsimile?
So, in summary the book was certainly one that not only sparked much debate when it had first launched but also had continued to do so. And while sales were still holding steady, there was just a suggestion that perhaps the “honeymoon period” might finally be over for Azzarello…
A furious Poseidon demands to know if Hera seeks to claim Zeus’ throne for herself and as Wonder Woman grapples with the snaking tentacles of the God squeezing her ever tighter she replies that Hera believes it is hers by right. Poseidon roars that if that is the case then the Goddess will kneel before him just as he had to do before Zeus.
Up on the bridge watching the watching crowds begin to scatter as the Centaurs close in on an unsuspecting Zola. Poseidon meanwhile continues to bellow that the world had been divided amongst the three brothers – Zeus, Poseidon and Hades – into the Heavens, The Seas and the Underworld – with the remaining scraps left for the others. He can understand how these scraps may be lacking and how the other Gods and Goddesses may feel dissatisfied but the Seas hold the power now and they can either stand with him or against him.
Wonder Woman asks him what happens if Hera sees things differently? Poseidon replies that without a King a Queen is nothing. The Amazon Princess responds in turn that if she has nothing to lose she could prove more formidable than he imagines…
Meanwhile in the river outlet Lennox is giving the same response to Hades, as both he and Wonder Woman follow their pre-agreed strategy to stir up the two Gods who they know are both vying for the throne. Hades seems impressed with both Lennox and what he has to offer, as the Brit reassures the God of the Underworld that he can ensure that Poseidon backs down. Intrigued, Hades asks what Lennox requires in return and Lennox replies seemingly innocently “a light” as he takes out his packet of cigarettes…
Back on the River Thames Wonder Woman has also intimated that she can arrange for a deal to be struck with Poseidon’s competing brother, Hades, that will be to the Sea God’s benefit. But unlike Hades Poseidon is in no mood to bargain and swats Wonder Woman like a fly, sending her sailing through the air.
As she hurtles through the air however she spots the Centaurs on the bridge who have no cornered a terrified Zola. Effortlessly Wonder Woman touches down on the railings and snapping a flag pole, uses it as a lance as she charges at one of the Centaurs. Meanwhile Zola crawls underneath a van in a desperate attempt to escape the other Centaur. She watches as Wonder Woman approaches the first Centaur and at the last moment uses the pole to vault over it. As she lets go of the flag pole it snaps back straight and whacks the Centaur in the face. In the same move she flies through the air and boots outstretched hurtles down towards the second Centaur who is lifting the van up so he can reach Zola and kill her and the baby she is carrying.
From Zola’s point of view she sees the creatures hand grab the underside of the vehicle and begin to lift it when suddenly there is an explosion of blood. Zola then sees a bloody hand grab the vehicle but is relieved to see that it is Wonder Woman, her hands covered in blood after killing the Centaur. She then hurls the van at the first Centaur as he tries to regain the advantage, before grabbing Zola and leaping back down onto Poseidon in the River.
Wonder Woman looks back at the frustrated Centaur as Zola catches her breath and says that things do not seem to be going quite according to Lennox’s plan. The Amazon Princess agrees and replies that hopefully Lennox is having more success at his end of things…
Lennox and Hades meanwhile are making their way along the tunnel towards the exit as the God says that he is fascinated by the fact that they are playing with Gods and that it normally does not end well for mortals. As they reach the entrance they see Hermes waiting for them outside together with Poseidon, Wonder Woman and Zola.
The Amazon leaps down with Zola in her arms and a bemused Lennox asks is a whisper what the girl is doing here as this was not part of the plan. Wonder Woman murmurs back that it could not be helped and asks if she can trust him to look after the girl once the Amazon Princess has left to enact the second part of their plan. He replies that she can trust him.
Hades then asks his brother what he things of Zeus “Bastards’ proposal”. A puzzled Poseidon asks what proposal and Wonder Woman tells him that he had never given her the chance to finish what she had been saying to him. Hades suggest he hears her out and Wonder Woman proposes to the initially skeptical Poseidon that what if the Heavens were rules by the him during the daytime and by Hades during the night? And that they both “share” the Queen.
Poseidon ponders on this for a moment before bellowing with laughter, relishing the thought of Hera serving two husbands. Lennox meanwhile pops a cigarette in his mouth and asks Hades again for a light…
Suddenly there is a flash of lightning as Hera materialises before them, having witnessed the entire conversation using her Scrying pool. She rages that they are being disrespectful to her and that if Zeus were here he would break their bones. But Hades casually replies that Zeus is not here though. Hera acknowledges this fact and that her husband has disappeared into the ether. He has left a throne to warm and neither of the brothers measure up to her as being qualified to sit on it. Poseidon replies that she is too frigid to be a ruler and Hera snaps back that this is not a game.
As Hades offers his head of burning candles to Lennox, who leans forward to at last light his cigarette, the Brit suddenly snaps one of the godly candles off and throws it towards Wonder Woman, as Hermes simultaneously throws his magical staff towards her too. She catches them both and in an instant, before anyone can figure out what is going on, transports herself instantly to Hera’s Scrying pool in Olympus. As Hera demands to know what Hermes is doing she realises a few moments later where Wonder Woman has gone and furious, vanishes in a clap of thunder and lightning. The shock waves smashes into the river wall behind where Lennox and Zola are standing and as rubble begins to topple down onto them Lennox uses his body to protect the girl.
At the same moment up on Olympus Hera materialises in her chambers to see that Wonder Woman has already hurled the “death infected” candle into her Scrying pool, destroying it! Hera is enraged and tells Wonder Woman, who has dared to invade Hera’s own home, that she will destroy the Amazon Princess. But Wonder Woman replies that Hera’s recent actions already have and that the Amazon Princess will spend the rest of her days making the Goddess regret them. With that and before Hera can reach her she uses the staff to transport back to Earth, leaving Hera now blinded to their future actions.
As Wonder Woman rematerialises she sees Lennox helping Zola to her feet as she asks in amazement if his whole body, which has been revealed to be made of stone, hurts. He reassures her that it only hurts to look at!
An amused Poseidon tells Hades that they have both been played for fools and had merely been used as stooges to lure Hera from her lair. Hades agrees before turning and walking back into the river outlet in annoyance. As Poseidon prepares to return to the ocean Wonder Woman tells him that she had done all this simply to protect a mother and child. But as she speaks and unknown to the others, a vision of Zola’s mother suddenly materialises in the mouth of the river outlet and a wide eyed Zola slowly walks towards her in stunned amazement.
Lennox seems pleased that the plan worked but Wonder Woman tells him that they got lucky. As Hermes replies that sometimes luck is enough he spots Zola moving towards the figure in the tunnel and before they can shout a warning the image of Zola’s mother turns into a hellish creature which snakes out its tentacles and grabs Zola, before disappearing down the tunnel.
As Wonder Woman runs down the tunnel after them a vision of Hades appears before her. He states that they had a bargain and that Wonder Woman must uphold her end of the deal – or else Zola and her child will pay with their lives…