Monday, April 21, 2014

Revamping For The Times, Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 1 Turns The Demigoddess Into A Ninja!

The Good: Decent general concept, Moments of character development
The Bad: Repetitive stories, Exceptionally dated, Undermines its own premise, Artwork for much of the character design
The Basics: Back in the late 1960s, Wonder Woman was revamped and the first collection, Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 1 creates a pretty erratic premise that was not a bad idea, but was poorly executed.

I am, as one might guess from my blog, a fan of Wonder Woman. The character is a complicated one and I understand that there have been many times the character has been revamped. Since I started reading Wonder Woman graphic novels, the character was essentially rebooted twice (not counting the alternate universe storylines) with Who Is Wonder Woman (reviewed here!) and Blood (reviewed here!). But, back in the day, Wonder Woman got a much more serious revamp and it went well beyond simple cosmetics. I picked up Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 1 to see just how drastic her big change back in 1968 was.

And while I understand the underlying social concepts that led to the Wonder Woman revamp, it is shocking that the comic book character ever recovered from the revamp. In Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 1, Wonder Woman surrenders all of her super powers and becomes a ninja with little purpose or direction, save to help those around her. The book reimagines Wonder Woman as the mundane human Diana Prince . . . then makes her so whiny it is impossible to call her a strong or interesting feminist character.

With Steve Trevor in constant danger, bailed out by Wonder Woman, the Air Force officer’s life is turned upside down. Trevor is almost killed when Princess Diana is recalled to Paradise Island. There, Queen Hippolyta informs her that the Amazons are about to depart the Earth and Diana must choose between joining her sisters or remaining behind. Diana opts to stay with Steve, out of love, but that decision comes with the consequence of her losing all of her immortal powers, her lasso, and other Amazon devices. Returned to the United States, she discovers that Steve Trevor has been branded a traitor and is on the run (which is part of an undercover operation his superior officer has assigned him on).

To survive the rough streets, Diana Prince allows the first man who offers her help to become her mentor and to make money, she opens a boutique. Taught all forms of martial arts by the blind old man, Ching, Diana Prince continues to search for Steve Trevor. When it appears Trevor has been killed, Diana Prince teams up with Tim Trench, a man who is hunting the notorious Doctor Cyber. In the quest to defeat Cyber and her increasingly outrageous schemes for technological domination, Prince, Ching, and various guest characters get the heroine closer to the villain. After a sidetrack with Reggie, who Diana claims to be in love with before he betrays her, Diana tries to foil a plot involving Bjorland when Paradise Island reappears and Diana must return home to save her brethren from the machinations of Ares.

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 1 does not have time to develop itself or realize its potential before the whole premise is undermined. There are three more volumes of Diana Prince: Wonder Woman, so she remains a ninja for quite some time. So why Paradise Island reappears so quickly makes little storytelling sense. It’s like by the time one accepts that Wonder Woman is stuck as Diana Prince, mundane human, bang, the supernatural element reasserts itself.

Unfortunately, the entire volume is so erratic. Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 1 drops Steve Trevor with no real consequences early on and that leaves Diana Prince in the hands of Ching . . . or I-Ching. Ching introduces himself as Ching and appears in the book as Ching most of the time, but on covers reprinted in the volume and on a few pages he is referenced as I-Ching. That’s annoying.

The Reggie love story is similarly banal and Tim Trench is a sexist lout, which makes one wonder what Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky were thinking with the revamp. The writers did not make Diana Prince into a particularly strong woman. Instead, she is a basic ninja who seems to have forgotten entirely about any responsibilities she might have had with the Justice League Of America. She trains with the first guy she almost rescues, then falls in love (apparently) with a guy who is a jerk and pals around with a guy who is an even bigger jerk. Diana Prince is not an empowered woman in this book, instead, she is just bounced around from event to event with better spies than she is telling her what is going on until she kicks some ass.

Diana Prince is very much a character who utilizes brawn over brains in Volume 1. Many of the male characters are drawn alike as well. This becomes a serious problem at the outset of the book as one of Steve Trevor’s superior officers looks like a mobster who is ordering him killed, but context clues reveal that is not the case.

Ultimately, Diana Prince: Wonder Woman, Volume 1 is a decent historical document and it seems like it would be DC Comics’ go-to to shut up modern fans who complain about the direction they are taking with the character. It is not, however, a well-executed concept and if one reads a summary of this period of Diana’s story, they will get all the essentials without the problematic details that undermine one’s love of the character.

For other Wonder Woman volumes, please check out my reviews of:
Gods And Mortals by George Perez
Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Gods by George Perez
Beauty And The Beasts By George Perez
Destiny Calling By George Perez
The Contest By William Messner-Loebs
The Challenge Of Artemis By William Messner-Loebs
Second Genesis By John Byrne
Wonder Woman: Lifelines By John Byrne
Paradise Lost By Phil Jimenez
Paradise Found By Phil Jimenez
Down To Earth By Greg Rucka
Eyes Of The Gorgon By Greg Rucka
Land Of The Dead By Greg Rucka
Mission's End By Greg Rucka
The Hiketeia


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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