Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t read any Wonder Woman stories. Sure, she’s shown up in other things I’ve read, like Final Crisis and Justice League. I know her from the DC animated universe, of course, and everyone knows Lynda Carter. But I never really had a real feel for the character.
Honestly, I still don’t think I do.
The thing is, Wonder Woman is many things at one time. She’s a strong, independent Amazon warrior princess, but she’s also the first and most famous superheroine — so people expect her to be gentle and sexy and just generally less than her male counterparts. She’s of two worlds — the ancient Grecian world of Themiscira and the modern world outside of her exclusively female homeland. Her powers are inconstant — sometimes she can fly, sometimes she has an invisible jet; in her very early stories, she could be completely stopped if she were tied up by a man.
Yeah, you read that right. William Marston, who wrote as Charles Marston, was a psychiatrist who also wrote comics and created Wonder Woman. And he was also heavy into things like BDSM, which is why there’s a pretty heavy undercurrent of bondage and dominance/subordination in old Wonder Woman stories.
At any rate there are a few things which seem to remain constant about Diana, Princess of the Amazons. She carries a golden lasso; generally, when someone is bound by it, or even just touching it in some cases (used to hilarious effect in Geoff Johns’ and Jim Lee’s Justice League), they are forced to speak the truth. Her bracelets are bullet-proof, and more often than not can deflect a vast variety of other objects and energies as well. She has super-human strength. Nowadays she carries a sword, which seems to take design cues from the Roman gladius, though she hasn’t always done so. Greek mythology runs through her stories. She wears red, white, and blue, though the origins of the costume are a mystery to me; in the New 52 Justice League, it may be explained by the fact that she does, at least initially, work for the US Government, so the costume could be their design.
But other than these few things, Wonder Woman is not so much of a clear cut character as Superman or Batman. Her origin story tends to be mostly the same — she was born of clay after her barren mother Hippolyta’s petitions to the gods — though there is some variation; Brian Azzarello throws a nice twist in about halfway through Blood, the first trade paperback volume of the New 52 Wonder Woman comic.
Long introductory matters aside, the story itself contained in the book is… honestly, a bit lacking. Which is a shame, because Wonder Woman is the most recognizable of DC’s female characters, maybe in all of comics, for that matter, with only some competition from, say, Lois Lane or MaryJane Watson — who aren’t even superheroes, but the girlfriends of superheroes. Nothing about the story really grabbed me. It was interesting enough, though decidedly confusing at times. The art was beautiful, but that’s more or less par for the course with DC. Nothing about the story made me really feel enthralled, though. It was just average. I don’t feel the need to buy Wonder Woman trades. If my comic club has the second volume, I’ll probably read it, but I have no interest in buying my own copies. If someone gave them to me or I found them for really cheap, I wouldn’t complain. But overall there wasn’t anything that special. I wasn’t hooked the way I was after reading the first trades of Justice League and World’s Finest (reviews pending on those).
When it comes down to it, while the comic was enjoyable, I didn’t feel it was truly the best tribute to the most respected superheroine around. It dragged a bit, was a little confusing considering it was the start of a series after a universe reboot, and to be honest, there wasn’t anything that felt distinctly different about it. Replace Wonder Woman with anyone else, male or female, and you’d have a Greek-themed tale about whoever you inserted. Her lasso was barely present and wasn’t used in it’s usual function of forcing those bound by it to tell the truth — an ability which it still possesses, according to the first volume of Justice League. Overall, though I didn’t go into the book expecting anything in particular, I came out of it feeling a bit let down. Maybe the second volume will redeem it for me, but I don’t have high hopes for it.