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Review: Wonder Woman: Earth One

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So, here it is — several years (necessitated by several twists and turns in the development stages) after it was initially announced, Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette‘s Wonder Woman: Earth One hardcover graphic novel is finally in our hands (or mine, at any rate — and maybe yours, too, but frankly I have no idea about that), and I guess the question on everyone’s minds is a pretty simple one : was it worth the wait?

Having just read the book yesterday you’d think I’d be able to provide a definitive answer to that, but the truth is I can’t (hey! What sort of a critic am I, anyway?) simply because, well — I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet, apart from harboring a vague sense that it marks something of a wasted opportunity .

Uncertainty isn’t an entirely atypical reaction for any Morrison-scripted work, to be sure, but usually for reasons other than those I’m about to offer here. With previous projects like The InvisiblesThe FilthThe Multiversity and Animal Man (to name just a handful), it often took several reads to get a solid “handle” on the full breadth and scope of everything our favorite shaven-headed Scotsman was throwing at us from the admittedly deep well of his imagination, but what’s perhaps most disarming about this particular book is how absolutely straightforward it all is.

Really. Everything’s right there on the surface. Which isn’t to say that many well-nigh-legendary Morrison works such as All-Star SupermanWE3, or his runs on Batman and Action Comics  haven’t essentially been fairly easy to get a full grasp on the first time you read them, either, but they all at least betrayed some level of ambition in terms of either telling a very traditional type of story in a new way, or getting us to look at familiar characters from a hitherto-unconsidered point of view. By contrast, Wonder Woman : Earth One seems perfectly pleased to simply tell an adequate story that tinkers with the Princess of the Amazons’ formative years around the margins a bit, and to leave it at that.

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Of course, the entire enterprise may have seemed considerably more ambitious back when Morrison’s proposal was first accepted (at the expense of an earlier one from Greg Rucka that had been “green-lit” by DC editorial, helping to precipitate Rucka’s departure from the company — except now he’s back, and writing Diana again, so I guess it’s all good), but honestly — Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang already did the whole “she’s not really made of clay!” thing that serves as this graphic novel’s purportedly “major” departure from what has gone before, and they also pretty much hinted that the warrior-women of Paradise Island were all — well, exactly what you’d expect them to be in a society without men, the only difference here being that Morrison comes right out (no pun intended) and says it.

Oh, and the Steve Trevor of Earth One is black, if that counts as a “change” for you.

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Other than that, shit — I’m not sure what to tell you. Morrison and Paquette don’t give Diana the same father that Azzarello and Chiang did (although, hey, it’s close enough), and certainly there are a few laughs to be had here as the script openly pokes fun at the S&M fetishism inherent not just in Wonder Woman’s costume but her entire backstory and gives her a plus-sized sorority sister as a “comic relief” sidekick, but on the whole it’s a fairly breezy and insubstantial read and doesn’t seem any more ambitious than the previous books in the Earth One series, which all seem quite content to give their characters’ origins a few cosmetic changes and call it a day. Maybe that’s all their editorial remit really allows for, anyway, but when the promotional blurbs for this one come complete with a quote from the author himself saying that working on it “changed everything I’m thinking about the future,” well — I can be forgiven for expecting something a bit more Earth (One)-shaking, can’t I?

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Certainly Paquette’s art here is gorgeous throughout and his lush, organic style — coupled with the vibrant tones of colorist Nathan Fairbairn — gives the book a sleek, elegant, and graceful look that goes well with the quasi-lyrical, almost free-flowing nature of the script. And I enjoyed the classically-tinged dialogue that Morrison employs throughout. But I can’t help feeling that, on a purely conceptual level, a lot was left “on the table” here, as the saying goes. Wonder Woman is a character rife with deliciously intriguing contradictions (a feminist icon consistently portrayed from a “male gaze” perspective is bound to be, I suppose) and rich in philosophical and thematic possibilities — yet most of that is barely even hinted at here, much less actually explored. I suppose the inevitable sequels will do some of that, but at $22.99 (okay, I only paid about half that, but still) per volume, the next one’s going to have to get busy doing just that real quick.

Story: Grant Morrison Artist: Yanick Paquette Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Story: 4 Art: 8 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read

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