17th Jan2020

‘Wonder Woman: Warbringer’ Graphic Novel Review (DC Ink)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Louise Simonson | Art by Kit Seaton | Published by DC Comics/DC Ink

ww-warbringer-cover

I suppose it was inevitable that DC’s biggest female hero would get the Young Adult makeover at some point, and it’s slightly surprising it’s several books in. We’ve seen young versions of Black Canary, Catwoman, Mera, Raven, and Harley Quinn, so now it’s Diana’s turn. Although aimed at the Young Adult market, which is a pretty lucrative one from what I can see, all the previous books have been pretty decent efforts, managing to marry together traditional Young Adult themes with the central core of the characters. I’m expecting more of the same with Young Diana.

So, this graphic novel is actually adapted from the Wonder Woman: Warbringer young adult novel, by bestselling author Leigh Bardugo, the first in the DC Icons series of books, again all aimed at the teen market. I’m beginning to think DC really thinks it’s both missing a trick here, with the primarily female YA genre, and that it has under utilised great female characters. The novel, which came out in 2017, I’m guessing was launched around the time of the excellent Wonder Woman movie, to cash in on all that love. It’s a far cry from the late 1970′s and early 1980′s, when the Wonder Woman comic was only published to keep DC’s trademarks going for licensing rights. This adaptation is in good hands, with comics veteran Louise Simonson, one of the best writers and editors at both DC and Marvel back in the day.

The beginning is a scenario we all recognise, and one we have seen many times. Diana is one of the Amazons living on the hidden island of Themyscira, no Amazons may leave, and no outsiders may visit. Diana is special for two reasons. One, she is the daughter of the Queen, Hippolyta, and two, she was actually formed from clay and given life by the gods. Well, that’s what they told her anyway. Some of the Amazons view her with suspicion, something unnatural, and so she has always felt as though she has to compensate for that, wine very race, wine every fight, try twice as hard as all the other girls. We start the book with a race, one Diana desperately wants to win, but one she will never finish. She sees a sinking boat on fire, just outside the boundary that hides the island and, going against all the rules, swims over to it to save the lone girl survivor. I smell trouble.

Diana is irresponsible, but not stupid, so she hides the girl, Alia, in a cave, and sets about trying to find a boat to get her back to man’s world. Before she can though, strange things start happening. Several Amazons get sick, including Diana’s best friend Maeve, and there’s an earthquake. Why strange? Amazons don’t get sick, and Themyscira has never had an earthquake. So why now? hmmm. Diana takes a trip to the Oracle, and things are not good. Alia is what’s known as a Warbringer, a descendant of the god Nemesis who brings trouble, strife and destruction with them wherever they go. If she stays on the island Alia will die, as will many Amazons, something the Oracle suggests is the best outcome for all. She also suggests the boat being so near the island is no accident, and that the explosion was deliberate, to kill Alia. Diana has a choice, head or heart.

Diana chooses to save Alia by getting her off the island, and we have a kind of odd couple set up for a while, as the chalk and cheese pair sneak their way across Themyscira and get away in a raft. One portal later, they arrive where Alia lives. New York. Yep, you sure aren’t in Themyscira anymore. Part three takes that same odd couple riff, but this time it is Diana who is the odd one out, trying to adapt to the hustle and bustle of New York, a city vaster than anything she has ever seen previously, with all its accompanying sounds, smells, and sights. Along the way we meet Jason, Alia’s brother, and Alia learns the truth about herself. After a whole lot of team teen bonding, Diana tells them they have to reach a spring in Therapne, in Greece, to stop Alia becoming what she fears. And off they go.

Adventures ensue, we find out people are more than we thought they were, goddesses of strife show up to cause trouble, as do gods of panic (Eris and Phobos, I’m looking at you) and the young characters swap stories and Diana finds she is not as different from them as she thought she would be. Although I’m sure they’ve never been chased in a car by a chariot driving God of terror before, so there’s that. The group get to where they have been travelling, and it’s both time for a traitor in their midst to be revealed, and for Diana to die. Yep, she really does. Luckily, she’s got gods on ‘phone a friend’ and she bargains her return, to defeat the traitor, the gods who have allied with them, and to save Alia. Young as she is, this is the Diana we recognise from later years. Raw, lacking experience and training, still a little naive, but always a hero. Which, without giving anything away, the ending shows.

Another strong entry in the DC graphic novels range for YA. Early on, I thought the story was fine but not moving as quickly as I hoped, or doing enough to keep my interest, but then it took a turn I didn’t see coming and really found its feet. It was both a good Wonder (girl?) Woman story, and one with all the themes of friendship, love, hate, betrayal and sacrifice the teen market thrives on. This is a Diana I can recognise, as a long time fan, and one that a 13 year old girl can identify with. The art throughout, by Kit Seaton, was excellent, having to maintain brisk pacing in the layouts and allow for a lot of dialogue, while still making it all pleasing on the eye. Which, of course, it was.

Not for everyone, as it’s not pure superhero stuff, but if you like to see alternate takes on characters, and writers having fun with mythology and teen characters, this’ll do the trick.

On balance, I would say it was…ahem…Wonderful.

**** 4/5

Wonder Woman: Warbringer is available now from Amazon.

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