Wonder Woman Earth One brings the Amazon warrior to DC’s line of high end original graphic novels.
The prologue to Wonder Woman Earth One sees Queen Hippolyta leading a rebellion against demi-god Hercules and his Greek army followers. The Amazons then sequester themselves away on the hidden Paradise Island. Three millennia later, the Amazons have flourished. But Hippolyta’s restless daughter, Diana, yearns to explore the world beyond her island enclave. Held in check by her mother, Diana makes her move after USAF pilot Steve Trevor crashes onto Paradise Island. Diana executes a bold plan to get Steve back to the States and the medical treatment he needs. She faces off with the U.S. military and makes friends with Beth Candy and her sorority sisters. After Hippolyta sends a team of elite Amazons after her daughter, Diana returns to Paradise Island in chains for a dramatic trial with major implications for the futures of both Diana and her people.
Wonder Woman Earth One makes very creative use of the blank slate this line of books provides. Visionary writer Grant Morrison makes the bold decision to focus on character and a dramatic clash of philosophies over mere action. Not that the book is all talk. There’s plenty of action and confrontation. But rather than making those scenes an end in themselves, Morrison uses them to provide context to the mother/daughter conflict and their contrasting visions for the future of their people at the heart of the plot.
Morrison has a very strong take on Diana. She’s strong and forthright, but also infused with compassion and a sense of fairness. Instead of just tossing out the expected “feminism vs. patriarchy” argument, he dramatizes it in sly and subtly effective ways, demonstrating how absolutism, even if it springs from well-founded motivations, is an obstacle to progress. Along the way, Morrison taps various classic strands of Diana’s story, including her convoluted origins, to help construct a strong, powerful heroine who can be both an agent of change and a symbol of unity.
Morrison makes some other interesting choices in Wonder Woman Earth One. The decision to recast Steve Trevor as African American was a canny move that ties his sympathy for Diana more firmly into the social justice origins of the Amazons and Paradise Island. Beth (formerly Etta) Candy is a hoot. Morrison presents her as an exuberant, sexually open-minded champion of body acceptance and positivity. It’s not an accident that Beth bears a striking resemblance to Hollywood star Rebel Wilson. Morrison addresses head on some of the aspects of the Amazon concept (sexuality, bondage) that traditionally have been “taboo” in comics, without being showy or exploitative. He also infuses some humor into the proceedings, especially welcome when one thinks of how dour the Superman and Batman Earth One books can be.
Yanick Paquette produces some absolutely stunning imagery for Wonder Woman Earth One. His version of Diana is strong and athletic, but also graceful and dignified. His design work for all the characters is excellent and he comes up with a nice twist on the traditional Wonder Woman costume. Paquette really infuses a lot of imagination and style into the book. His layouts and panel composition are innovative and whimsical, but still promote the flow of the story very effectively. He produces some exciting bigscreen images that really pop. His two-page spreads depicting Paradise Island are fantasy draftsmanship at its best. Nathan Fairbairn does some spot on color work. When a more muted approach is called for, he deploys tones with subtlety and thought. But when the story gets to Paradise Island, Fairbairn really cuts lose, incorporating bright, bold tones that elevate Paquette’s already strong compositions. The art team gives the book a sparkling, shimmery visual identity that’s a true pleasure to look at. Readers will want to stare at the pages just to drink in the impact.
With a thoughtful story making the most of the concept and stunning art, Wonder Woman Earth One is a vital, necessary addition to DC’s specialized OGN line.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on April 7, 2016.