Wednesday 13 January 2016

Wonder Woman Wednesday: The Legend of Wonder Woman #1 Review

Title: The Legend of Wonder Woman #1
Story: The Legend of Wonder Woman Chapters 1-3
Characters: Diana Prince, Queen Hippolyta, Alcippe
Creators: Renae De Liz (writer/artist), Ray Dillon (artist)
Publication Date: January 2016
Available In: Print | Digital

Summary: Issue #1 begins with the birth of the universe, and with it, the birth of Titans and Gods. With the formation of human civilisation came the rise of the Amazons, their respective culture, and eventual society. Throughout their history, the Amazons have fought in various battles and have served the gods to the point of some women being granted immortality. As the centuries passed on, the Amazonian Queen, Hippolyta, found herself yearning for something more than just eternal life: the gift of motherhood. Her pursuit of motherhood has caused her to make mistakes that brought her into conflict with those who followed her, but still retained the respect of her people.

As mortal Amazons were blessed with daughters every ten years to keep Themysciran society thriving, the Queen's yearning for a daughter of her own only got stronger, until one day, her wish was granted. Blessed with a daughter of her own, Queen Hippolyta raised her little girl the way she felt would benefit her most. However, something on the island is troubling the young Princess Diana into questioning her role within her respective society, leading her to disobey her mother's rules and actually explore the island outside of city walls. What she finds outside the city not only piques her curiosity and frightens her, but brings her into contact with possibly the second most important person in her life: the warrior Alcippe!

Review: This is legitimately the first Wonder Woman comic DC has published in the last five years that I've genuinely enjoyed! Of all the Wonder Woman Digital First comics I've been reading as of late (the equally good Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman 77), this is the first one that I've seen that reads less like an episodic/anthology series and more like a mainstream Wonder Woman comic. I'd dare say the story explored in these pages by writer Renae De Liz is the origin story we should've gotten for the New 52 Wonder Woman. It actually respects the original creative vision of Charles Moulton Marston, and doesn't attempt to masculinise the character the way Brian Azzarello did to make her more appealing to an assumed male audience. (And I am saying this as someone who likes Azzarello by the way!)

One thing that appealed to me right away about this comic is that De Liz draws a lot of inspiration from the original Golden Age Sensation Comics Marston wrote during the 1940s, but further expands on his original ideas. Whereas Marston originally summarised the history of the Amazons to help us understand the world that Princess Diana comes from, De Liz actually takes those little pieces of information Marston provided all those decades ago, and weaved an entire narrative out of them. In this first issue, De Liz takes the time to explore the history and culture of the Amazons to give us better insight into Queen Hippolyta's character, her personal desires, personal conflicts, how a combination of these things affect her relationship with the rest of the Amazons, and ultimately how they factor into Diana's birth itself. De Liz also shows the formation of Amazon society as it exists on Themyscira, and how their isolation affects their values and place in the world as they know it. De Liz does excellent world building in this first installation of her story and gets you hooked into her epic narrative right away.

Two of the major themes De Liz explores in this first issue are the themes of immortality and motherhood. These are also the same types of themes that are found in many Greek epics like The Odyssey, but De Liz does her own spin on these same themes with the Amazons. While many people dream of immortality and the ability to stay forever young as one of the best things that can happen to anyone, De Liz doesn't so much romanticise the idea as she does explore the consequences of possessing such a magnificent gift. While the idea of being young and beautiful forever sounds appealing, De Liz also emphasises that it comes with a price, and in this case, that price is infertility for Queen Hippolyta. While the mortal Amazons are able to get pregnant every ten years when the Gods provide them with the souls of daughters, the immortal Amazons are not granted the same luxury. As such, Queen Hippolyta sees her immortality as both a gift and a curse, especially since it conflicts with her desire for motherhood.

