While all of your questions about the new “Wonder Woman” status aren’t answered in the first full issue of J. Michael Straczynski and Don Kramer’s run on the book, a number of them are, including what exactly happened to Paradise Island. In fact, that question is answered in so much detail that this issue isn’t much more than a big pile of exposition that had me wondering where the other half of the issue, the part with the actual story, was. The exposition actually only takes up the first half of the issue, but the second half that follows doesn’t feel fully developed or anything but more exposition, only presented indirectly rather than told straight to us.
The fall of Paradise Island is told well, with an army of some sort (using modern technology) laying waste to the Amazons once Aphrodite lifted her protection. Some of the Amazons fled, since many targets are more difficult to attack than one large one, while Diana was sent away to safety by her mother. Hippolyta sacrifices her own life rather than reveal the truth of Diana’s whereabouts to the leader of the invading forces after he threatens to use the Lasso of Truth. We aren’t shown the identity of the leader, but he comes off as imposing and dangerous, obviously a man of resources considering he’s still leading the charge to hunt down the remaining Amazons with a specific focus on Diana.
Diana, though, remains something of a mystery. She was raised and trained, and after seeing what happened to Paradise Island, she goes after the men hunting down her people, but there’s nothing revealed of her personality and what sets her apart from the Wonder Woman we know besides the different circumstances of her life. Instead of focusing on what makes this version of Diana unique and different in her personality and how she acts, the issue spends too much time focused on the circumstances of this changed world. That connection between the character and the reader isn’t developed in this issue, something that should come first.
Beginning with the exposition of what happened to Paradise Island does give Don Kramer a chance to show off his skills by drawing the battles between the Amazons and the invaders. He has a slick, solid line in his work that doesn’t go too overboard in the level of detail put into the pictures. There’s a strong photorealist streak running through his art when it comes to faces especially that’s strengthened by Alex Sinclair’s coloring and made to look better. That’s not normally something that I like, finding the style and technique overused or used incorrectly, but Kramer and Sinclair get it right in this issue. Since Straczynski’s aim is for a grounded, more realistic Wonder Woman, the choices made by the artists are the right ones.
It’s understandable why this issue kicks off with the destruction of Paradise Island, but since that’s a known factor, the specifics don’t matter as much. What does matter is who this version of Diana is and what kind of person she is, and we barely get a glimpse of that. This issue is somewhat of a letdown and a surprise considering that Straczynski normally places a strong emphasis on getting across his view of the character and that doesn’t happen here. But, the execution otherwise is solid on the issue and suggests that there’s a good, thought-out plan in place for future issues.