Unlike her male peers, not a great deal is popularly known about Wonder Woman. Sure, she’s a pop-feminist icon, but who is she really? What does she stand for? At times it seems as though the iconography has overtaken the character in the public consciousness.

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Still, there’s a lot to love about Wonder Woman. Her fierceness, tenacity, and unabashedly feminine compassion are qualities that have made for some fantastic comics since the character’s earliest days fighting the patriarchy. Pulling from all across her long history, here are a few essential Wonder Woman readings:

THE WONDER WOMAN CHRONICLES VOL. 1-3 By William Moulton Marston

Wonder Woman

There are several books that have been published on the history of Wonder Woman and her creator William Moulton Marston, and for good reason. A former psychologist, Marston helped develop part of the modern polygraph test (precursor to the Lasso of Truth?), had a unique domestic life and was wildly into BDSM. Yeah, he’s quite the character.

In Wonder Woman is Marston’s belief that a patriarchal society only causes war and suffering (remember, he lived through the world wars). Women, in his mind, are destined to inherit society and spread their love and femininity to bring about peace. To this end, Diana is his crusading political warrior, a vehicle to communicate his then radical ideology.

The early Wonder Woman comics are a bit antiquated, but they are also fearless and explicit in their feminist politics. Marston doesn’t deal with nuances here. His Diana Prince is one who sees the turmoil of Ares, the God of War, and is not afraid to get in fisticuffs over it.

Abrasive, heartfelt, and dangerous. This is where the Wonder Woman mythology begins.

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WONDER WOMAN: SPIRIT OF TRUTH By Paul Dini and Alex Ross

Wonder Woman

WONDER WOMEN: SPIRIT OF TRUTH is a book that, more than anything else, is a character introduction to the heart of Wonder Woman. Sounds boring? It could very easily have been. Thankfully, what makes this book stand out is the marrying of this character intro with the beautiful work of artist Alex Ross.

Some writers and artists choose to highlight the masculine power of Wonder Woman. They want to show why she is fit to stand next to Batman and Superman in the DC Trinity. Not Alex Ross. He paints Wonder Woman in femininity, wisdom, and grace. In other words, he illustrates what lies at the core of the Wonder Woman character. Behind the brutality and brazen grit of her armor is a kind nurturer who would like nothing more than for diplomacy to prevail. Her power is not in spite of her womanhood, but because of it.

What makes SPIRIT OF TRUTH great is that this dichotomy can be felt on each page. There’s a sadness that can be read in the lines of her face. Diana looks both ageless and weary. The beauty of this work is how Ross manages to balance all of this in every painting. Her vulnerability both on display and reserved. If you want the essence (or spirit, sorry, I had to) of Wonder Woman, this is the book to read.

WONDER WOMAN VOL. 1: BLOOD By Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman

When the New 52 launched, there were a lot of protests all across the board. Now, it was not totally unwarranted, but among the books that were critically praised was Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s WONDER WOMAN.

In this reimagining, Diana is the child of Zeus and a demigod. But when the God of Thunder mysteriously goes missing, a power struggle for control of Mt. Olympus ensues. Diana must protect one of Zeus’ illegitimate children and his mortal mother from the Gods’ wrath if there is to be stability on Olympus and Earth.

Like so much of the New 52, this run is contentious among hardcore fans. Diana is a real bruiser, but not without reason. It’s a new spin on a classic character that expands her storytelling potential, but it may not be for everyone.

The reason to read this? Besides being a very well-written series, the New 52 also serves as much of the basis for DC’s on-screen Wonder Woman. Fasten your seat belts, this one hits the ground running.

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WONDER WOMAN: THE HIKETEIA by Greg Rucka, J.G. Jones

Wonder Woman

THE HIKETEIA is a little different of a Wonder Woman book. It is a darker story that delves deeper into some of the tougher Wonder Woman themes of duty and justice. If SPIRIT OF TRUTH is an optimistic look at the reality of Diana’s world, THE HIKETEIA is its pessimistic twin. It retains much of the glimmer of hope at the center of Diana’s moral compass, but everything around her is much grimmer.

The basic synopsis of the book is that Diana grants sanctuary to a girl named Danielle and vows to give her protection. What she doesn’t know, though, is that Batman is after Danielle for a series of murders she committed to avenge her murdered younger sister.

What makes this story a must read is how Rucka and Jones essentially write a Wonder Woman Greek tragedy. It’s poetic, encapsulating, and like so many of the books on this list, challenges the reader to find the core of what makes Diana so gosh darn wonderful.

WONDER WOMAN: GODS AND MORTALS By George Perez

Wonder Woman

Ask most fans where to start reading Wonder Woman and almost unanimously, outside of the original Marston material, George Perez’s run is recommended. It isn’t without good reason. What Perez does with Diana’s mythology is actually execute the vision every writer of her has aspired to create.

In Perez’s WONDER WOMAN, there’s drama, tragedy, grandeur, and incredible fantasy. Diana is a woman raised to reject the notion of assumed power structures and fight for what she has and hopes to have. These stories also channel the fury of the 1980s sex wars. As such, they remain steadfastly important as a piece of historical comic literature.

If you’re looking for a great story, period, this is not one to miss.

WONDER WOMAN: EARTH 1 by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette

Wonder Woman

Aside from Brian Azzarello’s New 52 run, WONDER WOMAN: EARTH 1 is far and away the most contentious title on this list. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. EARTH 1 rifled some feathers because Grant Morrison decided to give a bit of a modern update to the mythology and some people weren’t in favor of it.

In EARTH 1, Diana is on trial accused of treason against the Amazons. What unfolds is a tale told in testimony of Diana’s journey into Man’s world. It’s got all of the friendly features of the original mythos, but with a modern twist. Etta Candy is a sorority sister, Steve Trevor is black, and the Amazons are a tribe of super tech-advanced lesbians (or at least sexually fluid). The complaints drawn were that these changes were unnecessary. This is an Elseworlds story, though, so if the changes were unnecessary, then it shouldn’t matter that they were made. They have very little bearing on the plot besides coloring the panels a little differently than previous authors and artists. If anything, it’s refreshing to see a different, but careful take on such a well-known character. But don’t let controversy turn you away. Read it for yourself to see how you like it! It’s written by Grant Morrison, after all.

WONDER WOMAN: THE CIRCLE by Gail Simone, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson

Wonder Woman

 

No Wonder Woman list would be complete without something by Gail Simone. Not only is she a a woman which gives her stories interesting perspective, but her approach to Wonder Woman differs as well. In THE CIRCLE, Diana must return to Themyscira to defend it from an army of Nazis created by the Secret Society of Super-Villains. In order to do so, she has to find a way to break through the barrier created by Athena to keep the island sealed away. On its own it is an interesting plot, bu the real power of THE CIRCLE is that Gail Simone reimagines Diana in a more human way.

One constant criticism of the DC pantheon of heroes is that they are too god-like and as such are not very relatable. Gail Simone changes that up by giving Diana a driving purpose beyond defending womankind. She’s out to find herself amidst all of the drama of gods, monsters and the patriarchy. Diana is never anything less than a hero, but sometimes you need to look inward before you can go forward as the hero you’re known to be.

In Conclusion…

Wonder Woman is a character with a rich history in crusading patriotism. Never one to sit idly by when injustices are being doled, her moral compass calls her to action. She derives her strength from an unflinching will and never stops short in the pursuit of truth and justice. Her greatest stories keep these remarkable qualities at the forefront. They remember that it isn’t her physical abilities alone that keep her in DC’s top tier, but the fierceness with which she loves and cares for others.

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