This controversial milestone issue, which again is light on action and focuses more on dialogue, introduces the already trailed new origin for Wonder Woman, although Azzarello kept insisting in interviews that in fact all he had done was enhance the original. And yet while Batman and Superman had emerged through the relaunch with their original origins fundamentally intact, many asked why did DC feel the need to alter Diana’s? Azzarello and Chiang explained in an interview given to Newsrama that in fact DC had been intending to make even more radical changes and that they had “stepped in” to protect the character.
So, in this issue a shocked Diana learns form her mother that in fact she had never been formed from clay and gifted her powers by the Gods and it had all been a lie. In truth Hippolyta and Zeus had enjoyed a passionate affair, which had resulted in the God giving the Amazon Queen a child. Hippolyta had kept the truth from her daughter all these years in order to protect her and to avoid Hera discovering the truth and slaying the young Amazon Princess at birth in a fit of jealous rage.
“It made sense in terms of Greek mythology.” the creators stated. “If we’re trying to tie her into that, giving her a father, it just made real clean sense to me that it would be Zeus,” Chiang added. “It also makes sense for the story. The whole reason for all this stuff is story, and adding this stuff to the origin gives us a huge family of hers to play with. She has responsibilities. This is blood we’re talking about now. And it gives her a supporting cast that’s tied so closely with her that it provides lots of story for us. And I think that’s the most important thing.”
“It brings the stakes home,” Azzarello continued. “She’s got a family now, you know? She’s got a dysfunctional family now, and it’s not all women. And how she deals with that family is what we’re going to be dealing with for the next year.”
As you can imagine, this radical change caused much heated debate amongst the fan community. Some fans felt that the change made sense – making her more human and therefore more relatable.
“Wonder Woman feels like she’s been put on a pedestal for so long, and it’s hard to write that character because they’re perfect and they can’t do anything wrong,” Chiang said. “And now, we’ve made her more human and understandable.”
Others however felt that her very uniqueness amongst the DC Universe heroes and the “magical” element that had captured the imagination of readers for so many years had been stripped away – leaving Diana to be nothing more than just another “bastard child of Zeus” and as a result a little less “Wonderous”. Some long term fans in particular were convinced that this was simply all part of DC’s new approach to make their characters more “relevant for a modern world”, by making the “Wonder Woman” title less a super heroine comic book and more reminiscent instead of a typical soap drama – in a misguided belief that this would somehow appeal better to a female readership!
There was at least unanimous relief that Hippolyta had not been raped by Zeus and instead of being born out of violence, Diana had at least been born out of a loving – albeit brief – relationship.
Azzarello rather puzzlingly also stated that Wonder Woman’s new origin story did not eliminate the old one. He said that it kept the stories that have been told in the past, but added a new layer to them. “We’re not changing her origin,” Azzarello continued. “We’re enhancing it. The story of her original origin is still there. We’re not hurting her at all. We’re making her better.”
And yet, there are so many examples where this statement makes no sense whatsoever. During the “War of the Gods” story arc by George Perez, the sorceress Circe turned Diana back into her original clay form. During John Byrne’s run, Wonder Woman again slowly reverted back to her original clay form and Brian K. Vaughn had fun in a two part filler story, in which the Batman villain Clay Face manages to steal some of Diana’s original clay essence. So, if the whole “created from clay” story is supposed to be a lie – how can any of these stories and many others like it still remain valid?
Meanwhile, Diana made her long awaited debut in the new “Justice League” title, where we see that in this new DC universe Steve Trevor is still alive and well. It seemed a little strange that this major supporting character for Wonder Woman had been revealed in a title other than her own – and as yet it was unclear how – or even if – Trevor would figure in Azzarello’s own story plans.
Geoff John’s and Jim Lee’s version of Diana was a sexy warrior, who relishes a fight and leaps rather rashly into danger at the first sign of it. She is also not viewed particularly positively by the general public -seen as both a heathen and a menace to public property and the rule of law in general -leaving a frustrated Steve Trevor with the impossible task of trying to keep her in check!
Clearly, it would be interesting to see how these very disparate interpretations of Diana would be made to gel together in the future…
Interview quotes taken from Newsrama
The issue begins with a montage of images. We see the beach of Paradise Island at night where Wonder Woman, Hermes, Zola, Aleka and the other Amazons watch the burning funeral pyres of their fallen sisters, while back in the deserted city a lonely Hippolyta kneels on the floor, distraught at what she has just done and vowing to Diana that she will spend a lifetime to take back this day. We then go back in time a few hours to witness the events leading up to these moments...
As the sun beats down from an azure sky, the Amazons work to build the funeral pyres. Daphne tells Aleka that she is ashamed of herself and what they have lost. Aleka asks if she is referring to Strife or the mortal, Zola? She continues to reassure Daphne that she should hold no shame and that instead the blame lies with “Clay”.
A watching Strife, lounging on the beach and still towering over the Amazons, hears this conversation and bemused, asks Aleka who “Clay” is? Do they mean Princess Diana? The Goddess laughs at this and the Amazons snap back that first Strife tricks them into killing each other, then watches them build their funeral pyres and now she further mocks them by laughing at them. Daphne states “A God’s appetite truly has no shame.” A smiling Strife replies that she intends no mockery and simply finds it amusing, as she had thought she was the only one on the island casting some shade…
A little later Strife is speaking with Wonder Woman who watches the hustle and bustle of the city square below from her balcony. The Amazon Princess tells the enquiring Goddess that not since she was a child growing up on the island has she been called “Clay”. “Children can be cruel” replies Strife and Hermes, who is down in the square with Zola, caustically adds that some also never grow up. Strife shrinks herself down to normal size and approaches the still healing God menacingly. Hermes raises his staff and warns her not to push him. A smirking Strife responds that she would not dream of it and anyway, in his current state he might just fall down.
