Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Clark, Sean Parsons, Liam Sharp, Jeremy Colwell and Laura Martin
Lettering by Jodi Wynne
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Wonder Woman has consistently been a tough nut to crack for DC creators in recent years, with even a writer as heralded as Grant Morrison only being able to cobble together a fairly pedestrian take on the character in Wonder Woman: Earth One. But few have as glowing a reputation with the Amazing Amazon as Greg Rucka, who returns to Diana Prince with Wonder Woman: Rebirth, shouldering the weight of righting the "New 52"’s wrongs and making sense of "Rebirth"’s massive course correction in a mere 20 pages. But even for a talent like Rucka, this might be a bit much, with even his much-vaunted art team flagging behind this issue’s overlarge expectations.
But ultimately, this isn’t Greg Rucka’s fault — out of all the big characters in the DC lineup, Wonder Woman might be the one most in need of damage control, particularly after the previous poorly-received run by Meredith and David Finch. Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since Diana was a character that could really be boiled down to a single theme or maxim. Superman is truth and justice. Green Lantern is willpower. Spider-Man is power and responsibility. But what is Wonder Woman about? You could go a few different ways: equality, feminism, justice. In this special, Rucka lands firmly on Truth as the unifying theme of the title, and in the process, he sets out to undermine that idea. It’s a clever but frustrating bit as Rucka dredges readers through Diana Prince’s toxic last few years, sprinkling in some of the new wrinkles that DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and Justice League introduced before pulling the rug out from under readers in the final pages.
Rucka makes Wonder Woman an unreliable lens through which to see her world, and even though her history wasn’t erased in the reboot, he’s allowing himself a way to pick and choose the events of the last five years of storytelling that he wants to keep or discard. While I think this comic doesn’t work in terms of being an entertaining story that will hold a reader’s interest over the course of 20 pages, I do think it puts Rucka in an enviable position compared to other writers in the new DCU. He’s essentially enabled himself to start from scratch. Of course, it’s hypothetical that the powers that be would even allow it. For instance, they’ve made a big deal about Diana’s twin brother, a fact that’s even mentioned in this very issue. But a detail like that seems like part of the journey rather than the destination. This is a very passive issue because it forces us to slog through pages and pages of recap with very little payoff. But there’s a chance it could lead to something interesting.
It’s never a good sign when you see a litany of names in the credits for the art, but at least these teams are able to do a decent approximation of each other. On the whole, Matthew Clark’s vision of Diana Prince is solidly in line with what the character should be. She looks formidable and strong, a great contrast to David Finch’s almost waifish character design. It doesn’t seem that Clark has the greatest eye for panel and page layouts but it feels like that might be a symptom of reading the issue through digital means rather than having a physical copy of the title, so it’s hard to fault him too much. There is some regular inconsistency with body proportions at certain angles and some strange expression work but that’s balanced by some really strong key moments like the waist up shot of Diana in costume at the beach.
It’s unclear if the art switch to Liam Sharp’s pencils is part of the literary device that Rucka wants to employ. But as the truth of narrative is thrown into doubt and Diana realizes it, we get a different look altogether. Her costume becomes more ornate as she sheds her "New 52" duds in favor of something a little bit more movie-friendly, as she and her readers are transported to Olympus. But Sharp doesn’t have the chops for the minor action sequence here which comes off stiff and lifeless. There is very little flow to his pages and they seemingly just jump from moment to moment which stands in stark contrast to Clark’s more deliberate pacing. Many readers were excited at the prospect of Liam Sharp joining Rucka on this title, but he squanders the small part he has to do and his strongest bit of work happens to be the cover.
Sometimes I wish I could grade a book separately for potential. But that’s not a thing. What Rucka does with this title is inject some hope into a book and character that had none for the astute reader who is paying attention to what’s happening on the page. Unfortunately, if Wonder Woman wasn’t a character that you cared about before this issue, this one is unlikely to win you over. The switch in art seems strange. The time spent on the past seems inconsequential by the end. But in theory, the concept is new-reader0friendly. If the Truth has been compromised and Diana must seek it out, she’ll go on a journey to find herself and hopefully, in the process make sense of her history and her place in the DC Universe. While that makes this individual special a little less than stellar, this bit of continuity utilitarianism means Wonder Woman has the potential to be one of the best books in the new DCU despite this strange beginning.