Mercedes Lackey very nearly gushes in her introduction to Gail Simone's Wonder Woman debut in Wonder Woman: The Circle, calling it "the essence of everything I always wanted Wonder Woman to be." Indeed, while I don't think Simone's Princess Diana, as presented here at least, is quite the ultimate depiction of the character, there are certainly more than a few brilliant flashes that suggest it could be.
Simone, I believe, offers a take on Wonder Woman that many writers have attempted, but never quite achieved. In every battle Diana fights--whether with super-gorillas, enhanced Nazis, or a crazed Green Lantern--Simone takes the reader almost step-by-step through Diana's strategies, both her attempts to overcome her enemies and to make peace with them. This is clearly Wonder Woman the warrior, Wonder Woman the diplomat, Wonder Woman the Amazon, presented clearer than ever before.
In addition, Simone surely breaks new ground with her depiction of Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth. Simone, expertly, uses the lasso sequence only once, so as not to lessen the power of it, as Wonder Woman and a penitant Captain Nazi are transported to a vague "truth-scape" inside Nazi's mind. The panels that follow are heartbreaking, and the reader can't help but share Diana's compassion for this otherwise repugnant villain. This is one of those flashes of brilliance that suggests that Simone may deliver not just a better Wonder Woman than we've seen before, but may even break new ground with the character.
Unfortunately, I found The Circle's story itself somewhat flat. The initial chapters are greatly compelling, as Diana fends off a Nazi attack against Themyscira and we get hints of an Amazon plot to kill the baby Diana in the past--but at the end of the story we really don't learn anything new about Diana's origins, and I couldn't help but be disappointed. The second story, "Expatriate," offers more of Simone's masterful take on Diana--and even better, spotlights Simone's fantastic revamp of long-time Wonder Woman supporting character Etta Candy--but ultimately the story doesn't rise far above standard superhero fare. Simone's got a great take on Wonder Woman, but it seems she's still trying to find the right story with which to showcase it.
I was also vaguely annoyed by the suggestion that there might be more than we know to Wonder Woman's origins. Just as Superman is the last survivor of Krypton and Batman watched his parents die, Wonder Woman (at least recently) was formed from clay on Themyscira by her mother Hippolyta. The heroes' origins have withstood changes and shifts before, but for Simone to make it her first act to change Wonder Woman's beginnings in some way speaks to the perceived difficulties that many writers have had with the character. To posit that Wonder Woman needs reimagining is to say that the character isn't full and right as she is--that the preeminent female DC Comics hero has been "broken" for at least the past twenty years. Personally I'd rather see Simone build an adventure for Diana based on her current origins, than immediately turn to changing them.
We can't, in addition, ignore the giant elephant in this trade--it very much looks like Simone's leading toward Diana having sex with her partner, Tom "Nemesis" Tresser. Not that there's anything wrong with that--if anyone's going to finally cross that boundary, it seems well and right that it be Wonder Woman's first regular female writer, Simone. At the same time, when Diana's been condemned by male writers to always having to have a boyfriend, it's almost a shame that Simone gives her a boyfriend as well--though, of course, the same double-standard doesn't apply to romantic interests for male heroes. I do applaud both Simone and DC Comics for taking this risk, and I hope that after it does happen, it ushers in an era where Wonder Woman's romantic life becomes perhaps not as important as other aspects of her adventures.
Wonder Woman: The Circle is, in my estimation, imperfect, but not far off the mark. I loved, as constant readers know, Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman--but whereas Rucka's run may have had too much Ambassador Diana and not enough Wonder Woman, Simone's Wonder Woman so far is very bubblegum superheroic (moreso, perhaps, because of Terry Dodson's pleasing but bubbly art) with not as much seriousness that gives, say, Batman it's weight. Rest assured, however, that Simone shows that Princess Diana is in capable hands; if each volume grows better than the last, Lackey might get her ultimate Wonder Woman yet.
[Contains full covers.]
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