Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who is Wonder Woman?

Wonder Woman #2, 2011
 this past summer i blogged about my long love affair with the amazing amazon, wonder woman, and my outrage at the changes the character's publisher, dc comics, had made at the time. months afterward a new revision of the popular superheroine took hold and has since been appearing in the current Wonder Woman series by brian azzarello and cliff chiang as well as the brand-new Justice League comic book by geoff johns and jim lee. i am of two minds on the changes for several reasons, particularly because to readers, it seems we're being presented with two very different amazon princesses.

in the geoff johns penned, Justice League, the story takes place five years prior, just as heroes were starting to emerge in the public eye and for the first time band together to battle a world wide threat. as was originally told in the 1940s, steve trevor crash landed on paradise island, home of the amazons, and princess diana was charged with taking trevor back to his homeland, the united states of america. here, diana is hardly bloodthirsty, but most definitely a warrior first, eager to mix it up with any threat that might come her way. at this time, diana is still exploring "man's world" and learning about our culture. to an apparently sheltered and coddled princess, the marvels of man are great and there's almost something charming in the innocence of this young wonder woman. diana is still confident and sure of herself, perhaps slightly arrogant, but not to the degree of some of the other gathered heroes like green lantern and aquaman. the JL wonder woman seems rather attached to her sword as if this were a regular part of her arsenal along with her traditional golden lasso and bracelets. what i find disappointing with the new take of the warrior princess is that her motivation for leaving her secluded island is apparently much more selfish than selfless. wonder woman was originally created to inspire love and equality, beliefs held strongly by the amazons. sure, the young princess diana was eager to get away from her over protective queen mother and experience new adventures away from her amazon sisters, but she was also, at heart, a unique heroine who didn't just go out in search of a fight. i will say, i'm enjoying that steve trevor seems to be again a capable partner to wonder woman and i look forward to more of their budding friendship/relationship.

Justice League #3, 2011
 the biggest changes to wonder woman have appeared in her own title which has completely restructured the original cast of characters. the greek gods almost play a more important role to the ongoing storyline than wonder woman herself. and while i'm enjoying this modern take on ancient gods and diana's role in trying to prevent them from meddling in our mundane affairs, i wish the focus was firmly placed on wonder woman. here diana is living in london, apparently away from washington dc and steve, as shown in Justice League. i like the idea of wonder woman being a more international heroine, but not that it seems to have taken her from her love interest. azzarello's wonder woman in not so eager for a fight compared to johns', but this might be attributed that in the five years since, diana has mellowed some and become more accustomed to mankind's way of life. perhaps she's seen how much war we wage and no longer has as much a  taste for swordplay when she stepped off the shores of paradise island. nonetheless, i'm eager for explanations to be made. this, and i'd like more familar faces to return like etta candy, the cheetah, and dr. psycho. i say this because of my love of diana's friends and foes of the past, but also because i'm thoroughly enjoying the revitalization the creative team has presented with the likes of queen hippolyta, hermes, hera, and strife (eris). i do not, however, like the new amazons who seem less enlightened and cultured than they have in past times. it would explain why their princess was so eager to do battle at the drop of a hat in Justice League (lame).

the greatest effect azzarello and chiang have had to wonder woman to date would be a new origin, rather a revelation that has as many fans in an uproar to those who think it's a brilliant move. to be fair, these gentlemen are not the only writer/artist team to present the notion that diana was not truly formed from clay and mystically brought to life. rather, they are the ones to make it 'fact'. as revealed in issue #2, diana has both a biological mother, the queen, and a father. the following issue hippolyta explains the circumstances and comes clean that she and zeus, the king of the gods, had a passionate love affair which produced to them a daughter. to keep zeus' jealous wife, hera, from finding out, hippolyta and a small sect of amazons created the (in)famous tale of wonder woman's birth. the story itself made diana feel different than her sisters growing up, but in typical dramatic fashion, the revelation of her father makes diana feel even less an amazon and she leaves her home, apparently for good. my fears of further mother/daughter angst were unfounded when diana realizes her mother's motivation and returns to the isle, unfortunately too late (read issue #4). it's interesting to see a woman as gorgeous, as intelligent, as funny (yes, she's presented with a sharp wit!), and as powerful as wonder woman trying to fit in, something we've all faced in our lives at one point or another. hopefully diana will find her place in the world and readers will come to understand what it is that forces her to don her costume and tiara to battle evil, something that hasn't been clearly explained in either comic book.

i'm enjoying both versions of my favorite superheroine in Wonder Woman and Justice League. but there needs to be more of a developed sense of personality and purpose between the two in the future for a stronger sense of continuity. i'd like the spotlight to rest firmly on diana in Wonder Woman and i want her to drop the sword and start making more friends than enemies in Justice League. queen hippolyta and steve trevor are again relevant to the wonder woman mythos in a supreme way, for that, all involved should be applauded. i see a bright future of dc comics' premiere heroine, something i myself as a fan of twenty-something years looks forward to. wonder woman is the most beautiful, nearly the most powerful, and possibly the greatest fighter of the dc comics pantheon of heroes -- and that's been presented to date. but princess diana, wonder woman, is more than that. i loved when comic books from the forties, sixties, seventies, and even into the eighties were involved with every day problems of the real world, whether it be war time, feminism, or spousal abuse. a character like wonder woman wasn't afraid to tackle these types of issues with her own strong beliefs of unity and fairness. there's no reason wonder woman can't be "cool" for standing up for what she believes in. hopefully when diana realizes who "wonder woman" is in coming months, we'll see more of the classic characteristics that made her stand out from others like her.

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