Wonder Woman has been around for 76 years. She is, hands down, the most iconic female super hero that has ever been created. That’s a pretty impressive curriculum vitae in and of itself, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. From her inception, it has been pretty easy to cast your gaze across the swath of popular culture and see where Princess Diana of Themyscira’s influence has found footing. She has spawned hundreds—if not thousands—of super-powered female characters that we have all picked up and read and loved almost as much as the original. There are some characters where the influence is tougher to put your finger on (Stephanie Brown, for instance, who shares Diana’s tenacity and drive to do what she thinks is right at any cost), where in other places it’s quite obvious (characters like Artemis or Nubia, for example, who were created as brief replacements for Diana).
With Wonder Woman enjoying her well-deserved moment in the pop culture spotlight, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight one of these “daughters” who I think is woefully underappreciated. She’s a creation of DC Rebirth and is one of the leads in the excellent NEW SUPER-MAN VOL. 1: MADE IN CHINA. I’m talkling, of course, about Peng Deilan a.k.a. The Wonder-Woman of China!
Oh yes, there’s a Wonder-Woman of China, along with the Super-Man referred to in the series title. In fact, the New Super-Man series has actually introduced an entire Justice League of China. Deilan is the leader of the team when they are out in the field, although their missions are run by the government organization that brought the team together in the first place. (One of the ongoing themes of New Super-Man is seeing our heroes slowly beginning to question whether the government’s intention with their new Justice League is truly altruistic.) Definitely check out the comic if you want to learn more!
It’s pretty significant that writer Gene Yang elected to make Deilan the leader. There have been many women who have led various incarnations of the Justice League in the past—including Diana Prince herself—but these are the founding members of the Justice League of China. It’s great. Not only is Deilan obviously the most martially minded of the three team members, but to date she is the only character not prone to dissolving into petty bickering every time they’re forced to work together. Even more noteworthy, it’s Deilan who has been willing to search Shanghai every time the Super-Man of China, Kong Kenan, freaks out to find where he’s hiding out and give him a pep talk to get him back on track. That’s true leadership. It’s little wonder that she is the only one of the bunch that the Chinese government is comfortable trusting with a handful of powerful metahumans at her command.
Her incredible intellect aside, Deilan has very similar powers and abilities to the original Wonder Woman. Like Diana, she has a lasso with which she is very proficient, although it is pink and has more to do with harnessing her internal energy (or qi, if you like) and sending electrical shocks through her foes. In the second issue of the series, Deilan describes it as working like an extension of her own skin and, therefore, it is “always accurate.” On top of that, she often wields a spear and a shield. The antiquated weaponry is an obvious nod to Diana Princes’s Greek-inspired roots. For her part, Deilan is equipped with a Qiang (kung fu spear) and a shield. Oh, and did I mention that she can fly!?
Chinese symbolism continues on into the costume that the Wonder-Woman of China wears. The classic “WW” is emblazoned in yellow across her chest, but here it is enclosed in a hexagon. (Kong Kenan’s Superman shield is also closed in an octagon.) As readers of New Super-Man have been learning, the symbology of such things can affect their respective heroes’ ability to harness and deploy their energy and tap into specific metahuman abilities that they might not have thought themselves capable of. Kenan, as the titular character, is going through more of that than Deilan, but it’s admittedly fun to imagine just how powerful she really is and what she might be capable of that we haven’t yet seen.
Eagle-eyed readers will also notice that the Wonder-Woman of China’s costume is green. This isn’t just a haphazard design choice by Hi-Fi. Green—jade green, specifically—is highly prized in China and the color itself is a symbol of power and status. From the first time readers see Peng Deilan, we’re being told by Gene Yang and artist Viktor Bogdanovic that she is the smartest, most powerful, most capable person on this team at any given time.
This most contemporary version of Wonder Woman is one of the coolest yet, in my opinion. Maybe her appearance reminds me of all the beautiful fighting girls that I loved in manga and anime growing up. Maybe it’s that she’s called Wonder-Woman. Maybe it’s that Peng Deilan is actually the coolest girl around. Regardless, she’s a sensational new addition to the pantheon of Diana’s Wonder Women and I am dying to own an action figure of her. Let’s make this happen, Wonder Woman fans!