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Review: ‘Diana: Princess of The Amazons’

Diana: Princess of The Amazons
Writers: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Artist: Victoria Ying
DC Comics

Long before she was Wonder Woman, heck, long before she was even a woman, Diana was a princess on Themyscira, the hidden paradisiacal island nation exclusively inhabited by immortal women. Being a princess or being destined for a career in superheroics weren’t the only things that made young Diana unique there, though. She was also the only kid. The result of a miraculous birth, she was created when the Queen of the Amazons so longed for a child that she formed one out of clay and prayed to her patron deities that they bring it to life.

Diana’s status as the only-est of only children is the focus of Diana: Princess of The Amazons, a new DC Comics graphic novel for kids from the writing team of Shannon Hale and Dean Hale and artist Victoria Ying.

This Diana is no longer a child, but not yet an adolescent, and is therefore feeling more alone than usual. Her awkward, in-between status is illustrated in a scene in which one of her aunts—every Amazon on the island being an aunt of hers, of course—finds her sulking near her toys and picks one up. “We haven’t played with your dolls in forever,” she remarks “Well, I guess you’re too old for that now.”

“It seems like I’m either too old or too young for everything,” Diana thinks.

And that’s when inspiration strikes. If her mother so wanted a child that she was able to create one out of clay, desire, and prayer, perhaps Diana could create a friend in the same manner. She tries and it doesn’t work…at first.

The next day, Diana finds the new friend that she had quite literally made has indeed come to life, and for the first time ever she has someone her own age to play with. There’s something not quite right about this new friend Mona, however, and it’s not just that she’s retained the all-gray coloring of a statue. No, rather she insists on Diana keeping her secret from her mother and all her aunts, and, worse, she seems to be an increasingly bad influence.

What starts as child-like mischief and innocent secret-keeping becomes pranks, lying and, by the adventure’s climax, a threat to all of Themyscira, if not the world itself. Desperate to prove that she’s a “real” Amazon, despite the peculiarity of her origins, Diana tests herself by opening the door to Tartarus, an underworld where the souls of defeated monsters dwell, guarded over by the Amazons. Only a true Amazon is able to unlock the gate, you see.

When the monsters start escaping, however, Diana must confront Mona’s bad influence head-on, learning the truth behind how her friend really came to be—it’s a nice reveal that feels like an effective surprise, even though the Hales expertly foreshadowed it throughout—and she then joins the rallying Amazons in driving the monsters back through the gate and re-sealing it.

As a result, Diana learns to appreciate what she has, and her mother and many aunts learn to better appreciate Diana…and find something for her to do now that she’s no longer a little kid but not yet old enough to be a warrior.

Though perhaps more of a prose writer than a comics writer, Shannon Hale now has several quite solid comics projects on her resume, sometimes with her husband and frequent co-writer Dean Hale (Rapunzel’s Revenge, Calamity Jack), sometimes without (Real Friends). (The pair might also be known to regular comics readers for their pair of prose novels based on Marvel Comics’ Unbeatable Squirrel Girl character.) It should therefore come as no surprise that Diana reads as well as it does, moving and flowing just as a good comic should, while boasting the shape and story of a novel…or at least a novella.

Ying, on the other hand, is new to comics, but it doesn’t show here. She’s a prolific illustrator of children’s books who has worked on a half-dozen of some of the best-known animated films of the last decade, so I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that her first comics work is so accomplished. After all, comics are, in some ways, illustrations that suggest animation to the reader.

Their Themyscira seems to be something of a compromise between that of original Wonder Woman creators William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter’s Paradise Island and that of the 2017 feature film, a peaceful island paradise combining pseudo-mythic gobbledygook (note the prominence of kangas) and rather random real-world animal life, with a suggestion of Greek heritage, but more so in aesthetics than anything else (Even when the gates of Tartarus open, the monsters that emerge tend to be giant versions of animals or generic monsters, rather than specific ones pulled from Greek mythology).

Theirs is a milieu that should feel familiar to any Wonder Woman fan, of any age or any point of entry, just as their story of a Wonder Woman-in-the-making should prove pleasing to any fan…or fan-in-the-making.  

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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