At this point, readers probably know how they feel about Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One. The oft-controversial reinvention of Wonder Woman inspired by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter’s original intentions for the character comes to an exciting and unique conclusion in Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3. Readers will find Morrison and Paquette threading the needle between grand aspirations and addressing the criticisms of the series’ previous volumes.
Earth to Grant Morrison
This volume is the first time it feels like Morrison has comfortably sat back into his tried-and-tested abilities to simply write a comic and formulate an interesting world around it. With the need to introduce complex and controversial new topics off the table, Morrison is able to focus on simply pacing the story correctly and converting an interesting plot, which are things the first two books struggled to do.
It also seems that in this same sense of reflection, Morrison has decided to make some retcons in this world that bring it much more closely to the classic Wonder Woman readers know. Gods are now real, concrete things, Diana is officially a child of clay once more and this world is suddenly much more comfortable for longtime readers.
This is very much in line with the second volume which reneged on Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 1’s commitment to tell a story without action, violence or the typical climactic structure of superhero storytelling.
This isn’t to say that the storytelling is perfect. It’s still clear that the Earth One format has never been the right format to display these stories, and Morrison still struggles in some sense to fully flesh out every idea he wants to convey.
Morrison’s worldbuilding here is much more effective than it’s been in the first two volumes. For example, taking readers to the Amazon world of Venus, which had been teased in previous volumes, and showing readers how they “rehabilitate” men, works as a really effective counterweight to how radical Morrison’s Amazons seem. It’s a smart way to make them seem reasonable and relatable, despite them being as different from modern Americans as could possibly be imagined.
In the other direction, Morrison also shows readers what the intended end of the Amazons’ views are, which may only work for some people. It’s definitely a commitment to the view that the Amazons are still radical, however, Morrison’s able to leverage America’s current political climate to frame the opponents of the Amazons as those who can’t let go of their privilege. It’s something that might not have seemed as impactful even just two years ago, but in 2021 the interpretation really hits home.
This radical interpretation of Diana and the Amazons is where the book is at its most interesting. In many ways set free by having explored these topics in the past, and the juxtaposition with the much more radical Venus Amazons, Morrison is able to use this beautiful and nuanced world as the backdrop for a compelling story. Diana, more than in previous volumes, feels like a fleshed out character rather than a mouthpiece for readers to understand the Amazons viewpoints. She comes across as intelligent, adventurous, bullheaded, cunning, compassionate, and wise in what might be the most fleshed out interpretation of Diana as a character readers have seen.
It’s also here that Morrison makes his best claim towards the validity of Diana and the Amazons’ claim towards the philosophy of loving submission. Straying away from the outright implication of realizing that philosophy in bondage, and instead recognizing it in more of a wink and a nod, as well as stepping back and displaying it as more of a political philosophy makes everything more digestible to readers. Now Diana is standing a few steps to the left of modern political giants like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and it feels again, more relatable to the audience than Morrison has been able to pull off thus far in this series.
It’s a (wo)man’s world!
Paquette also continues over the brilliant, intricate depiction of the Amazons visually, which was the start of the first two volumes. It shines no less bright here as many of the amazing designs have been brought over, but alongside those the world has been expanded and more well-defined. Readers visit Venus, New Sparta and Harmonia all for the first time, which each possess their own unique visual identity that ties into the book overall, though not quite to the intricacy of Amazonia’s New Athena, which has been the focus of both previous books.
The coolest things he draws though, are still the Kangas. They’re so unique and cool among superhero books that it can’t help provoke smiles among readers. It’s also symbolic of this world Morrison and Paquette have created, which refreshes Marston’s sci-fi ideas while finally incorporating the hellenistic aspects and the political dynamics that have always been hallmarks of the character. It feels like a near perfect adaptation of the character’s world, now divorced from the Abrahamic allegories of George Perez’s take.
The core problem of Paquette’s work is the same thing that’s been the problem since the first volume: everything he draws is too sexualized. Almost every Amazon is the same unrealistically proportioned Barbie doll they’ve been in the past two volumes, and while outright sexual posing has mostly taken a back seat, there are still times when it’s impossible not to notice. It might be an element of the work that’s an attempt at sexual positivity, but generally sexual positivity doesn’t work if the only people allowed it are the super hot Amazons. This issue is compounded by the fact that Beth Candy, a plus-sized woman, is a prominent supporting character in the book and she’s not afforded those same moments of prominent sexuality.
This isn’t to say that sexuality should be stripped of Diana and the Amazons, just that it should be allowed for those other characters as well, and it should be explored as a relationship dynamic more than used as backdrop to pay homage to Marston.
It’s a shame when this brings readers out of the world, too, because the other elements of Amazonian society brought to the foreground can be so much more interesting, and timely. The Silver Age technology permeates the world and gives the book of a feeling of being out of time, as well as a hopefulness that this will all lead to a better world. Then the political and social philosophies should remind readers of the concepts Gene Roddenberry infused Star Trek with, of a world which has moved past the concept of money.
All of this too, in perfect contrast with the Trumpian portrayal of Maxwell Lord/Ares and the battle against “not all women,” which is really the fight against equality. It’s a timely work which, in contrast to most works, feels as if the times have caught up with the character and the work, rather than the work catching up with the time. Whether it’s the revelry in police brutality, or the accosting of the fake news, the best of his Trump comparisons works here as a lesson in untrustworthy authority — something that might remind readers who’ve followed the series of Hercules in the first volume, the series’ first and primary example of trying to exude authority over someone who doesn’t want your control.
Morrison and Paquette conclude a trilogy that is both hurt and uplifted by being a complete work. While they’ve consistently responded to criticism well and made the third volume the best of the three, it’s still pulled down by some of the poor creative decisions made early on and a publishing format that has never suited the story. It’s a work that misses being a classic by a decent margin, but should be considered essential reading for anyone trying to understand the full character of Wonder Woman.
It’s an excellent bit of storytelling to leave readers with, and if any future creators take anything from this, it should be…
THE KANGAS!!! THEY’RE SO COOL!!!!!!!
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