Monday, June 6, 2016

Wonder Woman, Earth One - Volume One

Wonder Woman has always been one of my favorite all-time characters, ever since I first saw her in the Super Friends cartoon on Saturday mornings, and then in her own comic book adventures by DC Comics.  Certainly, through the years, there have been a lot of ups and downs with the character, particularly after 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, which basically wiped away decades of history for the character and completely re-booted her.  But the extremely talented George Perez gave Wonder Woman a brand new origin (that followed the original, yet provided a more in-depth connection to the Greek gods) and set her off in a whole new direction of being an ambassador of peace into Man's World.  After he left the title, a series of writers came in, each one wanting to put their own mark onto the character, and thus changing and tweaking things on a pretty regular basis, until the most recent incarnation by Brian Azzarello, which, quite frankly, nearly turned me off of this character for good (the 30-odd issue run by Azzarello felt more like a story of the gods with Wonder Woman just thrown in so that they could call it a WW title - she was more of a side character in her own book!).

DC recently published a new title in their ongoing series of "Earth One" graphic novels, which provide creators an outlet to re-start the characters from scratch.  Superman has had three novels, Batman two, and the Teen Titans one (with a second one on its way).  Now, DC issued the first Wonder Woman Earth One graphic novel, and I will admit, I read it with a bit of trepidation.  This was because of the author, Grant Morrison.

Let's go back.  I had no concern about the art.  Yanick Paquette has drawn Wonder Woman before, back in the '90s, and he has a beautiful style, particularly when it comes to drawing women.  He is able to draw them strong, yet feminine, without making them overtly sexual (i.e., having their butts sticking up at the reader, or gratuitous crotch or breast shots).  And he definitely draws a magnificent Wonder Woman.  Looking at her, you know she's an Amazon - beautiful, yet strong.

The writing, on the other hand - well, I was very concerned.  Grant Morrison has done some very interesting things in the past.  He drastically changed Doom Patrol for DC Comics, and it became a cult classic, very memorable run.  He also brought Animal Man to the forefront, turning him into a viable character with a unique nature.  But when it comes to the mainstream superheroes in DC's world, let's just say I have been very underwhelmed by Morrison's work.  His run on Justice League was less than stellar.  His work on Final Crisis and Multiversity left a bad taste in my mouth.  So, when I heard that he would be writing Wonder Woman Earth One, I cringed.

After reading the graphic novel, however, I must say - either someone has reigned him in, or he has a bit more appreciation for the character.  Now, I have read the online rants about this book being demeaning to women and being filled with bondage - but looking back at the original Wonder Woman comics back in the '40s, let's face it - they were a constant barrage of bondage.  Plus, Morrison does not in any way use this comic to try and subvert women - rather, this story is more about women overcoming a world of men subverting them and taking control of their own destiny.  In fact, it's even more about Diana, the princess on Themyscria, trying to break free of the mold her mother has created for her and becoming independent herself.  Rather than tell a straightforward, sequential origin tale, readers are treated to a trial of sorts, as Diana must face the repercussions of rescuing Steve Trevor and taking off to Man's World.  Her origin and the events leading up to this trial are told in flashback sequences through not just her eyes, but also the eyes of those around her (including the riotous return of Etta Candy, called "Beth" Candy in this tale).  Quite frankly, this was a really good read, and I enjoyed a lot of the Easter Eggs in the story - such as Donna Troy, Cassie Sandmark, Artemis, and Nubia, all of whom have either been Wonder Woman or Wonder Girl over the years.

Now, that is not to say the book is perfect.  I was annoyed at the number of splash pages or two-page spreads throughout the story.  With only a little over 100 pages of story at $22.99, I would have preferred more story and less "let's showcase Paquette's art" pages.  There were 7 splash pages and 4 two-page spreads.  And how many pages had 3 panels or less?  No less than 24 pages of 3-panels each.  So when you take that into consideration, that is more than 1/3 of the book that pretty much focused on pretty art than story - and in my book, that is less story for the buck.  But, that seems to be the way of comics these days - why tell a story in 17 pages, when you can stretch it out with less panels per page and more splash pages and sell more comics and make more money off the fans that way!  (Okay, I'm stepping off my soap box now...)

Overall, I enjoyed this take on Wonder Woman, despite the writer and despite the padding.  I do hope they continue with the series of Earth One Wonder Woman stories in this same vein, but only time will tell.

RATING:  8 golden lassos out of 10 for keeping Diana rooted in her Greek mythology, yet providing a new take on a many-told tale.

No comments:

Post a Comment