TITLE: Diana: Princess of the Amazons
AUTHORS: Shannon Hale, Dean Hale
ARTISTS: Victoria Ying, Lark Pien (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Graphic Novels For Kids
RELEASED: January 7, 2020
By Rob Siebert
Wonder Woman and Superman often share a common critique: They’re not relatable. That it’s difficult to project ourselves on to them because their powers make them God-like. In Diana’s case, she’s literally sculpted from clay to be the embodiment of perfection. Yeesh. Talk about setting the bar high…
So what do you do? How do you write interesting stories about characters seemingly so far removed from humanity? One of the answers, the best one in my opinion, is to give them relationships and conflicts that are very human. That ground them in our reality to an extent. Superman can lift a car over his head and fly into space, but he’s also a husband and father. Wonder Woman grieves over the loss over her close friend Barbara Minerva, who has become the villainous Cheetah.
Diana: Princess of the Amazons essentially takes that idea and gives it a spin that’s more kid-friendly. Our young Diana is the only kid on the island of Themyscira. While that obviously has its perks, the one big downside is that Diana has no other kids to play with. Taking a page from her mother Queen Hippolyta’s book, she sculpts a friend for herself out of clay. Diana’s new friend Mona comes to life just as she herself did. But friendship has its ups and downs, and the future Wonder Woman soon finds herself in over her head.
I heaped all manner of praise on Dear Justice League for being outrageously fun and accessible, while also charmingly simple. There’s a similar charm to Diana. But here, that accessibility is more personal. When you take away all the Wonder Woman garnish, what we have here is a story about a lonely little girl who wants a friend. While the book doesn’t dwell on it, what kid hasn’t felt lonely at some point? What kid hasn’t experienced the excitement of a new friend? We even go into peer pressure. Adults may have problems relating to Wonder Woman. But kids will have absolutely zero problems connecting with Diana.
Imagine my surprise to learn that our illustrator Victoria Ying worked as a “visual development artist” on movies like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Big Hero 6. But looking at her work here, it makes all the sense in the world. Diana has a very “animated” look to it. It also has a certain flow that’s fairly rare. From a cerebral perspective, comics show you these still-frame images and give your mind the task of filling in what goes between them. In this book that mental transition from panel to panel is often seamless. Odd as it sounds, I’d compare it to being in a raft on a lazy river. You aren’t exerting much. You’re simply going with the flow.
I’m not sure I gave Diana: Princess of the Amazons enough credit when I picked it up. I didn’t expect this to be as good an addition to the Wonder Woman mythos as it is. But the more kids and YA graphic novels I read, the more I’m realizing that these books get a lot right that the monthly issues tend to either get wrong or over-complicate. Once again, it all comes down to simplicity. At their core, these are children’s characters after all.
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