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Spoilers ahead for Superman: Earth One, Batman: Earth One, and Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I was a major fan of Superman: Earth One when I first read it sometime in 2011. I was such a fan, that when Man of Steel came out in 2013, I immediately recognized the similarities between the two stories (Man of Steel was Based on Superman: Earth One). Much to my delight, DC announced they would be doing Earth One renditions of other DC Superheroes. They released Batman: Earth One, which is currently unfinished with two volumes, and Teen Titans: Earth One, also presently with two volumes. The most recent release was wonder Woman: Earth One (with Aquaman and Flash in production!). I was pretty excited to read Batman: Earth One, and after reading, just had to get my hands on Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I had heard that Wonder Woman was not as good as the other Earth One stories, but I wanted to make that judgement for myself. I ordered it from Amazon (which in itself is ironic) and it arrived this past Sunday with Volume 3 of Superman: Earth One. As I’d been dying to see Earth One Superman face off with Zod, I read that one Sunday night. Last night, when my internet decided to fight with me, I decided to read Wonder Woman.

I was not disappointed. Well, sort of. I was disappointed because, unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman doesn’t really do much in her story. However, what I wasn’t disappointed about was the feminist, queer story that I read. Let me start with the bad of the story. Which really isn’t much, and really is only bad when related to other Earth One stories.

The BAD

Superman: Earth One focuses on Clark Kent, with his amazing abilities, trying to find his place in the world. He’s smarter than the smartest scientists, stronger than the toughest body builders, more deadly than the best trained military – yet he cannot find a place in this world. When an alien menace, Tyrell, arrives, searching for the last Son of Krypton, Clark Kent emerges as Superman to take down the menace (and, in turn, discover his true calling).

Batman: Earth One focuses on a fledgling Dark Knight who is trying to uncover the sleazy underworld of Gotham City and discover who put a hit out on his parents. He’s got his epically savage butler, Alfred, as his partner in crime, who continually urges him to bring guns to gun fights where Bruce Wayne insists on bringing flying razors, even when the guys with guns tend to wallop him. Bruce eventually uncovers who the criminal mastermind is and wins the day!

Wonder Woman: Earth One focuses on Princess Diana, who lives on the feminist island paradise of Paradise Island (was that exposition necessary?). The Amazonian society left “Man’s World” and created their paradise in the Bermuda Triangle after escaping from the slavery of the “man-god” Hercules. The story starts with Diana facing a trial before her mother and other Amazonian sisters. She tells her account of what she did, and the story takes place as each witness tells a part of the story in the trial. Each year, they have a three-day festival to commemorate their liberation from Man’s world. However, Diana is not like her Amazonian sisters and has a whole mess of special powers they do not, because her mother claimed she was a clay statue turned to life by the gods. Anyway, Diana always plays a special role in this ceremony, but this year she stumbled upon Steve Trevor and decided to take him home to help him, since the Amazonian healing technology only works on women. Diana defeats the strongest of her sisters in combat, being named the “Wonder Woman” and claims the invisible jet as her prize. When her mother smells the scent of man on her, she realizes what Diana is going to do and sends a hunting part after her. Diana escapes and manages to bring Steve Trevor to a hospital in the USA. She goes home after seeing how bad the men treat the women in Man’s World. But not before her mother sends Medusa the Gorgon, to turn Steve to Stone so he can never tell of what he knows of the Amazons. In her time in America, Diana saves a bus full of sorority women on their way to spring break and befriends them, eventually being named an “honorary sister.” They pretty much teach Diana all bout feminism in Man’s world. Then Steve gets turned into stone, before Diana even knows the gorgon is there. Then she surrenders to the Amazonian hunting party to stand trial.

 

Do you notice a difference between those three stories, other than the fact that I went into a lot more detail about Wonder Woman than the other stories? Well, the main difference is that while Superman and Batman start their stories taking on supervillains and crime bosses, Diana starts her story convincing her mother to let her go outside and play. Now, the way it is done is good, in my opinion, but it’s still important that Diana’s first step is nowhere near the first steps of her male counterparts. It’s ironic that a story with so much feminism in it fails to so much as show that Diana is a contender. Diana is part of the “Holy Trinity” of DC Comics and should be regarded as one of the ablest and most fearsome women in the world. It’s unfortunate that her first outing into the grittier world of Earth One is barely heroic and barely shows her skills. It’s ironic that it contains its titular character bound and chained for a good portion of the story.

 

The Good

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This is a feminist masterpiece (other than what was mentioned above). It has everything you can think of. Hell, it even has man-hating radical feminists. It talks about body shaming, sexuality, and women’s roles. It puts sorority women in a loving and supportive light.

The most important conflict in this story is between Diana and her mother, Hippolyta. Hippolyta is the woman who killed Hercules and freed the Amazons from slavery. She was enslaved by men. She was used by men like an object. This created her hatred of Man’s World. We even learn that Hippolyta literally created Diana to be her weapon used to destroy Man’s World. Hippolyta is that rad fem most feminists despise being compared to. A lot of other subtle things lead me to identify Hippolyta as the radical feminist here.

