Wonder Woman’s origin story was first told in 1941 in the pages of All-Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1, penned by Harvard psychologist William Moulton Marston and drawn by feminist cartoonist H. G. Peter. Seventy-five years later we are graced a fabulous re-imagining of the Amazing Amazon’s origin in an epic tale that concluded this week in Wonder Woman #14. Greg Rucka’s pitch-perfect storytelling and Nicola Scott’s unparalleled artwork capture the Princess Diana’s essential nature more powerfully and completely than anyone since team that created her, updating and refining the outstanding work of George Pérez. It offers a satisfying end to “Year One”, showing us both the Wonder and the Woman that make Diana a warrior for Peace and Love, and what makes her the world’s greatest superheroine.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
I’m about to give a play-by-play analysis of the the book.
Do yourself a favor and read it first. It’s insanely good.
The story picks up where the previous issue left us, with Diana leaping headlong at Ares, the God of War, who effortlessly swats her away with the back of his hand as Diana’s friends, Etta Candy, Barbara Minvera, and Col. Michaelis, stand helplessly by, watching a battle they can barely comprehend. Ms. Scott’s rendering of Ares as he was designed by the great George Pérez is breathtaking. Her attention to detail, along with Romulo Fajardo, Jr.’s colors make the armored, cloaked figure nearly three-dimensional. His dark visage stands in imposing contrast to Diana’s armor, which seems to radiate optimism, with its shining gold breastplate and boot piping.
With Diana out of his way, Ares grabs Steve Trevor, one-handed by the throat and effortless carries him to a parked Land Rover, where he throws the helpless man onto the hood, flat on his back with his legs spread wide. Steve attempts to fight back, but his knife shatters against the war god’s impenetrable armor. Then Ares, atop Steve, covers his face with his hand to take what he wants — the location of Themyscira, Diana’s home. Diana interrupts Ares’ rape of Steve’s mind, hurtling herself at the dark god, knocking him off the man she loves.
This is such a perfect gender depiction of Steve’s role as Diana’s dude in distress. Steve, a strong, capable soldier is at the mercy of another male, one he cannot possibly overpower. He lies there, completely dominated by the war god, who is able to take whatever he wants. Fortunately, the woman he loves is there to rescue him.
With the knowledge that she cannot defeat Ares, but now knowing what he is after, Diana supplicates herself before him. She begs him to turn from his “blood-rage” and to show “courage in mercy.” This is Marston’s Diana. She’s playing a game, gambling on a couple of things. First, that Ares feeds on the frenzy of battle. By submitting to him, she stops feeding him. Now that he has “won”, he will bargain with her. She carefully crafts her answer to his demand for the knowledge he seeks: “If it is mine to grant, great God of War, that knowledge it thine.” It is not, however, hers to grant — a heartbreaking fact she is only just coming to understand.
Ares flies into a rage, realizing he cannot get what he wants from this encounter — like a petulant child, albeit an imposing demonic one. When Diana tells him that she has come to defend our world from him, he delivers a chilling speech about the depth and strength of his hold on mankind, a speech that rings alarmingly true. “This world already belongs to me!” he declares. To which Diana, every bit the Wonder Woman, replies, “Then from you, we will take it back.”
Diana leaps again in to action, grabbing the blazing lasso at her side, and in a stunning two-page spread, binds the war god, aided by her patrons, in the form of various animals. During the battle, the owl (Athena) grabs one of the snakes that adorn Ares’ helmet (a detail I cannot help but think is significant, given Diana’s poisonous snakebite she sustained as a child.) Finally, on a gorgeous splash panel, Ares explodes under the power of the lasso into a host of dark creatures, ravens, insects, and two dogs — Diemos and Phobos, whom we have seen in the company of Veronica Cale.
And that’s just Acts I-III.
Though Ares has been vanquished for the moment, his plans to release the Maru Virus, a poison that causes those infected to fly into a homicidal rage, are still in motion. Fortunately, at that moment, an owl steals Barbara Minerva’s cell phone and, sitting on a surprised Steve Trevor’s shoulder, and uses it to reveal the SEAR group’s plan. When Rucka and Scott work together to make funny, the results are delightful.
Diana grabs her half-naked beefcake boyfriend and flies him to the United Nations, where the terrorist group intends to release the gas upon the children of world leaders and dignitaries who have been assembled in an auditorium. After evacuating the children, Diana gets gassed before she can escape. The poison amplifies her righteous rage and she grabs one of the terrorists by the throat, threatening him with a violent death. Not good, this woman with the power of the gods about to be unleashed upon humanity as an angel of deadly violence.
Then something happens. Diana’s magic lasso begins to overpower the neurotoxin. “This is not us. This is not me. This is not TRUE!” And in a blinding flash of light, Ares’ poisonous lies are dispelled and Diana is restored to her true nature, which is and has always been Love. And when she raises her head, there is the man she loves kneeling beside. Her. The way that she gazes at him tells everything. She’s back. She loves him. And she is deeply grateful to see him.
After stopping War with Love and making the liar tell the truth, Diana joins Barbara and Etta for cocktails and an epilogue, dressed in a collared shirt, knotted at the waist, one that resembles the shirt worn by Lynda Carter on the cover of her 1978 album, Portrait — a lovely, subtle nod to the actress who introduced Wonder Woman to an entire generation, including Nicola Scott. Etta and Barbara flirt with each other, teasing their budding romance, until Steve arrives with stack of newspapers.
The press have dubbed Diana — Wonder Woman. Her new moniker is printed in headlines in various fonts which have graced the covers of comic books since the 1940s. What’s old is new again. Wonder Woman has arrived in America to save us from the forces of war, from our own terrible misguidedness, and to show us a better way — showing us that Love is our truest, most basic nature. What in Aphrodite’s name could be more heroic than that?
This stunning issue is Nicola Scott’s last for the foreseeable future, and she will be sorely missed. She has elevated Wonder Woman and added stunning depth, giving us what will go down in history as one of the character’s greatest stories of all time . You can follow her work in Black Magic, another fabulous series from her and Greg Rucka!