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Reviewing this book presents an interesting problem. Generally when I write I refer to my knowledge of the author, or the material to ensure readers are familiar with what I am about to discuss. However, here I am writing about Wonder Woman, a superhero of sixty-nine years standing. Yet the character published in the comics today is nothing like that originally created by William Marston in 1941. There have been several reinventions of the character, with her personality and background having undergone drastic changes. In fact at the time of writing, J. Michael Straczynski has ushered in yet another revamp. Of course for any non-comic readers, this must all seem impenetrable. Most remember Wonder Woman as the character played by Lynda Carter on television.

Who is Wonder Woman?

What I admire about Gail Simone’s approach to this question is that she touches lightly on all the differing and conflicting iterations of the character’s history, endorsing each interpretation, while at the same time strongly asserting what Wonder Woman is not. As this collection concludes her run on the book, the final two stories of her run reassert the author’s view of the Amazonian princess. She is a warrior, but never a murderer, taking life only when she has no other choice. She is proud, but not prideful and feels slightly isolated by how others regard her. She calls the women she meets ‘sister’, due to a sense of affection and fellow feeling. She is a feminist icon, but more than that she is an inspiration to everyone.

In effect Simone and Marston are here at least on the same page. Wonder Woman as a character is equally as great, if not greater, than Superman.

Contagion collects the final two stories, A Murder of Crows illustrated by Aaron Lopresti and Wrath of the Silver Serpent with Australian artist Nicola Scott as well as Fernando Dagnino.

A Murder of Crows opens with what I assume is a homage to one of my favourite B-Movies Q The Winged Serpent, directed by Larry Cohen. An Aztec god is feeding in the subway tunnels of Washington DC. After forcing the deity to relieve himself of a train full of passengers, he confesses to Wonder Woman that he was compelled to attack the commuters, not usually having any taste for humans. Then the villains of the piece are revealed. Sinister boys dressed in mocked up school uniforms who are mentally influencing the citizens of Washington to give into feelings of rage and hatred.

The violence soon escalates, with people of different creeds fighting openly in the streets. Power Girl (Superman’s cousin from another reality…comics are confusing) arrives to investigate, only to also fall under the sway of the malevolent children. In time honoured fashion, the two comic book heroes fight one another, with Wonder Woman surprised to find herself punched as far as Canada!

Simone has a lot of fun with the brotherhood of the crows, who resemble the Children of the Damned and enjoy commenting sarcastically about the chaos they are causing. One even mentions that he will be going online later to blog his views on the events of the evening. The ‘versus battle’ between Power Girl and Wonder Woman gives Simone the opportunity to introduce alternating narration from both characters describing their impressions of one another. It makes for strong character beats and demonstrates an understanding of what makes the two women tick.

Wrath of the Silver Serpent is a more epic story, with an invading army of aliens who live by a corrupted Amazonian code besieging Washington DC. Wonder Woman discovers a disturbing connection between herself and the marauding aliens, heavily armed female warriors who decimate planets, converting everything on the surface into food to feed themselves. They choose only one hundred women from each world they visit to become members of their ‘citizenry’ and then move on. Wonder Woman proposes to their fanatical leader Astarte a public trial by combat between herself and their greatest warrior in order to spare the Earth.

This story has everything from widescreen action spectacles to the thematic subtext of what makes an Amazon ‘peace loving warrior’. It also features one of the few male gay superheroes in the DC, a reincarnated Achilles, who rides a flying elephant. There are also talking albino gorillas. It’s that kind of book.

In my opinion this is the definitive take on Wonder Woman. I recommend the whole run.

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