Wonder Woman is one of DC Entertainment's oldest characters, but a collection of her newly relaunched titles brings surprising changes.
For example, we learned in 1942 that the child who would grow up to become Wonder Woman was a clay statue sculpted by Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, brought to life by the gods and granted their powers. In 2012, we learned that's a lie.
The True, Honest-to-Gosh, Cross-My-Heart Origin of the Amazing Amazon comes to us in the upcoming "Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood" ($23). It collects the first six issues of "Wonder Woman," a title relaunched with DC's other superhero titles in September as "The New 52."
It's clear that "Blood" has more than one meaning. First, the story involves the bloodline of the Greco-Roman gods. Second, it involves a lot of the red stuff.
In the plot, father Zeus has disappeared, which sets various gods into violent motion against each other to claim his throne. Also, venomous Hera is trying to kill one of Zeus' many lovers, a girl pregnant with a demigod that Wonder Woman has taken it upon herself to protect. As battles are won and lost, deals are brokered between power bases, and alliances shift. In the middle is the Amazing Amazon, who also must deal with the revelation of her true nature -- and the fact that her mother has been lying to her all along.
If this sounds more like a gang war than a superhero story, maybe it's because "Blood" is written by Brian Azzarello, famous for the intricate crime noir "100 Bullets." He has called the Greco-Roman gods "the original crime family," motivated by "selfish" and "twisted" desires.
Artist Cliff Chiang does an imaginative job of redesigning the centuries-old mythical beings -- creatures who are, of course, free to appear as they like. Apollo is beautiful, as you'd expect, but looks carved from obsidian. Hermes is birdlike, with winged claws for feet. Hera is naked most of the time (except for her cloak of peacock feathers) but so bloody-minded and lethal that you forget that pretty quickly. Ares is as old as war and shows it. Poseidon and Hades are unearthly and have to be seen to be believed. Chiang, abetted by Tony Akins, also gives us a broad-shouldered, martial and plausible Wonder Woman, who nevertheless retains a hard-edged Mediterranean beauty.
All of this is set against Diana's shocking discovery about her origin, which I won't spoil -- well, except to say that it's an elegant explanation that befits Diana's iconic status, without shredding what past writers have done.