Although she is among DC’s holy trinity along with Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman has a complicated history. She was conceived by William Moulton Marston, a fascinating figure in his own right for several reasons, not least his fetish for bondage. Over the decades, this character, who has always been rooted in Greek mythology, went through multiple interpretations that gave a different context to her origin story. With the exception of the Man of Steel, there isn’t a DC character whose roots are explored more by various comics creators than Wonder Woman.
As part of DC Icons, a series of Young Adult novels that each centered around the teenage versions of the publisher’s most iconic characters, Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo is yet another take on the Amazon princess’s origin. Two years later, the book is now a graphic novel with Louise Simonson adapting and Kit Seaton illustrating. Birthed from clay, Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters by participating in a race. However, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law to save a mortal, who just happens to be a Warbringer that will cause destruction to not only her home of Themyscira, but the world itself.
Praise towards Bardugo’s novel glowed that Warbringer adds a feminist twist to the well-established mythos, which this is rather tiresome considering that the character has always been rooted in feminism since the very beginning, and some of the best stories about Diana Prince have presented this. Having not read the source material, but based on how it was adapted here, it is clearly a typical YA story that blends coming-of-age and fantasy — the twist is that it takes place in a known fraction of the DC Universe.
Warbringer is clearly aiming at a younger demographic that probably has zero interest in reading comics by centering the story on two young women, each with their own background, finding each other and thus leading a relationship that has a literal rocky start to slowly becoming a full-fledged friendship. The story works best when it’s about those relationships, including the friends Diana makes throughout the journey. There is a funny moment involving the Lasso of Truth used as a device for a game of Truth or Dare amongst the youthful protagonists, which allows them to open up about themselves.
There are a lot of ideas thrown into the mix, whether it’s the multiple interpretations of Greek mythology or our historical and contemporary understanding of war. The latter in particular is a significant Wonder Woman theme, who is all about stopping a war. However, these ideas do get shuffled in the translation from book to comic, which is my big criticism towards Warbringer. Condensing Bardugo’s story into a graphic novel that is less than 200 pages long, Simonson – no stranger to writing superhero comics – struggles with making every idea from the original narrative into a cohesive whole here, leading to some revelations coming out left-field.
This is not an action-oriented story and that is definitely evident in the art by Kit Seaton, who doesn’t have a great grasp towards action sequences, which can really make this comic a drag to read at times. That said, there is a simplicity in a lot of illustrations that add charm, especially in the character designs, which are very expressive and beautiful. It’s not always cutesy as Seaton gives us some imagery that show the horrors of war, as well as Greek monsters appearing here and there.
As the first of the DC Icons novels to be converted as a comic book, Warbringer is an okay adventure that tells Wonder Woman’s well-established origin in the confines of a YA narrative.