Writer: Greg Rucka.
Artists: Liam Sharp (WW #1) and Nicola Scott (WW #2).
Colourists: Laura Martin (WW #1) and Romulo Fajardo Jr. (WW #2).
Letterer: Jodi Wynne.
June 22th/July 13th 2016
Disclaimer: This review is based on an advanced copy from the publisher and contains spoilers.
I was very disappointed in Wonder Woman #1, to say the least. Let’s set the scene: Diana is in the jungles of the fictional nation of Bwunda searching for someone, who can help her find something, but we don’t know who or what until the very end. Meanwhile, Steve Trevor is there on a mission to hunt down someone named Cadulo and his group who have ravaged villages and taken their girls (think Boko Haram). Talking to Steve from Langley is Etta Candy, the commander of operations. Now in Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1, I said I liked the issue because of its contemplative tone, which many readers didn’t like and that’s fair. I personally thought it was great for the one shot and what it wanted to achieve. Wonder Woman #1 continued with that tone whenever it shifted back to Diana’s journey into the jungle but in this case, it came off as a delaying tactic. It was more about serving that final page reveal than serving the character.
Then there’s the Steve Trevor and Etta Candy bits of the story. There’s a lot more movement happening in terms of plot but also in terms of what this world looks like. The problem with this line of narrative is something that can also be said about Diana’s narrative: the characters are flat. Before we get a glimpse of her ID card on page 6, I thought Etta was Amanda Waller returned to her pre-New 52 look. I love that she’s black but it’s hard to see this version of Etta as anything other than an unexciting Waller. Steve is just wonder bread. I didn’t care about a single character.
The art didn’t help. It felt lifeless. What once felt like a cool textured look, felt weighed down by the heavy inks and excess shadows. Martin’s colour choice doesn’t relieve the load but instead adds to it. I also think the gutters being black doesn’t do the art any favours or allow it to breathe. It feels cramped, which is a great way to describe the lettering as well. But I’m not going to write off the art completely. I liked that last page and there are panels here or there that were nice but overall, the comic was a slog to get through and as a Rucka fan, it felt like something was missing.
There was one more thing that left me feeling uneasy. The final page revealed the person Diana was looking for — the Cheetah — and that she needed her help to find Themyscira, which is missing, I guess. The problem lies in everything leading up to that moment. As you can see above, there are people behind her following her and as the story progressed, they slowly transformed into beasts. They might not necessarily be the same individuals as the ones above, but the art suggests the transformations the deeper Diana goes into the jungle. By the time we get to these wolf-like beasts, it’s fair to read them as black men (also the stereotypical loin cloth look and the African setting suggests black men).
This isn’t where I start to raise eyebrows — although I’m sure some eyebrow raising is already in the works. It gets further complicated with the Cheetah reveal. Diana demands the wolf men let her speak with their goddess so she can ask her for help. This “goddess” is the Cheetah. So why is this a problem? The Cheetah has been a white woman named Barbara Minerva for most of her incarnations so it’s not exactly all warm and fuzzy when you have a white woman referred to as a goddess in a black space. That just doesn’t come off right. It’s important to think about how race plays a role in storytelling. Maybe it’ll be revealed that this version is a black Cheetah but all I have access to right now is this one issue and would that make the wolf men okay? No.
This one was definitely a tough one because of the love I have for Rucka as a creator so you could imagine the whiplash I felt reading Wonder Woman #2 which had Nicola Scott on art. It was a complete 180.
I loved it. I’m giddy over it. The issue is the complete opposite of the first, which I know is the intent, but it’s also true in terms of its success as a comic. The moment I knew Scott’s art had me was the panel where Diana and her mother are hugging and smiling. The story’s got life in it and Romulo Fajardo Jr’s colours capitalize on that by making it feel good. The colours make it rich, light and fun like this panel of Diana’s face and how the pink lip adds a youthful glow to it.
I know who this Diana is. She’s a young woman who wants to look to the horizon and explore the rest of the world rather than look to the stars. She’s someone who teases and adores her mother. She appreciates the peace, friendships, loves, and lushness of Themyscira but who’s soul is one of an adventurer. While the last issue felt enclosed and heavy, Wonder Woman #2 is spacious with the amount of gutter space it’s given because the panels don’t feel the need to take up the entire page. It makes for an engaging read.
Like the last issue, there are two stories happening at the same time. We’re given a look at Diana’s life on Themyscira while Steve Trevor is going through his training as a newbie soldier. I called Steve Trevor “wonder bread” in the previous issue but in this one, we actually get to know him. By the end, we’re invested. His quiet “…help…us” post-crash hurts because we’re almost certain that he’s the only survivor which means his friend – who we also got to know and who left behind a wife and child – is dead. We have a Steve Trevor who is going to possibly be dealing with survivor’s guilt and grief. That’s interesting. He also represents an out for Diana, a means to explore the horizon which is an opportunity that she hasn’t been afforded until now.
There’s a ton of stuff that was great, like the text suggesting Diana is queer — which is pretty neat. Of course, whether or not the company will announce it or make it official is an entirely different thing. But I loved it and I’m definitely picking up Wonder Woman #4.