This book is probably tied for my favorite book out of DC Rebirth. In fact, it is one of my favorite books currently on the shelves right now. And not just because Greg Rucka, one of my favorite writers, is writing it; everything about the book, the art, the story, the characters, the pacing, contributes to make the book feel like something both beautiful and haunting, magical and real.
But let’s talk about Wonder Woman first. Wonder Woman has had a pretty tumultuous history, beginning with her creator, William Moulton Marston, putting in overtly feminist and bondage themes. The writers immediately after Marston, however, tended to ignore those themes, thus setting up a back-and-forth, push-and-pull between who Diana of Themyscira was going to be. Was she a lover of peace? A war maker? Someone who lost her powers when she was tied up? Did her lasso compel people to obey her or merely tell the truth? Or did it, as Gail Simone wrote, look into people’s souls?
I could write article after article about various interpretations of Wonder Woman, from Robert Kanigher’s silly Silver Age version (where she regularly teamed up with her younger selves, Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot) to Dennis O’Neil’s Bronze Age version where they tried to revamp her as a Emma Peel-esque super spy (which failed miserably) to George Perez’s post-Crisis take on her as an ambassador and emissary to Gail Simone to Brian Azzarello. But instead, let’s take a look at Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman.
Rucka began writing Wonder Woman in 2002 with the graphic novel Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia and it was something new, a story in which Diana lost. It was a Greek tragedy. And then Rucka took over writing the main book, starting in 2003 and going until 2006, lasting all the way until Infinite Crisis. His Diana was still the ambassador to man’s world that Perez made her, but she faced a lot more mythological opponents (like Medusa), as well as being given her own Lex Luthor-type villain in the form of Veronica Cale, someone who rose to the top through her own merit, but saw Wonder Woman as unworthy of her fame.
And then that history was wiped away, as happens when other writers come along. Diana turned back into a secret agent and then worked for the DEO and then her origin was rebooted and then de-rebooted and then rebooted again with the New 52. Which brings us to DC Rebirth and the strange fact that, somehow, Diana appears to be remembering all of her origins.
Rucka set up the premise of the book very clearly: Wonder Woman’s memories have been changing for some reason, her origin different than it was. So she tries to go to Themyscira to find answers, but can’t find it. Her home is completely missing.
After that, Rucka divided up the book into two separate stories: every odd-number issue would be part of “The Lies,” the story of Diana trying to find her way to Themyscira and uncover the truth, while every even-numbered issue would be “Year One,” Rucka’s version of Diana’s origin. “The Lies” would be illustrated by Liam Sharp and “Year One” would be illustrated by Nicola Scott (who, ironically, was once an actress up for the part of Wonder Woman).
This story was vastly different from the previous Rucka run on Wonder Woman — gone was the ambassador, the setting, even the side characters. Slowly, however, Rucka introduced the classic Wonder Woman characters back into the book — Etta Candy, Steve Trevor, even Barbara Ann Minerva, the Cheetah, here reinvented as one of Diana’s former friends.
Wonder Woman needs the Cheetah’s help to find Themyscira, so she makes her a promise: she will help kill Urzkartaga, the god that turned Barbara Ann into the Cheetah. Meanwhile, Steve Trevor and his team are following orders from ARGUS and Commander Etta Candy to find and stop a warlord named Cadulo...who also just happens to be a worshiper of Urzkartaga. (Yes, Rucka is mixing the spycraft he usually writes in Queen & Country with the more mythological story of Wonder Woman. It still works.)
“Year One,” then, shows the early days of Diana living on Themyscira and then Steve Trevor crash landing on the island, Diana winning the contest to be the one to escort him back home, and then on to the beginnings of her friendship with Etta Candy and Barbara Ann (who, it turns out, is the only one who can speak Diana’s language).
Both Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott do beautiful artwork, some of the best I have seen. And more, Sharp’s Diana looks sad and weary, tired, even as she fights on, while Scott’s Diana always seems to look chipper and happy, eager to explore the world she is just encountering.
The alternating stories never get bogged down, which is something considering that it’s easy to pad out a story that way, especially with DC’s bi-monthly schedule. But neither story feels like padding — each feels essential to understanding Diana.
“The Lies” is coming to an end soon and then we will begin with “The Truth.” Rucka has already stated that he is going to stay with Wonder Woman until at least issue 24. Let’s hope it’s more, because so far, it’s been wonderful.