My near-exclusive Marvel fandom has been indelibly stamped on my being for over thirty years however I’ve wanted to read Wonder Woman since I saw Patty Jenkins’ brilliant film. She redefined everything a comic book movie could be/do in the summer of 2017 and I was captivated. Diana Prince is a uniquely important character too, who’s been a part of our popular culture since 1941. She is the archetypal female superhero. She’s part of DC’s Trinity and, no matter how much I love them, Marvel has no one like her. In short, she’s a character I should know. So I tried the first issue of Greg Rucka’s “Rebirth” run but found it more confusing than welcoming. Yet I kept trying, wanting to experience this character I’d fallen in love with at the movies in the genre she was born into. I researched “classic” or “definitive” Wonder Woman stories but jumping into the middle of seventy-seven years of stories, almost completely at random, felt a bit intimidating. Then came G. Willow Wilson.
When it comes to comic book authors, G. Willow Wilson will always hold special significance for me. I could only read articles about her Ms. Marvel so many times before I knew I had to read the comic for myself. She was the author who brought me out of a seventeen-year break in buying and reading new comics. And, after reading Ms. Marvel, she was the author who showed me I wouldn’t be walking away from the genre again anytime soon. Comics felt fresh, relevant, exciting, and important in a way they hadn’t to me for nearly two decades. With her writing Wonder Woman, I knew she was my door to this character and the DC Universe at large.
It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this. As anyone who’s been around me for more than five minutes can attest, I’m a Marvel guy through-and-through. I’m pretty certain, if you listen close enough, my heartbeat sounds like it’s saying, “Make Mine Marvel!” I’ve always thought Batman was overrated/boring. Superman’s never interested me. And the Justice League feel like the poor man’s Avengers to me (even though I know the JLA predate the Avengers (the JLA arriving in March of 1960 and the Avengers in September of 1963)). There is the rare DC comic that will catch my attention (Detective Comics and Green Lanterns most recently) but no matter how excited I think I am, in a few months I’ve always fallen behind in reading it and then drop it from my pull list without a second thought.
So I found myself in uncharted waters when, from the opening pages of Wonder Woman #58, I was hooked. Each issue my excitement grew. And FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE a DC comic book found itself at the bottom of my to-read pile on New Comic Book Day. (To clarify, each week when I pick up my comics, I stack them in reverse order of excitement, saving the best for last.) Every time I see Wonder Woman in my file I know Diana’s will be the final adventure I read that week. It’s also worth noting, I’ve never been annoyed Wonder Woman comes out twice a month (something I often resent about my first comic love The Amazing Spider-Man). The stories are easily strong enough to be worth $7.98 a month and exciting enough to warrant coming out every other week. I can’t wait for the next issue! I want more! I’m loving it all!
This was a dream come true! An author I love and respect, one of my favorites in the genre, was taking the reins of a character I’ve been trying to find a way to read for a year and a half. Everything I loved about her work with Ms. Marvel – her clear passion for the genre, the vibrant characters, the detailed world building, and the awareness that a superhero story can do more than just entertain without ever sacrificing exciting superheroics – I found in Wonder Woman. But now I got to experience this all with a new character in a new universe with a new supporting cast!
And I knew nothing about any of them.
Seriously, I wasn’t even sure of Wonder Woman’s full power set going in. I’m still not. Can she fly like Superman? Is she just jumping like the Hulk does? It looks like she’s flying…but doesn’t she have an invisible jet? Why would she need an invisible jet if she can fly?
As odd as it may sound, these sorts of questions were new to me. I love comic books and I’ve read a lot of them in my life. But I stay relatively close to home. I live in the Marvel Universe. When I branch out to IDW, it’s to follow characters like the Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who I’ve known and loved for years. I never read non-superhero comics (Joe Hill’s Locke & Key and Chelsea Cain’s Man-Eaters being exceptions to the rule). So, no matter how much I love G. Willow Wilson and was dying to begin reading Wonder Woman, it was a weiiiiiiird experience opening a comic book featuring a character and a universe I knew next to nothing about. Is this the sort of feeling people lament to me when they want to read comics but aren’t certain how to jump in? I’m not sure. All I knew is it was an unbalancing experience. Even the ads in DC comics are different than in Marvel ones!
