Review – Wonder Woman: Earth One HC (DC Comics)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Release Date: 6th April, 2016

Well, it’s safe to say that this one going to divide opinion in a major way.

After a myriad of delays, rescheduling and cries of “is it ever going to come out?”, Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One finally hits stores everywhere today.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, DC’s “Earth One” series of graphic novels essentially provide re-imaginings of established origin stories, all set in a world free from existing continuity constraints.

So, what we have here is a very distinctive take on Wonder Woman, her origins and her first steps outside the hidden paradise of Amazonia. The book is framed around Diana standing trial by her Amazonian sisters for daring to venture into the ‘world of man’, and for her perceived betrayal of their cause.  While a lot of the storyline details are already familiar – Diana’s relationship with her mother Hippolyta, her encounter with American pilot Steve Trevor, etc. – the whole thing is given a distinctly Morrison vibe with all manner of riffs on the destructive influence of man, the power of nature versus nurture, sexuality, slavery and body image along the way.

Suffice to say that there are a lot of different competing themes packed into these pages, and while some of the concepts hit their mark beautifully, there are a few moments that aren’t necessarily going to appeal to everyone.  Niggles like Diana using the world “girl” as an insult when confronted by a squadron of soldiers, the well-publicised bondage scene and the Amazonians resorting to some pretty harsh body-shaming all feel more than a little jarring, as does the ultimate reveal of the true source of Wonder Woman’s power.

That said, Morrison clearly isn’t here to churn out another bland, lifeless retelling of Wonder Woman’s origin story, and takes great pleasure in pushing the boundaries of the character here, free from the constraints that a story set in the regular continuity would provide.  It’s also worth noting that, in spite of the unconventional tone and several potentially unsettling storyline choices, the key traits that have defined  Wonder Woman over the years – strength, truth, empathy, love – all remain firmly intact.

The visuals are provided here by the supremely talented Yanick Paquette, who unleashes all manner of utterly mesmerizing page layouts to frame his impressive panels.  While there’s an ever-so-slightly ‘cheesecake’ aesthetic to his work here, he does manage to keep things under control, providing a race of Amazons that are tall, slim, strong and beautiful without having to be overly sexualized.  The colours are bright and vibrant, and while there’s definitely a slight uniformity in his female characters, both facially and in terms of their physique, his rendering of Diana herself is truly fantastic.  All in all, this is a fantastic looking book, and is one which contains several poster-worthy splash pages featuring this iconic character.

The introduction of sorority sister Beth Candy feels a little cheap, but for all her Rebel Wilson-osity, she does provide a strong counterpoint to the uncomfortably  severe Amazonians.  The ‘fish out of water’ sequences with Diana visiting a hospital are handled realistically and with no shortage of emotional heft, with Diana visibly enraged at the way women are treated in the ‘world of man’.  Sure, it may be a little on the nose at times, but Morrison makes his point emphatically, hammering home both Diana’s passion and her empathy in the process.

Overall then, while there are certainly aspects of the book that are likely to cause some controversy, I found this to be a bold, ambitious reimagining of the story behind greatest female superhero of all time.  Not the definitive origin perhaps, but undoubtedly smart, provocative and wrapped up in a truly mouth-watering visual package.  Whatever way you look at it, Wonder Woman: Earth One is a book which deserves to be read, discussed and debated for years to come.

Rating: 4.5/5.

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The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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