Thursday, 4 April 2013
New Frontier's Wonder Woman: An Elseworld Diana Done Well
In the recently released prequel to DC's Injustice computer game, which has Superman deciding to take over the world following his suffering a series of tragic loses at the hands of the Joker, a lot of people were surprised to find Wonder Woman joining up with him usually quickly. Her being so supportive of a friend appearing to go slowly crazy is said by some people to be too out of character, even for an alternate universe storyline. But are there storylines where Diana and Clark get up to morally grey things, but rather than descending into supervillainy, they actually realise the way they're going and attempt to fix things?
The idea of Wonder Woman falling into step behind Superman's attempt to take over the world is sadly something that's appeared multiple times in the past. In Red Son, Kingdom Come and the Dark Knight Returns/ASBARTB-verses, it all happens oddly often for a character that's meant to be spreading a message of peace and freedom.
An Elseworld variation that sticks out in my mind would be in Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier, which has Diana taking extreme measures to fufill what she sees as American values, but stands on her own terms about it. Even if her rigid ideology in the good parts of the American Dream, which she picked up while fightin' the Nazis, doesn't really gel with the establishment of the 1950s and 60s.
To begin with, here is a prequel from the original story, in which Superman and Wonder Woman are informally ordered to capture this pesky Batman character. Essentially what lead to this was, that as Superman and Wonder Woman had worked directly with the US government since the 1940s, they agreed to sign up with them when the McCarthy Hearings rolled around because, really, it's the government, right? Surely they have their hearts in the right place?
Wonder Woman refuses to arrest "a good and honourable man in the name of freedom and liberty", and Superman, not sure himself, goes to ask the President to make sure he's certain that he wants him to do this...
Shortly afterwards, an associate of Batman's hears about how the US government is coming for him, so she decides to give him a bit of an edge...
A little later Superman manages to track down Batman, and unfortunately for him Batman had time to prepare. This leads to Batman using an array of gadgets and semi-nonlethal (for humans) weaponry on Superman, which enrages Clark almost to snapping point... if it wasn't for the appearance of a sudden Diana ex machina.
And so, our Trio of heroes come up with a plan, a RUSE if you will. Batman and Superman will fake a convincing enough public fight to make the US government back off (especially when they reveal Batman has Kryptonite, so if he can take down Superman what can they do to stop him?). Then while Batman works to change the system from the outside, Clark and Diana will try to reform it from the inside out.
Back with the main story and some years later, the success of the public heroes to conform the US government to their way of thinking doesn't appear to be working. While in South East Asian doing "aid work" for the refugees of the war torn area, Diana seemingly disappears into the jungle, and Superman is sent to fetch her back...
Unfortunately, it seems that Diana's WW2 era belief in the American Dream has become a touch embarassing for the US government, particularly when the war in South East Asia isn't a cut and dry thing like it was in the last war they sent Diana to get involved in (World War Two).
And so Eisenhower, who Diana has come to respect and trust due to them working together in WW2... effectively has her exiled back to Themyscira out of embarassment.
She does eventually come back, in a pretty spectacular fashion, and she and Clark decide that working with a government with its own agendas won't make the world a better place, so they decide to do change the world by... leading by example, teaching younger people their values and working for greater diplomatic ties between nations to get world peace.
New Frontier's Diana is my favourite out of the Elseworld versions of the character, if only because there is an actual character arc there which isn't determined by her becoming Superman's second-in-command/mother to his spawn. She enters the world in a time when the world is engaged in a white that from the outset was a very black and white affair, which colours her opinion of both Man's World and the country she adopts as her second home.
BUT as things become more complicated with the rise of the Cold War, she comes to decide that just because they're the government and say that they're right DOESN'T MEAN THEY ARE, and restructures her mission to spread peace accordingly. It isn't a case of siding against people who want to slave/exterminate the world now, it's a case of opposing views and finding a sense of balance in order to fufill her mission of peace.
I should probably point out though that it's implied (more outright stated in the movie adaptation) that Superman didn't sign up entirely out of a sense of comradeship and patriotism, like Diana did, or was just a tool of US foreign policy (like in... most Frank Miller uses of the character). Rather, he signed up because he thought that he had to set an example, and because he can't afford for people to be affair of him if he decided to outright refuse. Superman is here to help... and if people were trying to stop him because he wasn't overtly "a good guy", then helping people would be significantly hindered by it.