Thursday Comics Hangover: Another new start for Wonder Woman

The big problem with Wonder Woman, the reason why the character has had a hard time taking hold, is that DC Comics keeps restarting her from scratch. I can't keep track of how many times I've seen the Wonder Woman character rebooted and relaunched. Sure, other DC mainstays like Batman and Superman tend to wallow in retellings of their origin stories, but those stories never seem to change as much as Wonder Woman's.

Batman's parents always get shot. Superman's always rocketed from the planet Krypton into a field in Kansas. But Wonder Woman? Seriously, who the hell knows what's going on with Wonder Woman? Her origin has been retold with varying levels of camp and seriousness and pretentiousness many times over the years, and so as a result it's all become a kind of narrative static.

Or at least, that's what I thought. But I just read another retelling of the Wonder Woman origin story, in the form of a hardcover collection called The Legend of Wonder Woman Volume 1: Origins by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon, and it's the first Wonder Woman story that's kept my attention in years.

Legend is an all-ages-friendly retelling of the Wonder Woman story set during World War II. De Liz's art is dynamic and manga-influenced, which is perfect for the unique blend of mythology and historical detail that Wonder Woman demands. You won't find the rippling abs of modern superhero comics here; De Liz's figures are dynamic, but not over-idealized.

The story takes its sweet time to unfold. We start with a young Amazonian princess named Diana who is trying to figure out her place in the world, and more than half the book passes before her costume makes an appearance. Tonally, Legend makes a major shift at the halfway mark. The first part of the book is more like a young adult novel featuring a pensive lead who isn't sure if she should embrace her legacy, and the second half is a straightforward origin story with all the comedy and economy of a lively animated film.

These two tones might feel out of place were it not for the main character. Diana is a terrific protagonist. She doesn't demonstrate the ridiculous aw-shucks humility of Clark Kent or the dull perfection of Bruce Wayne. Instead, she's a quiet observer with a strong sense of right and wrong. She feels duty-bound to act, but she's equally duty-bound to make sure that her actions are the right ones. Without the first half of the book to establish Diana's thoughtfulness, the second half wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Until The Legend of Wonder Woman, I didn't have a Wonder Woman comic that I could unhesitatingly give to a girl looking for an introduction to the character. Now I do: she's a strong female lead who's smart, interesting, and she beats the stuffing out of Nazis. What's not to love?