Review: Wonder Woman #1

Not the Diana we remember

Wonder Woman #1

Poor old Wonder Woman. What a year – her 70th no less. She’s been having nothing but trouble. Let’s put to one side for a moment the problems of her intended TV adventures and look to her true home: comics.

Still trouble.

A year or so ago, lauded writer Gail Simone was just leaving the title. She’d left it in quite a nice state. Wonder Woman was getting to grips with “man’s world”, relationships, friendships, daughterhood, her new power (Zeus’s lightning bolts), et al. Achilles had settled down from his time as The Olympian. The Amazons were tickety-boo for a change. Everything seemed happy and all set for the next writer, J Michael Straczynski. They even reverted the numbering scheme for the comic back to #600 in celebration for the next issue.

Gail Simone's final page of Wonder Woman

(Forgive the gorillas – it’s a long story).

Then along comes JMS and everything gets shaken up. Everything Gail Simone did is thrown to one side. We get an alternative Wonder Woman with a new costume, who lives in a world where the Amazons are all dead, Wonder Woman is an orphan. Paradise Island is in ruins. The gods have gone. And she has a new costume, too. This wasn’t Wonder Woman as we knew it or her.

The cover to Wonder Woman #601

So lots of people stopped reading it, including me. By about issue #608, though, it soon became clear that Wonder Woman’s ‘Odyssey’ wasn’t exactly what everyone thought it was and in fact the major reboot was a bit more minor and Wonder Woman would in all likelihood get back to something like her normal self by the end of JMS’s run on the title. Which she did, although she got to keep her new costume.

The final page of JMS's run

I actually ended up going back over the run once it was done to read the earlier issues, because it was quite a clever subversion of the whole Wonder Woman mythos that led to something stronger. Trouble was, it took a year to do and at the end of it, turned out to be a little pointless.

Because DC had its own major reboot planned for no fewer than 52 of its titles, including Wonder Woman. Nothing was ever going to be the same again, just as at the end of the pan-DC ‘Infinite Crisis’ arc back in the 80s. The question was, how was everything going to be different? To be honest, no one yet knows and DC hasn’t exactly been forthcoming, beyond telling us everything was going to be different and every single comic was going to start from issue #1 again.

Wonder Woman senses the #52 are coming

It’s an easily satirisable position.

Now, four weeks into the relaunch, we have issue #1 of the all-new Wonder Woman. Has it all been worth it? Have there been many changes?

Well, Diana does have a new costume – again…

The stated aim of Brian Azzarello, the writer of Wonder Woman #1 and the man responsible for the comic 100 Bullets, is to delve more into mythology and use more of the Greek myths than before. Clearly, then, he’s never read any of Gail Simone’s work, which managed to squeeze in Achilles and Jason (of the Argonauts) to name just a few, or even his predecessor’s work, which folded in Nemesis and various other gods.

But that is at least what he’s doing. Mission: accomplished. The story of #1 is in fact a very pared down work. There’s no introduction to Wonder Woman and who she is (or who she is now). It’s just a given that Wonder Woman exists, people know about her and she helps protect women. Why she lives in London, now, we don’t know.

Wonder Woman lives in London

Wonder Woman is disturbedWonder Woman's wardrobe

Wonder Woman

Yes, Wonder Woman is still very tall, has a lasso and wears armour and bracelets. She’s gained a choker and an arm band. But she’s lost her trousers again. Clearly, DC has been having severe internal wranglings over whether Diana should have trousers or not, given the publicity shot for Justice League #1:

Justice League

The plot, as far as can be worked out, does indeed draw on mythology. It looks like Zeus has got another mortal woman pregnant. Hera is none too pleased so decapitates a few horses and turns them into centaurs.

Hera kills some horses

Which she sends after the pregnant mortal in question. Hermes, as always, intercedes on mortals’ behalf, but this isn’t the Hermes we recognise from before – like all the gods in Wonder Woman #1, he barely looks human.

Hermes in Wonder Woman #1

I can’t say I approve, but it’s novel at least.

Through various means, Wonder Woman comes to the help of the mortal. Meanwhile, Apollo is hatching his own plans and has some prophecies to make.

Apollo has plans

So Azzarello’s clearly meeting his stated aims on one score at least – plenty of mythology, although his own take on it.

Another of his aims is to make Wonder Woman a true icon on a par with Batman and Superman. On this score, he’s less than successful. While Superman is off beating the proverbial out of Batman and The Green Lantern over in Justice League, Wonder Woman is having a stand-up fight with centaurs, even though she is as fast and as strong as Superman and smarter than Batman. She kicks ass, but not in a way that you could say is iconic.

