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Exploring Radical (And Kinky) Idealism: “Wonder Woman Earth One Volume Two” Review

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When “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 1” came out in 2016, it was groundbreaking in how it re-imagined Wonder Woman while reconnecting her with her kinkier roots. For years, she’d been moving away from the unique brand of feminism that her creator, William Moulton Marston, had once defined her. This culminated in her 2017 movie in which all the BDSM connotation were purged from her persona.

While many creative forces over multiple decades turned Wonder Woman into someone very different from her creator had intended, Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette went in the opposite direction. They dared to embrace the kinks and reshape Wonder Woman’s story in a way that works while retaining Marston’s original themes.

That story remains one of my favorite Wonder Woman stories of all time and one I’ve gone out of my way to praise. Finally, after a two-year wait and a prolonged absence of kink from superhero comics, “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 2” has arrived. Fans of warrior women, feminist utopias, and not-so-subtle bondage themes can rejoice.

Like any sequel, it faces the inescapable challenge of matching the high bar set by its predecessor. On top of that, it also has to dig deeper into an aspect of Wonder Woman that generations of writers have tried to overwrite or ignore. Even with an elevated profile, thanks to her movie, this is a part of Wonder Woman’s persona that is largely unknown or undeveloped.

The greatest challenge of Volume 1 was to reintroduce Marston’s radical concepts of love, submission, and domination in a way that didn’t feel like bad fan fiction. Morrison and Paquette succeeded by building the story around this dazzling, techno-feminist utopia on a mythology built on ideas that seem antithetical to the world dominated by lies, mistrust, and cynicism.

If the goal of that story was to affirm the potential of these ideas, then “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 2” is built around how those ideas are challenged. It’s one thing to defend them on an island paradise populated by immortal warrior women of unyielding compassion. It’s quite another to defend them in a world where gay frogs inspire conspiracy theories.

Wonder Woman’s situation is considerably different this time around. She’s not insulated on her island paradise. She’s well-known public figure, an established superhero, and a vocal proponent for her radical ideology. She presents it as a viable way of achieving peace and justice in a world full of suffering and hatred. Unlike other wide-eyed idealists, she comes off as entirely genuine.

Not surprisingly, the world isn’t eager to sign up for her novel approach of peace through submission to a loving authority. It doesn’t just come from grumpy old men who only want women to make babies and sandwiches, either. Even among other women, her ideas are challenged and deconstructed throughout the story.

What does it even mean to submit to a loving authority?

Why is she so sure that it’ll work in the world outside her idyllic homeland?

How are men supposed to approach this concept?

How far is she willing to go to implement her ideas?

These are all difficult questions that get asked throughout the story. Wonder Woman doesn’t avoid these questions, but she doesn’t get a chance to answer them either. Even though she is celebrated by many, nobody seems capable of embracing her ideology as completely as her.

To further complicate this challenge, Nazis enter the picture. Trust me, it’s not as shallow as it sounds. The story isn’t built around Wonder Woman acting like Captain America, traveling the world and punching Nazis. In fact, the way she handles her enemies in this story is very different to the methods she used in the “Wonder Woman” movie. However, that’s where the story gains both complications and nuance.

Through a few flashbacks and side-plots, we get to see how Wonder Woman’s ideology confronts something that’s completely antithetical to everything she stands for. Initially, it looks like her approach works. She’s so compassionate and so empathetic that she can take violent, hate-filled Nazis and redeem their souls. That’s where the complications come in.

In both the events that unfolded in the past and those that play out in the present, we see shortcoming of Wonder Woman’s ideals. It’s not that someone taints or disproves them. As the conflict plays out, we see how the components necessary to make her ideology work aren’t as abundant as they are in her homeland. As a result, Wonder Woman pays a price for her idealism and it’s a steep, heartbreaking price.

Not all of it is a direct result of her ideology, though. Wonder Woman also deals with a devious adversary in Dr. Psycho, who effectively turns her ideals against her. He doesn’t just question or deconstruct the merits of submission to a loving authority. He manipulates them to his own ends, which plays right into the hands of her critics.

It’s tragic in that it leads to heartache for Wonder Woman and her friends, but it stops short of breaking her. This is Wonder Woman, after all. Loss, defeat, and criticism do not break her. No mortal or God can break her. Those are her words, not mine. These challenges, however, put her in a difficult position where she has to confront unpleasant truths.

