Rebirth, Rucka, and Redemption: Why You Should Be Reading the New Wonder Woman

For better or worse (mostly for better, from what I can tell), DC has finally laid the grim, poorly structured, and laughably undiverse New 52 to rest, and has started over under the header Rebirth. This sort of reboot to continuity is often a boon for readers looking for a convenient jumping on point, and Rebirth was no exception for me. When I heard that Wonder Woman would be starting over at #1, and more, that Greg Rucka, author of the iconic modern Batwoman story Batwoman: Elegy, would be writing her, I was super hyped. Wonder Woman has suffered any number of woes during the New 52, not least of all a writer/artist duo who didn’t seem to understand that feminism was not a dirty word.

I read the first issue of Wonder Woman Rebirth when it was released in June, before I got a new brickspace job and moved to a different state. Once I finally got settled, priority number one was catching up on the comics I missed during the whole process, and the first point of order of that mission was to acquire the Wonder Women I’d missed in the interim.

wonder-woman-rebirth-origin-gun

Several Rebirth titles are being released every two weeks instead of monthly to maintain hype; Wonder Woman is one of these. The series starts off with a framing issue, in which Diana finds herself bending under the weight of all the different myths, roles, and origin stories she has been given over the years. It’s a textual attempt to reconcile the metatexual issues of her conflicting stories, and I kind of dig it. Diana sets off to Olympus to discover who’s been screwing with her, and we spin off into a new storytelling format. In the even-numbered issues, we are introduced to what is, potentially, Diana’s real origin story. In the odds, we follow Diana’s mission to untangle her past into an encounter with an old enemy. There have been six issues to date.

In the even issues, as per usual, Diana is the princess of the Amazons, powerful and intelligent but also still young and somewhat innocent. When Steve Trevor—who is now a modern soldier rather than a WWII one—and his team crash land on Themyscira, Diana competes with her fellow Amazons to be granted the responsibility of escorting Steve, the only survivor of the crash, back to his world. While she wants to befriend Steve, she only speaks the Greek-ish language spoken on Themyscira, and this doesn’t serve her well when they arrive back in the U.S. After all, who wouldn’t be suspicious of a huge, physically powerful woman wielding a magically sharp gladiatorial sword and speaking in no known language? The most recent issue sees Diana imprisoned while the military tries to figure out what to do with her. A Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, an Indiana Jones-esque explorer-turned-professor, is brought in, as she’s able to cobble together some spoken Themysciran and translate, but when Diana tells her that the Greek gods have visited her with a mission, even Dr. Minerva is suspicious at first.

This isn't religiously coded at all. Nope, no symbolism to see here.

This isn’t religiously coded at all. Nope, no symbolism to see here.

In the even issues, Diana’s present, Steve and Diana have a clearly established friendship (at least, if not more) and she speaks perfect English. Steve’s special ops team is tracking a string of missing girls and women through the jungle when they are captured by a devotee of Urzkartaga, a vaguely African cheetah god. Diana is also in the jungle, but for reasons unaffiliated with Steve’s team. She is out looking for Dr. Minerva, who has become the villainous Cheetah in the time since the origin story. Diana hopes that Cheetah, whose cheetah-fying curse is, incidentally, tied to Urzkartaga’s power, can help her decipher her own confused history. Cheetah’s relationship with her own superpowers and with Urzkartaga seems pretty unpleasant, all told—while she blames herself for Urzkartaga’s cruelty and is disgusted by her own carnivorous urges, Diana points out what the relationship really is: just a new and supernatural spin on domestic abuse. Cheetah agrees to help Diana uncover her past in exchange for Diana helping her kill Urzkartaga.

I appreciated the story starting out with Diana’s origin story, as it really made it feel like an organic jumping on point—a proper reboot that anyone could follow regardless of their foreknowledge of the character. However, the Cheetah aspect of the story is currently what interests me the most. My knowledge of the DC Trinity’s rogues galleries is pretty limited to mostly Batman’s and a few of Superman’s, but I do know that Cheetah is one of Wondy’s most famous adversaries. I didn’t know she was also super intelligent, nor did I know about the unpleasant circumstances that led to her, well, cheetahness. While it will also be fun to see female villains who are genuinely nasty people as the run progresses, it is fascinating to see this particular “villain” be given this tragic depth. It really calls to mind the classic, character-defining quote from Gail Simone’s run as a Wonder Woman author:

We have a saying, my people. ”Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify, and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve first extended it.” (x)

Beginning the series with an arc that follows Diana trying to help and redeem one of her most famous enemies gives me hope that this particular theme is going to be strong here.

Rucka is also not afraid to use terms from feminist theory; for example, Steve Trevor himself accuses the priest of Urzkartaga of being stuck in a mindset of toxic masculinity when he villain-monologues his plans in front of Steve. And the feminist mindset of the series comes out in its art as well. Artist Nicola Scott, who is drawing the origin story issues, is tremendously talented and is one of the few female artists to have worked on such high-profile DC characters as Wondy and Superman, among others. Her Wonder Woman is no wilting flower—she’s 6’2” and muscular, and is never drawn to appeal to a male gaze. The art in general is bright, clear, and emotionally driven, and have featured some tremendous full-page and two-page spreads. Meanwhile, Liam Sharp is doing a tremendous job pouring emotion into the (thematically and literally) darker current-day jungle story.

Just gals being pals.

Just gals being pals.

While Diana (and Steve) remain the focus of the series, the rest of the characters do display a range of diversity. Etta Candy, another classic Wonder Woman figure and formerly a bff/sidekick character, was racebent to Black in the New 52, but at the cost of her weight, as the white version had been historically fat. The new Etta is still Black, but in Rebirth, she’s returned to her original plus-size figure. We haven’t seen much of her yet, but she looks to be a well-rounded character who cares about her friends and is serious about her military responsibilities. The supporting casts both in our world and in Themyscira are also both portrayed as racially diverse. Furthermore, we even discover that Hyppolyta, Diana’s mother and Queen of the Amazons, is in a long term interracial wlw relationship with her advisor Philippus.

I’m interested to see a few things play out in this series. First of all, I’m interested to see if they bring up Diana’s probable bisexuality. Growing up on an island where she didn’t even know men existed, where homophobia doesn’t exist, the potential that Diana has had queer relationships herself is pretty high, and it’s strongly hinted that she has indeed in the first origin story issue. Given Rucka’s history with writing queer DC heroines, I’d be interested to see his take on it.

I wish I was getting *half* as lucky as Diana, yeesh.

I wish I was getting *half* as lucky as Diana, yeesh.

I’d also like to see what happens with the bi-weekly release schedule in terms of storytelling. Right now, the series is running two separate but connected storylines, now that the origin-story side has introduced the pre-Cheetah Dr. Minerva. Once this storyline is wrapped up, will the book go for a more linear approach? Will DC scrap the twice-monthly print schedule? Or will the split-level storytelling carry forward?

I guess the only way to find out is to wait and see. I encourage you all to jump on with me and come along for the, uh, wonderful ride.


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