Renowned comics author Grant Morrison has an eye for the uncomfortable. Nameless, last year’s scariest release, was a gorgeous comic that used shock value and nightmarish imagery — and Morrison’s new take on Wonder Woman explores the juiciest bits of Diana’s background. Diana is plagued by images of masculine power in the same way Nameless’s crew was tortured by images of rape and destruction. Morrison has written her, in Earth One, which was illustrated beautifully by Yanick Paquette, as a curious woman whose emotions exist right at the surface of her being, and the comic is hard to look away from.
As a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, I can empathize with Morrison’s version of Wonder Woman: who leaves a life spent among all women only to discover that females in coed environments are, by and large, still subservient to men. Morrison’s Diana panics when she realizes the stories of elderly women aren’t being recorded before they die, and she calls the modern woman “frail” and frazzled, assuming their difficulties all come from being around men. Personally, I’m always shocked when I encounter women who prefer the company of men over women and genderqueer folks, but hey, both Wonder Woman and I came into our own in similar situations. Seven Sisters colleges are basically Paradise Island, but I digress.
It’s refreshing to see Wonder Woman depicted as both a deadly warrior and a wide-eyed human being (while also being quite sensual). Morrison flows through the now-familiar story of Paradise Island and Steve Trevor, beginning with the forced sexual situation; Diana’s mother kills her male captor and incites a riot. Ironically (and this isn’t lost on Morrison), Diana’s mother arrests her in the present time using chains. Although Wonder Woman’s comic history has been wrought with bondage imagery, Morrison uses his keen eye to include these scenes as an integral part of the hero’s narrative. Wonder Woman is constantly talking about breaking chains, so shouldn’t she have been bound up in them?
A great scenario halfway through the comic depicts a chubby sorority girl, who looks suspiciously like Rebel Wilson, yelling at the council of women ruling Paradise Island for ragging on Wonder Woman. It pits an image of imperfect, contemporary femininity against the classic Amazon archetype in a way that feels fresh and nuanced. In fact, Morrison pulls off this subtle commentary on the multiple waves and facets of feminism without overstepping his boundaries. He simply offers a couple complex scenarios and allows his reader to explore them.
Another great panel lingers on Steve Trevor’s handsome face as he calls for his angel, his Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman appears in the door to his hospital room, in the next panel, and proclaims that she is “neither yours, nor anyone’s,” and all feels right. Wonder Woman seduces Trevor on the next page, offering him a ridiculous black and spiky collar and telling him to kneel. All feels even more right, here. Morrison’s Wonder Woman is, in fact, into using bondage on her own time.
Morrison has made comments to the press about Wonder Woman’s revamped sexuality, saying “Women living on an island for 3,000 years together — you don’t give up sex just because you gave up men. And [sexuality] certainly is part of this culture. I’m sure they would explore sexuality, so all we did was we made a little bit more explicit. We talk about it.”
His comic is pretty explicit on Diana’s lovers on Paradise Island, which is an important and obvious step for Wonder Woman’s story as it finds itself at the forefront of contemporary culture. Although Wonder Woman isn’t precisely queer in Morrison’s comic — at least, not by name — her sexual orientation will likely become a subject in future comics. Is she what students at Bryn Mawr called a “LUG” (lesbian until graduation, or in case this, lesbian until her invisible plane flight to Man’s World?) Is she even monogamous?
Whether or not any of these questions will be addressed in future Wonder Woman stories is actually of no concern. At least to this reader. Grant Morrison sounds like the exact voice this franchise needed, as he’s clearly excited by the more dubious parts of Wonder Woman’s story. Wherever Morrison decides to take Diana, I’m along for the ride, and I don’t even need a safe word.