This week's Wonder Woman #31 kicks off a new storyline that answers many of the questions from DC Universe: Rebirth #1, including the identity of Wonder Woman's twin brother Jason and the fate of Grail and baby Darkseid.
The storyline also brings a new creative team to Wonder Woman: writer James Robinson and artists Carlo Pagulayan and Emanuela Lupacchino.
Grail, baby Darkseid, and Wonder Woman's brother are all unfinished plot threads that were introduced at the end of Geoff Johns' Justice League run in "Darkseid War" b Geoff Johns. The story elements were also part of Johns' DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the special that teased a slew of plotlines that would be picked up after the line-wide "Rebirth" re-launch of DC's titles.
In this week's Wonder Woman, Robinson quickly established what was already teased in solicitations - that Grail is targeting children of Zeus and the "old gods" so she can steal their power and give it to Darkseid, the evil New God. In current continuity, Wonder Woman (and, we assume, her twin brother) are children of Zeus and the Amazonian queen Hippolyta.
Newsarama talked to Robinson to find out more about his run on Wonder Woman, whether Johns gave him free rein on the resolution of Jason and Grail's stories, and what readers can expect next.
Newsarama: James, you're coming back to DC for Wonder Woman. What got you back, and why for this character?
James Robinson: Well, to be completely honest, I felt the time was right to come back to DC. I called up Geoff and asked him … well, I texted Geoff. It's hard to get him on the phone nowadays.
And I said, "Was there any interest in me returning to DC?" And he came back and he said, "Yeah, what about Wonder Woman?" And I was like, "Really? OK."
And they were very keen for me to pick up on the plot points that he established in "Darkseid War," in terms of Darkseid being a baby and being raised by Grail and all of that.
So I was given a very, very loose set of parameters, and it was up to me to build upon those and create the story that I did.
In terms of "why Wonder Woman," it was because they asked me, as opposed to me coming to them. But I was very happy to.
I mean, someone pointed out to me that it's a very small and illustrious group who has gotten to write all of the Trinity in their actual comic books with their name on the title. And now with Wonder Woman, I'm one of those writers. I've written Superman and I've written Batman.
So I'm very happy.
And it's a character I've enjoyed and loved for a long time. In hindsight, it surprises me that it's taken me this long to actually write the character.
Nrama: How would you describe your Wonder Woman? I know you inherited what others have set up in this continuity, but what's our take on Diana?
Robinson: What I love about the character is this strange dichotomy that exists - I got a lot of it actually from the movie, although it was always there in my mind, but seeing the movie brought it to the forefront of my mind - but she's this sort of gentle, kind, loving person, but when there's a fight, she's the first one in. She doesn't wait. She's a warrior.
So the mixture of those two elements is really interesting and makes her uniquely strong.
In the movie, I loved the fact that they were in the trenches of World War I, and she was told that the enemy was across No Man's Land and that the soldiers were waiting for the right moment. And she's like, "What are we waiting for? Let's just go get them!"
That, to me, is the perfect Wonder Woman. She's a strong female that, at the same time, has this depth of love and compassion that is sometimes lacking in the male heroes.
Nrama: So did you work with Geoff on the answers to some of the questions he started in "Darkseid War" and DC Universe: Rebirth #1?
Robinson: What was in place was that Darkseid was a baby being raised by Grail, and the fact that Grail is half Amazon and half New God, and Wonder Woman is half Amazon and half 'old' god.
So there's a beautiful symmetry there that makes Wonder Woman the perfect foil for her, as opposed to Aquaman or Superman or another character.
So that was what I was given for that part of the story.
But everything else, I had to come up with.
But using that as the bedrock of the story - the idea that they're the flip side of the same roots - worked so well. It was easy for me to come up with everything else.
Grail is a very interesting character. I have to be careful to make her more than just an evil character. I'm trying to give her a personality and make her someone that you ultimately care about, even though she's bad - a character who sort of resonates. I mean, she's already appeared multiple times, but I've enjoyed putting my own handprint on the character.
Nrama: What about Jason, the brother of Wonder Woman? He was first teased in "Darkseid War" as well. Is he also central to this story?
Robinson: Yes, he will be. I don't want to say too much about him now, but I will say that they're twins. How alike are they? What are his powers - how are they different?
One of the things I wanted to do was create a character who wasn't just a male carbon copy of Wonder Woman. I think that you can get away with it once with Supergirl - obviously, she's brilliant and she's a great character. But we don't need to see just a male Wonder Woman.
So although he'll have some corresponding powers, he also has a different set of powers too. He's the son of Zeus and also the son of Hippolyta.
It's fun to explore. Is he a villain? Is he a hero? Does he want to be a hero? Is he happy to be in the shadows?
There are a lot of questions I will answer. But for now, I just want the readers to consider those questions and think about them until they actually meet the character.
Nrama: Grail and Darkseid are targeting the children of Zeus, so will Jason and Diana have to team up? Both of them are being targeted, right?
Robinson: Well, yes, they're being targeted. But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll team up. They might. But could Jason be using things to his own advantage?
Those answers will come in the series as the story continues.
Nrama: OK, it since you're being very tight-lipped about Jason - and we haven't met him yet after today's issue - can we expect the story of Jason to tie into the story of Grail?
Robinson: Yes, absolutely. But if I answer that fully, I'll reveal too much. You're very good at asking those types of questions. That's your mutant ability, I guess, or your superpower.
But yes, Grail does tie in with Jason and with Wonder Woman, and that's definitely an important part of this story arc.
Nrama: Any other characters that you've enjoyed writing?
Robinson: As much as I've enjoyed writing Wonder Woman and Jason, but I've really enjoyed writing Steve Trevor, who in the past has been sort of white bread - sort of a weak version of Lois Lane.
Lois Lane has been a strong woman, you know, really since the '60s, in her own comic and in Superman. But Steve Trevor always seemed like a little bit of a pale shadow of that kind of supporting character.
I'm picking up on some of the things Greg Rucka did, some things from the movie, and also what Geoff Johns did in Justice League, where Steve Trevor was this strong leader.
And that's been a fun challenge, making him unique and different from other characters who run agencies or the generic soldier characters we've seen before - making him this unique strong guy in his own right.
Nrama: What's the art bring to the story?
Robinson: Carlo Pagulayan is fantastic. It's sort of an interesting thing, because there will be issues throughout the arc that will show how certain characters got to that point.
One of the things I'm known for, in the past, when I was doing Starman, was doing these past stories that sometimes took place in Victorian times, or in the 1940s, or 1960s.
With this, it goes back to the birth of Jason and shoes what Grail and Darkseid have been doing prior to the first time we see them in the present.
So Carlo is doing the main storyline and Emanuela Lupacchino is doing the times past issues. It's very interesting - Ema lives in a city in Italy, so she sends a page as she does it. But Carlo, he lives in a remote part of the Philippines - not in Manila or one of the major metropolises. So I just get this dump of, like, half the book at once, which is kind of exciting. It's like Christmas to get these beautiful pages sent in, like from Heaven or something.
So it's very different.
But Carlo's a fantastic artist. I mean, he's been doing great work on Deathstroke and other things prior to this. He does a beautiful Wonder Woman. And all these characters look wonderful - no pun intended. And it's just been a thrill.
And I should add that the inking and coloring on the book are spectacular. So the experience of dealing with the artists has been a real thrill.