Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed is one of the latest entries in DC’s recent effort at targeting original graphic novels at the YA audience. I’ve found the campaign to be largely successful, including some great entries like Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass and Shadow of the Batgirl. DC recruited NY Times bestselling YA author Laurie Halse Anderson to pen Tempest Tossed and got one of my favorite artists, in Leila del Duca, to illustrate. Any book with art by del Duca is about as close as you’ll get to an auto-read for me. The book’s creative team is notably comprised of only women. Colorist Kelly Fitzgerald and letter Siena Temosonte round out the team.
This seems like about the 20th time that we’ve seen a Wonder Woman origin story over the last five-or-so years. There is the Earth One series of OGN’s from Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Wonder Woman: Year One storyline from the DC Rebirth launch, Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer novel (which was subsequently adapted as a graphic novel), and the Wonder Woman: The True Amazon OGN by Jill Thompson, to name a few. Somewhat surprisingly, they’ve mostly been of a good quality and I’m still not tired of them yet. It’s applicable here because Tempest Tossed finds the reader once again exploring the origins and earliest years of Diana of Themyscira. It’s clear reading through the list of names involved that DC has dedicated itself to putting some of its very best talent on Wonder Woman comics.
Given the glut of material surrounding Diana’s upbringing and adolescence, I find that it’s important that each new take find a unique angle on the same story. In Tempest Tossed, Anderson has flipped the script on the portrayal of young Diana’s place and presence in Amazon society. Whereas most similar stories portray Diana as a strong and graceful Chosen One, in Tempest Tossed we see her through a different lens. Diana is just as awkward and confused about her place as any run of the mill teenager. She’s desperate to prove herself to her mother and an Amazonian society that refer to her as the “Changeling”. This inversion of the character’s typical representation makes for a fresh origin story and is sure to make her more relatable to the target audience. None of us can relate to being an immortal, but we all know about the emotion and embarrassment that go hand and hand with adolescence.
Diana’s portrayal isn’t the only departure from the classic Wonder Woman origin in Tempest Tossed. Here, Diana faces a different set of trials than readers are accustomed to in a Wonder Woman story. Little time is spent on Themyscira before Diana finds herself as a member of a refugee camp following her attempt at rescuing a group of refugees from drowning. Absent is the typical glorification and focus on the US military. It’s replaced by a focus on the life of a refugee in the Mediterranean and the life of an immigrant in America. Col. Steve Trevor is gone, replaced here by Steve (a diplomat) and Trevor (a doctor) who work with the UN.
The story is very character driven and doesn’t leave room for a whole lot of action. That’s fairly typical with these more YA focused books. Rather than feel the need to provide action shots every other page, Anderson and del Duca spend the majority of the book subverting the idea that governments (US especially) are good at actually caring for the people who need it most. They spend a similar amount of page space displaying that the responsibility to care for others often lands on the shoulders of fellow members of the community. I enjoyed the little asides where Diana plainly points out hypocrisy of modern society. This might be one of the least action-oriented super hero origin stories I’ve read, but it’s also certainly one of the most human and meaningful.
Taking everything into account, what we end up with is something unique and enjoyable. Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed isn’t anything like you might expect from a a super hero origin, even having read previous DC YA graphic novels. At it’s core, it’s a well illustrated story about finding a new home in a different land where the deck is stacked against you and how anyone can help make a difference in people’s lives by showing that you care. I hope that DC continues to pursue creators that will bring a similarly fresh perspective to their universe.