The Contest is the first Wonder Woman trade I’ve come across on “the shelf” since George Perez’s Omnibus. It had been a while since I read much about Diana, and I was excited to see what had been going on with the character.
This trade opens with Diana returning to Themyscira after her home island had been lost for months. Finally locating it, she returns to her sisters to learn that much has changed. While it was only months for her, to the Amazons it was ten years, in which a fierce battle was waged against Queen Hippolyta’s sister Antiope and her tribe, who were sent back to Themyscira by Circe to destroy the Amazons.
Learning that Circe tricked them, Hippolyta and Antiope’s people work together to defeat a series of monsters. As a reward for their aid, Hippolyta grants Antiope’s followers a patch of land on Paradise Island.
At this point, Diana returns. Unlike most other stories I’ve read, the relationship between Diana and her mother is shown as much more strained, with Hippolyta seriously questioning her daughter’s effectiveness as the chosen representative in man’s world:
Hippolyta is angry that Diana has not been more effective, and issues a decree that another challenge shall take place, to determine if a new messenger of peace shall be chosen.
A lot of the story felt like filler, with Diana interacting with her Amazonian sisters but feeling out of place. The tension abounds, both between Diana and her mother, and Diana and Antiope’s followers. One of the only intriguing aspects of the story is when Diana learns the truth of her mother’s past and her relationship with Hercules. Even so, it clashed with the image of Hippolyta I’ve formed in my head and left me feeling as though I didn’t know the character at all.
Eventually the contest begins, and while Diana fights fiercely and seems about to win, ultimately one of Antiope’s followers, a woman named Artemis, is crowned victorious.
At this point the story is almost over, and we see Artemis journey to man’s world to begin her work. Unfortunately, she is an unpredictable, angry warrior, who is more determined to fight than spread the message of Amazonian peace.
Diana is unwilling to simply give up her ties to man’s world, and so we see her adopt a new outfit. No longer the official “Wonder Woman” of Paradise Island, we are given an entirely made-over Diana:
Quite frankly I really didn’t care for this trade. Diana’s transformation, both physical and emotional, was completely incongruous with everything I thought I knew about the character. Not only does she adopt a completely new outfit (that honestly comes across as though DC was trying to create a new, edgier Diana for the 90’s) but more importantly they completely change her character, as the panel above suggests. Diana only fights to defend herself or those around her, yet she is pounding the bad guy in this panel even though he’s saying he’s not fighting back. This is so far removed from the Diana I’m familiar with, and I simply couldn’t get past these drastic changes. Couple that with the fact that I really didn’t care for the artwork in this trade, it ultimately created a story that I just couldn’t get into.
I usually enjoy Wonder Woman stories very much, but I dearly hope the changes made in this story don’t last very long. I miss the Diana of old, and hope she reverts back to her normal self soon enough.