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‘Diana: Princess of the Amazons’ (review)

Written by Dean Hale & Shannon Hale
Art by Victoria Ying
Published by DC Zoom/DC Comics

 

“More than anything in the world my mother longed for a daughter. What do I long for?”

 

Diana: Princess of the Amazons, a new hefty 90-page graphic novel coming out this week, is a charming tale that will delight long-time fans of Wonder Woman, and is certain to be a big hit with DC’s younger audiences.

Produced as a part of DC’s 2020 Young Reader initiative, it explores a question we will soon see applied to many of the most beloved superheroes of the DC Universe: What was it like when they were still just kids?

With the explosion of Middle Reader and Young Adult fiction throughout the publishing world in recent years, it’s a question that holds real merit, and DC is looking to capitalize on what promises to be a wide-open new field, by pairing with well-known storytellers within these genres to tell stories of the formative years of our favorite icons.

Enter New York Times bestselling authors Shannon and Dean Hale, who have built a reputation for depicting strong girl characters in graphic format with their Princess in Black series, Rapunzel’s Revenge, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. And clearly have a genuine love for Diana of Themyscira.

That’s because for all that their script succeeds in hitting all the right notes for a coming of age tale that any young girl will recognize, it does so while honoring Wonder Woman’s source material in a manner befitting a project that, ideally, will also contribute to it.

It’s a combination that works. Diana’s early life on the island paradise that is Themyscira is understandably one of significant contrast. On the one hand, her life literally is a paradise. Surrounded by the beauty and wonder of the natural world, and the security of a loving community of the most serious bad-ass aunties one could possibly hope for, nonetheless Diana is alone – the only child in a community of well-meaning adults who have nonetheless not been young themselves for thousands of years.

That would be hard for any young woman caught between childhood and adulthood, and Diana is no exception. And so, when the fates and the gods appear to intervene to provide young Diana with the one thing she most desires – a friend her own age – quite naturally she is eager to keep it to herself.

Thus kicks off an exploration of self-identity and character, that gives Diana a glimpse of just how sheltered her life has been, within the bubble of all the expectations she has grown up with as Queen Hippolyta’s only daughter. The temptation to rebel is at first like a game for her, but it gradually becomes apparent to Diana, that what she first thought of as magic of one kind, turns out to be a magic of a very different kind. One that spells serious trouble for the Amazons of Themyscira.

In addition to Shannon Hale and husband Dean, the project is illustrated by Victoria Ying, who has animation credits on several Disney and Pixar films, with veteran children’s artist Lark Pien taking on colors. Talk about girl power.

Appropriate. And it’s a fine collaboration. Ying’s animated style is simple and sweet, with a flair that harkens back somewhat to the old Asterix & Obelix graphic novels. Her work is so expressive, with an excellent feel for both action and perspective, it quickly pulls you in and carries the project through. Pien’s colors are a splendid complement, with enough nuance to bring the natural world of Themyscira alive.

All in all, the feel of the book renders Diana as somewhat younger in age than she’s probably meant to be, but the underlying lessons of personal responsibility and the dangers of selfish disregard are universal. And this story in the life of young Diana, princess of the Amazons, rings true both to her legacy, and to the inspiration she is yet to become.

If you have a young Amazon of your own between the ages of 8 and 12, or if you are a lifelong fan of Princess Diana yourself, be sure to pick this one up. It is sure to enthrall young readers, and impress older ones, alike.

 

 

 

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