By Glenn Walker
If that title sounds familiar, it should, it was used just one of many times somebody in the media tried to make Wonder Woman relevant. "The New Original Wonder Woman" was the tagline and temporary title of the 1970s television series starring Lynda Carter. At least then, the character of Wonder Woman was recognizable.
If you've been paying attention the last week or so to pop culture media you've heard of the newest brew-ha-ha over everyone's favorite Amazon Princess. Not for the first time, DC Comics has decided to mess with Wonder Woman, and writer J.M. Straczynski, notably the man who erased Spider-Man's marriage from existence and more recently grounded Superman, has been named the man for the job.
The dirty deed happens in the iconic landmark issue #600 of Wonder Woman on shelves now. This oversized comic also features an introduction by the aforementioned Lynda Carter, great stories by Gail Simone (the exiting WW writer who has done tremendous work with the character), Amanda Conner and Louise Simonson, amazing art by George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Greg Horn and Ivan Reis, a handful of pin-up pages all that I quite enjoyed - and the offending new version of Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman has been changed and/or rebooted several times over the last almost seven decades. The most notable change was in 1968 and lasted almost five years. Wonder Woman was stripped of her powers, arsenal, costume and her supporting cast, including her Amazon sisters. She found a new mentor who trained her in the martial arts and she fought crime using her wits and fighting skills in a white jumpsuit as Diana Prince.
Then, as now, there was a public outcry against this change. Feminist Gloria Steinem in particular railed against this depowering of the strong female role model. While the stories themselves weren't really all that bad, they weren't Wonder Woman. The status quo was returned in 1973 as Wonder Woman found her sisters and her powers again and became weirdly amnesiac of her time in the white jumpsuit pretending to be Emma Peel of the Avengers. No, not those Avengers, but I'm glad you're paying attention.
Wonder Woman, like many of DC Comics' characters, was also rebooted in 1985. Writer/artist George Perez jettisoned the invisible jet, the Diana Prince secret identity, and Steve Trevor as a romantic interest in favor of a father figure role. Perez also upped her power levels, gave her finally the full ability to fly and tied her origins and backstory more tightly to the Olympian gods. This was a good change, and most of all, she was still Wonder Woman - trademark, imagery, continuity and marketing were all intact.
The current change, presented in a ten-page story in Wonder Woman #600, is a serious change, more in line with the 1968 shake-up. Note the similarities. Diana no longer has her Amazonian supporting cast as Themyscira is destroyed. She's wearing a full bodysuit and depending on simply fighting skills. There seems to be a serious depowering going on, as she doesn't fly and is shown fighting human agents in an urban setting.
The new costume is practical, and makes sense, but it's not Wonder Woman. Sorry, I hate to be the crab here, but sometimes tradition and recognition trump practicality and logic. Take Superman. Capes are dumb, but he's not Superman without the cape. Same with Diana. No armored bathing suit, no Wonder Woman.
Her origin has been mucked about, from all indications, by time travel and some diabolical villain. And Diana's mission seems to be to uncover what really happened and ideally reverse it, right? If she does, and she wins, won't everything go back to the way it was? I doubt it. Logic seems to dictate our heroine will lose this fight - another reason for me to dislike this new paradigm.
What is most disturbing to me about the story by JMS and artist Don Kramer, is that the main character, Wonder Woman, if she is even being called that, is completely bland. And the elements that are interesting - the sewer of guardians so similar to the mysterious subway in Captain Marvel's origin and the so obviously Neil Gaiman Oracle, are lifted from other sources. Indeed, the Oracle is far more interesting than the reputed star of the story.
It's a shame that the other three and half stories in this issue outshine the one we're supposed to be the most interested in. I guess we'll have to wait for Wonder Woman #601 to get a better idea of what we really have here. And if not, Wonder Woman has returned to her original and most known form after every other change - let's hope it happens this time as well.