Wonder Woman #5 (from The Batmom March 2012)

COVERGIRL: If there is a good way to be smacked in the face, the previous four covers of Wonder Woman smacked me in the face, especially issues 1 and 4. This one, no smack.

I’ve said it before, I’m not a visually oriented consumer, but I found myself editing this cover: tighter focus on Diana, trident, and tentacles; crop the mustachioed spike-o-saur. After my mental editing session, I noticed that artist Cliff Chiang’s name had been replaced by artist Tony Akins’ name (who inks for Fables, which I just started and LOVE - visuals and story). Perhaps Akins doesn’t know I relish a good smack in the face from my covers. 

INSIDE STORY: Back in London, Diana, Hermes and Zola are enjoying an al fresco snack when a band-aided, big-necked mystery man shows up and starts talking about Zeus’ disappearance. Mr. “You can call me Lennox and by the way I’m your brother” warns that in Zeus’ absence, some of his kiddos might try to fill his Olympian loafers. Fight over the loafers, even.

Zola doesn’t like Lennox; she calls him “that creep.” But Wonder Woman takes his warning seriously, and obeys his order that she be waiting on the Tower Bridge at 6 p.m. At which time hell-horses burst through the surface of the rain-spattered Thames, impressively (if not explicitly to anyone but Diana) announcing the imminent arrival of Poseidon, Zeus’ brother and therefore Diana’s uncle. Poseidon, by the way, is the giant beast on the front cover. Aside from his scary size, he looks like a Grumpy Old Man of the Sea.

Diana politely requests an audience, which Poseidon rudely denies her before claiming himself new lord of the heavens.

Diana surprises Poseidon and the reader by telling her sea-dwelling uncle that Hera has already claimed the heavens for herself. The last panel reveals this news is also a surprise to Hera, who issues a “What?” earning self-constraint points for not adding "the fuck?"

RAMBLE: Riffing is one of the great joys of the comic book universe. Each superhero exists at the center of a huge, gorgeous tangle of riffs teasing out different threads of her mythology. This makes for a rich history that both celebrates what is the same from one story to the next (Diana is an Amazonian warrior from gynocentric  Paradise Island) while allowing each new writer and artist team to test the character in new situations (Diana must protect Zola, who is carrying her unborn half-sibling).

I can’t wait to read more takes on the characters I’m quickly growing to love, but what interests me today is the mid-comic riff. These changes don’t involve radically different storylines and whole new comic books, but come about within the run of one comic due to changes in staff.

With Wonder Woman #5, Tony Akins replaces Cliff Chiang as artist. From the small bit I’ve read on Twitter, this is very common. This switcherooing makes no sense to me, but I’m also uneducated at present and perhaps it’s just how a company keeps a comic book fresh. Or comic book creators creatively happy. I don’t have a problem with the practice; I just don’t yet understand it.

Having said that, I miss Chiang's take on Wonder Woman.

I thought the colors this issue perfectly represented an overcast London day and I appreciated the war sequence with Lennox, but Akins’ Diana looks like a raven-haired Barbie. The visible power that gripped me last issue is gone, not from her personality but from her face. She’s grown more physically bland. And Hera, who only shows up once, at issue’s end, looks like a member of Samantha Stephens’ extended family. I.e. campy. And the campy is the enemy of the fierce.

I still love Diana and I loved issue 5’s story. But something about her new face made me love it just a tiny bit less.