Wonder Woman: Paradise Found

This comic was certainly a roller coaster of emotions.  Not just because of the actual story, but because of the reactions it elicited in me.

I slogged my way through the first half of this trade.  Over dinner, Mistah J and I waxed philosophical about why so many Wonder Woman comics are simply not that good.  I felt like the story was contrived and unnecessarily convoluted.  I hated the fact that the characters’ history had been rewritten to make Hippolyta the Golden Age Wonder Woman. No such stunt was used to explain Batman or Superman’s earliest incarnations; it simply wasn’t referenced. There were so many instances of Diana not being Wonder Woman that I started to lose faith in her title as a long-standing superhero.  Half the time she just existed, with her title being bandied about to anyone and everyone (Hippolyta, Artemis) while there were also large chunks of time where nobody held the title (such as when she joins the Olympian Gods, or spends much of the 70’s as a fashion model.)

Essentially, I just wasn’t getting into her comics the way I thought I would.  Many aspects of her character felt wishy-washy; hell, even the comic itself comments on her antiquated way of speaking:

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It’s a valid point. Even with the new continuity, she’s been in “Man’s World” for ten years now.  Shouldn’t her dialect have adjusted at least slightly?

Of course, after this lengthy discourse over what was so clearly wrong with her character, I had to go and finish the comic and be proven (at least somewhat) wrong.

Friggin’ comics. Always subverting my expectations.

The story opens with an “epic” crossover battle to save the universe from Imperiex.  As the only portions of the story collected here are the Wonder Woman trades, I’ll keep the synopsis brief: The good guys win, Hoppolyta dies.  The end.

This part of the trade was underwhelming to say the least.  Crossover stories such as this can be difficult, and while I understand that the individual character comics must relate to the larger story, they should still be able to stand on their own.  The Wonder Woman issues didn’t hold up as standalones, and left me wishing I could skip over them.

The comic picks up speed after these issues though, with Diana dealing with the death of her mother and facing off against Circe, along with a squadron of female villains.  Circe has blocked off the island of New York and has turned all civilians and metahuman men into strange animal/human creatures.  Diana, along with just about every single female superhero imaginable, must battle Circe and every female villain to end this chaos.

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I applaud Phil Jimenez for including shout-outs to so many female characters, both well-known and obscure.  Their inclusions may be short-lived, but it’s nice to see these characters resurrected, however briefly, for an all-woman battle.  It’s a fight that could easily have been exploited and emphasized, devolving into a crude battle of name-calling and stereotypically “girly” behavior. Instead, the battle itself is the main point, with little to no emphasis being placed on the warrior’s gender.  It’s a refreshing change of pace, and made me perk up a bit.  Maybe this trade wouldn’t be so bad, after all.

The comic concludes with Wonder Woman saving the day not through force, but through mercy and love.  Although Circe escapes, it was nice to see the pacifist side of Diana shine through.  As the story comes to a close, Diana is greeted with a brief meeting with her mother, her aunt, and her namesake.  Her faith is renewed as they encourage her to continue her work of preaching love and tolerance in the world.  Hippolyta’s words are especially meaningful, as they hearken back to the original opener used in all of the Golden Age Wonder Woman comics to describe who she is:

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This scene was a touching and fitting end to a story, setting the stage for Diana to continue her mission with a new drive.  Paradise Island has been destroyed and rebuilt, with a brand new mission for all of the Amazons.  It’s an age of rebirth for Diana as well as her people, and it’s clear Jimenez is trying very hard to reimagine the character for a new generation.

Plus, I can’t help but love the ending, with Diana using a method “her mother taught her” to change into her Wonder Woman costume:

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I love the homage to the 70’s Wonder Woman tv show, and it felt like a fitting way to end this comic.  I’d be interested to keep reading Jimenez’s run, if only to see how he progresses the story after all the major changes that occurred here.   This is a far cry from how I thought I’d react when this trade began, but at least it’s a change for the best.  Although the trade begins with a lackluster opening, it more than makes up for it with the subsequent storyline.  A lot happens, and for once Wonder Woman’s lore is progressed in a believable and realistic way.  I look forward to reading more about this next chapter in Diana’s life, and can only hope that future writers handle her story with the same reverence and respect that Jimenez has.

-Jess

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