Hippolyta has a magic mirror she uses to look at the world. At one point early on in the story, she shows Diana an image of a woman in underwear, wearing a collar and leash held by a clothed man, and sitting over a food dish. She tells Diana that that is how men treat women in Man’s World. Clearly, she is taking a snapshot of a situation and using it to fit her means. Is it possible that woman was actually enslaved into bondage? Yes. But most sex positive people know that sometimes women actively participate in role playing, S&M and bondage activities like that with their lovers. Was the woman Diana was shown a slave or a submissive? We won’t know, and I don’t think Hippolyta cares. Which is ironic, because Hippolyta and the Amazonian culture regularly say that willful submission is a sign of love.

When Diana uses the purple rays to restore Steve Trevor from his stony fate, Hippolyta is shocked that the purple rays worked on him. Diana tells her that she simply re-calibrated it, something Hippolyta never even cared to try doing. And it clearly only took Diana a few moments to do so, as she hadn’t had access to purple rays until just a moment before.

The main conflict between Diana and her mother is that of choice. Diana wishes to choose her role, rather than have it be assigned to her from her mother. Hippolyta believes that women have only one role, and that is to be better than men and to rule.

Diana meets Betty (Earth One’s Etta Candy), one of the sorority sisters she rescues, and Betty is a slightly overweight – but healthy – bisexual woman. Betty is a symbol of modern feminism. When brought before Hippolyta at the trial, Hippolyta and other amazons scorn her for her body. Even Diana makes a comment about it when first meeting her. Betty is always mature yet firm in her response that she loves her body, is healthy, and is happy. Diana accepts that, but Hippolyta does not.

Betty is more than just body positivity;  she is also sex positivity. She talks about her crushes on both men and women, and about how Paradise Island is a kinky lesbian sex island. I can foresee Betty’s character being the most sex positive of all the characters in future volumes.

But that’s not all Betty does. When Hippolyta is using Betty and other women as examples of why Man’s World is cruel to women, Betty fires back. Betty tells Hippolyta that the patriarchy may be bad, but they (women) are fighting against it and trying to make change. Betty uses actual feminist language to counter Hippolyta’s insults. Betty is probably the hero of this story, in terms of theme. (And well, Diana doesn’t really do anything except save Betty’s sorority sisters, so maybe Betty is the bigger hero after all).

Aside from all of that, this is a primarily female story. Steve Trevor and Hercules are the only men who actually have names in the story (there may be a named soldier somewhere but they play no real role in this volume). This story is about women of all different backgrounds. There is Diana, the social outcast who wants to leave home and see the world. There’s Hippolyta, the vengeful, bitter women with a chip on her shoulder. There’s Betty, the young, optimistic, positive and happy one. There is Nubia, Diana’s black Amazonian sister who struggled to understand her then defends her in the end. There are Betty’s sorority sisters who support Betty and Diana equally, even though they are pretty opposite people.

 

But that is not all. This story is also incredibly queer. First, we have both visual and verbal confirmation that Paradise Island is pretty much a lesbian paradise. In one scene, we see the Amazonian women asleep, at different levels of undress, after an insinuated orgy. Diana tells Steve that she left her lover on the island to save him. Betty tells us that she has crushes on men and women. This is such a queer book and I love it.

We have Diana, who at this point has shown no interest in men, and is therefore only confirmed Lesbian. We have the rest of the Amazons, who have had no contact with men for three thousand years and most likely do not lust after them. We have Betty, who is surely bisexual, and will hopefully use that language in the future volumes.

And again we get back to Betty. Betty is the one most interested in the sexual themes of the story. She is the one commenting about the Paradise Island kinky lesbian sex. She is the one talking about her crushes. She is the every-woman, and she is teaching Diana what it is like to be a woman in Man’s World.

 

And if that isn’t enough, Steve Trevor takes the cake. After being saved from stone by Diana, Steve is wrapped in the lasso of truth and asked questions by Hippolyta. When he tells them he lied to his superiors to protect them, Hippolyta assumes it is because he lusts after Diana. He tells her, under the truth of the lasso, that he did it because his ancestors were slaves (Btw, Steve is a pretty badass Black Man) to men who thought they were better than others; men with too much power. And all of a sudden you realize that this story is about so much more than just feminism. Steve says he hid their secret because he understands why they don’t trust man’s world, since he doesn’t, either.

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So the story may not be too epic, but it is still powerful. It makes powerful social commentary – commentary you don’t need to make with a superpowered fight or badass moves. Commentary that I hope we get to see metaphorically in the future of this series, hopefully introducing Cheetah with her own idea of feminism.

This story brings you back to the golden Age Wonder Woman, but takes the terrible tropes and flips them on their head. I strongly recommend it! (even after all these spoilers!)

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