Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson

It’s been a lot of years since DC Comics systematically put the wrecking ball to their universe to create the New 52.  It was a wrecking ball that began with my personal favorite, Wonder Woman.  I’ve never forgiven them for it.  I never will.  But… there is always room for new stories to be told, and every so often I look in on the DCU in the hopes of rekindling some of the passion — some of the wonder — I once beheld.

I came across this book and was immediately fascinated by the artwork.  It’s not the best I’ve seen for the Amazon Princess, but there’s a vibrancy to it that carries it along, worthy of the hardcover presentation it was given.

Would that the story did so as well.  There are an ever-growing number of origin stories for the great superheroes out there, and Wonder Woman is no exception to this.  It seems like the further we go into her legacy, the more and more people feel the need to retell her story.  And of course when they retell it, they have to put new spins on it.  I’m generally fine with that as this is how mythologies grow, and if any character can claim to have a foothold in mythology, it’s Wonder Woman.

The thing is, there’s a right way and a wrong way to tell the story of a beloved superhero.  Princess Diana has had, to my mind, her very best origin treatment bestowed upon her by George Perez back in 1987 following The Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Most origins since then have been watered down but no less respectful versions of this tale, repackaged as the graphic novel Gods and Mortals.

This story tells a very different tale indeed.  I cannot fault the author for her decision to take the Amazon in a new direction.  It’s only natural to want to do that.  I can fault her for turning her into the kind of character that exemplifies everything that should never be attached to the character and legacy of Wonder Woman.

Spoilers below.  It cannot be otherwise, and you’ve been warned.

Wonder Woman is a creation of the gods, loved and nurtured by her fellow Amazons and raised to be the epitome of everything their culture represents.  She’s a walking, talking ideal.  This version… *hangs head*  This version is a spoiled brat.  She’s doted on by all and becomes arrogant and spoiled.  In her quest to win the heart of the one Amazon who will not respect her, Diana enters the infamous contest (which has no extant reason to be held) in order to prove herself the champion of her people, worthy of all, respected by all, and embodying the very things an Amazon warrior is supposed to embody.  And then she cheats, a selfish act that causes chaos to erupt, and many Amazons are injured or killed a direct result, including the one Diana sought to impress, dubbed by all as “the true Amazon.”  After facing the mob of her sisters, Diana’s penance is to wear the armor of this fallen warrior and the champion’s crown she so desired, enchanted so that it will not be removed until she proves herself truly worthy of the title Amazon.  She is forthwith banished, doomed to spend her eternal lifetime roaming the world in a never-ending quest to prove her worth.

If this were a story about any other Amazon warrior, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.  I’d give it 5 stars for the message alone, to say nothing of how well it was executed.  I’ve seen variations on this theme with other great warrior characters.  This is sort of how Xena made the jump from one-off villain to title character of her own series.  The redemption of a fallen soul is a formula that works.  It’s a spotlight that has no place shining on Wonder Woman.  It demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of who this character is, what she stands for, and why she needs to be, cloaked in the very idea that this is what her story is about.  As someone for whom Wonder Woman holds a special place in my heart as a warrior and as a character who simply makes me want to be a better human being, I find this story to be more than disheartening.  I find it sick.  Each time Diana did or said something that was so un-Amazonian, I knew that the author would turn this around at the end and make these the life lessons that would turn her into the character I knew so well.  I just believed that’s how it would go.  And then to see her kicked out the door as an empty shell just felt like a punch in the gut.  It’s a well-meaning story, but it undermines the entire legacy of the character by undermining who she is at her core.  This isn’t the strong and fearless and loving warrior who became an icon of feminism, peace, and justice.  This is a mockery, perhaps even more so than the petulant, sword-happy teenage pretender that they replaced the True Amazon with during the New 52.

1 most unworthy star.  At least the art’s worth it.

ww-true-amazon

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