Superhero comic books aren’t always that friendly to new readers. In fact, they can be quite daunting. Newcomers can easily find themselves overwhelmed by storylines that have been going on for years, or even decades. Given the depth of existing mythology, even comics that feature a new hero or boasts a “#1” on the cover aren’t always safe bets. Add in retcons, reboots, character resurrections, and crossover events, and it’s no wonder some people just stick to the movies. Which is a pity, because there are so many good comics out there to experience.
Speaking of movies, in just a few short months, Wonder Woman will finally star in her own film. With multiple flashy trailers sparking people’s interests, it’s easy to assume that some of these people might like to know a thing or two about Diana before stepping into the theater. As a result, I’ve put together a list of suggestions specifically for people who have never picked up a Wonder Woman comic. The selections below run the gambit from stand alone graphic novels, to complete runs, but all of them are pretty friendly to a new audience.
Without future ado, here is my list of recommended Wonder Woman comics for new readers.
The Legend of Wonder Woman. Vol 1: Origins. Written/Artwork by Renae De Liz
The Legend of Wonder Woman is a digital first comic that is now available in graphic novel format. It is also my favorite retelling of Wonder Woman’s origin story. Set during World War II, The Legend of Wonder Woman has all of the hallmarks of a classic Wonder Woman origin story: Amazons, Greek gods, Steve Trevor, man’s world at war… It’s all there, wonderfully told and illustrated by Renae De Liz, whose skilled drawings are brought to the next level thanks to Ray Dillon’s gorgeous coloring. Never has Themyscira looked more paradise-like, or has Etta Candy been such an appealing character. The Legend of Wonder Woman is a great pick for anyone looking to learn more about Diana before entering the theater this June, as the two seem to have a lot in common — just substitute World War I for World War II.
The one clear drawback to this comic is the fact that it will never be finished, despite the misleading “volume 1” on the cover. Even though it received an Eisner nomination, volume two was canceled midway through production. Fortunately, while there are some dangling threads left at the end of Origins, volume one stands on its own well enough, making it a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Written/Artwork by Jill Thompson
If you’re solely interested in learning more about Wonder Woman’s Amazon side, then this graphic novel is a perfect fit. Hand painted by writer/artist Jill Thompson, the artwork here is stunningly gorgeous. At times, it resembles a picture book more than your traditional comic books. And speaking of bucking tradition, one thing that should be said about Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is it does end up taking some liberties with Diana’s personality. While most incarnations of Wonder Woman portray her as brave, intelligent and dignified, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon suggests that these traits were learned, not ones that she was born with. Portraying young Diana as a very spoiled princess who must learn to be a hero might not sit well with some established fans, but it does ground Diana a bit as a character, making her more relatable. In addition, there is something nice about an origin story that’s less about figuring out the right moves and assembling the necessary costume pieces (although that does happen here as well) as much as it is about learning the right mindset. Also, this is the only origin story I’ve personally encountered that doesn’t require Steve Trevor to bring Diana out to our world. If you dislike the ideal of having such an feminist icon’s origin story so dependent on a male character, then maybe The True Amazon — a title a driven by female Amazons — is more to your taste.
Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia. Written by Greg Rucka. Artwork by JG Jones
Wonder Woman’s Amazonian background is one of the corner stones of her character. One of the things that Greg Rucka did so well in his first run with the character is show how this Amazonian side contrasted (and at times clashed) with our modern American world. This run began with a stand-alone graphic novel called Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia. When the comic begins, Diana is just getting settled in to her new position as diplomat from Themyscira to the United States. Then, a young woman arrives, invoking an ancient right for protection, a right that does not sit well with Justice League teammate Batman.
The Hiketia is a great selection for readers looking for a comic that features Diana in the modern world, and her conflicting roles as Amazonian diplomat and Justice League member. This particular graphic novel leads in wonderfully to the rest of Greg Rucka’s run on the character (a personal favorite of mine!). Unfortunately, this run is less friendly to new readers, as it heavily builds upon previously established characters and plot lines. Fortunately, you don’t have to know any of this information if you’re just looking to check out this top notch this stand alone graphic novel.
Wonder Woman: The New 52. Written by Brian Azzarello. Artwork by Cliff Chiang
Enough with the graphic novels! Let’s get into something sizable! The New 52 was a reboot done by DC comics that began in 2011 and just finished up in 2016. On the whole, it was poorly received (if you’d like to see an example if this, check out my review of the Supergirl title), but the experiment did have a handful of bright, shining gems. One of these gems was Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s take on Wonder Woman. This is a great selection for anyone looking for a run that really delves into the role of the Greek gods and their connection to Diana. Admittedly, some of these connections were not appreciated by existing fans of the character, but that shouldn’t be too much a problem to new readers. That, and the fact that the series as a whole is just so good, focusing on telling one complete story, rather then being constantly interrupted by unnecessary crossover events (an issue that derailed many New 52 titles). One of the reasons why this run is so successful is the artwork. Cliff Chiang’s (who is currently tearing it up on Paper Girls for Image Comics) wonderful character designs really bring the gods to life in unique ways. Also, despite the fact that Diana’s costume is basically a bathing suit, Chiang never made her look overly sexualized, which is quite impressive.
This Azzarello/Chiang run begins with Wonder Woman, vol 1: Blood, and runs for a total of six volumes, or thirty-five single issues.
DC Comics: Bombshells. Written by Marguerite Bennett. Artwork by Various
For those looking to see Diana on more of a team book then a solo title, look no further than DC Bombshells. This alternate history title asks what World War II would be like if a shit ton female superheros had been involved — and I do mean a shit ton. If you have a favorite DC female superhero — from heavy hitters like Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn to underappreciated characters like Big Barda and Stargirl — there’s a good chance that she will make an appearance somewhere in this book. As a result, Wonder Woman’s story is just one of many, but it never feels weak as a result of that. Instead, the entire book is just so much fun. While reading it, I couldn’t help but look forward to seeing which one of my favorite DC ladies (and a few of DC men!) was going to show up next, and what role they would find themselves playing in this superheroic war story. Being completely divorced from the regular DC continuity, DC Bombshells doesn’t require and prior knowledge of any of these characters and is very friendly to new readers of Wonder Woman, or of DC Comics in general.
The graphic novels for DC Comics: Bombshells begins with Vol 1: Enlisted, and is currently ongoing. A second volume (Allies) has already been released, with a third expected to come out this spring.
Whether you want to prepare yourself for the Wonder Woman movie (hitting theaters June 2nd 2017!), or just learn more about this iconic superhero, the comics listed above are great entry points for new readers, requiring no previous knowledge of the character or DC Comics as a whole. I’m not trying to say that these are the only Wonder Woman comics that will work for such an audience, but out of the ones I’ve encountered, these fit the bill the best. Regardless, if anyone has any further recommendations, be sure to share them in the comments below.