For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, the Earth One line is a series of graphic novels which are new reader-friendly stories focusing on a particular character using top talent. These are all relegated to their own universe similar in many ways to the regular universe but are not shackled by continuity and the overlapping of franchises, making them very accessible while still aligned to the core of the characters. Superman, Batman and the Teen Titans have all had their turn (multiple in the case of Batman and Superman) and after years of gestation Wonder Woman‘s entry into the Earth One line of DC Comics’ original graphic novels is finally here! Written Grant Morrison and beautifully rendered by Yanick Paquette, Wonder Woman: Earth One is the story of her early years and how she became the hero we all know and love.
Most of the story is told through the testimony in the trial of Diana, Princess of the Amazons aka Wonder Woman. Even though the Amazons have created a civilisation secluded on an island away from the influence of “Man’s World”, she is curious to find out what else is out there. When Air Force pilot Steve Trevor crashes on the island she uses this as an excuse to escape her life and venture out into the wider world. As leaving the island is one of the greatest crimes in the culture, she is pursued and eventually brought back. Ultimately her experiences help form the hero we all know and love and this volume forms the origin story, which will help act as a springboard for future stories in this graphic novel series.
In Earth One, Wonder Woman reflects the feminism of today in which she challenges the ideas of the previous generation in order to create her own interpretation. Wonder Woman has always, or at least the good runs of the character, been about reflecting and championing the feminist movements of the present time and Earth One definitely continues this tradition.
Grant Morrison mixes in ideas which have been part of Wonder Woman over the last 75 years and makes them feel organic and fresh. Ideas from the past – such as the invisible jet, the purple healing ray and Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her bracelets – feel natural as the reader is introduced to the world from the ground-up. Even elements such as Amazonians riding kangaroos, something that was regular in the golden and silver age stories, don’t feel out of place.
One thing that will feel out of place for many readers is the elements of bondage that sprinkled without. This comes in the form of Wonder Woman in chains and in smaller instances elements of bondage suits. For many, this might be a turn-off for them as it is seen as unneeded sexual gratification, but that’s not why this has been included in the story. I’ve heard Grant Morrison talk about this and how it’s meant to be a reference to the early Wonder Woman stories in which her creator William Moulton Marston slid in many bondage elements into stories. The problem with this is context or the lack of it. Wonder Woman: Earth One would’ve benefited from some kind of introductory piece or foreword setting the context as many readers, as many wouldn’t have heard Morrison talk about this, therefore assuming this is more about the male gaze than referencing the past. Hopefully, in future printings of this, there is the inclusion of this in order to set the context and not turn people off.
Along with Morrison’s imaginative script is beautiful art by Yannick Paquette. He adopts a very clean style with natural feel line work which still allows for plenty of detail. This is most evident in the way he renders Paradise Island, with plenty going on but without it feeling overly busy. It’s fantastic to look at, especially his initial shot of the city, which is done through a two-page spread. You can look at it for ages and I’ve gone back and looked at it many times.
In what has become one of his trademarks, Paquette implements different motifs in order to break-up panels. In periods of Ancient Greece, he uses clay paintings and patterns to set the time as well as the turmoil of the situation. Another great example of this is in the scenes which feature Medusa in which panels are separated by torn snakeskin. These not only look great but also allow for greater symbolism on the page.
Making Paquette’s art even better is colourist Nathan Fairbairn, who adopts a mostly bright colour palette to the narrative. This is most evident in the scenes on Paradise Island, which are bright and calm, making them feel very sunny and almost utopian even through the lens of ancient Greek motifs. He also has a fantastic grip on lighting and is able to render scenes in the day, dusk and at night without any confusion to the reader.
Overall, I enjoyed Wonder Woman: Earth One and it works rather well as an introduction to someone who is not overly familiar with the character. Grant Morrison homages elements from her long history to create a world from the ground up in a natural manner, apart from the bondage elements. The homage to the bondage is probably the biggest let-down for this graphic novel as most readers, especially those unaware of Wonder Woman’s history will see it as the male gaze. Although this can be rectified with some additional context, considering that DC has failed to put in a forward which explains this, many readers may never return to the character. Yanick Paquette’s art shines throughout this graphic novel with clean and uncluttered art which uses his trademark panel separation to create art that sets the tone in ways that other artists don’t. If you’re new to Wonder Woman then Wonder Woman: Earth One is a great place to start.
You can find Wonder Woman: Earth One at all good comic book stores.
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Awesome review. I agree that an introduction may have been helpful to set the context. Many reviews I’ve read mention being turned off by the bondage element, not realizing that this is paying homage to the original stories. So few people realize that Wonder Woman was created by a bondage fetishist who believed women were superior to men and fought for equality. It’s a key fact that completely changes the interpretation of the character.
I thought it was really well done, and a great way for new readers to be introduced to the character as she was initially intended, while still feeling fresh and modern.
I wrote a review of the comic as well over at my blog: