Wonder Woman #1
By Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, and Laura Martin
Greg. Rucka. Is. Home.
Blimey! – Wonder Woman has not fared well in recent years. Bogged down by the same loftiness and brooding sensibilities that have seen so many DC titles suffer in an era of joyful, “spring-in-the-step” titles from Marvel, Diana Prince has not felt like the icon she deserves to be for a long time. Her mantle as the definitive mainstream female hero seemed to have been handed over to Black Widow. But Rucka’s back to the character he arguably does best and he and this team elevate her to what she deserves to be. Even though it’s only one issue down, the signs are promising for the future.
Rucka, rather obviously, nails the character of Diana the way he did way back when. She feels other-wordly & godly, near ethereal, just as she should. In a time of mass appreciation for the ‘damaged relatable goods’ heroes of Marvel, a lesser writer would have shied away from embracing Wonder Woman‘s roots as a high-concept book of gods & monsters and ideas & exploration. Rucka, however, dives into that meaty stuff head first giving us a Diana who is better than us: a woman of tomorrow. She offers her enemy three chances to disengage before she touches a hair on their head. Yet on the final page, when she unveils her motivation for her quest, she expresses something extraordinarily human. It’s interesting that in a book that spends 19 pages reminding us how a godly, unflawed hero can work in the modern-age; its final page is all about making her human again. This dichotomy between two very different versions of Diana is perfectly on-tone with the issue’s overall theme. Because fittingly, given Diana’s weapon of choice, the theme at work here is “truth”- and everything is on topic. Wonder Woman pursues the truth of her origin. Steve Trevor may or may not be lying about the present state of his relationship with Diana. And that final page explores the idea of “who is the true Diana? The one who parades around like an amazonian God, or the one who is desperate to know who she is?” The idea here is that maybe truth is more complex than we think. If BOTH those aspects of Diana’s character are true, could all her origins be true? Every little moment stays on the topic of truths & lies and manipulation & falsification. It feels like a broad, near Grant Morrison style epic pantheon of ideas is about to explode across the coming issues: a complete deconstruction of the nature of truth…
Or maybe it will just be a cool comic about a woman punching stuff. Either is fine when it’s written this well. Here’s hoping for a blend of both.
It not just the character of Diana who sings; the character work is top form all-round here. The biggest tool a comic writer lacks over a TV or film writer is the sound of an actor’s voice to bring a unique intonation. All a comic writer has is dialogue and trust in their artist. Rucka makes excellent use of his word balloons, making sure each character has their own “sound”. Once familiar with the characters you could look at the word balloons sans art work and instantly know which character was saying them.
Make no mistake, trust in his artist Rucka certainly should have. To the art, Liam Sharp brings a meticulous approach. There’s intricate line work employed here, bringing to life the most minute of details. It’s a little like staring under a car bonnet if you don’t know anything about cars: a billion and one little, tiny pieces all interlocking to create something bedazzling and other-worldly to look at. This, combined with a muted colour palette (in the sense that it’s lacking a modern gloss, not that the colours at use aren’t bold) from Laura Martin leaves the whole book looking more like a tapestry than a comic, and nd that’s infinitely fitting for the character. What they’ve created here together is something that feels a little like it would be more at home carved into the walls of a long lost cave than available for $2.99 off the rack of a comic shop. There’s a great synergy between story and art here. Rucka’s lofty, godly Diana could have felt a bit ‘much’, and the grandeur of Sharp’s art could have been ill-fitting for what is essentially a mere superhero story, but combination is perfect and therefore electrifying. The grandiose pencil work highlights the best of the story and vice versa.
This is a simmering issue and more of a prologue to the story than part of the story itself. This book feels like the tinkering piano instrumental at the top of an album before the explosion of vocals. Something bombastic and exciting is coming and though it does not quite erupt in these 20 pages, you can FEEL it is only an issue or two way. That’s what the team achieves so well here: FEELING. This book is about emotion, and tension and heart. This could be frustrating for some readers who would rather a series that delivered issue after issue of high-octane comic-book storytelling. There’s a chance this series could go on to face criticisms of its pace in the long-term, and some may see the developing Trevor subplot as a shaggydog story in waiting, but in a post-Game of Thrones world, of stories that simmer and stew before erupting in a fashion nobody could foresee, this may well be the perfect superhero book for NOW.