I read the other day that this run has been receiving some amount of criticism online of late, I'm here to tell you not to believe the negative hype … if there is such a thing.
We're back now with the original creative crew, Azzarello and Chiang. Frankly, though, DC have done a great job on this title of actually rotating with a a complimentary crew. It's something that I think Marvel have been doing rather well on FF, X-Factor, Daredevil, ASM and more. It's not the most important thing for maintaining the central conceit, that of the nu-Greek, but it goes a long way.
This issue continues the nu-Greek conceptual stylings that we've been introduced to through this book. Azzarello doesn't expose much, but your assumptions on the world built whilst you read are sound and in line with his manufacture of it as a fully formed construct that you're being let in to. It's a tricky thing to do, and he does it well in this ongoing.
This issue sees Diana journeying to Hades to retrieve a human who bears the bastard son of Zeus. Diana's characterisation, that of a warrior, who's true to her spirit and feelings, is strong here. There's no frippery, or doubt. There's no sexy, either; we get no sexy poses, no odd humanity that makes her someone to relate to. That's because she's not someone to relate to. That's why we have Zola. The placement and movement of all the pieces here is a thing of beauty in that the machinations on display are classical (the deception of Haedes, the journey through hell) and work perfectly within this world which you're placed in.
It's a fast moving issue and the spots of action are there to progress us. 'Under-London' is a place that makes sense and (like Diana) the tale has no flirtations. It moves swiftly and with purpose. When you get to the conclusion you might not feel like the book has progressed that far in its narrative, but with a re-read, you see how well plotted this is.
Early on we get a cute role reversal that isn't so chintzy as it could've been, in that it actually flips twice, but it still works. Hermes and Wonder Woman have interesting interplay here, and it's a curious friendship that they're building.
This moves us quickly through Under-London, or rather, the current whimsy of Haedes and how he currently arranges the souls at his disposal. It's a gorgeous concept, and it's just dropped in there as just another part of the book. It says to me that Azzarello has so many ideas for this book that something as well rounded and new as this could easily be a core facet of a whole series elsewhere. Let's be clear, I love how this team brings us this book.
My one problem with this particular issue is how flat it felt at a key part. I'm an emotional reader; I like to be sucked in to my stories and laugh and cry with what's going on 'on screen'. That doesn't happen here and the good character work earlier doesn't extend to this moment. Gods and demi-gods are immortal, they don't have the same foibles we have with keeping the flame alive. A story needs to counter this, emotionally, and bring that to the reader.
It's the Superman conundrum, if you will.
I just felt that it was a shame that the joy of the previous embrace gets cancelled out by the nothing emerging from this moment. I wasn't shocked, I wasn't upset and I wasn't sad.
In short? The one bum note kind of actually drags this whole issue down with it. Were this in the back room short reviews I'd take it so far as a two out of five if I was feeling miserable myself (such is my whimsy) but realistically, you really, really cannot go far wrong with Chiang on this book, and that alone should drag it up to a three. Without the one bum note, this is an exemplary book, and a five star series (rare in the nu52 I feel).
This series should be solidly in your weekly pull. But you might not mind if you forget this issue in the long run.