Growing up, my days were spent immersed in books and comic books. And my favorite comic book character was Wonder Woman. I was inspired by characters like Hermione Granger, but Wonder Woman always represented a dual side of feminity that I rarely saw. She was kind, empathetic, powerful and ferocious, two sides of the coin in a time when girls are taught they can be feminine or ferocious, but never both. As a girl who cried when she read a sad story but also punched a boy in the face when he grabbed the zipper of my jumper, Wonder Woman was an idol I needed.
So years later, when Random House announced DC Icons, a series pairing beloved comic book characters with best-selling young adult authors such as Leigh Bardugo and Marie Lu, I enthusiastically waited to see what stories would be crafted for our teen heroes. I was also ecstatic to learn the first in the series was Wonder Woman: Warbringer. This new adaptation, written by Leigh Bardugo, author of Six of Crows and the Shadow and Bone trilogy, explores Diana’s teen years before anyone had heard the name Wonder Woman. What’s so tantalizing about this book is that it stays true to Diana’s roots and origins while building a superhero for the times.
From the very start, Bardugo is determined to put her own spin on Diana’s story. This includes the pivotal point when Diana is introduced to the outside world. There is still a daring ocean dive and a rescue, but Diana pulls a girl named Alia from the wreckage. The two girls bond over the need to prove themselves, and the basis for a female friendship is built. Diana’s quest is not rooted in the love of a man (sorry, Steve Trevor), but in helping a fellow girl and proving herself to her Amazon sisters. Alia is a descendant of Helen of Troy and must either be killed or purified in the waters near Helen of Troy’s grave before her seventeenth birthday, or her powers of destruction will bring about the end of the world. From the very beginning, Diana and Alia’s joint story is rooted in what happens when girls support each other, tackling foes both mortal and legendary.
Themyscira, the island home of Diana and the Amazons, gets a renovation as well. Choosing to pull away from the idea of Amazons being an ancient super-race, Bardugo makes the Amazons everyday woman who have proved their bravery and courage in battle. In this mythology, a woman must call out to a female goddess, any goddess, from any culture or any era in her last moments, and she is offered a place on the island. Because of this rule, we see a diverse range of Amazonian woman spanning race, culture, and identity. We still see Hippolyta, Diana’s mother and fabled Amazon queen, as well as newer faces such as Diana’s friend Maeve, a girl who perished during the Irish war for Independence.
While Bardugo does an excellent job rooting Diana’s story in its Greek mythology origins, with prominent icons such as Helen of Troy playing a part in the storyline and Greek deities portraying both saviors and villains in the text, this mythology includes goddesses from all cultures and eras. Some of the deities specifically mentioned include Celtic Saint Brigid and Hindu goddess Durga.
Diana is introduced to the topic of race in the modern world as well. Alia, a young black woman, is frequently grounding her experiences in modern day New York by commenting on the way her skin color often makes her the odd one out in her expensive private school, or how people walk up to her and apologize when the topic of race is brought up in class. Bardugo does an excellent job of portraying her characters of color with research and respect. A particularly powerful scene is when Alia and Diana are in the aisles of a Duane Read store. Their travel has left them dirty and without shoes. Diana is oogled and Alia is followed by a suspicious security cop.
As both a Latina and member of the LGBTQ spectrum, the diverse and intersectional characters, particularly Nim, the self-proclaimed fat, bisexual Indian girl, are important to me as a reader. LGBTQ characters, especially women of color, are hard to come by in the publishing world. Yet, Nim is just one of a diverse group of main characters, and her courage and confidence make her as much of a hero as Diana and in her own way, a better one.
Altogether, Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a perfectly blended story that takes the comic book characters we love and intertwines them with powerful prose and important lessons. This is a Diana who can inspire the girls of today.
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Macey Lavoie is a Boston based writer currently completing her MFA in Popular Fiction & Publishing at Emerson College. She is a feminist, book enthusiast and self proclaimed lover of sharks. She has been published in HerCampus and Luna Luna Magazine. When she is not busy jotting down ideas in her notebook she can be found reading with her toes in the sand.