Wonder Woman #22: The Calm
On a perfect world, where foreigners are forbidden, Wonder Woman takes a moment of respite to recover from her fights with Artemis, and The First Born.
New Genesis is the home of the warrior Orion. It is a grand metropolis, floating in the sky. A true place of peace, where the New Gods dwell and meditate on well-being, and life. Highfather leads this nation, and he is the unquestioned patriarch of the New Gods.
Jack Kirby created the New Gods in 1971. Kirby wrote tales of heroes and gods that broadly represented forces of good and evil in an ongoing struggle.
In the pages of DC comics new 52, readers would have seen the villain Darkseid confront the Justice League. This battle marked the beginning of the new 52 in Justice League issues #1 to #6.
It is significant that Wonder Woman #22 marks the introduction of the Highfather’s character: he is the spiritual opposite of Darkseid.
Wonder Woman is currently the only member of the Justice League to have met both Highfather and Darkseid, the gods of good and evil respectively. Could this mean that DC comics attitude to Wonder Woman comics is now more positive, since she blazes a trail through New Genesis, which is a major part of DC’s history?
Beneath the spires and domes of New Genesis lies another world. It’s not a utopia – High father remarks that New Genesis is a glorious sight. Ruins, rubble, and broken things litter the surface, however. Despite that, it’s still green and lush world without devastation. There are scenes where a giant statue lies in a forest covered with creeping vines.
Orion meditates in the ruins, and in the murky, spoiled glass of a sky scraper, he sees a reflection of his violent and ugly nature screeching at him. The artwork is powerful for these scenes, as Orion collapses into the dirt, exhausted at tempering his impulsive and violent nature to better fit into New Genesis society.
The comic book cover itself is also a strong artwork, inspired by the red, yellow, and orange colours of Soviet era propaganda posters. The letter “R” is even reversed to match the Russian, Cyrillic alphabet. The reversed letter R stands for a “Y” sound instead of an “R” sound.
Orion is at war with himself. He must keep his angry nature on a leash to fit into New Genesis society. Wonder Woman tells him that perfection is sometimes our worst enemy. She encourages Orion to accept himself.
Themes, ethics, and values
Orion’s struggle fits together with themes of the comic: Propaganda, lies, and conformity. New Genesis appears ideal on the surface, but there is something suppressive and Orwellian about it when the ruins beneath the floating city are revealed. The Soviet-inspired cover artwork presents Highfather as something of a patriarchal figure. George Orwell was alarmed by the uncritical admiration of Soviet Russia, aware of the hidden suppression.
This version of New Genesis has a similarly deceiving appearance, where Highfather orders his storm-troopers to aim their weapons at Wonder Woman’s friends and family – Zola, Hera, and the baby Zeke. This is a society that condones threatening women and children in the service of greater goals. Orion rebels against Highfather. The key ethic here is taking a stand against the pressures of a society in the face of propaganda and conformity.
A bit more on Wonder Woman #22
The First Born has not waited patiently for Wonder Woman, Zola, and Zeke to return to Earth. The London that Wonder Woman returns to is gloomy, with black shadows and a grey sky highlighted in red. A battle is about to begin, which is why it is appropriate that Ares, the Greek god of war, arrives to join in.