Enraged, Hermes snaps back that he is in this state because of her mother. Strife adds that her mother is angry, hurt, jealous and vengeful. And her cruelty makes that of a child look like play. Wonder Woman leaps down to join them saying “Play? Like when a child laughs chasing a grasshopper whose leg they have just pulled off? There’s a reason why when children behave this way we refer to them as playing God.” Strife leans forward and replies “Right. So let’s not play anymore Diana. Let’s be.”
As Strife walks over to a table to pour herself some wine Wonder Woman says that the Goddess had said earlier that she was her sister and that the Amazon Princess cannot think of anything she would rather notbe! Strife says that unfortunately they do not get to choose their family. “My mother…she’s not very forthcoming” she adds. “That’s something we share…you and I.”
Suddenly they hear Hippolyta’s voice bark “Enough!” as the Amazon Queen, surrounded by the closest members of her entourage, stride across the square towards the group. “Your Father, Strife. Apparently he was more open?” asks the Queen. She is told that wine loosened his tongue when she was with him. “Yours?” she asks, handing the goblet of wine to Hippolyta, who swats it away angrily.
She then walks up to Wonder Woman and stealing herself for what she is about to do, lays a gentle hand on her daughter’s shoulder, and says quietly “Diana, before there was you…there was a man.” She proceeds to tell a shocked Diana that centuries ago, she and Zeus had enjoyed a passionate affair as equals…
“How did it start? Those are details I prefer to keep to myself. Though we both agreed to deny the poets what could be their song for age…that of the Queen of the Amazons and the King of the Gods…dancing together. No, that was a song we only sang to each other…
Meanwhile, back on the beach as the sun begins to set, Aleka and her sisters are gently placing the wrapped corpses of their fallen comrades onto the constructed pyres. One of the Amazons says that the Princess has the audacity to call Paradise Island her home. Aleka adds that this is simply where she comes to do her dirty laundry. Another Amazon, Demi, then asks what if the Queen had perished during the attack…what then with the Princess? She is told by the first Amazon that they are treasonous words but Demi replies that it is merely a question to consider. Aleka then asks “as well as where the Princesses’ allegiance lies?”…
Back in the city, as Hippolyta continues with her astounding revelation regarding the passionate and all consuming secret love affair between her and Zeus, the Amazons gather on the beach and kneel as the priestess begins the funeral rite ceremony. “They died as they lived. With honour, sword in hand, as we all wish..” But as the words are spoken an angry Aleka suddenly stands up and cries that the priestess speaks only for herself.
A shocked Demi tries to persuade Aleka to sit down again but the furious Amazon is intent on speaking her mind. “I have no reason to hold my tongue when what I truly hold dear is threatened. She addresses the other Amazons, crying that they are about to burn their own but she burns too. “Amazons! We have been compromised! Paradise has been ruined.” As she speaks we see in the foreground a couple of duelling crabs as one snaps the claw of the other…a metaphor that something is now broken…
In the city Hippolyta explains that their passion left her pregnant with Diana and to hide that secret she left Zeus and he did not follow. Possessing a God apparently has scant to do with keeping him.
As Wonder Woman absorbs this world shattering revelation she murmurs “I was not made of clay.” Her mother replies that she had to protect Diana from Hera, whose jealous rage would have resulted in the Goddess slaying Diana in her crib. Hermes agrees stating “Diana, you’d be dead.” And Strife adds “Or worse.” Wonder Woman pulls herself away from her mother and cries “If my life is a lie can it be worse than death?”
Dessa adds that they had hatched a plan to protect her. Realising that it was not just her mother who had been involved in the conspiracy of lies, a tearful and furious Amazon Princess demands to know why? A crestfallen Hippolyta gently holds her daughter’s face in her hands and says simply “Because I love you.” Wonder Woman then asks if her mother truly knew why she had left the island all those years ago? “I ask because you never did.” she adds.
Hippolyta replies that there are some children who need to go away and find their way home. Wonder Woman removes her mother’s hands and says “Mother…ha…for the first time I can call you that knowing your blood flows through me. You’re so wrong. I’m a lie. You’re a fool. And you made one out of me.”
With that Wonder Woman turns and strides out of the square…
She begins to run and exiting the city she races through the forest, smashing trees out of the way as she goes, lashing out in anger and hurt as she runs away from the trauma she has just endured.
In a matter of a few moments she has already arrived at the beach and collapses onto all fours, trying to gather herself again. She lifts her head and sees the other Amazons gathered there and Aleka, holding a torch, who says “There she is sisters. The one that brought shame to our island.” Instantly Wonder Woman stands up and punches Aleka in the face, sending her sprawling! She picks up the torch and holding it aloft, and with tears welling in her eyes she blows with all her might, sending a pillar of fire across the beach and igniting the pyres.
As Hermes and Zola arrive on the beach she turns to face the stunned Amazons and says “The only shame on this island is mine. And I will take it from you all…never to return. “Diana..” says Demi as tries to speak but Wonder Woman replies “Don’t call me that…or Clay…ever again. I am Wonder Woman”
With that she turns, throwing the still smouldering torch to the ground and walks away up the beach followed by Hermes, Zola and Strife. We see the torch land by the broken crab claw…which lies on the beach disconnected from the whole – just as the Amazon Princess now sees herself to be.