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Wonder Woman: The Contest (Artemis) Paperback – April 1, 1995
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Here, at last, is a Wonder Woman that you could actually read to little children and not feel weird about it. No hitting or hyperviolence, no skimpy costumes, nobody getting tied up or bloodied. It's nice; too bad there's so little to follow it up with -- if these books get you hooked, the only place to go from here is either into the new books (which are violent and have WW wearing skimpy costumes) or reprints of the old 1940s WW, which were a bit cluttered and often featured a mildly kinky S&M subtext. In the 1980s, feminist writer-illustrator Trina Robbins had a short-lived run on WW that was also nice, but those books haven't been available for years. Apparently the publishing market finds no profit in or room for a Wonder Woman that isn't as lurid and violence-obsessed as all the other mainstream comics. Pity. But if you want something to balance the Spider-Man and Batman marketing juggernauts, these small-sized chapterbooks are a good option.
Book One, "The Contest", introduces Princess Diana and the Amazons of Paradise Island, and tells the story of how young Diana proved herself the strongest and wisest of all her people, becoming their champion and ambassador to the outside world. It is based on the first part of the historic "Wonder Woman" origin story, first published in "Sensation" comics in the 1940s. The story is continued in later volumes, and while the writing and layout are nice, you'll definitely wonder what happens next, so try to track down the other Jaffe books as well. (ReadThatAgain book reviews)
I really enjoyed reading this particular book as an origin story for Wonder Woman.
Diana returns to Themyscira and it seems that her mother, Hippolyta (queen of the Amazons), thinks she is no longer fit to serve the role of Wonder Woman. Hippolyta says Diana has failed to positively act upon the most important role of Wonder Woman, fighting to end all acts of hate on Earth. As a result, a contest is held in which every Amazon is invited to compete to become the new Wonder Woman.
The story is very well-written by William Messner-Loebs. Here, he has given the characters of Diana and the Amazons a little depth. They have believable emotions, and not once does the story escape into camp. The only downside is that once the contest ends nothing seems to make sense. If you are not an avid reader of Wonder Woman and know nothing of her supporting characters, then the last ten pages of this book will be confusing. Hawkman appears, too, out of nowhere; I guess, his point was supposed to be revealed in later issues.
The art is absolutely incredible. The panels are fast and exciting, and the Amazons are depicted as strong but delicate, sexy but independent ... except for the many panels of "rears-in-the-air." These are just a little too blatantly sexual. They are unnecessary because the Amazons are just as sexy without having to be drawn in such a manner. But, I'm sure most fanboys won't mind.
Buy the book if you are looking for a great Wonder Woman story with the perfect balance of story and art, but don't expect an intro that explains what has happened up to this point.