Wonder Woman: Earth One’s first volume does the opposite of the other Earth One titles, bringing the heroine, Diana Prince, back to her Golden Age roots for better or for worse.
Written by Grant Morrison and art by Yanick Paquette, the story is set in the beautifully drawn and technologically advanced female utopia of Paradise Island. Founded by Queen Hippolyta after she killed the mighty Hercules, the Island is home to the amazons, who have lived in peace for over 3,000 years and despise everything about men.
Diana is the Queen’s daughter and while she loves her home, she longs for adventure and wants to challenge herself to reach her full potential. The Queen prohibits her from participating in competitions because of her origins and the unfair advantage in power she has over the other Amazon’s as a result of them. This leaves Diana bored of her everyday life, until the first man to ever discover the Island, lands on its shores. This event doesn’t just set our Wonder Woman on an adventure into the forbidden world of man, but is also the beginning step to develop our infamous heroine into the icon females adore.
It goes without saying that Wonder Woman is an ambassador for women; she embodies strength, sexuality, courage and beauty all into one tightly knit package. I loved seeing her interactions with both the women and men of the world. On Paradise Island the amazons live eternally off the fountain of youth and are trained to become powerful warriors, so it becomes quite a change of perspective for Diana when she sees women in a variety of shapes, sizes and age. She is compassionate to each and every girl she meets, becoming a symbol of power and an ideal to strive for. I like that the book focused on this side of her character, instead of her powers as a formidable warrior.
The same compassion is not applied towards men, besides Steven Trevor, the first man Diana ever encounters. Diana has been raised on teachings that men are responsible for every single thing wrong in the world, but Steven opens her eyes to the idea that not all men are vile creatures. She starts out by treating all men as oppressors like Hercules, but throughout the journey, grows to treat them as equals, even relying on one to help her in her time of need.
The volume ends on an open-ended cliffhanger, leaving readers anxious to see how Wonder Woman will adapt to living in a new environment and how she’ll face the challenges ahead.
A complaint I have about the book is how it handles Diana’s open sexuality. While I appreciate that Paradise Island is confirmed to have lesbian relationships, there is not a shred of chemistry among any of the amazons, let alone intimacy. Diana herself admits she has a lover in Maya, the current champion, but the characters don’t interact with each other besides a short bout. It makes the relationship feel shallow and non-existent because it’s not embraced in neither the art nor the writing.
The comic also has some controversy about how it handles sexual content, specifically sexually abusive relationships and body shaming. One of the key characters affected by this is Queen Hippolyta, who was one of Hercules' sexual slaves. While this content is dark and may offend some readers, I felt it served as a device to empower her character when she finally usurped him and set all of her amazon’s free. It’s clear the scars of the relationship aren’t gone, but the Queen is a powerful woman and does everything she possibly can to make her people on Paradise Island feel safe so they don’t live in fear of experiencing the same things she did. This being said, I realize that some readers may feel uncomfortable or sensitive to how this kind of content is presented. This book is definitely not for younger audiences and even veteran Wonder Woman fans may find the book slightly distasteful.
Despite these controversies and complaints I genuinely enjoyed reading Wonder Woman: Earth One. I’ve only read a couple of her stories in the past, but this one now stands as my current favourite. The art is consistently beautiful, while the story sets up the character for a number of exciting adventures ahead.