4 out of 5
Latter-day Grant Morrison is an odd cat. Odd? Morrison? Sure, but as with Alan Moore (and ain’t the pair sick of being compared…), once you’ve sampled enough of his work, even his most sprawling and confusing projects shares themes from across his timeline which help to wrangle it into something manageable. And so, setting aside early 2000 AD-era Grant, you have his early Vertigo proving grounds of wrapping poetry and narrative into metatextual summaries of his own rises and falls within an ever-expanding universe; early DC Grant (and some Marvel dabblings) has him recasting comics as totems, syncing his world-view to something that can be blown out and exploded to four color hero books. A temporary return to Vertigo served as a refresher in making these things tighter and more concise, leading up to his 52 / Seven Soldiers / Batman / Final Crisis revamping of… the entire universe, through the lens of pop culture comics. Take a breath; take a bow, and he wanders thereafter. Misfires at Vertigo. Weird genre attempts that feel like a man who’s always used his right hand trying to write with his left. And then, eventually, he landed that gig at Heavy Metal. And while it hasn’t been my cup of tea, and it’s massively indulgent, it feels like a full circle back to 2000 AD in a sense, a way to play around and be a bad boy while sort of being faceless at the same time, as in not the face of the DCU. Some things have still been written concurrently that haven’t done too much for me, but they share a sense of “let’s give this a shot” abandon that’s appealing.
Wonder Woman Earth One – part of DCs sorta kinda Elseworlds-y standalone retellings of major heroes’ touchpoints or origins – arrived amidst some eye-rolly controversy of Grant and artist Yanick Paquette returning the character to her bondage-infused roots, and then there was talk of Steve Trevor bound in slave / master gear and whatnot. I rolled my eyes.
But: it turns out, these are the fruits of the fun labors Grant’s been committing elsewhere. He can now return to hero writing cool and collected, not needing to wow us with the ol’ Morrison let-me-resummarize-all-of-existence-in-reference-to-this-comic macro writing. Wonder Woman Earth One is pretty massive, but it’s presented in this lucid, flowing style that is showy from the perspective of Paquette’s labyrinthine page layouts, looped by lasso borders and tiara-shaped panels, but actually reading the thing is to have it feel otherwise: Yanick is in sync with Grant, seesawing along with the free-flow narrative, which slips in and around a trial in Amazonia at which the young Diana is the accused, bound in the much-emphasized chains while her mother berates her for breaking Paradise Island protocol. What law has been broken? And why? And old Grant may have blown this mystery out to larger proportions, but – while certainly being the focus of the book – it also takes a backseat to the events sorta surrounding the mystery, which kinda sorta then solves the mystery itself. Diana meets Steve; Diana flies an invisible plane to Earth; Diana learns English, is shocked at the state of the world, and then we’re back at the trial. I was half-wondering if a narrative was going to kick in when it dawned on me how much I was enjoying just being swept along (by the words; by the art) by the thing. The Earth One bent is how this leads up to Diana earning her Wonder Woman title.
And some of it is a bit over-stuffed: the other Amazons don’t really get a chance to assert themselves with much personality, which makes their role in the ceremonies preceding the trial lacking some impact; the jump between Diana visiting Earth and returning to Paradise Island feels a little hurried, but Grant does make a point throughout to keep weaving back to the trial, so trailing that out much longer would have likely disrupted the flow. But it’s exciting: it’s an origin story without all the usual trappings or the more obvious Morrison gusto; it swirls up from seemingly random images and words to create something cohesive and, yeah, inspiring at points. And I don’t know the last time I would’ve said something like that about a book from the Big Two.