Wonder Woman #1–4 and Annual #1 by Allan Heinberg and Terry & Rachel Dodson
Wonder Woman, the DC-mandated component of the ‘trinity’ of DC superheroes with Superman and Batman, suffers from not having a consistent concept throughout. From the early days of bondage Wonder Woman of William Moulton Marston, through the invisible jet days, the ‘spinning into costume’ television series, then the George Perez mythology revamp post-Crisis, it seems that different writers bring something different without a coherency. I’ve read John Byrne’s run and Greg Rucka’s West Wing version (in a good way – I always felt it a shame that his run got poleaxed by Infinite Crisis, especially the character of the Minotaur), and the character doesn’t feel the same, which I believe is why DC is constantly relaunching Wonder Woman. Perhaps this is why her film hasn’t come to fruition …
This latest attempt is by television writer (and writer of Young Avengers) Allan Heinberg – reading this collection bypasses the long delay between the final issues that always seem to happen to certain writers in other media (such as Damon Lindelof’s Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk series) – and he does a good job. He tells an action story that is about characters, while defining who Diana is as a person. This is a tough trick to pull off, but he does it with aplomb. After killing Max Lord on television for the world to see, Diana took time off to find herself. Therefore, Donna Troy (former Wonder Girl and sister of Diana) takes up the mantle. She is trying to rescue Steve Trevor, now Deputy Secretary of Defense, held in a hostage situation by ‘anti-Themysciran terrorists’ who are asking for the real Wonder Woman. In reality, they are the supervillains Cheetah, Giganta and Doctor Psycho, who capture Donna. Because of this complication, Sarge Steel (Director of the Department of Metahuman Affairs) put Nemesis, who was disguised as Trevor, on the case with his new partner, Agent Diana Prince (i.e. Wonder Woman in disguise, who looks fabulous in the white catsuit, trying to accomplish her mission – that of peace in man’s world – in a different way than before).
In the course of the investigation, Diana meets up with Wonder Girl, who becomes involved in the situation, which is looking so bad that Diana decides that she must become Wonder Woman again – until stopped by Hercules as Wonder Man (not the Marvel version, but a male Wonder Woman). However, the villain behind the scenes is revealed as Circe, the sorceress and adversary of Wonder Woman, who performs a spell on Wonder Woman (who she believes has given up on her role) that turns Diana human and takes all the power from Diana, Hercules, Donna and Wonder Girl – she becomes the new Wonder Woman and does so by freeing enslaved women and killing lots of men.
So Diana has to get her powers back by reversing the spell, which requires an Annual special where she fights Giganta, Gundra the Valkyrie, Osira, The Mask, Kung the Assassin, Cheetah, Duke of Deception, Angle Man, Silver Swan, Doctor Cyber, Minister Blizzard, Doctor Poison and Doctor Psycho – obviously, Heinberg got his wish list of the villains he wanted to use for this issue. Fortunately, she is helped out by a coterie of superheroes, before she comes to an agreement with Circe, who blesses her with the gift of being completely human when she is Diana Prince and truly Wonder Woman when she is in costume. Thus, the new status quo is set up for the new writer.
These five issues tell a good story that is about something and tells it in an exciting and dramatic fashion. There is good dialogue and seamless slipping past of back exposition (explaining the origins of Wonder Woman, Donna, Wonder Girl, Hercules and anybody else of importance in the story in a sharp and concise way). The Dodsons are the perfect choice for the art on Wonder Woman – it is sexy without being exploitative, dramatic, dynamic, good storytelling, good facial expressions, excellent composition (and they don’t use famous people as likenesses for the characters, unlike Gary Frank in the back-up story, who has George Clooney as Sarge Steel and Brad Pitt as Nemesis). Diana in particular is a strong character in face and form, as well as being beautiful and sexy, and the Dodsons bring this on every page. Who Is Wonder Woman? is very a enjoyable story and a good start for a new interpretation of the character; I just hope it sticks.