The Wonder and the Glory

Here we are again with another round of Funnybook Compare & Contrast, in which we review two funnybooks based on unfairly comparing them to each other. Our subjects tonight will be…

Wonder Woman #14, by Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins, Dan Green, and Rick Burchett

Glory #30, by Joe Keatinge, Ross Campbell, and Roman Muradov

Two comics about warrior women descended from gods, both something of a departure from previous work on the title characters, and both (at least in these two issues) dealing with problem sisters.

Wonder Woman’s having it out with Siracca, another bastard daughter of Zeus, this one from the Palestinian desert. It’s all part of a larger storyline about Our Heroine tracking down her surviving siblings to help her… do… something or other. It’s kind of a blur to me, honestly. At this point, I’m reading Azzarello’s Wonder Woman rather quickly. I like his horror-tinged approach, and the takes on the Greek pantheon he and primary series artist Cliff Chiang have been giving us, but the execution of the stories honestly leaves me a little cold. I like the idea, for instance, of Zeus fathering figures from outside the Greek myths. So Siracca is the goddess of the desert wind, and (of course) of the violent sandstorms that can rip the flesh from your bones. But then there’s Wonder Woman’s half-brother Lennox, who would seem to be the god of… British soccer hooligans? Ah, well. Even Zeus can’t crank out a winner every time.

Actually, no… I kid Lennox. He’s not a bad character at all, really. No, a better example of the execution I don’t like on the Azzarello Wonder Woman would be this bit of gorge-rising schmaltz from the conclusion of the inevitable Wonder Woman / Siracca fight:

Schmaltzy though the sentiment might be, she is of course correct. Sisters should really act more like this:

click to embiggen

That’s Glory, duking it out with her sister Nanaja (Glory’s the one on the right with her face burned off). And, man, if you’re gonna do the “fight-before-they-team-up-against-the-bad-guys” thing… This is how it oughtta play out. Sure, the gore’s a little over-the-top, but it puts the lie to this particular old super hero chestnut. People get hurt in fights, after all, and it’s a really stupid thing to do if you’ve got a larger evil you need to bitch-slap. This particular fight lays both Glory and Nanaja out, surviving only through expert field medicine and swathed in bandages while they wait for their limbs to regenerate.

I also like what the scene says about Glory and Nanaja’s relationship. We already know that Glory can be a harsh and rather uncompromising figure with a strange and just slightly alien morality. It’s been suggested, in fact, that she’s actually the villain of the piece, even if she doesn’t realize it. Seeing Nanaja kind of puts that in perspective, because she’s an even bigger piece of work. She’s less alien, if only because she’s also less moral, and she hates Glory seemingly based on little more than simple sibling rivalry. Though, Glory’s family being as messed up as they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s more to it. Whatever the case may be, these two hate each other enough that they’ll fight to the death given half a reason. The only thing they hate more, it seems, is their father, and that hatred is enough to make them work together regardless.

What’s my point here? That Joe Keatinge’s story in Glory is far more engaging to me than Azzarello’s in Wonder Woman. There, the characters are neat ideas moving through a story I don’t really care that much about. Here, I find the characters just as interesting as what they’re doing. This is not to say that the characters in Glory are particularly deep, mind you. Keatinge’s “I hate you, but I hate him more” thing is every bit as much a cliche as Azzarello’s “no way for sisters to act.” But, man, it doesn’t make me wanna throw up nearly as much.

But, hey. Wonder Woman’s not without its sense of shocking glee. After all, this story does have a giant naked man standing around the North Pole eating people’s heads:

That’s from issue 13, technically, but the naked guy’s still kicking around this month, so I’ll give it to them. As I said, the series has some cool horror concepts. I’m just not down with the execution sometimes.

Another thing Glory’s got Wonder Woman beat on is the artwork. Ross Campbell has a nice lush style that can handle the grotesque monsteriffic transformations of Glory and her sister when they shift into their battle forms, but he’s also good at just drawing people eating dinner:

This is not to knock the Wonder Woman art entirely. Primary series artist Cliff Chiang has a wonderfully confident and simple style. He did the cover above, and (if I understand things correctly) handles all that character design I like so much. But he can’t do monthly, and (as I’ve bitched about before) DC’s not going to let a little thing like quality stand in the way of getting their funnybooks out on time. Chiang’s regular fill-in artist is Tony Akins, whose work I normally like just fine. But the deadline crunch has seen him saddled with two different inkers this time out, and they’re not always a good match. Marvel vet Dan Green is a reliable workhorse, but as you can see above, his scratchy style doesn’t do Akins’ lush linework any favors. Rick Burchett is a better match, I think, but his cartoonier style sometimes makes Akins’ stuff look a bit like second-rate Chris Sprouse:

Oh, and yes. This issue features the return of the New Gods to the DC Reboot. Which is cool for arcane reasons understandable only to deep funnybook dorks such as myself, and which simultaneously pains those of us who love the Jack Kirby originals. Much as I love what Azzarello and Chiang have done with the traditional Greek pantheon… These are Kirby’s babies, and haven’t been around so long that they need radical reinterpretation.

But as cool extra features go, the New Gods reboot pales in comparison to Glory’s 1920s adventures rounding up Fantomas with the Lost Generation:

Left to right, that’s Ernest Hemingway, Fantomas, Glory, Gertrude Stein, and Pablo Picasso. The panel above is taken from a delightful three-page opening sequence drawn by guest artist Roman Muradov. That sort of creative leap is a far superior way to give your regular artist a break, as far as I’m concerned, and makes Glory the better comic by far.

So, to sum up…

Glory #30: Not particularly deep, but a triumph of artistic freedom over what could have been a particularly insipid reboot of a Rob Liefield Wonder Woman rip-off. A fine example of what work-for-hire funnybooks can be when done right. Well-worth my four bucks.

 

Wonder Woman #14: Hamstrung by the publisher’s seeming indifference to quality control, and by the author’s unfortunate tendency toward schmaltz, but with strong enough concepts that it keeps bringing me back. Worth my three bucks, but just barely.

2 comments on “The Wonder and the Glory

  1. Matt says:

    Gloria Steinem? Or Gertrude Stein?!

    • Mark Brett says:

      D’oh! Gertrude Stein, of course. Gloria Steinem wasn’t even alive when that story takes place. I mis-typed. Thanks for the correction. Changing the story itself now…

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