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Review: Wonder Woman: Trial of the Amazons

Though Wonder Woman was originally created as a role model for young girls, it’s been a long time since DC produced Wonder Woman comics for that demographic. Recognizing the character’s enduring appeal as a symbol of female strength, however, DC has been making a concerted effort to develop more age-appropriate stories for Wonder Woman’s youngest fans. DC recently teamed up with Capstone Publishing to produce a series of four Wonder Woman chapter books, the first of which is Trial of the Amazons.

Wonder Woman: Trial of the Amazons
Written by Michael Dahl, Illustrated by Dan Schoening, Created by William Moulton Marston
Ages: 6 – 9
Stone Arch Books, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-4342-1883-4
56 pp., $18.99

Trial of the Amazons covers familiar territory, telling the story of how Diana, Princess of Themyscira, became Wonder Woman. When a military plane crashes into the ocean near the Amazons’ homeworld, Diana rescues its unconscious male pilot, creating a scandal. (Legends foretell Themyscira’s demise if any man sets foot on its shores.) Diana seeks permission to return the pilot home, a request that her mother, Queen Hippolyta, denies. Recognizing the important role an Amazon could play in ending human conflict, however, Hippolyta organizes a contest to determine which warrior will be tasked with escorting the pilot back to "man’s world" and joining the fight for truth and justice. Diana, eager for a chance to distinguish herself, dons a disguise and enters the trials.

Parents hoping for a girl-friendly Wonder Woman comic should keep in mind that Trial of the Amazons is a traditional chapter book with a handful of full-color illustrations. The story has been divided into five short chapters, with a glossary of terms and an appendix that illuminates the Amazons’ classical roots. To make the text look a little more attractive — and remind readers of Wonder Woman’s comic-book origins — sound effects punctuate the text, rendered in bright, eye-catching letters. The story itself is told in a straightforward, if somewhat pedestrian manner, that’s appropriate for readers making the transition from picture books to straight prose.

Illustrator Dan Schoening has gone to great pains to match the style that DC has been using for its animated Justice League properties, giving Wonder Woman a lean, angular look that emphasizes her athleticism and beauty without overly sexualizing her. His artwork is competent, but, like Michael Dahl’s prose, not inspired. Schoening provides next to no background detail for each illustration, giving them appearance of cells from an animated TV show. Though he favors dramatic perspective to draw viewers into the frame, too often, Schoening applies a soft-focus filter to background objects that makes them look blurry, rather than farther away. It’s a shame that these illustrations aren’t more captivating, as the book’s packaging — its cover, leaves, and appendix — suggest a dynamic, exciting approach to telling Wonder Woman’s story.

I wished I liked Trial of the Amazons better, as I think DC has been neglecting Wonder Woman’s original fanbase for too long, offering girls plenty of Wonder Woman merchandise but very little in the way of age-appropriate stories. This book, however, seems calculated to appeal to parents more than kids; it’s both earnest and dull, making Wonder Woman seem like more a Girl Scout than a superhero. It’s not terrible by any means, but it lacks the humor and energy of DC’s most recent kid-friendly efforts (i.e. Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Tiny Titans). Recommended only for Wonder Woman fanatics or reluctant readers with a superhero fixation.

Review copy provider by the publisher.

Katherine Dacey About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.

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