In our Wonder Woman Historia review, we explore why Wonder Woman’s new origin story feels like the story that should have been told all along.
Comic books have always been a fraught medium, at least for those of us who do not look like Bruce Wayne or Jessica Rabbit. There are horror stories about comic book artists drawing Power Girl’s breasts bigger in every issue just to see what they can get away with, or writers purposefully putting heroes like She-Hulk in compromising positions because they enjoyed it. There is also the general sense that the entirety of the comic book world exists for the male gaze. Often, comics read as one power fantasy after another, tailored perfectly for cis-het white men, but ill-fitting on the rest of us. Admittedly, that is changing, and at the forefront of this overdue shift is Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons.
The magazine-size limited run was published in three parts, the last of which hit shelves just a few days before 2022 ended. It was intended to be a Homeric type epic for the origins of the original feminist hero, Wonder Woman, and the tribe of warrior women she hails from, the Amazons. Of course, Wonder Woman has always had her roots in Greek myth, but it is rarely utilized, and this Wonder Woman Historia review will reflect on how exactly that is rectified.
The majority of the comic follows the major Greek goddesses as they become steadily more disillusioned with the way mortal women are treated, and eventually band together to demand mortal men be punished for their gendered violence. Of course, the men of the pantheon have no interest in seeking justice for the women of earth, as they are perpetuating the same crimes on Olympus. This leads to the goddesses, save Hera, creating the Amazons, a second life for women who had been prematurely taken from their first at the hands of men. Like any good Homeric tale, the story doesn’t end here. We then meet our hero, Hippolyta, who becomes queen of the Amazons and propels them into a war. The ending is full of compromise and harsh reality, but also hope, in the form of baby Diana, our future Wonder Woman. The coexistence of epicness and tragedy throughout this story perfectly carries on the Homeric tradition, and we finally see Greek myth in Wonder Woman’s world done right.
The art of this comic run is a stand-out—the colors are vibrant and the designs beautiful—but it is also revolutionary. The opening panel of the first issue introduces us to the goddesses that will go on to bring the Amazons to life: Aphrodite, Hecate, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia, and Athena, but like we have never seen them before. While women are far more than their physical appearances, it is undeniable that our bodies are politicized, and so the way they are depicted matters. This is especially true in a medium like comics where someone such as Supergirl, one of the most powerful and capable beings on earth, is forced to fly around in a mini skirt. I want to point specifically to Aphrodite’s design, as we see the goddess of love and beauty depicted as a nude, fat Black woman. Aphrodite’s reputation and appearance have always been a controversial subject, but she is consistently depicted as the beauty standard, which in the Eurocentric West means thin and white. Having the embodiment of love, a figure that has always been associated with desirability, displaying herself as a fat Black woman with an afro that encompasses the galaxies is a deliberate show of reclaiming the goddess for a new era. The excellent design choices do not stop there. Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, is wonderfully terrifying; Athena is devoid of a human figure altogether, instead opting to simply exist as her armor and her mind; and Artemis is exactly as untamed and child-like as the goddess of wild things should be. The Amazons themselves are also styled as real women and capable warriors, but they are not a monolith. They are tall and short, willowy and broad, ranging in skin tone, hair type, eye color, and armor. The Amazons are a group of women completely removed from the influence of men; they do not need to diminish or alter themselves for survival under their gaze, something that has gotten lost in comics past. We have seen paradise island and its inhabitants be reduced to some strange, sapphic-coded oasis full of petite, giggling, and mostly naked girls that Steve Trevor is excited to stumble upon. These are not the Amazons you should expect to see in Wonder Woman Historia. Instead, they are every bit as deadly and as angry as they should be.
The story lives up to its ambitious intentions as well. It is a new and significantly improved origin story for Wonder Woman. It is never easy to rebirth an icon, as attachment and history and politics serve as obstacles in any enterprising writer’s way. In this Wonder Woman Historia review, we’d like to point to how this was done right. Kelly Sue DeConnick understood the essence of the character, and so rather than remaking Wonder Woman, she helped her become who she always was. Wonder Woman is simultaneously able to perfectly understand misogyny so that she allows her readers to feel seen and understood, but is completely above it, offering a level of escapism and empowerment hardly seen before. Wonder Woman has always been something of a god to women and other misogyny-affected people, with her ability to walk anywhere safely, her always perfect comebacks to any microaggressions, and her place of equality in every space she enters, which is why connecting her to the rebellion of the Greek goddesses is a truly inspired story choice. The catharsis of Wonder Woman is her ability to handle the situations women experience in the way women wish they could. Attributing that power to the goddesses of the Greek pantheon allows her origin to come from beings who understand the struggle of gendered oppression.
I’m also using this Wonder Woman Historia review to point to the choice to tell an origin story that ends with our hero’s birth, rather than beginning at a call to action. When you read or watch a Batman origin story, you know it will open with the death of his parents, and when you read a Superman origin story, you expect to see Ma and Pa Kent pull the Kryptonian baby from his spaceship. A major problem that Wonder Woman origin stories have historically faced is the repetitive and outdated choice to have it be set into motion by a man. Diana is the princess of Themyscira, a brilliant warrior, and firm in her beliefs long before Steve Trevor crash-lands on Paradise Island, so it has always been odd to pretend that his accidental arrival is her moment of reckoning. In Wonder Woman Historia, we shift perspectives, and instead show the legacy that Wonder Woman comes from, the generations of women who raise her and form her community, because it does not matter why Wonder Woman eventually comes to man’s world. It only matters what she brings with her.
Our society has had many conversations about the importance of representation in recent years, but mainstream comics seem to have functioned as a last holding place for the Good Old Boys Club. We have watched character after character in the MCU be stripped of their Jewish heritage, we have watched actors with horrible pasts like Ben Affleck and Ezra Miller be cast to bring our heroes to life, and much to my personal dismay, we had to watch Wonder Woman strut across the battlefield in full makeup. In the midst of all of this, a comic like Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons was born, and I hope it will serve as a blueprint for future generations to allow our heroes to look and act like real women.
‘Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons’ finished its run on December 27, 2022
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