Sure, Wonder Woman has her own ongoing comic book. She has a starring role in Justice League, and appears in countless other DC series. But if you want to see Wonder Woman at her very best, triumphing everything the character has ever stood up for, you seriously need to read Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman.
For the past year, Sensation Comics has been leading the charge of DC’s “Digital First” initiative, a weekly anthology series released through digital comic stores and eventually collected in physical issues and collected volumes. But despite its success as a digital-first comic (which has in turn inspired other digital first series like Bombshells), Sensation Comics real appeal is the fact that it is Wonder Woman storytelling without limits: the opportunity to tell stories about Diana from any time period, any incarnation, new version or old. By not being beholden to the current comics, each set of writers and artists is free to explore Wonder Woman as an ideal and as a character.
Artist Credit: Neil Googe
That’s something that has a startling amount of depth, because honestly, as fantastic a character Wonder Woman is, to mainstream audiences she’s more challenging to define at a base level beyond saying “Amazonian.” Superman? Man without a home, an outsider, truth, justice, and the American way. Batman? Solitary detective, a man who works in the shadows in vengeance for his parent’s deaths. These characters are, of course, far more nuanced than that, but at their most basic, they’re easy to define. Wonder Woman, at least to non-regular comics readers, isn’t—because over the years she’s been so many different things. She’s a warrior. A diplomat. A fierce defender of women. Steeped in greek mythology, or more formed by her time in the world beyond Themyscira. Lasso-wielder or sword-bearer. Vengeful brawler, or wise and kind.
Wonder Woman has changed and adapted into so many different roles and characterisations over the years, that defining her into a single one of those—as you must to tell a story in an ongoing Wonder Woman series, like in her current comic where a rough-and-ready warrior Diana balances her time as the God of War, Queen of the Amazons and a member of the Justice League—can feel strangely limiting.
Artist Credit: Gilbert Hernandez
Free of those limitations, Sensation Comics gives us a real look at what Wonder Woman can be, and what she means to her fans—both in the universes of DC Comics and on a metatextual level, how different creators see “their” Wonder Woman. It lets stories like Gilbert Hernandez’s bizarre, silver-age-inspired tale of a Wonder Woman that focuses on her raw physical strength (and low estimation of men) sit alongside an alternate reality tale from Sean E. Williams and Marguerite Sauvage where Diana fronts a rock band and faces harassment from two men at a concert, and yet still be about the same character. These stories may all be very different (some even radically different), but they’re still all Wonder Woman stories in their own way. By not trying to be a series of stories about a particular version of Wonder Woman, but a series of stories about all the different people Wonder Woman has been over the years, there’s a sense of freedom to the exploration of Diana as a character in every story as writers and artists say “This may not be the Wonder Woman of the current comics, but this is our Wonder Woman.”
Artist Credit: Marguerite Sauvage
If there is a particular trait of Wonder Woman that Sensation Comics has repeatedly turned to however, it is a focus on Diana’s position as a feminist icon. Many stories in the anthology have dealt with the world’s reaction to Wonder Woman as both a superhero and a woman, and how it’s not always a positive one. Sometimes it’s about Wonder Woman herself: people who decry (or lust after) her revealing costume get a curt “because I want to... not to provoke or impress you” in one story, another lampoons the media’s approach to interviewing women, softball questions about what they’re wearing or what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated industry, in comparisons to the questions asked of men.
But other times, it’s about how Wonder Woman inspires others with her femininity—not just women, but men as well. Early on in the series there’s a story by Amanda Diebert and Cat Staggs that features Diana battling the roguish Amazonian Circle, as a young boy watching the brawl is teased by his friends for liking a “girl’s hero” like Wonder Woman instead of someone else. After defeating the Circle, Diana walks over to the boy and comforts him, telling him there’s no problem for a boy liking “girl’s stuff” because it’s about the boy being true to himself rather than what others suspect of him. It’s potent stuff, especially at a time where more and more people are aware of the need for interesting and complex female role models in comics, but above all, it’s overwhelmingly hopeful about it, a refreshing change from the grim and grittiness that populates much of DC’s current comic output (but far from all of it, mind).
Aritst credit: Cat Staggs
The Wonder Women of Sensation Comics never despair about the way people treat her or other women, but instead preach equality, acceptance and understanding of all people—for example, her recent marrying of a same-sex couple following its legalization in the US, partially doable on short notice because of the flexibility of the weekly digital format—and the belief that people can do better. And then she goes and kicks the asses of a cadre of supervillains, because that’s what Wonder Woman does. Her role as a female hero is an important trait of Wonder Woman as a character, and one that Sensation Comics frequently triumphs, but is far from her defining one. It’s exciting to see a comic with the freedom to do that with Wonder Woman being put out by DC, and Sensation’s joyous celebration of all these different facets of Wonder Woman is what makes it such a pleasure to read each week.
Ultimately, I guess my headline is a bit of a misnomer. Sensation Comics’ greatest strength is that it offers the very best in Wonder Woman storytelling in DC’s current output—but that is because it does not restrict itself to defining a singular idea of who Wonder Woman is. Wonder Woman stands for so many things, and can be so many things, that the best way to experience her is to see these myriad tales of Wonder Women. And that, you can only find in Sensation Comics.
Header Image Credit: Phil Jiminez.