In Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to the 2017 DC movie Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot returns as her Amazonian warrior princess to confront a new menace that arises near the end of the Cold War. To even the score, she'll don a new suit of armor, molded in gold with wings and a helmet resembling an eagle, that fans call her "Golden Eagle" armor. But where did it come from? Does it do anything cool? And most importantly, how will it change Wonder Woman in the DCEU?
"Not all of us have heat vision" — Wonder Woman's armor originates in Kingdom Come, a 1996 prestige miniseries by comic book titans Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Set in its own universe, the story tells of an aging Justice League pitted against a new generation of younger, reckless metahumans who threaten to ignite Armageddon. It's a classic and a must-read if you haven't already.
In the third issue, Wonder Woman dons a suit of armor that hangs in the Justice League's headquarters. It's a pair of golden wings, an eagle helmet, and a sword made by the god Hephaestus that can cut anything, even Superman (the Man of Steel pricks his finger when he examines the hardware). In the story, a prison of supervillains have erupted into a riot, and Wonder Woman — who has grown weary in her advanced age and is not the symbol of hope and love she used to be — dons the armor as a symbol to not be messed with.
"I will not sanction lethal force against the rioters. I am uneasy with the blade," Superman tells Wonder Woman. She responds, with the eagle helmet in her hands, "Not all of us have heat vision."
A few pages later, Superman questions what will happen if the rioting supervillains don't accept the Justice League's ultimatum to surrender. Wonder Woman tells him, "Then it's war."
Becoming Canon — Kingdom Come was an "Elseworlds" story, meaning it took place in its own universe separate from the main DC continuity. But the armor would eventually make its way to proper canon through subsequent stories, often as a way for Wonder Woman to even the odds when her natural abilities and Themysciran tools proved insufficient.
Wonder Woman #144, published a few years after Kingdom Come, had Diana don the armor after she was defeated by the villain Devastation. In the 2001 crossover event Our Worlds at War, Diana used the armor once more against Imperiex, who essentially wanted to pull a Thanos on the DC Universe.
Wonder Woman doesn't use the armor often. It's only reserved for special occasions for when she's outnumbered... or just really pissed off.
What the Armor Means — DC's comic book writers are less concerned with what bonuses the armor grants Diana and more what it represents. Presumably the armor gives Diana stronger defensive protection and also grants her some enhancements towards her strength. But that's only stuff we assume. What we actually know is that the armor symbolizes Diana's declarations of war.
In her heart, Diana is a superhero of peace. She's a walking contradiction, a warrior who wants nothing more than to end war. It's as much of her identity as Superman's alien heritage and Batman's loss of his parents.
Writers have spent the last few decades playing with this concept. In the comics, Wonder Woman does her best to quell regional or international conflicts before they start and to put down threats before they escalate. Sometimes, she's successful. But when things escalate past a point of no return, she'll resort to things like her armor, which is shorthand for saying, "No more games."
On her own, Wonder Woman symbolizes peace. The armor symbolizes war with the intent to end it.
The Inverse Analysis — It is actually interesting how Diana is wearing her most visible symbol of warfare in Wonder Woman 1984.
The new movie follows up 2017's Wonder Woman by dropping Diana into a new war: The Cold War. Just as World War I felt like the apocalypse, with roving tanks, machine guns, and chemical weapons, the Cold War felt just as "end times" with an overwhelming fear that nuclear bombs could go off at any moment.
The popular culture of the 1980s capitalized on these anxieties, with films like Red Dawn (1984) and Rocky IV (1985) pitting underdog American patriotism against Russian communism. It's this world that Diana finds herself in Wonder Woman 1984.
But unlike World War I, there is no frontline for Wonder Woman to bravely cross. We know she'll get involved in one of the many proxy wars, as evidenced by footage and publicity photos set in the Middle East. But the Cold War never had direct U.S./Russian confrontation, meaning the battle Wonder Woman is fighting in her new movie is more existential than literal. So why is she donning her Golden Eagle armor when there's no real front line?
Surely this means there's a much bigger threat who awaits in Wonder Woman 1984. Whether it's an actual, menacing villain, or a plot device like a nuclear bomb, something is going to be so serious that it requires Wonder Woman to suit up.
Wonder Woman 1984 will be released in theaters on August 14.