This review contains spoilers
Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume One is a 2016 story written by Grant Morrison with art by Yanick Paquette and colors by Nathan Fairbairn.
The Earth One series is a new continuity for the DC universe that was started in 2010. The basic idea is to retell and reinvent the DC universe in the modern day. The series started with Superman with Batman and Teen Titans soon following. Wonder Woman is the latest in line to receive this treatment.
The story of Earth One puts Diana on trial recounting the recent events that put her there. The origin is seen through flashback accounts of different characters. Steve Trevor crash landed on Paradise Island and Diana decided to rescue him. However, Diana didn’t have a transport. She challenged her lover and the declared Wonder Woman, Mala to combat. When Diana won, she became Wonder Woman and received Mala’s transport, a new take on the Invisible Jet. The newly christened Wonder Woman took Steve to a hospital in the U.S. in order to save him. There, she was horrified to see many sick women dying alone. This enraged Diana who was confronted by military officers. She quickly dispatched of them. Afterwards, Diana rescued and befriended Beth Candy and the Holliday Girls. They went back to the hospital to see Steve and cooperate with the officers. There, Beth gave Diana a makeover that resulted in a more traditional Wonder Woman outfit. Meanwhile, Hippolyta sent Medusa, Mala and several other Amazons to apprehend Diana. They attacked and Medusa turned all of the men to stone including Steve. Wonder Woman gave herself up in order to receive a fair trial. At the trial, Steve is restored and reveals that the government found a ghost signal originating from the location of Paradise Island. Steve was sent there to find it but a hurricane caused him to crash. However, he lied to the government and said that he didn’t find anything there except Diana so man knows nothing of the Amazons. Unfortunately, Hippolyta’s actions have now informed the world of the Amazons. It is also revealed that the signal was coming from a mirror that Hippolyta uses to see man’s world. Hippolyta then tells Diana that she was not made from clay. She is actually the genetic daughter of Hippolyta and Hercules who had enslaved the Amazons 3,000 years ago. It is decided that Diana was right in her actions and she receives the final piece of her outfit. The story ends with Wonder Woman returning to man’s world.
Morrison has a great take on Wonder Woman. He completely understands this character. One of the things that I like about Diana is her duality. On the one hand, she wants peace and equality. But, on the other she is somewhat quick to violence and will win any fight she needs to. She knows when to use which. When Medusa attacks, she immediately gives in so that she can save lives.
I also like the culture shock Diana suffers from. She comes from a completely place, obviously, and acts accordingly. She expresses desire to follow certain Amazon customs which makes people, Steve in particular, uncomfortable. However, she isn’t unreasonable. She is understanding and willing to adapt. She’s mature enough to admit her mistakes without apologizing for her culture.
Paquette’s art is really great. The layout is interesting and creative with the lasso of truth dividing the panels and works of Greek art placed in throughout. Paradise Island also looks incredible. The design and architecture is really beautiful and wonderful to look at.
Fairbairn’s colors also differentiate Paradise Island from man’s world. What we see of America looks slightly muted while Paradise Island is incredibly vibrant and colorful. Man’s world is still colorful; it’s just slightly more moody. The art in general is a little plainer in the U.S. and I love that. The visual differences are a great representation of the two cultures.
Steve is an African-American in this and I quite like that change. There is a parallel drawn between how the Amazons were enslaved and how Steve’s ancestors were enslaved. It creates a connection and understanding between Steve and Diana that I think is really interesting.
The structure could be a little better. Sometimes, the switch between the trial and the past was jarring. I wish it was a little smoother. The Fates constantly interject during flashbacks and it’s more distracting than helpful.
Paradise Island is a lot more technologically advanced in this story but I’m not sure what the tech is. They have a purple ray that can magically heal people and animals, flying motorcycles and a new invisible jet. How did they get that stuff? Did they build it? Is it alien technology? I admit that this is the first Earth One story I’ve read so maybe this is set up in an earlier story but I was unsure about this level of tech throughout the story.
There is a weird element with bondage and submission in the story. Morrison attempts to make the Amazons wrong in their ways to an extent. They see men are pure evil, thanks to Hercules, who should bow before them. Diana suggests to Steve that he should bow to her while wearing a collar and leash submitting to her. This is what makes Steve uncomfortable as I mentioned earlier. So, both sides are hypocrites and sexist. Diana is supposed to be in-between. She wants equality; no one should dominate over the other. That is essentially what she is on trial for. The women of Paradise Island are made to somewhat look bad in this but that is the intention. It didn’t really bother me because Diana proves them wrong but this interpretation may irritate people.
Overall, I think this a good story. Morrison has a good grasp on Diana as a character and Paquette’s art with Fairbairn’s colors are truly excellent. If you’re looking for a truly new take on the character, you might be disappointed. Morrison sticks to the main ideas and concepts with new details here and there. Most of it works really well but a few things don’t. I definitely recommend this book. It’s an engaging read that is fun and quick with some interesting ideas.