I suppose the fact that they couldn't find any letters praising the new JMS reboot for the Wonder Woman lettercol this week proves that this direction just isn't working. Really, though, I'm not that horrified. She'll be back to herself when it's over, and we'll have some nice Hester-written moments to show for it. My reaction to Wonder Woman reboots has changed from outrage to fatigue, because really this is a character that has been rebooted and reinvented so many times that this resiliency has become part of her franchise. Kanigher retooled the origin to get rid of the golem part and add some boyfriends in her teen years (for some reason, though, every commentator seems to focus on Hippolyta's makeover and losing the Holliday Girls--who did show up after a few dozen issues) and did some Golden Age revival attempts, but it really started with O'Neil. Ever since he took out both the Paradise Island and Man's World supporting casts, her powers, and her costume in one fell swoop we've seen writer after writer change the place.
I mean, we all know the Post-Crisis history of cast devastation and sporadic revival. JMS reboots the whole damned thing after Simone had to rebuild the supporting cast because Pfieffer tore up the Amazons in a crossover after Heinberg brought back the secret identity/secret agent and Rucka left the place in ruins on Infinite Crisis orders. This was of course after Jimenez took out her mother and brought back some Golden Age villains after a series of quite forgettable writers failed to do anything interesting with the elements Byrne brought back once he'd erased the entire Boston supporting cast, which had been put in post-Crisis to replace the classic military supporting cast that he shoved to the side along with the personalities of the gods and any Amazon technological advancements. No matter how good the writer, they are either responsible for or immediately followed by mass destruction of any recognizable elements.
But much as I get on about Perez (and damn it, I will still complain about Perez), this was nothing new. A sampling of Bronze Age comics easily reveals a similar addiction to soft reboots. After O'Neil, they drop the white suit and bring back the powers, go on for a bit, bring back Steve, play around on Earth-2 for several issues at a time, kill Steve, then bring back Steve and wipe Diana's memory. They move her from Washington to New York to Washington again. The UN to the Pentagon. I think this constant change is why I see Diana as an active explorer and a traveler. She doesn't put down for very long. (Simone's run was pretty good in that she incorporated travel into the plotlines, focusing on Diana rather than try to convince us to accept a brand new supporting cast as permanent fixtures.)
Thing is, hard reboots--retelling the origin completely from scratch--are few and far between. We've had Perez and JMS (which is only fleeting anyway). Anything else (Heinberg) has been a flashback retcon in the middle of the moving story. Diana's still the same Diana, just with a slightly altered past. Pre-Crisis we had Marston and Kanigher and.. well, a particularly odd one from Roy and Danette Thomas. See, back in 1983 they decided they might try a harder-edged Wonder Woman for a while. Even that far back it seems they wanted to drop the boyfriend and the motivated initially by romance thing to reflect modern sensibilities, and this seems to be the first try for this.
Umm.. yeah. I didn't photoshop that, that's really what she says when she wins. And it gets more annoying to me. See, as they fly home Diana makes her intentions very clear to Steve.
That's right, no dating, because he's a man and he sucks. At this point, and I believe it's intentional, we're meant to think she sounds pretty terrible and might be a bad guy. But JUST in case, old Roy wants to drive the point home by giving us her thoughts on killing in battle.
To be fair, she doesn't kill the guy. But clearly we're dealing with a brand new Diana here. Even more of an overhaul, I'd say, than O'Neil gave. (On the plus side, she did not give up her powers for a man!) However, as this is an origin story she's going to have to learn a valuable lesson. From, of course, a man...
Now, all of us and Steve know at this point that he has no chance in hell of actually hitting her with a bullet. He even tells his men that she can deflect them, but of course they shoot anyway and things go from bad to worse.
Turns out poor Diana really did feel something for the guy. She's horrified and upset, and flees the scene not out of fear but grief. A regretful scene later, she decides to turn over a new leaf but the damage has been done. She's been branded as criminal menace and must now seek redemption while on the run!
If this had become the regular origin, I imagine I'd be infuriated. But as it goes, this was a gutsy attempt. He has her come to the world all full of war and judgment, which causes tragedy and teaches her a lesson. And we have a Wonder Woman: Fugitive! set-up at the end. Could've worked, if they'd given it a chance. But really, it didn't last very long and before you knew it we were back to the regular setup and Mishkin took over. And I'm glad, because while heroes that start off bad and learn an important lesson are compelling, one of the things that makes Diana unique is that her origin is relatively untragic and her motives are optimistic and altruistic.
She lives an idyllic life which is disrupted by the appearance of a man--a creature she's only heard stories about. She rescues him, nurses him back to health, and wins the opportunity to accompany him back to his legendary world and fight the terrible evil that threatens it. She becomes a great hero to the universe and maps the modern world for her people. She's an explorer, a traveler, a wandering hero who takes the first opportunity to leave home and seek her destiny. She's not a reformed villainess, a woman haunted by her failures or traumatized by her losses and mistakes. She's a peacemaker and a warrior, and yes I do agree that she would kill if it was absolutely necessary but she has the wisdom to know when it's necessary and she doesn't carry the guilt of reckless destruction with her. She is isolated, caught between two cultures, and carries the heavy burden of the mythic hero who must always put aside her personal wants to serve the greater good, but she's a genuinely good person who came from a genuinely good place. She's not a dark character, and making her one simply doesn't ring true, even if you start from scratch with a reboot.
All scans from Wonder Woman #300, written by Roy and Dann Thomas, art by Keith Pollard. I advise anyone who gets a chance to pick it up and read the whole thing, because it has some very interesting ideas in it.