Wonder Woman kicks centaur ass

In its favour, Wonder Woman #1 a cracking read, a real page-turner. The lack of explanation does give the issue a real sense of mystery and the involvement of the reworked gods is intriguing. And Cliff Chiang’s artwork is phenomenal.

But the last aim of Azzarello is to get people reading Wonder Woman again. It’s no secret that reading levels haven’t been their greatest of late, and despite the JMS revamp’s attempt to redress this, that probably only did the opposite. So is Azzarello succeeding?

Tricky. What we have here essentially is a horror comic. It’s grizzly, bloody and vicious. It’s cryptic and mysterious. There’s almost no characterisation, no emotion. It’s pure plot and action.

So are little girls going to pick this up and start reading Wonder Woman regularly? I doubt it. I doubt grown women will either and while it might attract new male readers, it’s playing hard with the affections of the existing male and female readers.

But DC’s intention with the #52 haven’t been to get in new, younger readers, so much as young adult, typically male readers and set up a series of titles as the foundations of movies, which are usually watched by young men. Envious of Marvel and its movie successes, pretty much everything with the new #52 has been designed with movies in mind. And Wonder Woman is no exception.

So far, there’s very little to latch on to as a reader, although there are plenty of images that stay with you after the experience. It’s a good read, one of the more radical shake-ups of the new #52, but it’s not yet done anything to win actual affection from readers.

But I’ll be getting issue #2 to see where it goes.

  • Fascinating review – I’ll be looking out for your next commentary on this! the changes are… interesting.

  • Why thank ‘e kindly, young miss! It’s definitely an interesting direction and it’s clearly winning support with hardcore comics fans. But I’m missing the usual Wonder Woman trappings – not just the Amazons, et al, but also the internal monologue which has been de rigeur since the days of George Perez at least. Wonder Woman’s something of an enigma in this, but having read a new interview with Azzarello recently (, it’s clear that he’s still keeping a lot of the old mythos in there while bringing in plenty of new things – which is good, I think.

  • Gareth Williams

    Despite being a massive DC fan I’ve never read a Wonder Woman story outside of a JLA book, and I guess that is what DC are trying to address with this reboot.
    Sadly I think a lot of us DC fans have made up our minds that we don’t much care for the character and pretty much nothing is ever going to get us to read the book.
    Azzarello has obviously been chosen to try and entice us in, but despite his Batman story being the only good thing to come out of Flashpoint I’m still not going to bite.
    Of course this isn’t all down to my ignorance, if the book was still 70p I’m sure Azzarello would be enough to get me to buy it.

  • My experience of Justice League and indeed other titles that have seen guest visits from Wonder Woman (even Trinity, which was supposedly a three-hander between Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) is that they have no idea how to deal with the character. Hell, there are more than a few writers who have been in charge of the Wonder Woman title itself who’ve had no idea, either.
    If my only experience of WW were through JLA, I’d understand your pain – even comics fan Megan Fox didn’t want to take the part of Wonder Woman (preferring Fathom of all things) because “Wonder Woman is a lame superhero… She flies around in her invisible jet and her weaponry is a lasso that makes you tell the truth. I just don’t get it.” Presumably because she’s never read the actual title.
    I think the title’s £1.99 now. That’s £2 a month. I probably give that much away to charity boxes each morning on the Tube…

  • Wonder Woman was well represented in the Justice League/Unlimited animated series. The show managed to keep her interesting and on a level with the other powerful male heroes.
    Later episodes also did a great job in showcasing Black Canary, The Huntress, and Vixen too.

    But that show was amazing all over, it even had a great Booster Gold episode…

  • Smallville had a Booster Gold episode too – that didn’t make it awesome.

    The Justice League TV series did as good job with Wonder Woman as I’ve seen, although again, diminished her relative to where she is in her own comic in a way that neither Superman nor Batman ever were. And a percentage of the Justice League characterisation for Wonder Woman was around whether she was more interested in dating Batman or Superman (Batman seemed to be the preferred option).

    The Justice League comics (and let us not forget which superheroine got made the League’s secretary when it started) tend to involve WW – when they include her more than tangentially – with having to deal with the other heroes sci-fi problems: in other words, to deal with the men’s problems on their turf where they have expertise. It rarely tends to be the other way round: Superman, Batman and co having to deal with gods and creatures from myth. As a result, Wonder Woman almost never gets to shine so she looks bad in comparison to those characters.

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