In June, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Editor’s Note (AL): Earlier in the day, Kyle and I took a look at Young Animal’s newest title, Mother Panic #1. You can check out our review of the book right now!
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
Alex Lu: Greg Rucka’s work on Wonder Woman during the “Rebirth” era alongside artists Nicola Scott and Liam Sharp has been nothing short of stellar. Over the course of the last few months, they’ve given new life and meaning to a character that had been having an identity crisis for years. Where Sharp’s work with Rucka on “The Lies” has been building Wonder Woman’s present-day role as a unifier and a diplomat, Scott’s work with the writer in “Year One” has been focused on telling us about where Diana Prince came from. Wonder Woman’s origin story, continued here in Wonder Woman #10, has a lot in common with The Legend of Tarzan. Both leads are strangers in a strange land, unused to the ways of the modern world and unable to easily communicate with those around them. People are distrustful of their intents, but a small group of sympathetic individuals reveal a deeper goodness innate to each of them. This inherent goodness is one of Wonder Woman’s greatest qualities and forms the basis for the storyline Rucka and Sharp explore in the excellent Wonder Woman #10.
The Diana we see in “Year One” is not the Diana most of us know. She isn’t the battle-hardened and often stern person we see in “The Lies.” She’s much more lost and worrisome as she walks through a mall for the first time at the start of this issue, forming a nice parallel to her present-day mall visit in Wonder Woman #9. There’s a nice moment in the issue where Scott’s artwork focuses in on a pair of high-heeled platform shoes and cuts to a close-up of Wonder Woman’s face, her lips tightened in a grimace to emphasize her confusion at this foreign and seemingly cumbersome object. However, despite her feelings of bewilderment, inability to speak English, and her general sense of disconnect from the culture of the world, Diana still understands people. When two young children approach her to compliment her outfit, she kneels down to connect with them at their level, wearing a wide and earnest smile. She wants to help and bring joy to others, even if she doesn’t know exactly how to do so yet.
Throughout the issue, Rucka does an excellent job of sowing the seeds that will sprout and entangle to form the Wonder Woman canon we now know. As Diana, Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, and Barbara-Ann Minerva sit around a table and clutch “the perfect,” better known as the Lasso of Truth, they find they can understand each other for the first time. This moment around a table of margaritas binds them to one another. In particular, we see a cute moment where Steve and Diana lock eyes and Scott renders Steve with hearts all around his face. All of this serves to emphasize the theme of discovery– the idea that Wonder Woman is learning about herself as much as we are learning about her.
Ever since she left Themyscira, Diana has been discovering new abilities granted to her by patron gods who appear to her in the form of animals. Already we’ve seen her discovering great strength by ripping the bars off a prison cell where the military was holding her. In this issue, we see her discover the power of the lasso. She mentions during her conversation with Barbara, Etta, and Steve that she will discover what other powers she has when she “needs them.” It’s a vague idea given specificity when a group of terrorists attack the mall. Wonder Woman leaps into action, selflessly jumping on grenades and shielding kids from bullets with her bracelets. The book springs to life for me in this sequence, giving Scott a chance to dazzle us in a stellarly rendered sequence where she stretches the trajectory of a single bullet hurtling towards a cryinc child into four dazzling pages where we see Diana leap, moment by moment, to save the would-be victim. By the end of the issue, she’s unlocked the power of flight, but it’s not like she really needed it– she’s already soared into our hearts.
Kyle, what did you think of this issue? I know we saw the Sear Group back in issue 8, but to be honest, I still have no idea what they are. Google isn’t coming up with anything other than home improvement suggestions, so perhaps you might be able to shed some light onto the shadowy agency for this canonic newbie?
Kyle Pinion: On the eve of what could be (edit: could have been) a pretty historic evening, I proposed to Alex that we sit down and take a look at two of the female-led books that are seeing release this week. Mother Panic left me pretty cold, but as per usual, Wonder Woman continues to be excellent on all fronts. I know many tend to prefer the even numbered issues, due to the ease on the eyes provided by Scott’s art and I think that an origin story is largely easier to get on board with (why else do we see different riffs on them constantly?), but I’ve found both ends of this larger, and occasionally converging, Wonder Woman epic by Rucka and team to be such a pleasure to dig into.
