Wonder woman was not simply a story of One Exceptional Woman who is as good as men…. No, Wonder Woman was about more: the value of women and female relationships, unimpeded by male authority. … This was a radical idea at the time, and was certainly not reflected in any other mainstream comic book. … And the idea is still important and meaningful today. Some people may insist that we actually do live in a post-feminist world, where men and women are judged on the same criteria and have equal opportunity in all things. But it’s not the case–not in the world, not in the U.S.A., and certainly not within the context of DC comics.”
-Doc Bifrost, “Wonder Woman and the Paternal Narrative”
Wonder Woman is iconic. Just saying her name brings to mind a certain image–a woman, dressed in red and blue and gold, standing tall and proud, she is unafraid and she cannot be defeated.
But what do we actually know about Wonder Woman, who she is, her strengths and weaknesses, her thoughts and desires. The answer is easy, not all that damn much. We’ve seen a hundred different incarnations of Superman and Batman, seen Krypton explode and Thomas and Martha Wayne murdered over and over and over again. We know their motivations, but Wonder Woman, in a lot of ways, is still an enigma.
I, personally, had never picked up a Wonder Woman book. I’d always meant to, I’d just never quite gotten around to it. I am so, so, SO glad that I picked up this book first. Because it is entirely terrific.
I had always heard great things about Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, but when I first thought about picking up the trades, they were already out of print. But now, thanks to the Wonder Woman renaissance spurred on by her 75th anniversary and this summer’s movie, that run has been recombined and re-released into a new trade and it was just sitting there in the bookstore, waiting to be devoured.
So I bought it. Of course I did. And boy am I glad I did.
The volume begins with “The Hiketeia”, a story of mercy and justice, where Wonder Woman and Batman battle over the life and soul of a woman who had made some very hard choices on a quest to avenge her sister. It’s a story that capitalizes on Diana’s mythic nature and background and shows us what it really means to be Wonder Woman.
It’s an amazing story. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s the ur-Wonder Woman story. It encapsulates everything she is, her strengths and weaknesses, her joys and doubts. It made me yearn to know more about her and it made me so sad that she is the least well known of DC’s Trinity.
Every little girl deserves to grow up knowing Wonder Woman.
I could spend another 1,000 words (at least) talking about this one issue, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Just believe me when I tell you that this volume is worth picking up for “The Hiketeia” alone.
But that doesn’t mean that the rest of the volume is trash, because it’s not, it’s really, really not. It collects the Bitter Rivals run and it contains some good, surprisingly topical issues. It examines Wonder Woman as a political person and a symbol. The villain that Diana confronts isn’t a super-powered being (though Ares does show up to shake things up a little bit) but rather one regular woman with ambition, money, and an overpowering goal to get rid of Wonder Woman, by any means necessary. And she utilizes tactics that could be found in any modern, real world, Super PAC’s playbook.
Wonder Woman is an inspiration for a lot of reasons, but most of us don’t really know who she is. We know her iconic costume, we know that she’s strong, an Amazon, a hero. We know that she can go toe-to-toe with any bad guy, can fight beside any hero, and win. But what do we really know about her?
Not as much as we should.
There’s a great quote, attributed to Gail Simone, that really brings Wonder Woman into focus. She said, “If you need to stop an asteroid, you call Superman. If you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But if you need to end a war, you call Wonder Woman.” Ending a war doesn’t mean destroying the combatants or the nations, it means ending it, resolving it, making things right.
Ending a war takes wisdom and compassion and those attributes are Wonder Woman’s true superpowers. Lassos of truth, physical strength, bullet deflecting gauntlets, those are all useful tools, but true heroism is derived from how those tools are used.
Wisdom. Compassion. Wonder Woman. She’s the hero we desperately need.
And, yes, I absolutely recommend this book.