Can I explain this better? Let me try. I’ve known the major players in the Marvel Universe since I was kid. Those new to me since my return (Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Ironheart, Captain Marvel, Shuri, etc.), I’ve been able to look back and read their origins easily enough. As far as the few outliers, it’s not too hard to put the pieces together when everything else in universe makes sense. But DC? Like I said…I don’t even know all Wonder Woman’s powers let alone if “Darkseid” is pronounced Dark-SEED or Dark-SIDE (people tell me the latter but it I can’t believe that’s possible based on spelling – nay, I refuse to believe it).
Issue #58, the first of G. Willow Wilson’s run, opens with Ares imprisoned on Themyscria with…someone (a god? a demigod?) called Grail. He urges Grail to kill him, she does, and all of Themyscria quakes. I kept thinking, “I should know who Grail is. I should know what’s happening. I should feel more than I do!” Then Diana dreams of Steve Trevor and then she gets a call that he’s gone missing…but, uh, didn’t she meet him during World War II? Is he still alive?? Is he immortal?? Was he brought back to life?? Was he retconned into a modern meeting?? Then there was this Pegasus (named Cadmus), a Minotaur (named Eirene) and a Satyr (named Damon) but am I supposed to know them or are they new characters? And then Ares is back but now he’s blonde?? THERE ARE SO MANY QUESTIONS! AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST ISSUE!!!
The questions continued. How do her bracelets work? She doesn’t have the sword she does in the movie but is it still special? What about her golden lasso…or the Lasso of Truth…or Hestia’s Lasso…or whatever it’s called? Does it just make people tell the truth? Does it have other powers? What exactly is her history with Ares? Why can’t Diana go back to Themyscria? It can’t be the same reason from the movie, right? I mean I’m sure she’s been back sometime in the last seventy-seven years, right? And what’s her relationship with Hippolyta like?!?
It felt like each page and each character interaction yielded a half dozen new questions. Sure, I could Google all this and read the fan Wiki pages and things like that but I don’t want to. That feels like a sterile way to experience a story. I want to experience the story naturally – organically – learning the world and the characters from within as I read. I don’t want to have to do homework beforehand.
Then something magical happened. Somewhere along the line I forgot to worry about those questions – the rules of this universe, the connections between the characters, the powers and abilities and so on – and I just enjoyed the story. By the end of the first arc, I didn’t have all my answers but those questions were no longer a distraction. I was just having a great time and I couldn’t wait for the next issue!
As I’ve continued into G. Willow Wilson’s second arc some of my questions have been answered. Many remain. But my excitement about the story I’m reading far overpowers any lingering concerns. I’ll figure it out as I go. That’s part of the fun of reading comic books after all. It’s something that never troubled me as a kid falling in love with this genre and these characters for the first time. But it’s something I’ve forgotten how to do (or at least how to do without trepidation) as an adult. As if by magic, each month Wonder Woman reminds me of the sheer fun of learning as I go and the magic of falling in love with a new character and everything that fills her world. At the end of the day, a good story really is about magic – the magic that pulls you into a world, the magic that makes you want to stay, the magic that makes you care about characters as you do your own family, and the magic that can make even a place once as foreign to you as the DC Universe become home too. Now that I’m here, I don’t ever want to leave.
Finding so much joy in G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman each month I can’t help but think…Kelly Sue DeConnick’s on Aquaman now, right? I loved her Captain Marvel and the Aquaman movie was a lot of fun. Maybe…I should try reading Aquaman? Also, Diana’s a member of the Justice League too right? Soooooo maybe those comics are worth checking out as well? Hmm. It’s a whole new world for me and I want more. I want to continue to follow Wonder Woman into this once-foreign universe and experience all the magic it has waiting for me – and thanks to G. Willow Wilson, I’ve finally found my doorway in.