Review: Wonder Woman #1

I don't think I really understand Wonder Woman. I like the idea of a powerful warrior princess whose bloodlust is matched by her soulfulness. I'm less comfortable with the strapless, busty, pin-up girl, who still bears the titillating legacy of her bondage-themed first appearance. Diana is my go to example of the comics industry wanting the trappings of maturity without having to abandon some bad habits of yesteryear. It's great to see a powerful woman dispatching villains but it's high time DC  gave her pants and some armor and stopped drawing her like she's fresh from the Playboy mansion. Further, and likely following from this central incoherence, there's often something stiff about Wonder Woman's characterization. She's Superman without the cultural cache, Thor without the Jack Kirby background. She's female perfection, male wish-fulfillment, and 50s camp icon rolled into one awkward package. She's a character that DC, a company replete with problems in how it depicts women, desperately needs to work, but as of yet, she hasn't quite. I don't say all this to insult the work writer Greg Rucka is doing with the character but instead to highlight what a monumental task it is to write a good Wonder Woman story. Rucka isn't new to the character, having written a well respected run in the early 2000s, but having read the beginning of that series, I still feel he wasn't ever able to quite make a dynamic character out of Themyscera's emmissary. Enter DC's 'Rebirth' initiative, giving Rucka a chance to return to the character on his own terms, able to sequel and reinvent in equal parts try once again to a truly great Wonder Woman story. His approach is bold, telling a new origin story and a modern adventure one, in alternating issues, putting a comprehensive spin on Wonder Woman's continuity (more on that in a moment). First up is the modern period, which find Diana wandering a Rain Forrest looking for answers to a personal mystery.

Wonder-Woman-#1Rucka does something clever straight off the bat to make Wonder Woman more than swords and sandals cliche, he establishes a supporting cast. I'm not very familiar with Wonder Woman continuity (again, more on that later), but I get the impression the new version of Ettna Candy and Steve Trevor will be a shock for longtime fans, but as characters in their own right, they work. Candy is a military official in contact with contract soldier Trevor during a mission involving an African warzone city whose children are disappearing. Satellite photos have tipped Candy off that Wonder Woman is in the area and she suspects Trevor may have leaked information (a pleasantly exposition free indication of a Trevor/WW relationship). The two characters are modern and well developed, giving a sense of scale and steaks to Wonder Woman's heroics.

I love a moment when Steve Trevor glances at a photo of Wonder Woman he keeps with him, only to have his teammate note that it's a particularly unflattering photo of the statuesque beauty. Indeed, Diana looks goofy and caught off-guard in the photo, but Trevor doesn't mind responding "thing is...this one's mine." It's an especially nice moment when coupled with Diana's portrayal as a graceful, intellectual bruiser. Rucka writes Diana as a woman confident in her own power and purpose, which makes her a worthy hero, but a little flat to read.

Thankfully Liam Sharp's pencils lend a lot of life to Wonder Woman, making her look more acrobatic than I am used to. Jumping and twisting through the jungle, Wonder Woman radiates a joy in her movements that pleasantly offsets her serious tone. And within the confines of WW's still far too revealing, ridiculous costume, Sharp manages to make Diana look imposing and not too objectified. Occasionally Sharp's faces feel a little off, but the richly detailed backgrounds and evocative body language easily makes up for it. I can say with confidence that the book is one of Rebirth's prettiest and will make a stunning trade paperback at some point in the future.

The big question mark remains the story itself with Wonder Woman. As with Titans  #1 and Flash #1, reference is made to someone tampering with the hero's past. I would be a little disappointed if this all ends up being a tie-in to the Watchmen related madness of the Rebirth core book, but it would seem an odd stretch if the characters in multiple books have unrelated memory loss. Basically, DC is reworking its continuity yet again, and while that is not generally hugely exciting, Rucka's confident debut puts this book off to a good start.

[su_box title="Score: 4/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Wonder Woman #1 Writer: Greg Rucka Artist: Liam Sharp Publisher:  DC Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 6/22/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital