Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hit and myth

So, I read this pretty good graphic novel trilogy. It's about an Amazon warrior - a princess, actually - who discovers her parentage is not what she thought, and that she's actually one of the many offspring of that king of the gods and serial adulterer, Zeus himself. When this revelation comes to light, it of course upsets Hera, who is extremely jealous and has a habit of punishing not Zeus, but his children by mortal (and other) women.

Hera's attempted amercement starts a chain of events that leads to the Amazon allying herself with (and coming into to conflict with) various Greek gods (such as Hermes and Strife) and mythical creatures (such as a tag-team of killer centaurs). It is a dark voyage the heroine takes, leading her to hell (the person and the place) and revealing knowledge heretofore withheld from her - such as the Amazonian tradition of raping sailors and then killing any male offspring (a practice curbed by Hephaestus's taking them in as laborers).

The story is set in the present day, and the warrior encounters some of her half-siblings: other modern children of Zeus, living in the 21st century with the spark of the immortal flowing through their veins and possessed of some paranormal powers as a result. She also finds herself protecting an unwed mother, a promiscuous, rash, angry, lower-class young woman - the kind of girl often called a "slut" in certain circles - who is presented unflinchingly, unapologetically, and sympathetically. And who wields a mean shotgun. Oh - and there's a spaceman, too,

It's a pretty good story. It just isn't a Wonder Woman story, although it says so on the cover. Yep, that's my précis of Blood, Guts, and Iron, the first three volumes of the collected New 52! Wonder Woman series.

After I read this story, I felt the same way I did at the end of Man of Steel, the latest Superman movie. It wasn't an exceptionally bad movie, although it wasn't a very good one, and the Krypton scenes were wonderful (if a bit overstuffed). But it certainly wasn't a Superman movie: none of the elements of the mythos (can we call it that now?) associated with the character was there to any appreciable degree. There was some window dressing of names and places and such, but really, it would have been a better movie if the protagonist hadn't been Kal-El and it could have been judged on its own terms.

I think Diana got the same short shrift in these volumes. This isn't a bad story - the summary sounds a little bit like one for a post-modern, magical realism novel, and the comic pretty much reads that way as well - but where's Wonder Woman? Where are the themes and motifs that made her part of the Trinity and put her onto the landscape of American - world - culture? Does she really need to find out everything you thought you knew was a lie™? Does she really need to be a daughter of Zeus - wasn't being an Amazon enough? Does she really need Orion of the New Gods and a bunch of Hellblazer cast members to help her out?

Ah, then, maybe I'm overreacting - or mis-contextualizing. Maybe the relationship between my Wonder Woman and the New 52! Wonder Woman is more like the relationship between the Martin Nodell Green Lantern and the Julie Schwartz/John Broome Green Lantern. I mean, if there had been an internet in 1959, would people like me have been decrying the major transformation of their favorite hero not just in theme and appearance, but even in name and history as well?

I dunno. For now, I'm going to ignore WW.52 and just remember "my" Wonder Woman. Time to get out the DVD of New Frontier...

1 comment:

  1. I was disappointed too. I think it's perfectly legit to have a hero whose backstory includes being the product of rape, but that's not Wonder Woman.