Fifteen years ago Wonder Woman: Her Greatest Battles would have been the exact sort of trade I would have found profoundly frustrating, back when I was first trying to get into superhero comics. Numbered trades that collected coherent chunks of plot were harder to come by, and the trades I could get my hands on tended to collect a selection of fan favorite issues without the surrounding context. As a newcomer to these heroes’ stories, these collections were disjointed and confusing, and not the good introduction I had hoped for. Now that I have become a more regular reader, I have begun to see the appeal in these greatest hits albums. A best of Wonder Woman sounded particularly fun.
Wonder Woman: Her Greatest Battles collects 7 issues ranging in date from 1987 to 2013. All but one are from a Wonder Woman main title, and the remainder is from Justice League. It’s a solid highlight reel of what makes Wonder Woman stand out, not just as leading lady, but as superhero who isn’t quite like any other. However there are a few missteps that weaken the overall message.
The first two stories are my favorites. “Power Play” by George Perez and “In the Forest of the Night” by John Byrne both show Wonder Woman tackling her greatest foes, Ares and Cheetah, through means other than her prowess as a warrior. My favorite aspect of Wonder Woman has never been her ability to fight, though she can lay the smack down with the best of them, but her ability to go past the fight in front of her to resolve the underlying conflict through communication, wisdom, and compassion. It’s something we see precious little of in other heroes, and that makes her stand out all the brighter. These stories show that part of her to its best advantage.
The next three stories “Stoned: Conclusion” and “Sacrifice: Part Four” by Greg Rucka and “A Murder of Crows Part Two: Throwdown” by Gail Simone all focus on a more martial aspect of Wonder Woman. She goes toe to toe with two of DC’s hardest hitters, Superman and Power Girl, and holds her own. Of the three, Gail Simone’s story made for the most enjoyable read thanks to the more light hearted tone and slight tongue and cheek reference to Wonder Woman’s occasional bondage jokes in her Golden Age adventures.
“Justice League Part Three” by Geoff Johns doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the book. All the other stories come from a plot arc’s climax and illustrate something crucial to the characterization of Wonder Woman. This story however shows her introduction to the New 52’s Justice League. Half the story is about the creation of Cyborg, and the rest is a surface level introduction to Wonder Woman’s character. It lacks the impact of the other stories and doesn’t mesh well with the overall theme.
The final story is “God Down” by Brian Azzarello. It marks the climax of New 52’s Wonder Woman’s relationship with Ares. While I can certainly appreciate how the decision to change Wonder Woman’s relationship with one of her greatest opponents into one of a mentor, the scene at the end of this issue where her first act as the new god of war is to spare an opponent’s life brings a nice sense of closure to the book. It again comes back to the idea that her greatest strength lies in her heart and not her ability to fight.
I still think this book would frustrate someone not familiar with the character due to only showing the crisis moment in most of the stories, but it works well as a look back on some of her best fights for someone who already knows and loves the character.
Miz Opifex is a union electrician by day and a champion of feminine geekery by night. She lives in the American Rust Belt with her cat and a staggering amount of books, movies, and albums on vinyl.