I wonder if I am alone in not always understanding the rules of superhero comics. What would be, in any other story something worth noting or explaining often seem taken for granted as un-noteworthy trappings of the genre? These details often obscure which elements of the story are supposed to actually be mysterious, robbing them of their impact and leaving the reader frankly mystified. Take Wonder Woman #5 as an example. I take it that the main mystery is supposed to be Wonder Woman's muddled memory and lack of access to her home. But I am also confused by her friend Cheetah whose origin I don't understand, the villain whose relationship with some sort of deity confuses me, and the presence of hundreds of animal men which goes unremarked. Add to this the reinventions of Etta Candy and Steve Trevor and you have a rather confusing third issue in this storyline. There's a lot of successful stuff happening, but a little clarity would go a long way. The issue opens up with Etta Candy, apparently now a government wonk, meeting with her boss to discuss the missing military team headed by Steve Trevor. The scene reveals that despite seeming jaded paranoid, Etta believes in Wonder Woman and trusts her to rescues the team. Meanwhile, the military despot Cadulo recognizes Trevor as having some relationship to the gods and decides he'll serve as some sort of religious avatar (as one does). Meanwhile, Diana discusses her fractured memories with Cheetah, before attempting a rescue mission. That's a lot for a single issue, and as I said, it doesn't all tie together well just yet. I would imagine all these plotlines will eventually come together to form some sort of meaningful whole, but I can't tell quite how.
The lead problem here is that, as with many Rucka superhero books, the interesting material is the characters themselves and not the ongoing action. I would like to spend more time exploring Steve and Diana's relationship which is fleshed out a little here in some small but interesting ways (when Cadulo ask's Steve who Diana is to him, he answers simply "Wonder Woman"). Similarly, when she's not posturing about mythos and heroics, Diana remains a great mix of regal princess and sincere, cheerful young woman. There's a moment near the end of the issue where Diana sees some old friends and gives an unexpected, charming grin that immediately humanizes her in a way few Wonder Woman authors think to.
I continue to go back and forth about how I feel Liam Sharp's pencils serve the story. On the one hand, the characters sometimes look a little warped and contorted in a manner reminiscent of the Dynamite house style. But at the same time, there's a subtlety to the characters faces that makes his work stand out from the pack. That humanizing moment I mentioned before would not work without his ability to make Wonder Woman look a little silly without it being a joke. And Sharp's level of detail on the jungle and action scenes are still extremely beautiful by just about any standard.
The problem with reviewing an issue of a comic is that, in the context of a series, a single issue means almost nothing. I do think this is a fairly weak 22 page read, but at the same time, Wonder Woman is still the title that's been the strongest out of the entire DC Rebirth line. So to anyone who has, as I often do, skimmed to the end of this review to get the overall takeaway, I'd put it like this: it's a bad issue, that somehow doesn't by any means make me less excited for the next one.
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Wonder Woman #5 Writers: Greg Rucka Artist: Liam Sharp Publisher: DC Comics Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing/Bi-Weekly; Print/Digital