When a new creator starts a Wonder Woman monthly comic run, it’s never clear what that will look like. Thus, when acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson began her run with Wonder Woman #58, I was optimistic but cautious.
Wonder Woman: What’s Her Core Story?
I could say the caution was because the quality of Wonder Woman has been all over this place in this recent series, despite talent on art and writing. But, mostly, it’s because who Wonder Woman is and what she means to the people around her seems to change far too often.
Superman has a set mythos. Despite a few side trips, you know he’s Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, and that his supporting cast includes, in some form or another, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, and Perry White, that the Daily Planet is his home base, and that he grew up in Smallville, raised by that kindly couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Batman has s set mythos. An ill-fated trip down an alley, a shooting, two murders, a young child who vows to hunt down the criminals who are a “superstitious and cowardly lot.” Batman has a home base, Gotham, a Batcave, there’s Alfred, generally Commissioner Gordon, and various Bat-supporting characters of Robins and Batgirls.
But with Wonder Woman, that’s not quite true. For the vast majority of her history, she was sculpted from magical clay and imbued with life/soul by the gods, the only child of Themyscira, and taught how to love, how to fight, and, most of all, how to be compassionate by the Amazons. She left the island because of Steve Trevor’s message that she was needed in the world. There, she gained friends and allies, including Etta Candy as well as Steve.
But that’s changed somewhat, as Diana is now the daughter of Zeus, and the Amazons were given a seriously dark history that calls into question how they could teach compassion. Plus, they vanished from reality, gone who knows where for quite some time. Steve Trevor, after some fits and starts, was placed back as a supporting character. Sometimes Etta Candy is there. Sometimes not. Without Paradise Island, Diana didn’t even have a recognizable home base.
Enter: G. Willow Wilson on Wonder Woman
The excellent Greg Rucka/Nicola Scott/Liam Sharp run at the beginning of this Wonder Woman series re-established some of those classic core elements, especially Diana’s entry into man’s world and some of the Olympian gods. It also re-introduced Themyscira, though Diana was still barred from it.
The runs that followed were of varying quality, sadly, and then Wilson, best known as the co-creator and writer of the wonderful Ms. Marvel series at Marvel Comics, was tapped to take over.
With Wilson’s last stories on Wonder Woman coming in October, and the first collection of her Wonder Woman work, Wonder Woman Volume 1: The Just War, now up for preorder at Amazon, it was time to look at her work on Princess Diana.
For the most part, my optimism was rewarded.
The Strengths of Wilson’s Run on Wonder Woman
Diana’s story has an inherently political slant, of course, and Wilson dived into that right away, with the re-emergence of Ares as part of a story about a war-torn nation. Diana was drawn into the war to find Steve and, then, by Ares, who seemed to want to reform but kept resorting to force over and over to achieve those means. This first arc also kicked off the subplot of the creatures of myth having been scattered around the Earth by some disaster and the possibility that Diana might be reunited with her mother.
It was a good start, though perhaps an issue too long, and a thought-provoking one on how hard war can be to defeat and how difficult it can be to obtain peace, especially since the desire must come from within, not without.
Meanwhile, the mythical refugees had to find their place in this new world, leading to some humorous and delightful sequences with how a unicorn, a satyr, and a minotaur can fit into the world.
The stories also brought in some of the best elements of the Rucka/Sharp/Scott run, including a Veronica Cale, who’s still mourning not being able to see her daughter any longer. Wilson’s Cale was, at turns, grieving, angry, devious, and amoral. The relationship between her and Diana remained complex and this eventually paid in Wonder Woman #76, as Veronica was reunited with her daughter.
Meanwhile, the guest stars brought a vibrancy to the title. Another amoral woman, Giganta, also proved to be a good foil for Diana as the Amazon princess kept looking for signs of the missing gods and the problems the magical refugees were creating.
There was Antlantiades, who at first seemed to be an enemy, taking over an entire town and encouraging them to follow their lust wherever it may lead. Diana confronted Antlantiades to show them the harm they were causing. As with many gods and demi-gods, Antlantiades was somewhat oblivious to the problems and that led to an exploration of love and lust and the difference between them, and what one loses and gains with love.
Eventually, Antlantiades became an ally.
Finally, in the big anniversary issue, Wonder Woman #75, the Amazons are fully restored, Hippolyta and Diana are reunited, and there’s a pathway between worlds. All this is a good thing. I hope it sticks and DC is done with messing with Diana’s core story.
The Downside of G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman
While the themes of Wilson’s run held my attention, there were some problems that prevent me from moving it from very good to great.
First, there were pacing issues. Each arc seemed to be at least an issue too long. Even in the first arc, the conversations and debates between Ares and Diana seem to be repeated more than once. That happens again with Atlan’s arc as well. It didn’t help that Diana seemed to be searching for survivor’s of the Olympians for forever.
Second, while Wilson seemed to have a great hold on the core of the themes surrounding Wonder Woman, there seemed to be less of Diana herself as a person. She seemed more distant, more reactive, and less vibrant on the page. Diana seemed to have lost her sense of delight, and I missed that. This made some of the emotional moments fall flat.
Third, and this bleeds in from above, while the guest-stars were great, they seemed to have more personality than Diana herself. Antlantiades in particular was fascinating, complex, and not totally good or evil. Maggie, the waitress who found Antiope’s sword and seems to be on her way to becoming an Amazon, was also delightful. But as the stories progressed, Maggie seemed sometimes more the main character than Diana. And with a story about Diana finding her home again, Diana should have been more front and center.
The fourth flaw was the lack of a permanent art team. It seems the best collaborations in comics is when a writer and an artist work together for a long run, their ideas melding with each other and creating a synergy. But Wilson never had a chance to develop that with a particular artist, as her art team changed every few issues.
It’s not that the art was bad or flawed. Some of it was quite good. But there’s not a unity of style across the run, and that affects the reading. The latest issue, an emotional reunion issue with Diana on Paradise Island, was drawn by an artist making his debut on the series. Lee Garbett is a terrific artist, but this is an issue that ties so much together, and, ideally, it would have a synergy and a likeness with the beginning of the run.
Here’s the list of the art teams:
- WW #58-60: Cary Nord, pencils; Mick Grey, inks
- WW #61-62: Xermanico, art
- WW #63: Emanuela Lupacchino, pencils; Ray McCarthy, inks
- WW #64-65: Jesus Merino, pencils; Andy Owens, inks
- WW #66-67: back to Cary Nord, pencils; Mick Gray, inks
- WW #68: Ronan Cliquet, art; Cary Nord, pencils; Mick Gray, inks
- WW #69-71: Xermanico, art
- WWI: Jesus Merino, art; Tom Derenick, pencils
- WW #73: Steve Orlando, writing; Aaron Lopresti, pencils; Matt Ryan, inks
- WW #74: Jesus Merino, Xermanico, art
- WW #75: Xermanico, Jesus Merino, Vincent Ciufuentes
- WW #76: Lee Garbett, art
Last but not least, and this a personal preference, not a writing issue, I’m not sure I enjoyed the take on the Diana/Steve relationship.
Final Verdict On G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman Run
It’s very good.
It has a lot of strengths, from exploring deep themes that are inherent in the character to the excellent use of previous supporting characters, and it added new and needed diversity to the Wonder Woman mythos in Maggie and Antlantiades, especially.
But the pacing issues, Diana’s oddly formal personality, and the lack of unity on the art prevented it from being truly excellent.