Prior to the 2011 reboot, Wonder Woman had the advantage of borrowing from Greek mythology and adapting it to the realm of the bright, fun world of superheroics. While Brian Azzarello’s rebooted take on the character received a great deal of critical acclaim, it did receive some scrutiny for the decision to tweak her origins and borrow from some of the darker aspects of Greek legend. Doing so may have sufficiently updated Diana for the more cynical 21st century, but it did seem that something was lost from what made the character work before. With the Morrison/Paquette version coming in March…we’ll have to wait and see what we get, though the Earth One line has so far leaned a little more into the “mature” realm of comics, with a darker form of storytelling that makes it a little inaccessible to younger readers. So while both Azzarello and Morrison’s takes may be good, but they’re not for everyone.
De Liz’s spin on things, however, is decidedly all-ages friendly, taking Diana back to her friendlier storytelling roots. She keeps the story well-anchored in its Greek mythological roots while appropriately sidestepping any of the R-rated elements which are seemingly “required” for an appealing story these days. There’s no Herculean rape, bloodlusting Amazons, or incestuous gods in this story. De Liz instead shows a universe of (no pun) pure wonder, where Zeus is a benevolent creator and things like Pegasus and Hyperborean Giants are as normal as they are astonishing. The landscape of this story is immersed in a bright, idyllic world of detailed Greek temples surrounded by greenery and flowing fountains. In short, De Liz does a tremendous amount of world building in this issue alone to give Wonder Woman a world that feels right.
Story-wise, De Liz takes us into the often-overlooked world of Diana’s youth. Past Wonder Woman origins have tended to rapidly pass from clay-baby to adult without doing much examination of her formative years. After spending only seven pages recapping the origin of the Amazons leading up to Diana’s creation (it’s not quite Grant Morrison’s famous four-panel origin in All-Star Superman, but it’ll do), De Liz introduces us to a prepubescent Diana who’s weighed heavily by her pending inheritance of the throne. For a child, Diana’s already showing remarkable wisdom that’s bringing her into tension with her mother Hippolyta. In this version, Diana is born a mortal child to an immortal mother. Hippolyta hopes for Diana to inherit the throne of Themyscira and be gifted with immortality if she proves herself worthy. Young Diana, however, senses a wrongness to the island which escapes most of the other Amazons, including her mother.
Wonder Woman has always been a character who simultaneously stands in the contrary worlds of peace and war. De Liz explores that paradox by making it more transparent: her take on Themyscira is one of isolationism, where peace is maintained by sealing itself off from the outside world. Whereas most of the Amazons remain pacifists–her mother included–Diana senses that peace can only be truly maintained by preparing for war. De Liz reintroduces an obscure Amazon, Alcippe, who still trains in combat and will serve as young Diana’s mentor and coach in the art of battle. Together, they’re seeking to understand what dark forces are invading Themyscira and how to fight back against it in a time where the rest of Amazonia wishes to pretend it doesn’t exist.
In just one issue, The Legend of Wonder Woman presents a delightful remix of Diana’s origin that will be appropriate for both older fans who want a more “classic” version and newer, younger readers who could do without a “mature” version. Let’s emphasize that De Liz’s spin is not a “kiddie” version for young readers only, but it is a good one that doesn’t limit itself for the sake of an older audience. Let’s hope the other eight issues keep pace and present a cohesive, timeless story that we can read for years to come.
Rating: Five lassos out of five.