Review: Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 (Spoilers)

I have now read the initial Rebirth issues of Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Action Comics, Aquaman, Batman, and Detective Comics. Having read all those issues within a week and a half period, it's not particularly hard to pick out some trends. Each issue seems intent on talking directly about continuity (and in some cases reflecting on the meta narrative surrounding a given character).  Each issue, outside of Batman which probably remains my favorite, also foreshadows a direction for the series moving forward (usually in the form of a villain). I don't personally like this approach to superheroes as I think continuity self-reflection and foreshadowing generic villainy are two parts of the superhero establishment that make for boring, typical stories. I'd much rather these opening issues take a stab at telling a great story (maybe even a self-contained one) that indicate to fans burnt out on continuity and crossovers, that DC is primarily, a house of storytellers. Wonder Woman #1 does not at all break this mold of Rebirth issues. It spends most of its time having the main character reflect on her two, self-contradictory backstories, and then proceeds to indicate the continuity issues are the fault of an, as of yet unseen villain. That said, while its structure is typical, it's also probably the best possible version of the Rebirth Formula and sets up a possibly quite good new Wonder Woman book. To put it simply, I think while hamstrung by some DC mandates, Rucka's skill as a writer shines through.

Wonder-Woman-Rebirth-#1The first smart move Rucka makes, is narrowly focusing the scope of the issue. The only character present is Diana herself, making the events and reflection seem more intimate and important than they have elsewhere. The plot is very simple, Wonder Woman has realized that she remembers two different, mutually exclusive versions of her life, and sets out to investigate. In what is the book's standout scene, she wraps the lasso of truth around her own arm, and interrogates herself about her past. It's a clever scene that gets across how smart and fundamentally tough Diana is. Rucka has written a Wonder Woman series before and his affinity for the character shows here. WW has to me, always been a tough nut to crack, with few authors finding a compelling reason to reconcile brave warrior princess with cheesecake pinup (both parts of her DNA). But Rucka writes her as regal and powerful with an undercurrent of emotion that works very well here.

The flip-side of all that is that not much actually happens in this issue. We get a bunch of flashbacks that match two sets of continuity, and a lot of dramatic talk about lies and stories. A final sequence shows a bombed out Olympus that has some very cool implications going forwards, but as with the other Rebirth titles, this is fundamentally table-setting. I would hope that Rucka is establishing that Diana's past is in flux so that he can tell a compelling, cohesive origin story (which despite many recent attempts hasn't quite happened), but I fear a little that going forwards we're going to have to deal with more hand-wringing about whether the events of new 52 happened or not. That I can do without...

In the end, I enjoyed Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 just fine and will probably read the new series going forward, but it's not by any means a masterpiece. Rucka's first issue demonstrates the possible strengths and fundamental weakness of DC's new strategy in a nicely illustrated nutshell. On the one hand, it's nice to have a jumping on point for what could be a really good, classic-feeling new story. On the other, it's hard not to be fed up with the self-congratulatory ret-conning that is the focus. I'm willing and ready to give new DC stories a chance, but it's high time to get them underway.

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Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Matthew Clark/ Liam Sharp
Publisher:  DC Comics
Price: $2.99
Release Date: 6/8/16
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital