Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #154: Wondrous History

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #154 by Drew Barth

Wondrous History

I have, in the past, talked at length about how DC’s Black Label has been a refreshing take on many of their characters—akin to early 90s Vertigo-before-it-was-called-Vertigo comics. Works like Wonder Woman: Dead Earth by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer or The Other History of the DC Universe by John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Alex Dos Diaz, Andrea Cucchi, and Jose Villarrubia have shown just what these more expansive works can do with their pages. Wonder Woman: Historia by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Jimenez, Hi-Fi, Arif Prianto, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Clayton Cowles, however, isn’t just taking advantage of this larger format. They’ve instead opted to treat each spread as a canvas to showcase what comic art can really accomplish.

Wonder Woman: Historia is a modified history of what we know about The Amazons. We know Themyscira. We know Hippolyta. We don’t know the actual origins of either of them. Where did this island come from? How did it become the haven that it is in canon? Where did Hippolyta even begin? To answer any of those, we’re given an origin story. The goddesses Hestia, Artemis, Demeter, Hecate, Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera have seen the atrocities committed by men against women and have demanded an end to men. The gods of Olympus, as per usual, scoff at the idea and essentially shoo the goddesses away. The goddesses meet again, sans Hera, to create something new. From this meeting, the  Amazon Tribes arise. And from here as well, he meet Hippolyta, but not as the leader of the Amazons just yet.

Wonder Woman: Historia is a conversation between DeConnick and Jimenez on the nature of comics themselves. What can you do with these pages? The Black Label allows for the story to expand with the page size, so why not fill every single inch of this visual medium with something that engrosses the reader so completely that they emerge from the other side with spots in their eyes? As a creative team, DeConnick, Jimenez, Hi-Fi, Prianto, Fajardo Jr., and Cowles are working with this space in much the same way that teams were during their runs on Wednesday Comics years ago, but there is a lushness in these pages that I’ve yet to see in many other comics. And it isn’t art for the sake of it—if this is a history of one of the oldest societies in DC canon, it should be given the reverence of an illuminated manuscript.

I can’t overstate the experience of sitting down and reading Wonder Woman: Historia as a piece of comic art. The vastness of the page and the sheer beauty of the art brings to mind walking through a guided tour of an ancient art museum. There is a continual feeling of the historic on every page—that what you’re reading is important, as though it were chiseled in stone as the last vestige of something ancient. Right now, there’s really nothing else like it in comics.

Get excited. Get historic.

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

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