At the start of J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Wonder Woman, one of the longest lived but most consistently empty comic book characters, many fan reactions have been absolutely vitriolic in their rejection of his take despite the small amount of information we know about his storyline. One complaint is that the character he’s writing is too far of a departure from the traditional character. That’s completely ridiculous considering the thrust of his story is specifically that she is in an alternate timeline and that she’ll be attempting to (and most likely succeeding to) return to her classic form and timeline. I’m writing in response to this concern with what I regard as five fundamental problems with her current mythos as it stands in general, but more particularly in the runs just prior to Stracynski’s take over, and how his run should and may address them.
Part 1: The Amazon Way
At the heart of the Wonder Woman character is the concept of “the amazon way”, a purported better way of life that underlies the decisions and beliefs of the superheroine. Except, what is the amazon way? Perhaps owing to a lack of interest or sophistication by prior writers, it’s never been clear what Wonder Woman’s culture understands of concepts like law, justice, death, truth, etc. This leads to incredibly hollow depictions of the superhero, who seems to be from an underdeveloped hug-it-out culture.
In order for Wonder Woman’s journey to make sense, we’ll need to see how it is that qualities like truth, justice, and love are so important to her culture across the board. How is order kept on the island? What is the Amazon conception of love and what kind of social existence do Amazons have? The more depth her culture gains, the more depth she’ll have and the more interesting her interactions with the world she’s come upon will be. It would also be nice to understand exactly what their faith entails considering the much more direct role that gods play in their world.
An example: When Wonder Woman killed the villain Maxwell Lord during the Infinite Crisis storyline, battle lines were drawn by fans as to whether or not this was a consistent action for the character. One group claimed she was a warrior and did what she needed to do for the greater good. Another pointed to her lovingness or some other abstract part of her character to say that this action was abominable. Ultimately, both camps are stretching since we have absolutely no idea what her culture would believe or what would justify that action to her. What do amazons even believe about death or justice? The closest we can get to guessing how she should of reacted are two competing lines of American thought: the concept of martial order for the greater good as afforded to the police, even though this is arguably a case of more direct murder since he was restrained, or the traditional superheroic ideal that killing is never justified. Those are the lines this argument exactly fell along, neither having to do with the character herself, pointing out how hollow the character’s role in that scene really was.
Straczynski’s run: To date, it’s not clear what JMS’s take is. As seen in issue 601, the idea of a warrior race willing to sacrifice everything for battle is being upheld. We understand that, as before, almost all amazons are participants in the amazonian military. Considering that JMS’s run will move towards a return to canon, and that much of Diana’s journey will be defined by discovering her culture along with other mysteries, perhaps this alternate world will be a perfect way of defining the Amazons and thus Wonder Woman, something she sorely needs. I’m hopeful.
Tagged: michael Straczynski · the amazon way · wonder woman
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