In what sounds like the biggest change to a major comic book character since Marvel asked readers to forget about all those years in which Spider-man was married, DC has unveiled a new-look, new-origin version of Wonder Woman. The look comes courtesy of a design by Jim Lee, the story via J. Michael Straczynski, who takes over writing duties with Wonder Woman’s 600th issue, on stands today. So what’s the deal? Well, here’s Straczynski in his own words:
The Gods, for reasons of their own but which may have something to with their survival and perhaps the survival of Earth itself, have changed the timeline. In the new timeline, years ago the Gods removed their protection from Paradise Island, and left it vulnerable to attack. And attacked it was. Led by a dark figure, a veritable army descended upon the Island, equipped with weapons that could kill even the Amazons. Outgunned, doomed, Hippolyta gave over her three-year-old daughter to a handful of guardians who spirited her away as Hippolyta led one last desperate battle against the forces that had come to destroy all she had created. In that final battle, she and most of the Amazons were killed, though some managed to escape.
It’s now nearly twenty years later. Diana has been raised in an urban setting, but with a foot in both worlds. She has little or no memory of the other timeline. She knows only what she’s been told by those who raised her On the run, hunted, she must try to survive, help the other refugee Amazons escape the army that is still after them, discover who destroyed Paradise Island and why…and if the timeline can be corrected or not. She also does not yet have access to her full powers, but will be gaining them as she goes. Along the way, she will face a range of enemies — human and otherwise — who we have not seen before.
What does this mean for the comic book? At the risk of stealing someone else’s catchphrase, there are reasons for cautious optimism. Straczynski, best known for creating Babylon 5, has a long history of rebooting characters in ways that seem radical but remain true to their essences. (Witness his work on Thor or long stint on Amazaing Spider-Man.) Straczynski’s issue—well, half-issue—of Superman also showed a lot of promise. (Straczynski’s follow-through, on the other hand, often leaves a lot to be desired. Supreme Power, cough cough.)
And, to be honest, Wonder Woman’s continuity has gotten so tangled lately that she probably needs a reboot more than most superheroes. Her book has seen a lot of creative turnover of late and its most notable run, a guest stint from child-in-peril novelist Jodi Picoult, is remembered mostly for being a disaster. Then again, it’s tough to make sense of a character rooted in eccentric creator William Moulton Marston’s bondage fixation and singular, eccentric ideas about the necessity of establishing a matriarchy. While Straczynski’s at it, maybe he can rework Egg Foo.
Oh, and the costume. Very 1990s X-Men, isn’t it?