By Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Jodi Wynne
Compassion. Strength. Wisdom. Optimistic yearning. Rucka, Scott and co. may not be bringing anything particularly new to the pantheon of Wonder Woman lore, but by the gods are they bringing something refreshing. Slaking your thirst for the most human and admirable qualities of the character, Wonder Woman #4 is the strongest entry yet in the newly rebirthed title as it emboldens the finest aspects of Diana and her world. This isn’t a mere origin tale or a retelling or a reboot; it’s a rediscovery of the spirit and grace that inspires in the face of the unknown.
Rucka’s script ebbs and flows with a delicate confidence that belies the far grander scope being established. It’s full of the quiet, soft moments that provide the true strength behind the Amazons. There’s an acute attention to the beats that inform each other, that allow for the big reveals of majestic warriors triumphing and bowing to defeat. Themyscira is presented with a challenge in the form of the outsider, the unknown with all its promise and horror, and Rucka takes his time to deftly present the full spectrum of rationalizations and emotions from its inhabitants. The Council of Themyscira gathers and debates the facts and the fears that come with the arrival of Steve Trevor and his now departed brethren. Like so much of our own very real world political discourse, there’s discussion of what it means; for religion, for culture, for security. Is this a sign? And if so, from whom? There are powerful allies as well as powerful foes that both could play this hand. Rucka subtlety presents all sides with validity and its reflection of our own world’s similar debates is jarring only insomuch as how civil it all is. Respectful, wise, and still vulnerable to the emotions that lurk in us all, this council of strong, informed women arrive at a decision (as guided by their Queen, of course) that logically move us forward with a trepidation of not knowing the outcome. As do we all.
It’s this fleshing out of the society of the Amazons, this calm and honest peek behind the curtains, that’s the richest fruit to be picked from this issue. It’s an honorable sisterhood with centuries of its own evolving culture (the games, the structure, the creed) that’s being met with potentially its greatest challenge at this, the turning point for both it and for its foremost champion. Many have forgotten or may not have ever learned the word “brother” as they would have little use for it. Amazons are a diverse group of shapes and colors. Honor is cherished and sacrifice even more so. Rucka is that rare writer who balances feminism, a respect for the military (not that those are mutually exclusive, mind you) and restraint. He never shows you what game you’re playing even if he shows his hand. There’s this moment where Hippolyta examines the Navy Seal patch and notes the position of its eagle’s head as being reflective “of one who will meet battle, but does not seek it.” Later still we see the symbiotic duplicity of her relationship with Diana and of the sisterhood of the island itself to a degree: Queen. Princess. Mother. Daughter. Warrior. Peacekeeper. Threat. Opportunity. What makes us strong are what we perceive as our greatest weaknesses. Compassion builds warriors, bonds build warriors, divisions break warriors. Rucka takes our nascent warrior princess and gives her all the tools necessary in these 20 pages to succeed at battle, so that she should never have to. All while the only man present in the issue has little to say (quite literally as they do not speak his language) and has little bearing on the outcome of the events swirling around him. But Diana listens and Diana cares.
The graceful strength running rampant throughout the issue is almost entirely attributable to Nicola Scott’s formidable rendering. Only ever rendering the essential elements of a scene or character, she injects a quiet passion through her thin line work and deft sense of pacing. Instilling raw, vivid emotion in facial features that communicate everything one would need even without dialogue, her light hatching adds a delicate sense of dimension to the subtler expressive actions. Big moments (the double-page splash of battle replete with horseback archery, spear throwing, and an energetic sense of what it means to truly charge) play huge and yet the smaller moments somehow play even larger. A back and forth between Hippolyta and Diana, where that mention of the forgotten word “brothers” occurs, is as beautiful an example of how to execute talking heads as you can see. Scott directs the eye in rhythm to the conversation, allowing for the silence to ring as long as necessary and the emotion that accompanies an arm embrace or a silent nestling or a troubled head framed by a mother’s hand to hit as hard and as real as any sword blow. Scott is producing tremendous, heartfelt work that informs every ounce of the thematic elements put forth by Rucka’s script and, in tandem, it’s nothing short of elegant visual storytelling.
Romulo Fajardo Jr. complements it all by instilling an honest warmth to the characters be it a glow in their cheeks or a hopeful glint of sun that adds life to this thriving world. With a smoothly blended application and the occasional craggy sponging of a stone column, there’s a sense of tranquility to the largely warm palette that opens up with a splash of complementary sea greens and earthly rust in the battle splash. It’s slick without ever leaning into being overly chromed and it all comes home when Diana, Princess Warrior of Themsycira, is revealed in her costume for the first time basked by the violet colors of royalty with gleams in her armor and the iconic saturated primaries that are inseparable from her.
If you have never connected with Wonder Woman before, read this issue. If she still doesn’t click with you, then she never will. If you’ve been yearning optimistically for the honor, love, and potential that pump through Diana’s veins, read this issue. It’s only a beginning, and a tightly restrained one at that, but it’s still a smart and fully satiating glimpse at the best of us in the face of a new challenge. DC has entrusted this team with the power that this character can unleash. Rucka and Scott are clearly up to the challenge of using it with wisdom and love.