Review: Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, April 14, 2008

[Contains spoilers for Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman?]

Allan Heinberg's Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman? is a story of the Amazonian Princess written as a summer movie blockbuster -- action-packed, pretty to look at, but devoid of any truly brain-taxing content. Heinberg writes an intelligent Wonder Woman comic without any cringe-worthy lines or silly situations, but there's nothing necessarily new or ground-breaking in this story, short of the changes Heinberg (and, one guesses, the DC Comics editorial staff) makes to Wonder Woman overall. These changes are both significant and cautiously welcome, though I might've liked to see them used to greater effect in this story.

To tackle the end first, Heinberg makes Wonder Woman human when she's in her secret identity of Diana Prince, spy for the Department of Metahuman Affairs. I actually think this change has a lot of potential; in addition to returning the Silver Age super-spy intrigue to Wonder Woman, Heinberg makes those super-spy adventures count for something because Diana can be hurt in the process. It's too bad that Heinberg makes these changes at the end of the story, and also that he sidelines Diana Prince (in favor of Wonder Woman) for most of the tale; it's the Diana Prince persona that's new and different, and that I would have liked to see more of.

Of course, when you start to pick apart these developments for Wonder Woman, they fall apart--what, we can ask, makes Wonder Woman be Wonder Woman? Does she have to be wearing her costume to have her powers? Could she transform at will while, say, standing next to her partner Nemesis, or does she have to have room to spin a la the television series? And this is all setting aside the unspoken implication that Batman's always Batman, Superman's always Superman, but Wonder Woman only gets to be Wonder Woman half the time. These critiques go unresolved here, but I'd be curious to see another writer address them in the future.

Heinberg's plot itself is something of a Hush tale in five issues, with nearly Wonder Woman's entire rogues gallery appearing and attacking her in the end. The goal here is to inject some super-heroics back into the Wonder Woman series, which even at some of its best moments has often been a wordy, high-falutin' gods and monsters book. The Diana Prince persona is perhaps meant to humanize the title's main character and in that way give the reader someone to relate to; the criticism within Infinite Crisis that Ambassador Diana was out of touch with her public very likely also applied to the reading public, and super-spy Diana is apparently more the common ground.

Certainly this new paradigm for Wonder Woman is very heavily influenced by the 1970s television series. We've looked at how the New Earth Batman and Superman now more closely resemble wider-recognized versions of their characters (Superman, especially, regaining his childhood relationship with the Legion of Super-Heroes), and I guess a nostalgic slant to Wonder Woman is better than redesigning the character a la the new Aquaman. I don't really believe that a Lynda Carter mileu, thirty years later, is what the Wonder Woman comic has really been lacking all this time, but it's a fun take on Wonder Woman for the time being.

[Contains full covers, introduction]

With Wonder Woman re-established, we turn now to Manhunter (where Wonder Woman makes an appearance in the fourth volume. See how these things work out?).
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2 comments:

  1. Good review. I agree the latest wonder woman reboot looks pretty but adds little to the whole concept and Mythos...sigh...

    Remember when these things used to mean something? Perez on WW, Byrne on the Man of Steel, Miller on Batman?

    On the upshot there's stiull some great stuff like Manhunter! Waiting for the review...

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  2. Hope you liked the Manhunter reviews. Yeah, "reboot" doesn't have quite the shine it used to; I'm not sure Wonder Woman really needed to be renumbered this time, and the Flash restart-and-then-return is just weird.

    I know a bunch of people wanted to see Manhiunter be renumbered with the new issues, but I'm glad they kept the numbering -- I think artificial reboots are ultimately detrimental in terms of audience interest, as you suggest.

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