Wonder Woman: Down to Earth

It’s no secret that I’m often critical of various Wonder Woman comics.  I’ve never fully understood the direction many writers take her, and she often feels less fully developed than other legendary heroes.  I would love to say that Greg Rucka has restored my faith in the character, and that this trade welcomes a new version of Diana that feels real and relatable.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that. If anything, I feel like Wonder Woman is getting worse.

Where do I even begin with this trade?  So much doesn’t happen that I could fill an entire blog post with a list of the superhero tropes that are nowhere to be found within these pages.

For some comics, that might be a compliment. It would mean the comic subverts expectations and takes a superhero story in a brand new direction.

Wonder Woman takes a new direction alright…seemingly right off a cliff.

Within this trade, we see Diana as she adapts to her role as the Ambassador for Paradise Island.  She’s just written a book, a collection of essays espousing the Amazonian beliefs, and spends the first four of the five issues collected here promoting said book.

…That’s basically it. There are not one but numerous scenes in which Diana is just at a random book store, signing copies of her book and meeting nameless people.

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There’s not even any depth or insight to these conversations, it’s just a simple, “Hi, thanks for coming, here’s your book.”  Forgive me, but what about that is supposed to draw me in?

Diana flounders through these pages, interacting with her “staff” and partaking in daily life.  This would be fine as a means of humanizing her, showing her performing standard day to day activities in much the same way we see Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne operate.  The problem is that there is a surprising lack of Wonder Woman in these pages.  Within the first four issues (of only five collected here) there are hardly any appearances of Diana actually doing anything.  The most climactic scene involves her and Flash meeting at the scene of a fire. After confirming that all people have been removed from the area, she asks Flash to let the fire burn, because it will be better for nature in the long term.

I’m not even kidding, the climax of that issue is Diana basically saying, “Nah, let’s not doing anything.”

More frustrating is that she seems to lose any sense of power and presence that she may have had in the past.  There are a few moments where her staff makes it clear that what she says goes, but then she completes undermines that by acting admonished by her own staffers:

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Maybe I’m nitpicking, but this exchange didn’t come across as making Diana seem approachable or sweet. She seemed weak, taking orders about signing random paperwork.  Hardly something I would ever expect to see from any other superhero, and yet from Diana it’s almost par for the course.  Also, it’s paperwork.  Is there really nothing more important to be shown within the limited pages of a comic than Diana signing forms?

There are a few subplots involving Psycho Pirate, Vanessa, and the Greek Gods, but even these feel a bit flighty and unfocused.  There is virtually no action until the final issue in the trade, in which Diana and Vanessa battle, with Diana vowing to help her former friend.

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While this is going on, Hera, angry about Zeus’s philandering ways, destroys Themyscira.

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Surely a catalyst for a major battle between the Amazons and the Gods, by this point I was fully annoyed with this comic.  The new Paradise Island had only existed for a brief time, and yet here we are with the status quo completely being shaken up again.

This is why Wonder Woman is so flawed. Writers keep almost no continuity within her story, and so these constant shake-ups leave her overall narrative feeling disjointed.  Her story is far more choppy and unfocused than those of Superman and Batman.  Why is that?

Wonder Woman is a very unique character, but then so are many other heroes.  Is it simply because she’s a woman?  Are writers unsure of how to balance Diana as a beacon of peace as well as a fierce warrior?  Personally, I think a lot was lost with the character when she gave up her civilian identity.  Because the entire world only knows her as Wonder Woman, she’s always “on” so to speak, and she’s never given the opportunity to interact with people as a regular person.  Couple that with the fact that it just seems like writers don’t know how to handle her character within a broader storyline and she just ends up a mess.

I feel bad tearing into the character like this, because I really want to like her.  I just find it difficult to read these comics when so much emphasis is placed on Diana not really doing much of anything.  Is a book tour really the most valid way for Wonder Woman to spread her message across the world?  Is there no other better use of her time?  References are made to her time spent with the JLA, and the fact that likely half of her book signings will be canceled due to her work with the League… yet not once is a reference made to her leaving for such a crisis, nor are any conflicts or battles shown (other than the previously mentioned last-issue battle.)  It’s as though this comic series is merely a placeholder,  a way to let readers know what Wonder Woman’s up to when she’s not needed at the JLA…and as it turns out, it’s not a whole heck of a lot.  This lack of action or even purpose makes Diana far less compelling, and leaves me not really caring much about her storylines, either within her own comic or her appearances in others.

Mistah J keeps assuring me that Wonder Woman gets better. I’m really hoping I haven’t become too jaded with the character by the time that happens.  As it stands, I’m really not that interested in where her story goes.  I’ll read it, but I’m not dying to see how it plays out.  Given my excitement over many other recent trades, I feel like this is pretty telling of the lack of direction and drive I perceive in these Wonder Woman comics.  I just really hope that changes.

-Jess

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