All of a sudden, and presumably thanks in part to the smash-hit movie, Wonder Woman comics are exciting again. Seattle author G. Willow Wilson is preparing for a splashy run on the character next month, and even before that announcement, the regular Wonder Woman title saw a notable increase in quality.
And last week, DC Comics published the second volume of their Wonder Woman: Earth One series, written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Yanick Paquette, and colored by Nathan Fairbairn. The Earth One series is intended to provide a new-reader-friendly, straightforward high-quality origin story for DC's most recognizable characters, and it's not even necessary for readers to be familiar with the first volume of the Wonder Woman book to jump into the second.
Paquette and Fairbairn pair seamlessly to make this Wonder Woman visually distinctive. Morrison famously bragged in the round of publicity for the first volume that the book is designed to be almost entirely free of phallic imagery, but Paquette is doing much more than just embracing yonic symbols. Every page of this book is gorgeously designed, with intricate panel borders and involved layouts that still guide the reader across the page. Fairbairn's palette is heavy on regal reds and golds and deep blues — the color of Wonder Woman's costume becomes the basis for her entire world.
The second volume of Wonder Woman: Earth One is very interested in classic superhero comic tropes. The book opens with a flashback to a Nazi superwoman's attempted World War II invasion of Wonder Woman's home, Paradise Island. Rather than imprison the Nazi, the Amazons decide to retrain her into decency, with some rather morally dubious mind-control techniques. This was a common occurrence in pulp fiction like Doc Savage and in early Superman stories, but modern audiences, with a more nuanced understanding of free will, are likely to be creeped out. This is part of the design.
And Wonder Woman herself is trapped in a battle of wills with a pick up artist who wants to dominate her spirit. Morrison blends the traditional (a very straightforward idea of submission and dominance) with the modern (the antagonist is a very Gamergate-style men's rights type.)
This book offers a potent blend of old and new, hopeful and cynical, square and progressive. Like most of the best Wonder Woman comics, it will likely unsettle readers of traditional masculine superhero comics. They'd better get used to it: there are a lot more powerful women coming their way. Personally, I'm excited for some more women-led creative teams to take up the charge.