Deconstruction of a Feminist Icon:
Wonder Woman was created to challenge the male-dominated world of comic books. As such, many writers, artists, editors (of both sexes) have found her a difficult character to handle appropriately. The way superheroes in general are viewed has made the idea of a compassionate warrior who doesn’t carry a weapon seem out-dated and naive. In the ’90s (of course), as I said before, an Elseworlds comic of a bad future depicted Wonder Woman as armored and with a sword. This image (as well as the attitude that superheroes must be dark and gritty) seemed to have persisted into the mainstream universe. And then Wonder Woman killed Max Lord (totally pointlessly, I might add) which made her a figure of fear and death instead of love and truth.
In the New 52 pretty much everything that made Wonder Woman a unique feminist icon was removed. The Amazons were no longer an advanced, peaceful technomagical society of immortal women. They have been reduced to barbarian savages rather like Xena (Warrior Princess) before she reformed who are disdainful of men and prey on them to continue their society. They killed their own brothers just for being boys and only stopped that practice when the blacksmith god offered to trade them weapons for the boys who were made slaves. Wonder Woman did not get her power from the goddess of love but from a one-night stand between the king of the gods and Hippolyta and was lied to her about her origin. She did not learn how to fight from her sisters but from the god of war. She gained the ability of flight from the messenger god. Everything that gives her power comes from men.
Hera, who is the goddess of women, was made into Wonder Woman’s vengeful enemy. In a key battle with Artemis, Wonder Woman takes off her vambraces, long since the symbol of the Amazons, to channel the full power of her father to defeat her own namesake. She slayed Ares (it was a mercy killing) and is now the goddess of war (and the actual goddess of war is nowhere to be found for most of the 36 issues and then kind of takes off on her own). She carried a sword and now her vambraces produce the sword. She’s also relegated to Superman’s girlfriend in any comics outside her own (although that’s a different rant).
The worst part is that I think some of the creative team think they’re still keeping her true to her feminist roots. She’s still really physically strong and she doesn’t take no disrespect from no man. Except that’s not what makes a character good or strong or a feminist. Threatening to do bodily and uniquely male damage to Guy Gardener doesn’t make her a feminist; it makes her a bully. Strong women do not threaten men with harm for disrespecting them any more than strong men do.
Good Story, Bad Continuity:
A story that showcases characters in shared universes with wildly divergent takes on the mainstream representation is not automatically a bad story (see Elseworlds, or some examples of fan-fiction). The elements of a good story are the same regardless of the source material. As such, I can understand why many people seem to think the New 52 Wonder Woman comics tell good stories. There is a lot of action and politics and as one reviewer described, a Game of Thrones kind of vibe. The artwork had detractors but I liked the minimalist, straightforward style (even if I strongly, strongly disagree with many of the character designs/interpretations). Wonder Woman looked powerful but not overly sexualized. I understand there are a lot of good points about the New 52. However, this same positive reviewer described the essential problem without even a hint that he understood it was a problem – her story is like Kratos from the “God of War” games.