Diana vs. a supervillain pickup artist?!
New to the world and wishing to lead by example, Diana faces her greatest threat as she meets a persuasive man with an ulterior motive.
The middle chapter of a trilogy, Wonder Woman: Earth One sees writer Grant Morrison and artist Yanick Paquette examine Diana’s place in “Man’s World.” Paquette’s artwork, as with volume one is immediately eye catching, with delicate linework that is made even more glorious by Nathan Fairbairn’s color art. Paquette’s figures are gorgeous and elegant, and his staging of panels is surpassed only by his ability to create a visual flow on the page.
Paquette’s panel borders should not be overlooked. Paquette uses a variety of border designs that reflect the characters and the plot. For example Hippolyta’s borders are an ornate gold, while the Baroness Paula Von Gunther’s are elongated “SS” Nazi logos. However when the Baroness is captured and hypnotized by the Hippolyta’s Venus Girdle, her borders gradually change along the page until they match the Amazonian gold. It’s a subtle change that captures what makes comics such a unique medium.
The story sees Diana manipulated by Dr. Leon Zeiko, a re-imagining of Dr. Psycho. Here portrayed as a pick-up artist, the Doctor weaves his way into Wonder Woman’s life, isolating her from her friends while challenging Wonder Woman’s ideals.
Where the book falls flat is in its thematic exploration. There’s a clear comparison between Dr. Psycho’s manipulation and the Venus Girdle Hippolyta uses to control Baroness Von Gunther, but the book does nothing with that. The implication would seem to be that controlling people is wrong no matter the purpose, but that seems rather obvious. Similarly, the book never quite examines some of the issues it brings up. During one of Diana’s seminars, a woman brings up the fact that Diana’s body is viewed as unrealistic ideal for women. Diana brings up diet, exercise, and her “sophisticated genetic engineering” as the reasons for her looks and defends her clothing choices, but that’s as far as the book goes.
This is frustrating, considering that Yanick Paquette’s depiction of the Amazonians is fairly uniform in terms of body type. It’s understandable that the Amazonian women might be depicted as more sensuous and curvaceous in a volume that is reflecting on the origins of the Wonder Woman character and the work of her creator, William Moulton Marston, but the book never examines it in any concrete way. It’s one thing to leave things up to the reader, but Grant Morrison’s script never directly challenges its audience.
Part of this seems to stem from the book’s pacing. There’s an implication that Dr. Psycho is isolating Diana from her friends, Beth (Etta Candy) and Steve Trevor, but because the book moves so quickly, the readers don’t get enough time of Diana with her friends to feel their absence. What little we do get is great, however as Morrison is able to capture the sense of deep friendship in just a few pages. Morrison’s Diana doesn’t come across quite as well as Beth and Steve. She’s intelligent, but somewhat naive, and so while Dr. Psycho’s suggestive manipulation feels all too real, Diana also comes across as a particularly vulnerable target. Morrison hints at this by portraying both Beth and Steve as wary of Dr. Zeiko, but neither of them gets enough page time to articulate that idea.
Is It Good?
Conceptually solid, Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume 2 is a book that never quite comes together. Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette have some fantastic ideas, but the pacing of the story means that they never quite get the depth they deserve. The book is beautiful, and fans of Morrison’s work will still find some of the high-concept ideas that they have come to love. However this is a story that needed more room to breathe and a more thorough examination of the ideas it plays with.