Friday, November 5, 2010

Reworked, Three Times Bigger And Amazingly Comprehensible, The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia Truly Is Essential!

The Good: Informative, Thorough, Great artwork, Exceptionally well-researched, Easy to navigate.
The Bad: Occasionally dry cover-to-cover read.
The Basics: The scholarly The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia is a reference work for Wonder Woman from the character to peripheral characters, devices and history!

This is my Wonder Woman Year and I am having a lot of fun with it. For my birthday, I just got in the late '70s Wonder Woman television series and next week, I'm going to actually start watching it, which is quite exciting to me. With The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia I was excited to enhance my Wonder Woman Year by having a resource to flip through to answer my questions on the various time periods in the history of Wonder Woman. And, in the end, it is hard to argue that this is anything but an exceptionally thorough work which is everything most every fan of Wonder Woman would ever need or want.

The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia is exactly what the title promises, a massive oversized (not quite coffee table proportions) book that is the definitive collection of characters, storylines and devices associated with the comic book Wonder Woman. Despite what press reports state about it being the first book in thirty years to compile all the facts about Wonder Woman comic books, this massive publication takes the place of 2003’s Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide To The Amazon Princess from DK Publishing. In fact, The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia makes that book look like light reading for amateurs.

With almost five hundred pages, The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia is a(n almost) full color compendium of the history of Wonder Woman comics, including listings on every device, character (major, minor, retconned and re-created) and storyline that the Wonder Woman character has been a part of. The panels that are not color are original black and white comic strips that were presented that way originally and are included to illustrate the evolution of the Wonder Woman character.

This is an encyclopedia, though, so it is intended more as a reference tool than a “sit down and read” book. Instead of having a constant narrative, it has alphabetical listings of each character, the issues they first appeared in and the story behind their creation and demise (if there was one). So, for example, the listings for the character Cheetah explores all four Cheetah characters from the first appearance to the now post-Final Crisis incarnation. Because the book is written by Phil Jimenez and John Wells, it has far more credibility than, say, Wikipedia for its information. Every character, including crossover characters who appear only for a limited time in Wonder Woman mythology (like Sinestro) are given entries. So, too, are the Wonder Woman interpretations of the Greek Gods as well as every device (Invisible Jet, lasso of truth, etc) Wonder Woman is associated with using.

But for casual readers, the grail of the book is the history of Wonder Woman herself. The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia clearly differentiates between the different eras in Wonder Woman’s history, from her 1940s origins, the 1960s spy phase to the character’s rebirth in the mid-1980s and the subsequent development through the Final Crisis storyline. This makes it an invaluable reference tool, as well as an interesting read.

Phil Jimenez and John Wells keep the writing crisp and standardized – entries tend to follow the same format so there is a consistency in the way the information is disseminated to readers for easy comparisons – and while the diction is not exceptional (anyone reading at a high school reading level will have no problem getting through this book) the encyclopedia is very readable. The index also seems well organized.

Finally, The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia also includes many pages of original artwork and highlighted artwork from the pages of the various comic books, which allows readers to see how the style of comic book art for Wonder Woman has developed over the different eras. The colors are strong and the entire book has the look and feel of a professional text. It’s exceptional and, despite the fact that Wonder Woman continues on in comic book form virtually assuring that this will need to be updated in the future, this is truly all one who wants to learn about Wonder Woman needs without actually reading the comic books.

A great scholarly work, even if the subject matter is not considered either!

For other Wonder Woman books and memorabilia, please check out my reviews of:
Wonder Woman Series 1 Circe action figure
Ends Of The Earth By Gail Simone
Wonder Woman: Lifelines By John Byrne
Wonder Woman: Mythos By Carol Lay


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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