Review by Karl Verhoven
Jill Thompson drew Wonder Woman’s regular comic very decoratively in the early 1990s, but her style has developed immensely in the intervening years, absorbing painterly influences and classical designs for an utterly gorgeous looking book. The opening sequence re-tells the history of the Amazons, and along with the obvious Greek elements Thompson includes a nod to Hokusai and a version of the marine god Poseidon resembling a Chinese festival dragon. This is not only imaginative, but cohesively combined with the traditional togas, sandals and columns in an unobtrusive manner. It’s also evident that while Thompson illustrates her Amazons as beautiful, this isn’t in the glamour model style that’s been used for Wonder Woman for so long. Her interpretation is a more singular and realistic beauty, and therefore ultimately more intriguing.
Wonder Woman’s early years have formed part of many previous stories, so Thompson’s working with some well known myths, but even so weaves them into something fascinating. The basic skeleton is considerably embellished as Thompson reveals the young Diana was removed from the paragon of virtue she would develop into. She’s brave, adventurous and remarkable, yet also selfish, vain and shallow. The title may indicate otherwise, but that’s clever trickery on Thompson’s part.
Thompson’s narrative style is adopted from fairy tales, using simple and direct phrases like “She ordered her handmaidens about in harsh tones and she never apologized when she hurt another’s feelings”. It’s oddly elegant and appropriate. When dealing with myths what better way to reduce them? Reduction is required because by the midway point The True Amazon has become a morality tale, again echoing the storybook mood. Diana finally encounters something she can’t just take or acquire by default, and it’s almost the making of her, modifying her personality as she learns aspects of humility.
It’s with the ending that Thompson diverges most radically from the established Wonder Woman origin. There is no appearance from an ailing Steve Trevor, nor a triumphant dispatch to the wider world, as Thompson takes her lead from Marvel’s Thor and unites it with the concept of Greek tragedy. Anyone fixated on consistency won’t be happy, but it is entirely in keeping with the story Thompson’s been telling.
For everyone else, there can surely be no better telling of Wonder Woman’s youth and origins. Thompson’s art is gorgeous from the opening page and while, of necessity, she’s borrowed the work of others in places, she refines that considerably to create something of her own. Wonder Woman has been sorely under-valued and mistreated by DC over the years, and a single graphic novel alone can’t atone for this, but The True Amazon is a mighty step in the right direction. DC will once again decide to reboot Wonder Woman in a year or two and DC should look to Thompson for guidance.