Both Wonder Woman #30 and Batman and Wonder Woman #30 came out today, and on the surface they seem like very different books. In Wonder Woman, the reign of the First Born is underway and Wonder Woman is trying to rally her supporters to defeat him, while in Batman and Wonder Woman, Batman has landed on the shores of Paradise Island chasing Ra’s al Ghul and Damian’s body. The common thread through both of these books is Wonder Woman and the Amazons and how they don’t get along, continuing the unpleasant characterization of the Amazons we’ve seen since the New 52 began. It’s an Amazon-centric review this month, but first:
I am not spoiling one but TWO comic books today!
If you haven’t read either, turn away!
Carrying on, I find it odd that while the New 52’s depiction of Wonder Woman has been all over the place (the Wonder Woman of Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman of Justice League or Superman/Wonder Woman seem like very different characters), the new universe has been rather cohesive in their harsh portrayal of the Amazons. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the New 52 has so embraced the degradation of these former symbols of female empowerment; the New 52’s track record with female characters generally is not so great. Nonetheless, it’s disheartening.
Wonder Woman #29 ended with Wonder Woman rallying her newly freed Amazon sisters, and I thought we might have turned a corner on the Amazons past disdain for Diana. The early issues of the series cast the Amazons as a sniping, spiteful group who never liked Diana and put her down at every turn. Aleka was the spokesperson for this sentiment, and clearly had no affection for Diana whatsoever.
In Wonder Woman #30, Wonder Woman’s rallying cry didn’t seem to take, and Aleka again represented the opposition. She questioned Wonder Woman’s choice of companions, her fitness to be queen, and stirred up talk of rebellion amongst her sisters (aided by what appeared to be an undercover Strife). When Wonder Woman tried to unite the Amazons in a vow to protect Zeke, Aleka and her cohorts shouted her down.
Aleka was front and center in Batman and Wonder Woman #30 as well, holding a sword to Batman’s throat and refusing him entry to the island even though, or perhaps maybe because, Wonder Woman vouched for him. Wonder Woman and Aleka ended up fighting over the matter, trading blows before Batman yelled at them to stop.
Later in the issue, there was a flashback to one of the Amazons’ regular raping and murdering ship hijackings. The attack was depicted in gruesome detail, and ended with the Amazons burning the ship on the shore of Paradise Island and celebrating their conquest.
Thus far in the New 52, the Amazons have absolutely no redeeming qualities. They’re rapists and murderers who revel in their brutality, which is just awful, and despite orchestrating these attacks with some frequency, they seem wholly incapable of working together to do anything else. All of their interactions are laced with conflict and animosity, and usually end in violence. They’re terrible people, and worst of all their depiction suggests that Wonder Woman is a kind and brave hero DESPITE the Amazons and not BECAUSE of them.
I’ve talked about this several times in the past, so I’ll spare you the full spiel, but for seven decades the Amazons were a peaceful, wise nation, and Wonder Woman grew up to be a great hero due largely to their positive influence. They taught her everything she knew, raised her to be led by love above all else, and always rallied behind her when she needed them. The Amazons were a rare bastion of female power and solidarity in a genre so dominated by men.
Today, Wonder Woman is who she is because she got superpowers from her father, Zeus, and training from Ares, the god of war, whose mantle she’s now inherited. Wonder Woman #0 implied that she even learned her compassion from Ares, when he spared her during a sword battle. On top of this all-male influence, her Amazons sisters never supported her and now reject her even though she is their rightful queen with Hippolyta still out of commission.
I’m not at all against the idea of dissention and discord among the Amazons. Utopias can be kind of boring, and differing opinions and factions could lead to some very interesting stories for the Amazon and add some colour and variety to Paradise Island. What I am against is turning a group of noble, powerful women into vicious, spiteful villains for no good reason, and then spreading this depiction through the wider comics universe. None of the changes have been at all necessary or particularly important to the story, and what little they’ve added to the narrative is nothing compared to how much they’ve devalued the Amazons. It’s just ridiculous.
Anyway, that is my Amazon rant, inspired by reading two unpleasant depictions of the Amazons back to back. Let’s quickly go through what else happened in these issues. In Wonder Woman #30, Hades contemplated his potential role in the war for too long and the First Born made a move against him instead, so that’s probably not going to end well for Hades. Speaking of the First Born, he remains gross and burnt up, plus he made Cassandra eat part of her former associate, Cheever, which was super gross. So yeah, forced cannibalism. Comics: They’re not for kids anymore!
In Batman and Wonder Woman #30, Batman almost got Damian back but not quite. I suspect this sort of thing will go on for a while until Damian returns this summer, if the rumours prove to be true. Also, Wonder Woman freed a dark creature that Zeus had imprisoned to guard a Lazarus Pit on Paradise Island, which was a nice moment for her. I like when she tries to help people instead of fighting them, perhaps because it’s so rare these days.
All told, I was pretty excited for a double dose of Wonder Woman this week but the result was a rant, so clearly my excitement didn’t last. I just don’t understand the decisions that are being made in regards to Wonder Woman, from the Amazons to the Superman relationship to pretty much everything else. They just don’t seem to get her and her mythos, at all.