A couple days ago, Bleeding Cool published a piece extolling Skybourne #1 as hosting “The Wonder Woman Of The 21st Century” in character Grace Skybourne. Apparently, Grace fulfills the Wonder Woman archetype in a way even Wonder Woman can’t seem to, these days. The primary reasons given by author Rich Johnston include “She’s not in a bikini!” and “She can enjoy herself”, the latter citing the calm demeanor and peaceful expression she enjoys while murdering various people. There are several other reasons given that one way or another invoke the character’s penchant for violence (“She’s actually a warrior!”, etc.).
Why all the focus on her violent behavior? Well, that’s the bulk of the book we’ve seen so far. These are the opening scenes of a movie thriller, and a violent one at that. Grace offs several bad guys within a page or two of being introduced, with a casual flair not unlike the cinematic James Bond, giving readers a brief accounting of her disposition as mere prelude for the violent action sequences to follow.
If we were filling out a Dungeons & Dragons character worksheet on main character Grace, then there’d be obvious conjecture about her stats: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, etc….but would the reader know what to put in the “Alignment” box? You know, is she good, or evil? I don’t know what I’d put there. Maybe she doesn’t lend herself to dichotomy. Maybe she’s more complex than that, I don’t know. Perhaps she is under extreme pressure or duress, or the importance of her mission blurs moral lines. But having only her actions in this issue to go by, I think I have a basis for saying, “She’s somewhere south of neutral.” She murders several people she could just as easily have maimed. When Bleeding Cool proclaims it has found the Wonder Woman of this generation, I don’t think they’ve considered the possibility that Grace’s character may well turn out to be evil! How would it look if the character were revealed to be a murderous, rampaging enforcer for some shadow organization? Wait, that’s exactly as she’s portrayed here…
Bleeding Cool’s article misses its own point in several aspects, the chief of which is having essentially nothing to go by to make any kind of comparison to Wonder Woman with this Grace character. They are similar in several superficial aspects, like hair color and enhanced strength, but we simply don’t have a personality for Grace beyond that, and Grace’s actions thus far certainly don’t invite comparison. It’s as if Johnston is saying, “You know who’d make a better Wonder Woman? Emma Frost!” Only it’s different, because…Grace is a brunette? Seriously, how do you compare Wonder Woman and some violent enforcer type of character? Seems we have more reason to compare Grace to X-men villain Arclight.
By the way, Skybourne (Boom! Studios), by Frank Cho is cinematic comic goodness from a supremely talented writer/artist. It’s a ‘recommended buy’ from me. The character Grace has compelling agency in various action sequences. I just think you have to stretch the evidence and speak in vagaries to make comparisons to Wonder Woman. Even then, there are few, if any examples of important traits linking the two, and little to suggest Grace’s decisions or demeanor would enhance the Wonder Woman title.
I think we’re past the point in comics culture where we need to compare every female character with agency to Wonder Woman. Perhaps there are several aspects of the title Johnston would like to see in a Wonder Woman book, but those go beyond character and into the realms of cinematic presentation, including Cho’s skillful use of dialogue, blocking, panel layout, and, of course, his fantastic sequential art. These aren’t character traits, though, which is where the article goes off the rails.