Where to even begin with Diana Princess of Themyscira? This is one of the most recognizable heroes in the world, with an incredible eighty-year legacy behind her. That said, it can sometimes feel like Wonder Woman is only just beginning to get the credit she is due. There have been a lot of ups and downs in this Amazing Amazon’s history, but this is a character that has helped define modern storytelling in some pretty profound ways over the years. Though there are countless more great Wonder Woman stories than can fit in a single article, here are some of the very best.
What was Wonder Woman really like in 1984?
Wonder Woman #6 – The First Appearance of The Cheetah
The early Wonder Woman stories can be a lot of fun, but the story that sticks out above the rest is the dynamic first appearance of our girl, The Cheetah! This was a vastly different take on the character than what we know today, and it’s true that in this early incarnation, she was nowhere near as frightening as the tortured killer of recent years.
Despite lacking the sheer intimidation factor of Barbara Minerva, Priscilla Rich, the first woman to wear the Cheetah suit, more than made up for it in hijinks. A spoiled socialite that targets Wonder Woman for no reason other than being annoyed by the amount of positive attention she gets from the media, Priscilla goes after Diana and attempts to destroy her despite being hopelessly out-powered.
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Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors (Vol. 1, #212-222)
Wonder Woman spending a chunk of the 1970s de-powered and studying martial arts is one of the stranger moments of the character’s history, but looking back it does read as a missed opportunity in which Diana lost her unique mystical heritage and blended in with any number of action-themed comics of the era. At the end of that bizarre jaunt, Diana was left with the realization that her mother Hippolyta had used her own powers to remove upsetting memories from her mind.
So it is that even as she regains her heroic powers, Wonder Woman is unsure of herself and afraid that she can’t be trusted. She undergoes twelve labors in the style of Hercules of Greek legend, monitored by a different member of the Justice League through every issue. This story was from a weird era, but it is a delight.
The Legend of Wonder Woman (Vol. 1)
If you’re looking for a truly weird and wild leap back into the style of the early days of Wonder Woman, updated with the feminist sensibilities of Wimmen’s Comix’s Trina Robbins, you have come to the right place! One part of Diana that often gets left on the cutting room floor is her tendency to find the absolute strangest adventures, and this story is all of that and more. The merging of underground art and Wonder Woman’s superheroics is not to be missed in this underrated gem.
Wonder Woman: Gods & Mortals (Vol. 2, #1-7)
Though the original series can never be shortchanged for its creation of Wonder Woman, a lot of fans consider the best Wonder Woman stories to be from George Perez’s late ‘80s run on the character. It’s true that a lot of what we consider to be canon made its first appearance here, and the choice to return Diana to Paradise Island was nothing short of a stroke of genius after years of her appearing as a “fish out of water” in the DC Universe.
Finally delving into life among the Amazons and digging into their history and their beliefs more than anyone who came before him, Perez’s run with Diana is solid from top to bottom and it lasts much longer than this story arc. Still, there is no better place to start than here, where we discover what Diana’s childhood was really like, and we see her become the character we know and love today.
Paradise Found (Vol. 2, #171-177)
Artist and writer Phil Jimenez turned out most of the best Wonder Woman stories since the early 90’s, and his opus with the character is “Paradise Found.” Following the catastrophic events of Paradise Island Lost, Diana finds herself stripped of her title by her mother and floundering to regain some sense of self. This story shows her reestablishing herself, making amends with (most of) the Amazons, and engaging in a triumphant battle with one of her deadliest foes.
For Circe fans, there are few fights more satisfying than the one we see in this story. Jimenez’s grasp of Diana as a person is seldom equaled, and his run remains one of her underrated greats.
Wonder Woman: A League of One
In the early 2000s, Wonder Woman was as ubiquitous as Superman or Batman, finally rising to a prominent place in the Justice League as well as undergoing many shake-ups of the status quo in her own book. Among these many high-profile adventures, we have this excellent, fully painted story by Christopher Moeller in which Diana goes toe-to-toe with a mythical dragon, and it nearly costs her life.
Her relationship with Superman undergoes some strain, and this in some ways foreshadows their pending feuds in Infinite Crisis. Yet, by the end of this story, there is no doubt that the Justice League needs Diana just as much as she needs them. A League of One is strangely heartwarming and very over-the-top in all the best ways.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman
This wasn’t so much a cohesive arc as it was a scattered collection of Wonder Woman tales, but that didn’t stop it from breathing a lot of life into the premise as it took a big step towards making Diana stories fun again. Featuring a truly awe-inspiring cast of creators and iconic covers from some of the best artists in the industry, it’s kind of surprising that this book didn’t get a lot more love than it did. If you like your Wonder Woman stories short and sweet, this is the series for you.
