[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for “Wonder Woman” #2.]
Normally, a comic book publisher restarting their continuity in a massive, company-wide event or initiative is viewed with equal parts excitement (from those looking for a change to the status quo) and and cynicism (by those who feel the moves are purely to drive sales). But in the case of the DC Rebirth, things are a little different. For starters, it’s not a reboot. And instead of taking DC’s icons into strange new territories, the mandate is to instead return them to the heart of their own character, history, and legacy.
In the case of Wonder Woman, the added release of not one, but two issues per month has been put to unique use by the publisher. Instead of writer Greg Rucka telling one story with art duties swapping between Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott, the team is telling two stories concurrently. “Wonder Woman” #1 began Diana’s present day story, with Issue #2 beginning Rucka and Scott’s “Year One” arc. And beginning with Diana’s days on the island of Themyscira, one significant change has been made… that even readers may have missed.
It appears that Steve Trevor will still be the first man to set foot on Themyscira, and therefore the first man Diana will ever love… but that doesn’t mean he’s the first person.
Wonder Woman’s First Origin
Since the “Year One” tweak – or hint of one – addresses a lingering problem with the origin story of Wonder Woman, it’s best to give a quick breakdown for those who may be new to the comic universe. And in the grand scheme of things, the creation of the Wonder Woman character was both political and inspired. With Batman and Superman having skyrocketed the comic book medium among children and adults, it came with some critics: one of whom, William Moulton Marston, claimed in 1940 that comics possessed serious educational potential – which was not being shown.
Instead of arguing, publisher Max Gaines hired Marston to create a hero. With the idea that the hero should achieve victory not with brute force, but love, it was the urging of his wife that made the hero a heroine. The broad idea was to create a heroine who was strong, resolute, and powerful among other heroes, while still possessing the then-considered ‘female’ traits.
The creation was ‘Wonder Woman,’ a princess of an ancient, all-female society living in secret on a hidden island. When a soldier named Steve Trevor crashed on said island, he won the love of Diana, sending her to the world of man to return Trevor and defend the Amazonian ideals of peace and honor.
As tempting as it may be to applaud Marston for being ‘ahead of his time,’ the origin story still reads as a little silly. As pictured above, it’s Diana’s love for Steve Trevor that drives her to the world of man… a love that she was overcome with while Trevor was unconscious. In the comics since, writers have made an effort to add more depth to the story, assuming that Diana and Trevor’s relationship grew overtime, or was based on something other than the fact that he was literally the first man she had ever seen.
It’s a strangely stereotypical and archaic wrinkle: even Diana’s original origin – a clay form built by her mother, Hippolyta, before praying that the gods would bring it to life and grant her a daughter – keeps the all-women theme alive. Without a father (or a mortal one, at least) the daughter of the Amazons is truly that. Of women, for women, as a woman.
But it’s hard to overlook the obvious imagery and connotations: society of women is invaded by a man, their greatest warrior and princess can’t help but fall under his spell, and leaves her home for the world of man. Whichever way you cut it, it’s hard to view the meeting or departure of Diana as emowering. Not impossible, but hard.
‘Year One’ Begins
Here’s where “Year One” comes in. In terms of the big picture, the character’s introduction is in keeping with most of the ideas that informed her original incarnation. Diana is shown to be affectionate and loving to her mother, and her sisters (with a woman named Kasia singled out as one of particular significance). Not only that, but a bit more time is spent explaining why Diana is so curious about the world of man that exists on the other side of the waters surrounding the island. While her older sisters remember the world they left behind, retreating to Themyscira to form their own society, Diana never saw it.
Still, there’s good reason to not go looking for it to appease her curiosity: as Kasia reminds her (and the reader), any woman who chooses to leave Themyscira – a gift from the gods – will forfeit their citizenship forever. But the modern half of the series has already established that Diana chose to do so, and any Wonder Woman fan can guess that Steve Trevor has a role to play in the decision. “Year One” wastes no time in showing the parallels between Diana and Steve long before they ever met, with each being trained for a life of service, enjoying time with friends… yet feeling restless in their own lives.
During a ‘montage’ of life moments spliced together between the two, one scene depicting Diana at home stands out. See if you can catch it:
It isn’t the double entendre of Diana “getting lucky” we’re referring to (not directly, anyway), but the scene of her bathing among her Amazonian sisters. Specifically, the fact that an unnamed character can’t help but state how attractive Diana appears (“Gods, she’s killing me”). Without missing a beat, another unnamed woman replies that she is under the impression that Diana and Kasia are… in some way connected – the same way that Diana has also been believed to be connected to two other women.
We’re certainly not looking to send heads spinning at the thought that this new origin for Wonder Woman includes a love affair, or romantic relationship with a fellow Amazonian woman (even Rucka chose to strongly imply it, without outright stating it, meaning this story is most certainly not ABOUT Diana’s sexuality).
But it raises yet another question that can only really be answered with the passage of time: does it really make sense that Diana would grow up and reach adulthood in a world populated by only women without ever developing feelings deeper than friendship? Are we to believe that the Amazons deny themselves any sexuality, in a world shaped by classical Greek and Roman society, no less, in which same-sex relationships were less taboo?
It’s a conversation that fans will no doubt enjoy having, but from this first hint, the idea that Diana is an adult, having loved and been loved by other consenting adults before she ever meets ‘Steve Trevor’ is an interesting one. For starters, it instantly legitimizes any feelings for Trevor (Diana has known intimacy with someone). And secondly, the idea that Diana hasn’t just developed relationships with women, but enough for her sisters to have trouble keeping straight is an unexpected, and even more intriguing detail.
If the first version of Diana in comics was as virginal as a woman can be, having her world torn asunder by the first human with a Y chromosome she meets, what’s more modern than a Diana who is not only a sexually mature and experienced adult, but one who has been attracted to several people in her life?
Sure, there will be those who complain that such a ‘twist’ is a shameless push for ‘diversity’ on DC’s part. But it’s hard to claim Rucka’s team is going out on a limb, with the woman implied to have loved women being… well, raised by women, surrounded by women her entire life, and created by a man who famously had two wives. In other words, Diana has always been a tricky figure when it comes to romance – Rucka may have skipped that problem before she and her famous leading man even met.
And in the end, if a single line of vague dialogue is all it takes to recognize an entire portion of the fan base – a fan base devoted to a powerful woman, not a powerful heterosexual woman – then why shouldn’t Rucka and his team?
Wonder Woman #2 is available now.