Without spoiling too many plot points, I’ll note that Wonder Woman comes to realize that there are grater complexities to loving submission than she ever could’ve realized. She sees first-hand how difficult it is to get someone to willingly submit in a world where weakness can invite harm, exploitation, and injustice. Just preaching her message isn’t enough. By not doing more, it costs her and those she cares about.

In terms of the larger narrative, “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 2” is a wonderfully effective evolution of the world that Morrison and Paquette created. Along the way, the story continues to embrace the unique principles of the original iteration of Wonder Woman that Marston crafted in 1942.

Not entirely, that is.

If there’s any shortcoming to the narrative, it’s how incomplete it feels at the end. It’s not a cliff-hanger, but there are many lingering plot threads that don’t get resolved. Granted, it says on the final page that there is a Volume 3 planned for this series. Given the two-year gap in between this book and its predecessor, the wait seems nothing short of agonizing.

Even with those dangling threads, “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 2” is still a complete Wonder Woman story that’s unlike anything you’ll get in the movies or comics. If I had to score it, I would give it a 9 out of 10. The lack of resolution at the end is the only thing keeping it from a perfect score. It still gets so many things right about who Wonder Woman is and why she’s so endearing.

The fact that she can be endearing while retaining the radical spirit that Marston had envisioned helps make “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 2” all the more remarkable. She’s not just a fierce warrior woman. She’s the personification of a different approach to gender, power, and love. It may seem bizarre and kinky to us, but it has powerful implications for people of any gender.

It doesn’t go overboard with the BDSM undertones, nor does it focus heavily on gender politics. They are mentioned, but not forced into the plot. There are things Wonder Woman does that feminists, conservatives, and BDSM fans can get behind. At every turn, she carries herself as someone who is willing to embrace everyone. It’s that unconditional, universal compassion that makes her Wonder Woman.

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My (Spoiler Free) Wonder Woman Movie Review

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I’ve been obsessing over it. I’ve been anticipating it. I’ve found any possible excuse to talk about it on this blog, including those involving hidden BDSM undertones. If you still weren’t convinced of how excited I was about the “Wonder Woman” movie, then I can’t help you and neither can Superman. Well, after years of waiting and agonizing over the failures of lesser female heroes, it happened. The “Wonder Woman” movie has arrived.

I’ve been following this movie since the release of its first trailer, making it clear along the way that this is one of the most important movies of the past decade. It’s not just an important step towards making us forget about “Catwoman.” It’s an overdue, understated milestone in the growth of female superheroes and female characters in general.

Wonder Woman is, by most measures, the most iconic female character of the past century. She is the standard by which all female heroes, and many female characters in general, are measured. She embodies the ideals of womanhood, generating hope for some and conflict for others. For her to have waited this long to get a movie while Ant Man of all characters got one is a travesty.

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However long it took and whatever controversy emerged along the way, including those involving armpits, doesn’t matter anymore. The movie has arrived and I made it a point to see it, despite the crowds and overpriced candy. That leaves just one pressing question that doesn’t need the lasso of truth for an answer.

Is the “Wonder Woman” movie actually good?

Well, I’m here to say as part of my official review that yes. It is good. It’s every bit as good as its Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic score would indicate. This is not a “Dawn of Justice” type scenario where critics and fans don’t see eye-to-eye. The consensus is clear. “Wonder Woman” is a damn good movie.

What makes it good, though? Well, that’s where it helps to understand the challenge this movie faced, as well as the scope of the story it told. Unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman’s origins aren’t as universally known and again, I’m not just referring to the BDSM elements.

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Most people know she’s an iconic female superhero. Most know she’s a warrior princess from an island populated solely by women. Few people actually know the details of that story or the emotional undertones behind it. Even fans of the old Lynda Carter TV series only ever got part of the story.

This movie doesn’t assume that the audience knows the core of Wonder Woman history or what makes her who she is. Patty Jenkins, the director tasked with deciding which assumptions to make, made a concerted effort to explore both who Diana is and where she came from.

The parts about her being a warrior on an island of female warriors is still there. What makes it resonate is how the movie adds emotional elements to the story. There’s an undeniable innocence at first, seeing Diana as a child, running around her paradise island of Themyscira, eager to see more than others allow her to see.