Wonder Woman: Earth One
Grant Morrison’s take on Wonder Woman combined their general weirdness and love for the DC Universe with the unstated queerness of Diana’s premise to create something truly unique. This is a new retelling of Diana’s origin story, applying elements from various parts of her mythology, and occurring out-of-continuity so a lot of the kinky elements of Wonder Woman’s story become more central to the plot.
This Wonder Woman is definitely queer, engages in battle with many foes, saves Steve Trevor, and befriends a particularly delightful Etta Candy, making it one of the most entertaining self-contained stories in Wonder Woman’s history.
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon
This is one of those stories where you just wish there were a hundred more like it. Also appearing out-of-continuity like Morrison’s Earth One, this re-imagining of Diana’s story is a personal favorite. Taking Steve Trevor entirely out of the picture, we see a new back story for Diana that is all about women rather than any compulsion to join up with The World Of Man.
Diana desires the attention and praise of another Amazon who refuses to give her the time of day, and Diana’s desperate, greedy attempt to force her into friendship ends up costing the girl her life. In shame, she leaves Paradise Island to do penance and to earn her place as the Princess of Themyscira. This great story and Thompson’s incredible art make this a tale for the ages, and a take on her origin that doesn’t rely on Steve Trevor is nothing short of a breath of fresh air.
Rise of the Olympian (Wonder Woman Vol. 3 #26-33)
Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman is another one of those must-read classics where the creators took everything that worked about the character and turned each element up to eleven. Simone’s excitement for Diana and her understanding of the character shines through in every choice, and the art borrows from classic cheesecake without ever reducing its subject.
All in all, this is a more or less perfect run, but the objectively best part of it is Rise of the Olympian. Diana goes all out attempting to fight against the big bad, and it sees her make a lot of uncomfortable allies along the way. Her relationships go from broken to thriving, and we see the epic fight scenes that one wants out of a book like Wonder Woman.
Year One (Wonder Woman Vol. 5, #2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 & 14)
Rucka’s Wonder Woman is one of the most critically-acclaimed takes on a superhero of the last couple decades, if not ever, and he’s departed and returned to the book more than once. While most of Rucka’s work with Diana is well worth reading, Year One tells the story of her first year interacting with Man’s World, giving us a glimpse into her early days. This also allows us to see the formulation of her friendship with Etta Candy, the beginnings of her love story with Steve Trevor, and her friendship with a promising young archeologist, Barbara Minerva.
The Legend of Wonder Woman (Vol. 2)
Another look back at Diana’s early years, this story interjects Diana’s need for sisterhood as irremovable from her greater story. She clashes with her mother and the laws of Paradise Island, ultimately finding herself forced to leave and find a new identity in Man’s World.
Yet, rather than being a simple retreading of what we’ve seen before, this outing establishes Diana’s friendship with Etta Candy as being essential to her development, granting us some of the best moments of on-panel female friendship in… well, her entire history, if not the history of comics altogether. This is a gorgeous book not to be missed, and deserves a lot more acclaim than it usually gets.
Modern Wonder Woman
Though recent Wonder Woman arcs haven’t gotten nearly the critical attention that they deserve, this has truly been one of the best comics on DC’s roster for the last couple years. The epic G. Willow Wilson run saw Diana interrogate her own policies in how she interacts with the U.S. government. After that, we had a great stint with Steve Orlando, who gave us one of the scariest takes on The Cheetah yet.
More recently, Mariko Tamaki took over with Wonder Woman #759, and it has been a wild ride so far. If you’re looking for exciting Wonder Woman stories, a lot of them have hit the stands more recently than you might think!
Wonder Woman: Dead Earth
There have been countless stories of Batman and Superman interacting with dystopian futures, and it’s a darn shame! Dead Earth is one of the only stories in this subgenre in which Wonder Woman is the protagonist, and it’s so good that it makes you question why it took all the way to 2020 for a story like this to be told. Waking up from centuries of cryogenic sleep, Diana sees a ravaged planet before her and must learn what her role is to be in the new world order. Another story in which Diana is all too fallible, this is one of the best dystopian DC stories ever, and Daniel Warren Johnson’s incredible art only solidifies the book’s status as one of the greats.
Cool stuff! I was introduced to WW via New 52. Since then I’ve only read Rucka’s first run and maybe 50 something issues of the Rebirth series. Looks like I got some digging to do.