This collection, featuring the first twenty-four issues of George Perez’s post-Crisis reimagined Wonder Woman, is pretty much EXACTLY what I’ve been waiting for in a Wonder Woman comic.
Up until this point, Wonder Woman’s appearances on “the shelf” have been spotty at best. I don’t fault Mistah J for this, although I’m sure if he had his way he would own every single DC comic published EVER. Comparing this trade to some of the earlier ones I’ve read, I can see why more emphasis wasn’t put on collecting those earlier Wonder Woman stories:
They simply weren’t all that great.
They weren’t BAD per say, but there was nothing in them that made for a truly great story. What I remember most about the earliest Wonder Woman publications is how, at the end of each issue, Diana would commiserate about the fact that Steve Trevor was infatuated with Wonder Woman but didn’t pay her, Diana, any attention.
The fact that this is the most memorable aspect of those earliest comics speaks volumes.
I still enjoyed those first trades, and I certainly acknowledge the significance they have in the overall comic world, if for no other reason than giving us a truly powerful female role model who would survive across generations.
As I consider the differences between the older Wonder Woman comics and the new, I’m struck by a rather fitting observation that Diana made in this collection, in which she exclaims that people of the world know Wonder Woman, but not Diana.
This comment speaks perfectly to the differences in her character pre- and post-crisis. In earlier trades, the emphasis was on Wonder Woman as a symbol, with the character of Diana being relegated to the background, the meek, mild-mannered “Clark Kent” to her more powerful superhero alter-ego. It made the fighting scenes exciting, but it left the character feeling a bit flat, with little reference to her true purpose for being in “man’s world”.
This newer incarnation of Diana changed all that. Wonder Woman is no longer the focus; Diana is. Instead of making the symbol the star of the trade, we instead get to learn more about the Amazon, a young woman with a pure heart and unfettered ideals about spreading love and peace throughout the world, a mission she does not take lightly.
I vastly prefer this version of the character, as it provides the reader with a full understanding of her motives. This newfound depth of character is so much more enjoyable to read about than the more simplistic, somewhat stagnant Wonder Woman of old.
Aiding this improvement in quality is the inclusion of a host of supporting characters, all with their own distinct personalities and worlds.
Diana’s friends and acquaintances can be split up into a number of different factions:
-Steve Trevor and Etta Candy, her military connection (and a throwback to her previous incarnation)
-Hippolyte and her fellow Amazons on the island of Themiscyra, Diana’s birthplace and her true home
-Zeus, Athena, Hermes, and the rest of the Greek Gods of Olympus, those the Amazons follow faithfully
-Julia and her daughter Vanessa, Diana’s surrogate family in “man’s world”
With so many various connections for the Amazon princess, it’s no wonder that her stories feel more complete. This is a vast well of characters from which the writers can draw from.
Although it’s possible that a comic can get so lost in a story that it starts to feel slow, this wasn’t the case with this collection. Wonder Woman is filled with plenty of action, with the courageous Diana battling any number of monsters in her quest for peace and justice:
The inclusion of the hydra, along with a slew of other characters from Greek mythology, made the story that much more engaging. I enjoyed seeing Wonder Woman’s story so firmly rooted in the mythology from which she sprung, and it’s clear the writers did their research to make sure the names and stories were accurate.
It was refreshing to see, however, that while Wonder Woman comes from a world steeped in these beliefs, the gods of old are not as powerful as they once were. Not only are they forced to destroy Olympus, their home for untold centuries, but when the god Hermes returns to our world and seeks to rule he is quickly overpowered by a demon, and must be saved by none other than Diana:
I’m happy to see this shift in power away from the gods. With their role in the comic seriously lessened, I’m curious to see what new challenges Diana will have to face. She’s already proven herself worthy of the Olympians’ respect; whose will she earn next?
I really enjoyed these stories overall. That being said, they’re still not perfect. Some characterizations were perfect, such as when the no-nonsense Julia sasses Hermes, not caring that he’s an Olympian god:
Yes, and YES.
This characterization made me extremely happy, feeling that here was further evidence of a strong, independent woman being depicted in comics. Even if she doesn’t have super powers, she’s still a force to be reckoned with.
But then there’s Etta Candy.
I’ve already espoused my love for the original version of Etta. She was strong and fully and entirely unapologetic about her less-than-perfect physique and her love for all things sweet. She was the crowning glory in the earlier Wonder Woman comics, and made them so much more enjoyable than they might otherwise have been.
This newer version of Etta loses all of the spunk and individuality that she had in the past, to be replaced by a rather bland character who comments on her desire to lose weight in EVERY SINGLE ISSUE in which she appears.
Oh Etta, what have they done to you?
This was the one aspect of this comic that I actively disliked. So many other characters were given unique, strong personalities. Virtually all of the female characters were among those. All except Etta. Here was someone who’s characterization was already so perfect, and so fitting for what is clearly a progressive comic, and yet the writers chose to backtrack and portray her as the most basic female stereotype. I can’t begin to fathom what was going through the writers’ minds when they made this decision. It’s upsetting, but seeing as how this comic was written over twenty-five years ago, I guess there’s not really too much that can be done about it now…
This one character flaw aside, I thought these Wonder Woman comics were extremely well done. Diana is compassionate yet strong, with a host of well-rounded supporting characters to complete her story. I hope her character stays on this track of promoting peace and understanding while still remaining the fierce warrior that she is. If so, I have a feeling Wonder Woman will quickly skyrocket up my list of favorite superheroes.