Wonder Woman stories are built to lean toward the fantastic. After all, Wonder Woman herself is a fantastic character, coming from Theymiscira, with ties to the gods, and having just battled her way back from the afterlife in the main Wonder Woman title. It's with that fantastic element in mind that Wonder Woman: Evolution #1 comes into play. Written by Stephanie Phillips with pencils by Mike Hawthorne, inks by Adriano Di Benedetto, and colors by Jordie Bellaire, the new series sees Diana put to the test when she's chosen as a representative in a cosmic trial for the fate of humanity. But while that's an engaging premise, in the execution what we get for this first issue is a lot less dynamic and a bit slower to unfold and while setting the stage for the larger story to come is critical in a first issue, so is setting expectations, which this issue sets at a fairly low bar.
At issue in Wonder Woman: Evolution #1 is how we enter the story. The issue feels very much divided into halves with the first centered around a battle between Wonder Woman and Vanessa Kapatelis/Silver Swan, the latter of which has taken a group of children hostage to lure out Wonder Woman. It's a setup intended to see Diana struggle with the desire to save her enemy and what her choices mean - which is very much par for the course with Wonder Woman, who is constantly weighing her choices and desire to always do the most good. The second half of the issue centers around a discussion about matters with a good friend, that friend being Superman. It's a wise choice, having Diana and Clark be the pair talking about their roles in the world as well as the morality of their choices, but the problem here is that it all feels drawn out while also feeling very much like beats we've seen before.
And that is, at its heart, the biggest issue with Wonder Woman: Evolution #1. Diana is frequently made to stand for humanity. She's frequently put in positions where she has to do the right thing for the wrong people and then deal with the moral questions that come from her choices as they connect to her own values. Given Phillips has proven her ability to craft really refreshing and engaging stories with well-known characters with well-trod paths—I'm specifically referring to her work on Harley Quinn—it's clear that as this series continues things will pick up. But for those who are not familiar with Phillips' work, this issue does not show that promise.
Also a bit of a letdown in this issue is the art. There's no kind way to put this, but the faces on the characters in this issue are weird, inconsistent, frequently contorted, and in a few instances they seem like they are lacking actual eyes, which is creepy. Yes, giving Diana more classical features is a nice take, but the net effect is very strange. There are also a lot of issues in character physical proportions to the point of distraction. If the text of the issue wasn't already challenging enough in terms, the art simply doesn't help.
Overall, Wonder Woman: Evolution #1 is well-intentioned, but a rough start. If you know Phillips' work, you have an idea that this will likely level out and what sounds good in theory could take off for a truly epic adventure. But just based on this issue, it feels like we're getting a flat, unoriginal story that doesn't take enough big swings or even dig deep enough into the content of Wonder Woman's character to get past the very uneven and distracting art that makes the issue difficult to look at.
Published by DC Comics
On November 16, 2021
Written by Stephanie Phillips
Art by Mike Hawthorne and Adriano de Benedetto
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Tom Napolitano
Cover by Mike Hawthorne and Jordie Bellaire