Whenever there’s an alternate version of an iconic character, writers often try to give them their own unique twist. Most of the time, it’s distinct, but still subtle. They try not to veer too far from the established canon of the character. Unless they’re writing weird fan fiction, writers stick to whatever is most prominent version of the character within the cultural zeitgeist.
However, Grant Morrison is not like most writers.
He doesn’t follow along with the cultural zeitgeist. Instead, he reverses it. When he writes iconic characters, he reshapes and reimagines them in big ways. All the cultural zeitgeist can do is try and keep up.
He did it for Superman in his critically acclaimed run on “All-Star Superman.”
He did it again with “Wonder Woman: Earth One.”
These stories didn’t simply tell new stories with DC Comics’ most iconic characters. They channeled every element from every era to mold a unique narrative. That’s difficult enough for Superman, given his 80-year history. With Wonder Woman, the challenge is even greater.
Before I get too heavy into spoiler territory, I’ll just say this. Morrison successfully rose to the challenge when reimagining Wonder Woman in the first volume of “Wonder Woman: Earth One.” He succeeds even more in completing that story in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3.”
It’s challenging because most Wonder Woman fans, including older fans more familiar with her lengthy history, know her mostly as a proud warrior woman. They think Wonder Woman and they see Lynda Carter in the classic 70s show, Gal Gadot in the recent movies, and even the animated version in “Justice League Unlimited” that was voiced by Susan Eisenberg.
These are all great versions of this iconic character. That warrior spirit that makes her one of the fiercest fighters in the DC Universe is a major part of her persona. However, there are other aspects of that persona that have been either retconned or ignored. Morrison makes it a point to embrace those aspects in “Wonder Woman: Earth One.”
Yes, that does include some of the kinkier aspects of Wonder Woman’s origins, which I’ve highlighted before. Namely, it embraces some of the BDSM elements that were woven into the early lore of Wonder Woman by her creator, William Marston.
However, it would be wrong, shallow, and short-sighted to call this aspect of Wonder Woman’s character too crude for modern tastes. These elements aren’t just for sex appeal and titillation. They reflect an important element to Wonder Woman’s philosophy, as defined by Marston.
To use power to dominate over others is inherently cruel and repressive.
To willingly submit with love and compassion is the truth path to peace and justice.
This is the core philosophy that Grant Morrison spends the first two volumes of “Wonder Woman: Earth One” exploring. That philosophy faces its ultimate test in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3.” I’ll spoil another detail here. It passes with flying colors and in a way that makes for a satisfying conclusion to such a uniquely wonderful story.
The story isn’t just about Wonder Woman facing the worst elements of domination at the hands of arrogant men and powerful gods. It’s about how this unique philosophy ultimately wins.
Now, contrary to what a bunch of whiny trolls may say, this effort is not about “smashing the patriarchy.” Seriously, don’t give these trolls any attention. They’ll say that about any comic that doesn’t cater exclusively to their narrow tastes, which usually involve Wonder Woman being a glorified warrior/stripper.
The story in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” is more ambitious. It also has an unusual structure, although not too unusual for Morrison. His writing style often takes advantage of different time periods, using future events to give context to the past. It’s what he did in the first volume of “Wonder Woman: Earth One.” He uses it again, but to tell a very different story.
In the past, Wonder Woman is still sharing her philosophy with man’s world. She continues her fight against what she sees as an endless cycle of domination by the powerful. To her, it’s no different than how the old Greek Gods attempted to dominate the Amazons. It just leads to more conflict and suffering for men and women alike.
This ideology of power domination isn’t exclusive to men, either. Early in the story, it’s established there are women who still fall into this trap, namely Artemis. She doesn’t care for Wonder Woman’s more compassionate approach to dealing with men. She sees them as extensions of Hercules, the man who once brutalized her sisters.
It’s a not-so-subtle nod to the more radical elements of feminism that tend to espouse the same hatred as their anti-feminist counterparts. It’s ironic, but one that Wonder Woman confronts with a unique blend of love, understanding, and warrior spirit.
That’s a potent, but critical combination. It’s very much in line with the persona that William Marston created for her in the early years of her story. While she is certainly capable of fighting with the tenacity of an Amazon warrior, she doesn’t approach conflict the same way as her male counterparts.
For her, fighting isn’t about dominating or subduing an opponent. It’s a way of countering and subsequently tempering their misguided passions. Whether it’s Artemis or Ares, she doesn’t win the battle by knocking them out. She wins it by convincing them to willingly submit. When they do, she embraces them with love and compassion.
This works well for Artemis, but the men outside her homeland are a lot harder to persuade. In both the past and the future, we see male characters trying to cling to or re-establish the domination that they once enjoyed.
In the past, it’s Ares trying to continue his war machine with help from the American military. In the future, it’s a member of an extremist faction of angry men who long for the days when they could dominate women. Given the atrocities committed by angry, misguided men in the real world, this struggle is more relevant now than ever before.
I won’t spoil all the details of how that conflict is confronted and resolved. Those simply looking for Wonder Woman to fight her way through the conflict are only going to get half of what they seek. There is plenty of fighting, courtesy of Ares, but the way those fights end don’t follow the same script as your standard superhero slugfest.
There’s always a larger conversation at play.
There’s always an effort by Wonder Woman and those who support her to confront these misguided passions.
It’s never with force, contempt, or scorn. They all listen with compassion, even to those who spew hate. They let angry men and angry gods voice their grievances, even while fighting back. However, they always counter with love. They understand that you can’t counter anger with more anger or hate with more hate.
Again, that’s a very relevant principle. Anyone who has visited 4chan or a Reddit comments thread understands that.
There’s also a larger story about this world’s version of Steve Trevor. He may not look like Chris Pine from the “Wonder Woman” movie, but the role he plays is just as critical. What he does and what he chooses is instrumental in helping Wonder Woman win the day.
Again, winning in this world doesn’t mean blowing up the bad guys or their weapons. It means winning the argument about which philosophy is more just. More than anything else, “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” makes the case that a philosophy of loving submission is more palatable than one of angry domination.
Morrison even refines some of Marston ideas from the early Wonder Woman comics. In this world, it’s not men or masculinity that’s the problem. It’s the domineering ideology they’ve embraced and relied on for so long. Letting it go isn’t easy, but convincing men to do so cannot be done with force. That realization must come from within.
In many respects, the philosophy in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” transcends gender. Whether you’re a warrior woman or just some normal man with a family, there’s something to be gained by these insights. Loving submission offers something that angry domination does not. Embracing it comes with sacrifices, but Wonder Woman demonstrates that they’re worth making.
It makes for a powerful combination to a power story. Morrison really makes the extra effort to flesh out these ideas that Marston first established while artist, Yanick Paquette, crafts a beautifully colorful world that does justice to all its wonders.
It’ll challenge you perceptions while providing plenty of classic Wonder Woman type entertainment. It’ll also present a different kind of Wonder Woman, one that embraces both her modern iterations and the those of her past. The end result is a true wonder that does justice to this iconic character in a very unique way. If, by the end, you aren’t willing to submit to the loving authority of Wonder Woman, then you’re missing the point.