Several months ago, when my schedule allowed, I attended a “Heroines Book Club” at the comic book store that the Mysterious Mr. C and I frequent the most. While the writers of the chosen comic books didn’t have to be women, their subjects were and I figured – as a self-proclaimed GeekyNerdyGirl – that it would a good way to get my feet wet since I am, admittedly, new to the genre.
From the start, I knew I was a bit of a black sheep – I was the only one that didn’t have an existing pull list at the shop and wasn’t known by name, and I often hadn’t had time to read that month’s selection, but I still went because I enjoyed hearing everyone else’s thoughts and learning more about the wide world of comic books and graphic novels.
Our second session, unsurprisingly, focused on Wonder Woman. Because she’s a character who’s been around for 75 years and has been written about and depicted by a number of artists, we were told to read anything featuring her. True to form, I didn’t, but I was really intrigued about the discussion because Wonder Woman had always been a superhero I had a hard time getting into (mostly because of her costume).
At some point during the meeting, our fearless book club leader went around the room and asked us which Wonder Woman portrayal was our favorite. I admitted that I had always been on the fence about her, but that our discussion (as well as Temperance Brennan’s defense of the character on Bones) was making me want to learn more about her origins. Of course everyone had a recommendation about where I should start, but the general consensus seemed to be that Renae de Liz’s new series, The Legend of Wonder Woman, was one of the best. As such, I came home and immediately downloaded all 27 digital issues.
From the beginning, I was absolutely in love with the artwork. Written and drawn by de Liz, with inks, colors, and letters by her husband, Ray Dillon, the series is absolutely gorgeous! Indeed, as the A.V. Club’s Oliver Sava noted, the “lush, expressive visuals” are evidence of the extraordinary “craft on display in this series.” As soon as I started reading the first chapter, I wanted to get my hands on a hard copy – just so I could flip through it at my leisure, it is that pretty!
But as good as the artistry is, I was less thrilled with the direction of the storytelling, at least for the first few pages.
From what I’ve been able to gather, de Liz’s retelling of Wonder Woman’s (Diana’s) origin story is pretty faithful to the canonical mythology, if a bit more kid-friendly, so my complaint isn’t with her writing so much as it is with William Moulton Marston’s basic concepts.
Though I will delve into my thoughts about Marston more in Thursday’s post, suffice it to say that I wasn’t quite prepared for such a heavy emphasis on Hippolyta’s desire to have a child. The focus on how empty she felt at not being able to be a mother, and then her inability to be both a great warrior and a mother (at least in the eyes of some of her followers), made me feel super feminist-y. For all of the talk of Wonder Woman as a feminist icon, I just really didn’t like that her background seemed to feed into the false narrative that women can only be one or the other: a “warrior” or a mother.
But as the story went on, those initial reservations were swept aside. I found de Liz’s writing to be extremely compelling as she showed us Diana’s rebellion as a child, her training with Alcippe, her discovery of Steve Trevor, her fight to be Themyscira’s champion, her arrival in America, her transformation into Wonder Woman, and her first fight against an evil minion. Every part of the story was well crafted and though Diana is clearly the focus, the primary characters are all complex and well rounded too. They truly feel like real people and I found myself wanting to be friends with all of them, particularly Etta Candy, who is just so sassy!
De Liz also helped me get over my biggest reservation, Diana’s Wonder Woman costume. Prior to reading The Legend of Wonder Woman and Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, I always chalked her outfit up to male artists who simply wanted some buxom, skimpily dressed heroine. But de Liz goes into a lot of detail about the history and meaning behind Diana’s metallic accoutrements and the scene in which Etta creates the rest of her outfit out of an old flag is a real bonding moment for the two friends. And I loved that de Liz put her in a skirt, as Wonder Woman was initially drawn, instead of the hot pants that she was ultimately given.
While I have only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Wonder Woman’s story – and all of its various iterations – Renae de Liz’s The Legend of Wonder Woman has totally made me a convert and I can’t wait to read the sequel, whenever it is finally released!