SPOILER Warning: Spoilers For Wonder Woman Follow
While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice introduced the world to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, it was the Wonder Woman movie that revealed the characters origin story. At first, the film seemed to be using Diana’s classic comic book origin story, but a third act twist revealed that everything is not as it seemed.
All her life, Diana was told that she was crafted from clay by her mother Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. It is only during her confrontation with Ares at the end of the film that she discovers the truth, which is that she is actually the daughter of Zeus.
All of this is deeply rooted in Wonder Woman’s comic book lore. The idea that Wonder Woman was sculpted from clay and brought to life by the codes was made canon when George Perez gave Wonder Woman a new origin story following the DC Comics event Crisis on Infinite Earth and subsequent rebooting of the DC Comics universe in 1987. Perez made a point of tying Wonder Woman’s history directly to Greek mythology and made Ares one of her chief rivals.
That origin remained until DC Comics rebooted its universe once again in 2011 following the Flashpoint event. The new Wonder Woman series that launched as part of DC’s “New 52” line of books was written by Brian Azzarello with art by Cliff Chiang and, at first, seemed to carry over Diana’s previous origin, but it is revealed a few issues into the series that this origin is a lie that has been told to Diana to cover up her true heritage as one of many bastard children of Zeus.
From there, Azzarello and Chiang took their Wonder Woman series in an unexpected direction. They introduced the New 52 version of the Greek pantheon, who have more in common with the deities of American Gods than the figures from classical myth. Ares is included among them, but rather than a straight villain he’s a mentor to Wonder Woman who is training her to, reluctantly, take his place as the god of war.
Wonder Woman, God of War
The rest of the series plays out like an action-packed family drama for the gods. Apollo usurps Zeus’ throne on Olympus but is challenged by the First Born, Zeus’s very first bastard. Hera is forced to get over her petty jealousy and ally with Wonder Woman, who has become dedicated to gathering Zeus’ wayward children and protecting Zeus’s latest offspring who still resides in the womb of a human woman named Zola.
The New 52 Wonder Woman series is arguably the darkest version of Wonder Woman ever told. In order to explain how the Amazon population remains stable, Azzarello drew fro the gritty “history” of Herodotus, who described the Amazons as an all-female tribe of merciless marauders who would rape and murder any man they encountered. In a controversial retcon, Azzarello turned a seafaring version of this history into the lifestyle of DC Comics’ Amazon, who would capture ships who ran afoul of Themiscyra, "have their way with," and then murder the men and dispose of any male offspring that were born from the encounter.
While the Amazon origin is certainly the darkest in the run, the entire series is full of bloody battles and images and tone more in line with a horror story than an epic fantasy. However, though the tale may be grim, the action gory, and the characters unnerving, Wonder Woman remains a hero throughout. This isn’t Wonder Woman losing her way and snapping someone’s neck as she did in the lead up to Infinite Crisis. This is Wonder Woman having her entire existence and identity upended and building a found family of fellow misfits around her and refusing to back down when that family is threatened.prevnext
Legacy, Rebirth, and the DCEU
The more recent DC Rebirth relaunch of Wonder Woman has done much to return to Wonder Woman to her former self, once again becoming the embodiment of love rather war. Yet Azzarello, Chiang, and their collaborators told one of the most unique and memorable Wonder Woman stories of all time by subverting what was expected from the character and her world, and it remains an excellent read for anyone interested in seeing Wonder Woman in a light that isn’t quite is bright as usual.
The Wonder Woman movie certainly lead on the iconic heroine Wonder Woman more than the horror-tinged version, but it did also codify the origin introduced in that darker interpretation of the character. It will be interesting to see, going forward, if the Wonder Woman sequels introduce more elements of the New 52 run. Could we see more of Zeus’s children, such as the First Born? Or could Diana be tempted to become the new god of war after slaying Ares? There’s no way to tell for now, but it is something interesting to consider while waiting for more sequel news.
If you're interested in reading Azzarello and Chiang's run on Wonder Woman it is collected in six volumes - Blood, Guts, Iron, War, Flesh, and Bones - as well as two Absolute Edition oversized hardcovers. Check with your local comic book store or find them on Amazon.prevnext
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