By Ms Nicole Magno
Raffles Reads is a collaboration between Raffles Press and Times Reads which aims to promote a reading culture among Singaporean students.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Before she was known as Wonder Woman—donned in her iconic red and blue armor and vanquishing villains with her Lasso of Truth—she was simply known as Diana, a young woman struggling to define her own worth.
This is where Wonder Woman: Warbringer begins—with a race on Themyscria, the home to immortal Amazon women, and a young Diana determined to win so that she can prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. Her race though soon becomes a quest when she gives up her chance at victory in order to save a dying mortal. However, the mortal she saves is Alia Keralis—a Warbringer cursed to bring death and destruction wherever she goes. In order to release Alia from her violent fate, Diana journeys with her, along with Alia’s friends and brother, from Themyscria to New York City to Southern Greece.
And what a journey it is. For those new to the Wonder Woman series (such as myself), there is no need to be verse in decades of Wonder Woman lore in order to follow and enjoy this comic. Instead, Warbringer offers a story that is accessible but no less compelling. While Diana is still imbued with supernatural strength and speed, her own “coming of age” journey and desire to make her mark on the world is incredibly human and easily relatable. Still, one also sees the familiar core of the Wonder Woman she will become—someone who runs into crisis to fight for others and whose idealism is embodied in her actions.
Leigh Bardugo, whose novel the comic is based on, manages not only to portray this very human and charming Wonder Woman, but also introduces a quirky cast of supporting characters that are equally memorable. In a genre that tends to be dominated by the white male experience, it was very refreshing to see such a diverse group of characters. Alia and her brother are Greek and African-American, their friend Theo is Brazillian and a tech geek while Nim, Alia’s best friend, is Indian and a fabulous fashion designer.
Aside from this nod to diversity, while the overarching conflict and action scenes create a sense of tension in the story, it is the relationship dynamics between friends, families, and potential romantic interests that make you care for these characters. Details in dialogue and the “downtime” moments with our cast of characters are often filled with humor, warmth, and drama which bring all of them to life. Leigh Bardugo is masterful at being able to make small moments, such as inside jokes, count in a big way later on in the story (while I’m singing Bardugo’s praises for her character building skills here, let me also recommend her YA novel, Six of Crows).
Louise Simonson, the adapter of Leigh Bardugo’s novel, also knows how to pack so much in so little considering that the challenge in comic writing is the limitation. Limited panels. Limited color schemes. Limited pages to convince a reader to continue. Each detail counts and so much of this adaptation thankfully prioritized Bardugo’s strengths in character dynamics. The strategic use of cool blue colors with hints of warm reds throughout the comic also make the art visually appealing and very accessible. Readers new to comics may have some difficulty following the pace of the plot since transitions between scenes are not always clear, but overall, this adaptation from novel to graphic novel gets so many elements right.
Perhaps the greatest pull of Warbringer is its central theme: much of the story focuses on the power of female friendships, a dynamic that sadly is not often explored and that, in this graphic novel, is celebrated in depth. The graphic novel has such a satisfying end that manages to take a traditional “feminine” trait seen as weakness and hold it up as a strength (I promise this is vague enough to not be a spoiler). In a time when we know the importance of empowering girls and telling them that their worth is not defined by a romantic interest, it was powerful to read Wonder Woman’s Amazon oath to Alia.
“Sister in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.”