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This establishes and important tone for the story and for Wonder Woman’s character, as a whole. Even on an island paradise run by women, Wonder Woman dares to break with tradition and do more than what others would dare. She’s willing to test the rules of the Amazons and the rules of men alike. She is, at her core, a free spirit who seeks out wrongs to right and will step up when others won’t.

This makes her emergence as a warrior all the more meaningful because it gives her the strength and means break with tradition and fight the battles that no one dares. She doesn’t just become strong for the sake of being strong. Her training, her desire, and her capacity to kick ass has purpose. She makes the audience want her to succeed.

That kind of emotional resonance never wanes as the larger conflicts unfold. This is where Wonder Woman’s supporting cast really shines, especially in Chris Pine’s portrayal of Steve Trevor.

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It might have been the trickiest part of the movie, handling how Wonder Woman’s long-time companion and frequent love interest, Steve Trevor, was handled. There have been instances in the comics and cartoons where Steve Trevor has been a beta male. There have also been times where he’s just been an glorified nanny to Wonder Woman, trying to keep her on a leash and not in a kinky sort of way.

That doesn’t happen in this movie. Chris Pine’s take on Steve Trevor is one that men and women alike can appreciate. He’s very much his own character who earns the respect of both Wonder Woman and everyone he works with. He doesn’t just show that he’s worthy of Wonder Woman’s affection. He earns it.

It’s probably the greatest accomplishment of the movie. Wonder Woman’s partnership with Steve Trevor and his allies is all about complementing one another, not hindering one another. Trevor isn’t just some man trying to put Wonder Woman in her place. He and his friends try to guide her through the conflict, doing their part whenever they can and letting Wonder Woman do hers.

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Those looking for a movie that shows Wonder Woman attacking male oppression and exposing men for the pig-headed brutes they are will be disappointed. There are heroic men and villainous women in this movie. There’s no gender agenda at work here. There are times when gender dynamics are explored, but it’s never done with the impression that one is worse than the other.

The movie gets the message and the dynamics right. It gets the characters and their personalities right. Needless to say, Gal Gadot gets Wonder Woman right and looks absolutely stunning in that outfit in every single frame. On top of that, the various fight scenes and acrobatics that go with any hardened Amazonian warrior are a spectacle to behold.

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It checks so many boxes. It has so many satisfying moments from beginning to end. There are moments of humor, including those of the crude, sexual kind. Chris Pine even gets naked at one point. Granted, he’s no Hugh Jackman, but I think most heterosexual women and gay men will be happy with what they see.

So are there any issues with this movie? Is “Wonder Woman” the most flawless work of cinema since “Godfather II?” Well, this is the part where I have to be somewhat petty because this movie isn’t perfect. It does have some flaws, but none of them are overly egregious.

If there are any shortcomings, it’s in the limited time it spends exploring Themyscira and its culture. There is some time spent on the mother/daughter dynamics between Wonder Woman and her mother, but it feels somewhat minimized, as do the rest of the Amazons. Many do get to shine in a few fight scenes, but none get a chance to be all that memorable.

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There’s also the matter of the mythology behind the main conflict. Wonder Woman has always drawn heavily from Greco-Roman Mythology, so much so that it fuels a great deal of Wonder Woman’s iconic stories. However, the mythology in this movie is fairly flat and streamlined. It presents a very simple, bland view of the gods that are so integral to the Amazons. It feels like an oversight, but one that doesn’t derail the story.

Overall, I would not proclaim “Wonder Woman” to be the greatest superhero movie of all time. I would still put movies like “Deadpool” and “The Avengers” above it, but not by much. It is still very much in the top echelon of superhero movies. It is also groundbreaking in that it is the first female solo movie that succeeded where too many others have failed.

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It’s impossible to overstate how critical this movie was for DC Comics, Warner Brothers, and superhero movies in general. “Wonder Woman” had so much riding on it from the get go, but it succeeded. It rose to the challenge. Much like Wonder Woman herself, this movie dared to defy convention and do something special.

If I had to score this movie, I would give it a solid 4.5 out of 5. It has all the right elements. It’s concise, compelling, and satisfying. It is a wonder unto itself. It was a long time coming, but like so many things, it was worth the wait.

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