While I was in Greece in June, both that country and the comics industry were undergoing a bit of upheaval. Although I got back to the States before protesters started climbing the walls of the Acropolis, it seems sort of appropriate that among the most initially controversial of the New 52 was one of the two I was most looking forward to, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman. There was something so crazy about the idea that I thought it just might work and, although part of my initial excitement for the title faded after I realized that it was based on a misjudgment of Azz's awful Superman run, I'm glad to see that the title does, indeed, sort of work.

Don't get me wrong; it is certainly flawed. It leaves too many open questions for my liking, and it doesn't do a very good job of introducing Wonder Woman, or, at least, it doesn't beyond a vague sense of her personality (which, admittedly, has a certain kindness and an element of self-deprecation that I did not expect), the fact that she is Wonder Woman, and that she prefers the name Diana.

That last bit is intriguing (in fact, the whole comic is intriguing), and I will be interested to see where Azzarello takes it, but, for now, he does more to introduce the order of the universe and the threats that his heroine is up against than he does of making us aware of her as a character; I have no doubt this will change as the series moves forward but, for now, it is a little frustrating. What is less frustrating (perhaps even welcome) is how little this resembles a straight up superhero comic; Azzarello has said that this book is really more of a horror comic, but, while it certainly has elements of horror to it, I'm not sure I would take it that far. Instead, it seems to be cribbing a little bit from some of the stronger "superheros as mythology" stories of the last thirty years, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing in particular, taking the deconstructive tendency of those comics and applying it towards more traditionally mythological characters, that is, Brian Azzerello is writing Greek Mythology like the Greek Mythology that was passed down to us, with capricious and jealous gods and heroes willing to defend humanity from them. I don't know very much about the publishing history of Wonder Woman, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the most actually classical reading of her as a character.

It helps, of course, that Cliff Chiang is as good an iconographer as they come, and that colorist Matt Wilson seems to understand that. His Wonder Woman (in fact, all of his gods) have an ethereal, otherworldly quality to them, they stand out from the drab background of the human world. Interestingly, for reasons probably having to do with the hand-drawn panels, his work here reminds me of Jeff Lemire's. It's more confident than Lemire's hand is, though, and the lines are thinner and less sketchy; the world that Chiang makes is obviously an imperfect one, and that adds greatly to the atmosphere of the book.

If Azzarello can manage to introduce his Wonder Woman to us over the next few issues without having to stop the story that he's put into motion and Chiang's art works stays strong, this book may very well number among the best of the New 52; if you have to pick one of them, I would make it this one.

The Prodigal Cartoonist Returns

Dylan Meconis, the Portland-based cartoonist behind the killer webcomic Family Man, has been on a creative hiatus since the spring. During her "summer vacation," she apparently did a lot of thinking and plotting for her main gig, and she also had time to work on something new, a little joy of a bonus comic she calls Outfoxed.

The pretty crazy cool thing about Outfoxed is that it's very, very different from Meconis's work on Family Man. She's said, for one, that the art style here comes more naturally than the one she uses in her long form comic, and it shows. This stuff is just looser, a little less serious, a little more consciously cartoony, significantly more fun. Don't get me wrong, I adore the ongoing story of Luther Levy, and I'm glad to see that it survived the hiatus unscathed, but this stuff is wildly slicker and more inventive. If she's being honest about the fact that this is what comes naturally to her (and I have no reason to believe that she's lying) it means that she has to reign herself in when she draws Family Man, that she has to control her wilder designing and cartooning impulses for the sake of telling a more serious story.

If this is the case, Dylan Meconis is, straight up, one of the most talented cartoonists I've ever encountered, and probably also among the smartest. Check this out if only because of the art; from the unhurried lightness of the lines that come together to make the form of the protagonist to the heavy blockiness of the noble hunters, it's a beautiful piece of work, one I hope comes out as a physical minicomic sooner rather than later, if only because I would like to see the beautiful colors in real life. The story isn't perfect (it's relatively clear that the tight storytelling that accompanies the labor that is Family Man is a side effect of Meconis challenging her natural tendencies), but there's really only one place that it presents a serious issue and, anyway, have you seen the damn thing?!