Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals (Greg Potter, Len Wein & George Pérez)
For my next trip through the history of DC Comics I decided to take a look at my favourite Amazon and in particular the point where the modern version of her character began. Well the Pre-New 52 version anyway (although the New 52 Wonder Woman is AMAZING!). So here is your background info on the hows and whys of this story before we get going:
- This is a post Crisis on Infinite Earths story where the majority of DC’s characters and comics rebooted/relaunched to both modernise and re-imagine them for the comic reading public of the time and the new generation of readers coming into comics. (Hey! That sounds awfully familiar! *cough* *cough* Flashpoint *cough* *cough* The New 52 *cough*)
- This is a ground zero reboot of the character so no prior knowledge of Wonder Woman or her world is need. Also very much like the recent relaunch, the Greek Gods Wonder Woman interacts with have been drastically changed. Here they get more personality and central billing as the driving force behind the story. Bringing things more inline with the modern myth idea of Wonder Woman.
- My recent reading of the original origin of Wonder Woman paid off big time here as I could clearly see what was taken forward, what had been enhanced/added to and what had been removed. So if you are wanting to read this I recommend reading All-Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1 beforehand because they will improve the reading experience immensely.
The other interesting thing I took away from Gods and Mortals was that this is the origin story that pretty much every interpretation of the character uses as a starting point. From the DC Animated shows like Justice League, to the animated movie from a few years ago, to most likely any movie/tv version that will come about in the next couple of years. All point to this particular story and for a good reason: This is an incredibly solid origin and story despite a few pitfalls it stumbles into.
Much like the original origin a good chunk of the story to establishing the Amazons with an added focus on the gods that created them and are controlling the higher level parts of the story. Most of the first issue is dedicated to re-telling the brutal history of the Amazons, how they came to be and what caused them to retreat from Man’s World despite their god given purpose to promote peace. In short, they have good reason to hate the world and especially men (mainly because the DC version of Heracles/Hercules is a major douche). We see them fight to freedom from the bondage Heracles puts them in and it is a particularly bloody fashion I might add, that splits their numbers for exploitation further down the line. Then in true mythic style they walk across a parted ocean to establish Paradise Island. Eventually Hippolyte/Hippolyta hears the call of motherhood and with the help of some of the gods Diana is moulded from clay and is given life becoming a daughter to Hippolyte/Hippolyta and the rest of the Amazons.
From there things quickly move forwards as we see Diana grow and the threat of Ares is revealed. Then the contest of champions happens to see who will be given the task of stopping him and Diana in disguise naturally wins and thus becomes Wonder Woman after learning to deflect bullets with her bracelets (that is important for later on).
From issue two onwards the story really takes off as Steve Trevor is introduced and ends up crashing on Paradise Island, this time as part of Ares’ scheme to stop the Amazons from interfering in his plans. Slowly over the next couple of issues more and more characters both good and evil are introduced as the story builds and grows to the impending final conflict. Professor Kapatelis is the most important character introduced here as she takes on the role of exposition personified and the point of contact with humanity for Diana. Phobos and Deimos are also brought into the story to serve as something for Diana and Co to face in the run up to the grand finale. Their inclusion also means more and more fantastical elements start making their way into the story. With the prerequisite trippy imagery and everything thrown in there for good measure,
The only major misstep in the otherwise tight story is the inclusion of Decay whose soul purpose is to bring Wonder Woman to the public’s attention and to provide an action beat at the mid-point of the story. While the other characters start uncovering Ares master plan and his forces start to move into position Diana is wasting time fighting a throwaway villain. After the battle with Decay there is a dip in the action as all the characters come together and work out just exactly Ares is up to. From there it is breakneck ride to the finish as Wonder Woman and her allies take down Deimos and then head to a military base to confront the army under Ares’ control that threatens to plunge the world into World War Three by you guessed it, launching nukes as Soviet Russia because that is was always happens in stories from the Cold War Era.
The military themes that sort of bubble underneath the surface throughout the story are interesting as you have Steve Trevor fighting against the military machine while being a part of it at the same time. Steve, Etta and Michaelis are the reluctant soldiers who would rather attempt solve a problem in every possible way before turning to violence. While their superiors are more gun happy (Ares’ influence is just a convenient excuse) and are more willing to shoot first and ask questions later in every possible circumstances. The results are mixed but it shows a starting point for the military connections Wonder Woman has.
Overall the story is a gripping read that I enjoyed a lot more than I initially thought I would. I started caring for the supporting cast and it makes me feel like I have missed out on some great characters and stories because up until the more recent Wonder Woman comics she has mostly flying solo with Steve Trevor (Note: A much younger and better looking Steve Trevor) popping up occasionally. The end result was that in the final conflict I was on the edge of the seat as Wonder Woman shows all of her skill and wonder while her, by this point, friends battle alongside her.
It is a chaotic but engaging fight as everyone tries to stop the inevitable from happening. Also look at how the action is portrayed! Diana is kicking arse left right and centre while Steve is the steadfast soldier out of his depth in a battle against mythical forces. Seeing Wonder Woman using her bracelets to deflect an onslaught of bullets for the first time put a grin on my face because she makes it look effortless despite being warn out from fighting Deimos previously. Then when she confronts Ares it is not a big epic punch up of normal comics it is actually a rare usage of the Lasso of Truth that stops him. It forces him to see where his grand scheme will leave him; alone and powerless on a dead planet. The result is that Ares, the God of War sees that all out conflict will end in the destruction of everything. He even cries! The ultimate force of man’s desire to kill each other is brought to his knees because he realises peace is a better option.
The book does however have its problems. Mainly like a lot of older comics stuff just sort of happens or is forced in there to make it fit the idea of what a comic book was at the time. Each issue ends with a cliffhanger of sorts with one in particular being completely redundant (the menacing “bad guy” who knocks out Etta at the end of one issue turns out to be an ally who startled her within one page of the next). Still such things can be forgiven because the meat of the story and characters are so good. There is an attention to detail that seems to be missing from a lot of the Pre-Flashpoint Wonder Woman comics (not written by Gale Simone of course!) that is so glaring when you see the love for things like the mythology that surrounds the character in this story. Or just the attention to detail the book has like Diana not knowing a word of English when she first lands in America and instead speaking a dialect of Greek unique to the Amazons.
The whole thing has a cinematic quality to it and you can easily see this being made into a fantasy epic with a few nips, tucks and tweaks here and there. An effort is made to show Wonder Woman as a strong, intelligent character who quickly adapts when out of her depth and characters like Steve Trevor have a purpose beyond being something for her to immediately fall in love with. Instead not even a hint of their romance is shown beyond Steve being in awe of her. A nice and much needed change from the original story I think you will agree and something that seems to have been carried over into the New 52. It is well worth checking out if you are a Wonder Woman fan but be wary of the trappings of the time shoehorning their way into things when they are not needed or wanted.
Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals is made up of issues #1 to #7 of the 1987-2006 volume of Wonder Woman. It is available digitally via the Comixology/DC Comics Digital websites and apps or in trade via Amazon.