I recently noticed an interesting conversation about realism in superhero comics. Some fans feel that a work like Chris Nolan's Batman which grounds its science and scale in something akin to the real world betrays the escapist side of comics. Others would say that to fully embrace the larger-than-life craziness of a superhero world often runs the risk of losing stakes and characters beneath the veneer of pulpy fantasy. While obviously the approach should vary depending on the story, I would say that the type or realism that is rarest but often most beneficial is emotional realism. Whether you are dealing with a man in a bat costume or a literal god who shoots fire from his eyes, you need to buy that the characters react to each other in the way a person might. This doesn't mean taking the fun out of a story or making it dully gritty, but it does mean considering what the characters value and fear. Wonder Woman #6 has no shortage of superhuman spectacle, but it manages to ground even its most outlandish elements in the rich inner life of Steve Trevor and Diana, two character who have, throughout the previous five issues, been portrayed with an unusual amount of care and subtlety. The duo have returned to the world of men (in this continuity, it's the 21st century), and are immediately whisked away by an army team led by one Etta Candy. While Diana, speaking no known language, is put in a holding cell, Steve faces the unenviable task of telling his best friend's wife that her husband is dead. As such, it's an issue that deals in melancholy first and foremost with Diana realizing exactly what she's sacrificed to come to this world where she is, at least for the moment, a curiosity.
This is the first issue of Rucka's flashback story that starts to relate to what's going on in the present. We are introduced to Etta Candy as a stern but reasonable military leader and Barbara Ann Minerva as an ancient cultures expert who may have some insight into Diana's languages. We also see the origin of the photo Steve carries of Diana, making the tie to the other story overt. I'm not clear on how much time has passed between this story and the other (reference is made here to Superman being the only known superhero), but there's a fun sense of mythos to knowing characters Diana meets here for the first time are her world-weary allies in the future. Instead of sacrificing momentum in order to make this a 'definitive' Wonder Woman origin, Rucka wisely makes this flashback a first chapter in larger story.
In keeping with the contrast between the dark, violent future and this more hopeful past is Nichola Scott's artwork which I am rapidly falling in love with. While her characters can look a little too youthfully smooth and idealized (though not in a sexualized sense), I love the expressiveness of their faces. While everyone looks a little babyfaced (especially jarring for a group of weathered military men), I love seeing a book with three main female character who look so dissimilar from one another. As I've mentioned before, I am a big fan of any artist approach to Diana that manages to make her ridiculous costume look like a pinup, and Scott's wide-eyed, overgrown Wonder Woman is delightful. Diana carries herself like a young woman still getting used to her own long limbs, and a moment of pure joy near the end of the book involving her burgeoning superpowers is truly wonderful.
Wonder Woman has, over its first six issues, established itself as the most thoughtful, quality book in the DC rebirth line, and that doesn't show any signs of changing. But while I like both sides of the story, there's no denying that this year one plotline has been the stronger, better-developed side of the story. With this issue, the larger picture of Rucka's plotline begins to take shape, and the future looks bright for Diana and company.
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Wonder Woman #6 Writer: Greg Rucka Artist: Nichola Scott Publisher: DC Comics Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital