Sunday, May 02, 2010

Wonder Woman: Amazon, Hero, Icon by Robert Greenberger

Born an Amazon on Paradise Island, Diana of Themiscyra was the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, ruler of the Amazons. Long ago imprisoned by Hercules and his men when he stole her girdle from her, Hyppolyta had prayed long and hard for the forgiveness of Aphrodite, who had turned her eyes from the Amazons when they were captured by men. Finally, the goddess was moved, and gave Hippolyta back her girdle, with which she freed her fellow Amazons, and they retreated to an isle unseen by the eyes of men.

Without men, however, the Amazons couldn't procreate. Unchanging and undying, they created their own technology and civilization, allowing them to attain heights unknown of in the outside world. And their Queen, greatly desiring a daughter, petitioned the goddess for a child. The Queen sculpted a child of clay, which then came to life, animated by the Goddess and gifted with a soul. That child, Queen Hippolyta named Diana, and she grew to adulthood on the island... until World War II intruded.

A man, shot down out of the sky, landed on the island, badly wounded. He was found by Diana, who watched over him as the Amazon Healers tended his wounds. Diana had great regard for this man. Some would even say, fell in love with him. The man's name was Steve Trevor, and the Amazons discovered the great conflict going on in the man's world. Diana was the one who suggested getting involved in the conflict, and the Queen, pressed hard, finally agreed, holding games to select the best warrior to return with Steve Trevor. She forbade her daughter not to take part in the games, but Diana disobeyed her mother, wearing a mask to conceal her identity until she triumphed over all.

Her mother, grieving, allowed her daughter to go take part in the man's war. Diana took on the persona of Diana Prince, a dead woman, becoming Steve Trevor's secretary and eventually fellow operative, concealed behind her secret identity, fighting all sorts of foes with her bullet-deflecting bracelets, her great strength, and her lasso, which was not only unbreakable and infinitely extendable, but could wring the truth from anyone.

It's a familliar story, that of Wonder Woman. This book, with an amazing cover by Alex Ross, traces Wonder Woman's career from its beginning in the 50's to the modern day, covering the major story arcs, influences that went into making up the character, costume changes and fluctuations in her powers- did you know that at one point, Wonder Woman gave up her Amazon powers to be strictly human? It's true! Back in the days when secret agents became more popular than Superheroes, Diana became Diana Prince, Secret Agent. But it didn't last long, and Wonder Woman soon regained her powers.

While Gods and Goddesses were mentioned in the first incarnations of the story, it wasn't until George Perez' run on the title that they actually began showing up in the Wonder Woman comic. Of course, Wonder Woman has always had friends and supporters from Etta Candy to two different Wonder Girls, including Cassie Sandsmark, who ended up being an actual demigoddess, the daughter of Zeus, and the first one, Donna Troy, whose story was retconned so many times that even I don't remember what exactly it is any more.

This book reminds me of a Dorling-Kindersley book, with all the information about Wonder Woman laid out in a chronological manner, with special sections on her allies and helpers, villains, and the major plotlines she went through.

Basically, everything you once thought you knew about Wonder Woman has changed. And I do mean everything. Remember how Wonder Woman was once in love with Steve Trevor? Well, that's been retconned away. Steve Trevor ended up marrying Etta Candy, who lost lots of weight, and Wonder Woman's exploits during World War 2 were actually those of her mother, Hippolyta.

I liked this book. It's a real guide to the Wonder Woman you might remember, and to the character of Wonder Woman who exists now. It's packed chock-full of information and plenty of art, both from Golden Age, Silver Age, and more modern Wonder Woman comics. This book is a triumph and should be on the reading list and shelf of every fan who loves Wonder Woman.

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