In many ways, Queen Hippolyta's narrative mirrors that of many real life women who desire to have children of their own but are unable to conceive. Like many women who wish to become mothers, Hippolyta carries on with her life as best she can, and fulfils her duties to the women she governs while silently mourning her inability to have children. At one point, Hippolyta even betrays the Amazons in pursuit of her goals until a major battle with men led to the death of one of her sisters and devastated her group. It was at that point that Hippolyta realised the error that she made and attempted to atone for her behaviour with her life, but instead her sisters forgave her and took her back. While Hippolyta definitely wisened up, the part of her that yearned for motherhood didn't go away and silently kept yearning for it until one day her wish was granted by the gods.

Originally in Marston's story, Hippolyta's wish was granted by Aphrodite (the goddess of love and beauty) and while De Liz doesn't specify which gods were involved in the granting of her wish, the way she portrays Hippolyta's sorrow and subsequent happiness when Diana is given to her is very elegant, yet poignant. De Liz especially sells the emotional aspect of Hippolyta's story through her artwork, which is also beautifully coloured by her husband, Ray Dillon. As a visual storyteller, De Liz excels in presenting the history of the Amazons in a sequence that is very easy to follow, but also feels very epic--almost like you're looking at Michelangelo's paintings in the sistine chapel in the way some of these pages are laid out. It's enough to say I feel like I can take the majority of the first chapter's pages, blow them up in size and cover my walls with them and people who walk in could still tell what kind of story was being told without text. Even without words, the weight of Hippolyta's internal conflict is still felt.

Another major theme De Liz explores in this first issue is how little Diana fits into the larger society she is a part of. On the one hand, Diana's life is already planned out for her and is very much expected to succeed her mother as Queen of Themyscira. On the other hand, Diana doesn't feel like she quite fits into the world she's a part of. Part of that has to do with the fact that as a princess, she is expected to fulfil roles other than the ones she feels she needs to fulfil, which kind of brings her into conflict with her mother. Since they live in peaceful isolation, Hippolyta doesn't think Diana needs to know the ways of combat, but Diana feels otherwise. She feels that if she is to be the future ruler of Themyscira, she needs to be prepared for anything, including war, which causes her to bond with Alcippe, one of the Amazon's best warriors. She also questions the need to serve gods whom she (implictly) believes to be just as flawed and selfish as mortals.

The way De Liz depicts Diana and her relationships with the two most important women in her life are quite significant and adds a lot of depth to all three characters involved. Through their relationships, we see who these three women are at their core and what their individual conflicts are. Hippolyta's burdens are very different from those of her daughter's, Diana's burdens are different from those of other girls her age, and both of their burdens are very different from those of Alcippe's who lives to protect her people and culture as she knows it. The latter is very much a warrior at heart but is also very wise and values strategy.

On the whole, Legend of Wonder Woman reads the way a proper mainstream Wonder Woman comic should. De Liz is very thorough in her exploration of Diana's origins that lead her to become the heroine as we know her. It's enough to say if De Liz gets more opportunities to write more Wonder Woman comics in the future, I'm definitely on board to buy them.

You probably noticed I wasn't very detailed in my summary for this comic as I tend to be with most of my reviews, and I kept it brief for a reason. I feel like I would be doing De Liz a huge disservice giving out her entire story on this one review. Her story is something that needs to be experienced by the reader, and my blog (as much as I love talking about my favourite comics) just wouldn't do it justice. This comic is definitely a must buy for Wonder Woman fans and even fans who are entirely new to Wonder Woman. This comic (no offence to Brian Azzarello) is Wonder Woman done right. De Liz embraces Diana's conceptual originality as envisioned by her creator, Charles Moulton Marston, and is not embarrassed by her feminist narrative. She actually drives it home!

If you hadn't bought this comic yet, you definitely should! The writing is solid and the artwork is gorgeous. You're definitely missing out if you haven't picked this up yet!



  1. Great review, i really want it now, can't wait for buying this issue.
    Noob question though, how variant covers works? they sell different comics with the covers or something? I know this is a silly question, im new in comics books. :D

    1. The variant covers are just a different cover on the same comic. It tells the same story as the one with the regular cover, only DC puts a different cover on the comic for collectibility value.