With the news about the Wonder Woman pilot by David E. Kelley and the casting of Wonder Woman herself, I thought this would be a good time to examine the end of the last complete run of the Wonder Woman comic.
Gail Simone’s run effectively ended with the completion of the story in Wonder Woman: Contagion, though she did write a story for issue #600, the last one before the title was rebooted to give a more modern origin to the Amazon warrior. (I’ve been waiting for that story to be completed before reviewing it.)
Hollywood has apparently considered Wonder Woman a difficult property to exploit despite the character’s name recognition. Most people remember Wonder Woman solely from the ’70s Wonder Woman television show. While that show had its positives and has many, many fans, it could be as cheesy as the 1960s Batman television show.
As Batman was rebooted into the Dark Knight, first by Tim Burton and then by Christopher Nolan, I am hoping that this new series from Kelley will take the character out of the camp and into the drama category. For example, while I think the bathing suit costume works well in superhero comics, in which everyone is running around in spandex, it looks odd in live action. A newer costume, perhaps modeled on some type of Greek armor, is clearly needed.
As for getting a handle on a character that seems to be elusive—she’s a warrior! she’s an ambassador for peace!—the producers and writers of the show could do far worse than read Wonder Woman: Contagion, which crystallized for me exactly who Princess Diana is and what she fights for.
There is a scene during a pitched battle in which Wonder Woman and her opponent are at checkmate. Each can kill the other. Diana offers compassion to her enemy, a second chance at life to a person who’s never really lived at all. That scene reminded me strongly of a conversation in Marvel’s Secret Avengers, in which Steve Rogers argues for giving a second chance to an enemy that may not even be fully alive, at least not by human standards.
No one seems to have trouble with what Steve Rogers, formerly Captain America, believes in. He will fight if needed but he’d rather change the mind and hearts of his opponents.
And that is also Wonder Woman.
There is no dichotomy in her being a supporter of peace and a warrior. She’s the same as Rogers, fighting when there is no choice and reaching out for the best in humanity even in the midst of a war. Years ago, while visiting a friend of my sister, I saw a drawing by Neal Adams of Captain America and Wonder Woman. Adams’ son had been an elementary school classmate of my sister’s friend and Adams had drawn this for her. The pencil drawing was beautiful, of course. It was by Neal Adams. But the two characters together somehow seemed right.
There are two story arcs in this collection. The first is about the battle between Wonder Woman and the male children of Ares, the God of War. This is a threat straight out of Children of the Damned, right down to the glowing eyes of the children. They play on the fears of the population of Washington, D.C., and even enrage mythical creatures, leading to riots in the street. It’s left to Wonder Woman and guest-star Power Girl to stop them. Eventually, the children’s emotional hold on the crowd is broken as Power Girl makes the mob see each other as individuals and Diana tracks down the errant children themselves.
The second arc is an alien invasion of D.C. The twist to a somewhat familiar story is that the aliens are led by a long-lost older sister of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, Wonder Woman’s mother. The aliens isolate the city via a power barrier and begin slaughtering the inhabitants for food. Wonder Woman is forced into single combat with her cousin, Theana, while her allies, including the new Achilles, the married couple Steve Trevor and Etta Candy, and finally, the rest of the Amazons, counter the attacking army.
In perhaps one of the goriest origin stories ever, Theana is revealed to be the alien’s strongest warrior by virtue of having survived being locked in a hold by her mother with other small children and an ever-dwindling supply of food. Theana was the only survivor. Though she is only on the page for one issue, Theana is one of the more memorable characters that I’ve encountered in a long time.
What Kids Will Like About It:
My son liked the horror element of the children of Ares story. He also liked the battle between a mind-controlled Power Girl and Wonder Woman which ends when Power Girl finally breaks the mental hold imposed by the children. The artwork, as in many of the books I review, is top notch. Aaron Lopresti was the artist on the first story and Nicola Scott, currently teamed with Simone on Secret Six, did the second. In short, there’s plenty of action to hold the attention of children but enough character development that they’ll also (hopefully) bond to the characters.
What Adults Will Like About It:
I loved that Simone was able to resolve her major story arcs, though the ending of the invasion seemed a little too abrupt, likely due to the need to unexpectedly wrap up many loose ends. I particularly enjoyed Steve Trevor’s moment of glory as, piloting an invisible plane, he saves the warrior Achilles. “This time, I’m the angel.” I’ll miss that Steve Trevor. There’s no telling what he’ll look like after the current reboot, though I give props to DC for trying to update the character for the modern age.
The checkmate between Wonder Woman and Theana. Perfect expressions on both their faces, wonderfully drawn battle armor. The tension bleeds from it.
About the Creators:
Yes, I do keep writing about Gail Simone’s work, along with Ed Brubaker and Mark Waid’s writing. Clearly, I have my favorites. Simone is currently writing the Birds of Prey reboot that I reviewed last month, and also writes Secret Six. Nicola Scott is an Aussie who I first heard buzzed about on the web for her pinups of Wonder Woman. Her work here fulfilled that initial promise.