Don't even stop to read this review; just go out and get Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian. Go on, go; we'll wait. This book gets my highest recommendation. Yes, indeed -- Gail Simone's latest volume of Wonder Woman is that good.
[Contains spoilers for Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian]
Bottom line, the best thing about Rise of the Olympian is that the stakes are emotional, not physical. Wonder Woman's epic battle with new-villain Genocide evokes Superman's original battle with Doomsday, except that here, Diana grapples with the moral implications of her battle. It's one thing for Diana to want to kill Genocide in order to stop the villain's rampage while struggling to discern where heroism ends and vengeance begins; it's another thing when Wonder Woman learns that Genocide is her own future self (more Bizarro than Doomsday), and that the evil she finds in Genocide is actually the same urges for revenge within her own self.
Diana gets beat terribly far down in Olympian, but the story rises to a level beyond the latest personality-clash-fueled dissolution of the Justice League because here, Diana's torment stems from her own true character. Genocide threatens to kill Wonder Woman's paramour Nemesis unless she admits that she doesn't actually love him -- the villain is Genocide, but Diana's the one who causes the pain. Similarly, Diana's choice to kill Genocide, which she tries to take back a moment later, ultimately allows Genocide to escape, such that when the villain rises again, Diana will know that the destruction results from her own bad choices. The stakes that Simone introduces here are greater than what you find in your typical comic book, and it makes for entirely gripping reading.
Not to mention, I'm a sucker for a good mystery, and Olympian has plenty of layers to peel back. Genocide is a great villain on her own, but it's ever better when the reader learns she's made from Wonder Woman's future corpse (shocking!) and that she's being controlled by classic Wonder Woman villain Cheetah -- and even better than that is the revelation that the god Ares not only controls them both, but also has a henchman within Zeus's new Olympians, too. As with Superman: New Krypton, there's a great conflicts in this story on many fronts, more than just hero-fights-villain, that kept me turning pages to the end.
I also appreciated how Olympian evokes classic Wonder Woman stories -- though maybe evokes them too strongly. The presence of Ares as the main villain, the meddling by Zeus, even Wonder Woman's renunciation of the Amazon way have all been elements of Wonder Woman stories before, and indeed it is a little repetitive. (No one believes Wonder Woman will permanently stop being an Amazon any more than they believe Superman has really abandoned Earth, of course.) But even the Greg Rucka run on Wonder Woman -- and I say this as someone who loved the Greg Rucka run on Wonder Woman -- didn't quite feel like a "traditional" Wonder Woman story, in that Wonder Woman is a superhero who fights super-villains both human and mythological, splitting her time between Man's World and Themyscira. Olympian "feels" like a Wonder Woman story (moreso, certainly, than New Krypton feels like a Superman story), and as such I'm willing to forgive re-treading some well-worn ground.
To be sure, I'm looking forward to the next volume, which doesn't unfortunately arrive until March. There's plenty still to be discovered -- Wonder Woman's renunciation of the Amazon way doesn't interest me nearly as much as, for instance, the tie between the alien Ichor race that destroyed the Khunds in Wonder Woman: The Circle and the ship that delivered the gods back to Earth at the beginning of Olympian. It seemed to me that the gods didn't even know who they were in the beginning, and despite Athena's interaction with Diana, I'm not entirely convinced the gods are even who they say they are. Certainly Zeus's murder of the god Kane Milohai has yet to be explained, and I'm eager for the answers.
(For an interesting take on Gail Simone's Wonder Woman stories so far, with comments from Gail herself, see the Hooded Utilitarian blog.)
[Contains full covers, Origins & Omens pages]
This is a great, great Wonder Woman volume. Did you enjoy it as much as I did? The Superman and Batman titles get lots of attention right now, but with the recent announcement of Wonder Woman being re-numbered to #600, maybe it'll coincide with some publicity for this storyline. Thanks for reading!