In Earth One: Wonder Woman Vol. 2, the Amazon princess goes up against a supervillain pick-up artist.
Review – Earth One: Wonder Woman Vol. 2
Grant Morrison is one of comics’ leading provocateurs. Whether in his own creations (Happy!, his 2012 mini-series about an ex-cop palling around with a flying blue cartoon horse, was recently adapted by Netflix) or his de- and re-constructions of iconic characters, his writing always has that quality of a kid let loose in a sandbox.
It’s also worth noting that his maverick style has also made him a figure of fun in the comics industry. Both Robert Rodi (in his 1994 novel What They Did to Princess Paragon) and Fred Van Lente (in last year’s The Con Artist, reviewed here) have gently ribbed Morrison with characters that bear a resemblance to the Scottish writer.
When it comes to rethinking icons, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman at DC have been his most recent projects. (He’s worked on surprisingly few Marvel characters.) In the current Green Lantern series (which I heartily recommend, though I have little interest in GL in general), Morrison has been having fun with the idea of the superhero as space-cop. The science-fiction elements, like an auction of planets, are played up in the no-holds-barred story-line.
In Earth One: Wonder Woman Vol. 2, things are a little more down-to-earth. The follow-up to Volume 1, this second volume continues the origin story Morrison began in the 2016 volume. Here though he’s not only updating the story to a recognizable and current-day Earth (that is, ours, more or less) but also returning to the ideas and ideals that informed her creation. Wonder Woman was, after all, originally envisioned as the embodiment of the philosophy of her creator, William Moulton Marston. And Marston, who is also credited with creating the lie detector, was not a conventional thinker.
Mind control, Neil Strauss and The Game
Morrison brings the hero’s fascistic tendencies to the fore (though he never uses the “f” word). Wonder Woman wants to bring the “superior” ways of the Amazons to the world of men, whether they (we) want it or not, and even if it means using mind control.
Ideas of mind control are personified by two chief villains in Vol. 2, both with histories that go back to the original comics of the ’40s. One is Paula van Gunther, “a Nazi super-spy” (Morrison’s words). The other is Dr. Psycho, here envisioned as a supervillain pick-up artist named Zeiko who looks like a more monkey-like Nick Cave. Says Morrison,
So, I was looking towards the pickup artist community, and that stuff from Neil Strauss‘s book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. A good friend of mine actually studied under Neil Strauss to learn all his techniques, so she could detect them when they were used against her. She became the world’s foremost female pickup artist.
So, we really went deep. The Doctor Psycho sequence where he sits and talks to Diana is actually based on the script used by pickup artists. Even the movements he makes, all the gestures—he makes these casting-off gestures every time he talks about something that you won’t have to perceive as negative—it was really tightly worked out to follow. They (PUAs) use scripts.
Zeiko’s goal is to isolate Diana “from her friends, mission and moral center,” as ign.com put it (I didn’t quite get that from my own reading, but this makes as much sense as anything).
Earth One: Wonder Woman Vol. 2 pros and cons
Earth One: Wonder Woman Vol. 2 is an interesting read—I think everything Morrison writes is interesting, pretty much—if not quite as solid as I recall the first one being. The sequence between Wonder Woman and Dr. Zeiko is especially strong.
One problem is its choppiness; things happen very suddenly, with little build-up, like Paula van Gunther’s arrival in Dr. Psycho’s trailer. Also, some ideas are touched on but not developed. As Jesse Schedeen puts it in a review on ign.com, these ideas include whether or not “a system of loving submission to a benevolent authority” (Wonder Woman’s ideal) will work in the world of men—and whether that system is as great as the Amazons believe. But perhaps these ideas will be explored further in Earth One: Wonder Woman Vol. 3.
In general, I like penciler Yanick Paquette’s work, but I also find it to be somewhat inconsistent. Some panels work beautifully; in others, figures look awkward or blocky. This can be a little frustrating.
More frustrating is the lack of context. For a new reader picking this up or even someone who reads comics regularly but doesn’t follow every development, there’s nothing in the packaging of these Earth One volumes that suggests what they are, that is, stand-alone graphic novels (as opposed to collections of a regular monthly or bi-weekly series). There is also no explanation of where, why or how this story fits into the character’s history.
None of these quibbles will prevent me from reading the next installment, though. No doubt Morrison has some interesting ideas up his sleeve for that one too.