This issue struck me especially, due to its overall standalone nature. You could easily see the goings-on of the issue to be a stand-alone tale, the kind of thing that would pop up in the much-missed Sensation Comics anthology. Diana and company go to the shopping center in order to experience the delights of the Western World, an attack occurs, she saves innocents, and like that: she stands revealed to the world. It’s a perfectly composed mini-arc within a larger one (within an even larger one when you consider the present day storyline as well).
In addition, this is a story that does all the little things very well, from Diana’s approach to younger children, with whom she has no experience having been the only child on Themyscira to how Rucka (and letterer Jodi Wynne) handle her growing approach to the English language, juxtaposed to how Barbara Ann is able to communicate with Diana via rudimentary Amazonian. And as someone that’s a big admirer of the George Perez run (and the Marston work that long preceded it), I appreciated Rucka digging in deep regarding the gifts her patrons gave her. While we didn’t get an outright handover of power in this run, like we did in those runs of the past, the acknowledgement of this being the source of her power is heartening and Rucka is restoring one of the core tenants of Wonder Woman that has felt a bit ignored since this entire universe was relaunched.
In the second half of the issue is where Scott gets a chance to shine best, with fabulously composed action, and an especially dramatic 12 panel grid as Diana uses her bracelets to protect a family. This is my favorite take on the character, not one that carries a sword like some kind of DC take on Red Sonja, but a hero whose weapons are those of defense and submission. Rucka and Scott (and odd issue artist Sharp) get it in a way that few assigned to the character ever do. I wish this run could last forever.
As for the Sear Group? That tree imagery has been popping up a bit, most notably during the Barbara Ann flashback issue and in a few other spots in previous issues. Surely it’s a group tied to Ares, who will probably be felt in both the past and present storyline concurrently…if I had to guess.
Final Analysis: Buy
- Detective Comics #944 continues the Victim Syndicate storyline, focusing on a group of ragtag individuals who all received dangerous abilities after becoming collateral damage during Batman’s various fights with his rogue’s gallery. Where last arc was clearly focused on developing Kate Kane’s character and building up to Tim Drake’s death, this arc is shaping up to be a fight for Stephanie Brown’s aka Spoiler’s soul. It’s an interesting direction for the series and the Victim Syndicate is interesting enough, but I can’t help but feel like some of the momentum behind this storyline was stolen by the interceding “Night of the Monster Men” event. By the end of that arc, it looked like the Bat-team had dealt with Tim’s death to some extent, but in this arc they’ve all regressed into deeper states of anguish and anger. It’s only a minor speed bump and isn’t something that Detective’s creative team could have controlled, but it’s a niggling issue nonetheless.
- I’m really enjoying All-Star Batman so far. While Scott Snyder’s run on the lead Batman series was always introspective and occasionally so to a fault, All-Star has consistently proven to be a propulsive title month after month. He and artist John Romita Jr. are still certainly interested in diving into some resonant topics by further shading Bruce’s connective childhood ties with Harvey Dent, but on the whole this series soars because it’s focused on the “fun” of it all. Nowhere is that more obvious when in this week’s issue four, Duke’s favorite metal band comprised of former Arkham inmates, “Batman’s #$&,” becomes a major plot device.
- We’re on the verge of getting election results (writing this on the Tuesday afternoon of election day), so I’ve got my hands full with all kinds of stuff that isn’t comics related. But, this week, if anything, is my favorite week of Rebirth because there’s SO MANY SUPERFAMILY BOOKS! I’ve talked endlessly about how much I’ve enjoyed that line of titles and this week we got: Action Comics #967, New Super-Man #5, Supergirl #3, and Superwoman #4. While I think they’re all quite enjoyable and filling a niche in my heart that’s long been empty from these titles, Supergirl and Superwoman are especially delightful. The former digging deeply into the relationship between Kara and Cyborg Superman and setting up a heck of a dilemma for the title heroine, and the latter establishing what could make for a nice little shift towards placating those who were upset about the first issue’s big twist. With that said, I’ll recommend those two as my “must-reads” for the week.