Now to begin this right off the bat – this is my introduction into the original graphic novel series of Earth One from DC, which seems to be DC’s second attempt at their own version of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe after it failed spectacularly with All-Star Batman and Robin, yet seem to succeed in creating the best Superman story ever in All-Star Superman.
The Earth One series contains all new stories with DC mainstays done in alternate universes with no ties to continuity in order to help attract new readers and maybe some tweaks to their origins. Solid idea and really OGNs that are free of continuity are a hugely untapped part of superhero comic books to me. You can create exciting self-contained stories and ideas that represent the characters at their heart while playing loose with the constraints of long standing continuity. Thhat’s what I had hoped for going into a book like Wonder Woman: Earth One, which is fresh off the heels of her live action big screen debut in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice via the creative team of writer Grant Morrison and artist Yanick Paquette.
What we have here is fairly standard stuff for the beginnings of Wonder Woman with her being the princess of Paradise Island, daughter of Hippolyta, wanting to prove herself as a true warrior while being curious as to what ‘Man’s World’ is exactly like. There is a slight twist to her origin. With someone like Morrison you kinda halfway expect for him to have some grand idea as to how Wonder Woman came to be, but work with what you got.
Now none of that really hurts it too much as much like the previously mentioned All-Star Superman, this is all about understanding who she is and why she does what she does. It brings the character right to the front and show more of what the character is than perceived and while this doesn’t quite go to those same lengths, it manages to stick the landing in exploring what Wonder Woman really is.
Morrison really digs in deep into the past by harkening the original stories and style of Wonder Woman creator, William Moulton Marston, and invokes many of the original ideas. Sure Wonder Woman will fight, but she will end a fight with words more often than not, offering a hand to the villains and attempt to further understand them and of course equality in balancing gender roles with superheroes, feminism, and themes of submission and domination. He really gets to play around a lot with her and Wonder Woman, no surprise, really gets to shine here with being equal parts diplomatic, caring, and badass.
Though what’s also great is how the supporting characters help explore the world too, notably Steve Trevor and Beth Candy. Steve of course does crashes his plane on Paradise Island, the more things change I guess. But what I love here is the change of Steve Trevor to a black man, which wouldn’t be a big deal normally, but it helps to inform his character and bond with Wonder Woman over the fact that they come from enslaved races and there isn’t any hint of romance, just an alliance of friends.
More on enslaving, the opening of this book is particularly strong in setting up the book with Hippolyta freeing herself and the Amazon from the wrath of Hercules and his soldiers. Its exceptionally powerful with what she does and how the art and panel structuring shows the fall of men here as the art is between crumbling Greek pottery. Pretty damn good work there is I may say that helps show the beginnings of Paradise Island and how far submission and domination play into this.
Now Beth Candy, she’s a mixed bag. Her character isn’t given the best of introductions and if I’m honest, the stuff with her sorority are some of the least interesting things, but her interaction with Wonder Woman and the Amazons brings our worlds clashing and she’s a catalyst that’s nicely used to show that maybe the Amazon way of life and Hippolyta’s rule ain’t all that great or better than our own. It presents them with a good look into themselves and their ways and further drives Wonder Woman’s need to connect the two worlds, build an alliance. She’s a mixed bag, but when Morrison uses her right, she can be pretty entertaining.
Supporting characters throughout are detailed and nicely fleshed out to really give this a full world, particularly Hippolyta and Mala and how they view their place in Paradise Island and their home itself, how they are truly better off without man in their world. The plaque of war and the such not affecting them.
What’s also great is how Morrison doesn’t structure this like a traditional superhero story in a way, there’s really no villain of huge confrontation. It is more about studying Wonder Woman and the book moves nice and briskly at the right pace to make that happen.
Now Yanick Paquette is one of the most incredible artists in comics. His work is perfectly detailed and expertly timed. His action and expressions are just amazing and the work he puts in can show it. He and Morrison create a lush, bright, and dare I say, paradisiac Paradise Island that is an island. Its blends a fun, vibrant location with of course the warrior like culture of the Amazons, but one never outdoes the other. Paradise Island is also greatly technologically advanced that gives the world a more lived in field and encompasses what a haven Hippolyta has created.
What Paquette also excels in is designs – from age designs to buildings and vehicles, particularly the Invisible Jet. He does traditional panel placement and pages, but he shines when creating special pages that place the panels in incredible shapes, sizes, and page placement that still give a full story. He can tell a story without even needing the dialogue to me and if he does a silent OGN, I’ll certainly buy it.
Wonder Woman: Earth One is a fun book. Not nearly as crazy as I thought it might go, but it’s handling of the title character, the world building, and incredible art help make this worth a good buy.
4 out of 5 Golden Lassos of Truth