Tynion and Stevenson’s ‘Wonder World’ Sets a New Standard for Wonder Woman Stories
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman published one of the character’s greatest stories ever last month: “Wonder World,” written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson, told over the course of digital chapters 23 and 24, and published in print this week in Sensation Comics #8.
Tynion and Stevenson's Wonder Woman is a teenager who has run from the comforts and confinement of Themyscira to a classic American boardwalk, where she befriends a group of teenage girls celebrating a birthday. They confront a smarmy dude who won’t give them a turn on Dance Dance Retribution, take his shirt as a trophy, eat some ice cream, and play laser tag. Diana is dazzled by her new sisters’ bravery, candor, and joy --- “they haven’t been broken by being here!” she insists to the Amazons who come to take her home. “They have all the wisdom and strength we do, and more.”
Oceans of ink have been spilled over Wonder Woman: who she is, what she is, how to write her, how to read her. I’ve contributed to it myself. But “Wonder World,” in two slim issues, reveals how easy it is to get Wonder Woman right. Here we have a Wonder Woman who is unafraid of conflict, yet strives eternally for peace. A Wonder Woman who acknowledges our world’s failings without letting them blind her to the promise of tomorrow. A Wonder Woman whose beliefs and identity rest firmly on a foundation of sisterhood.
An enormous part of the reason “Wonder World” gets it so right is its deviation from superhero norms. It’s more like a young adult novel than anything else. It’s concerned with emotion and relationship. In short, it takes its cues from female-centric entertainment.
If superhero comics are to find and keep a female audience, the industry must have the courage to radically re-examine the bones of the genre. There must be room for stories like “Wonder World” that work within an entirely different structure of storytelling. There must be work unlike anything that’s come before, that prioritizes emotion and connection.
There must be work that hinges on a group of teenage girls making a strange new friend, eating ice cream, and learning that the world is bigger, grander, and more wondrous than they had ever dreamed.