Rebirth Issue 1 CoverFor all intents and purposes, I “gave up” comic books sometime between 2006 and 2008. Marvel’s Civil War had ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. DC’s Infinite Crisis promised universe shattering consequences that mostly just meant canceling (or significantly changing) some of my favorite titles. In general, I just felt that The Big Two had run out of good stories about their most compelling characters, and were shaking things up for the sake of shaking things up, but not really changing anything in fun or innovative ways.

Flash forward to today. DC Rebirth. To me, it seems like it’s coming hot on the heels of The New 52, which felt like it came hot on the heels of Infinite Crisis (which I saw as an attempt at a “mini-reboot” for the DC Universe). In fact, in both cases the new shake up came five years after the previous “universe shattering” events (Infinite Crisis in 2006, New 52 in 2011, Rebirth in 2016). For the record, I know that Rebirth is not a reboot in the strictest sense, but it feels like a mini-reboot in that it’s an attempt to rectify some of the missteps that DC took with their characters.

When New 52 hit shelves, I took a look. It promised a new spin on classic characters, so I opted to give it a chance. And I gotta say, besides thinking some of the costume changes were kinda cool, I wasn’t a fan. Now, I’m stepping back into the world of comics, getting a first look at Rebirth with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps (click here for the review), Nightwing (click here for the review), and Wonder Woman.

 

Spoiler Warning: It should go without saying that there are spoilers in my reviews, so if you want to experience these stories and their surprises for yourself, maybe skip the rest of this article. Long story short: I highly recommend the new Rucka-helmed Wonder Woman, starting with Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1!

 

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Wonder-Woman-concept-art-cover-DC-RebirthFull disclosure – I’m new to Wonder Woman’s solo title. Obviously, as a big fan of some incarnations of the various Justice League comics (and some other books where she made regular appearances, such as Teen Titans), I was familiar with WW. I’m a big fan of the character, as I always felt she was really cool in the context of a super-group or team-up. However, for some reason, I never read any of her solo stuff. I’m not entirely sure why, honestly.

But here we are, with DC Rebirth. Being as it’s so early in the run, there’s no better time to start reading up on the adventures of Diana Prince. My first introduction to it was with Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1, back in June, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by a veritable super-team of artists, including Matthew Clark and Liam Sharp as pencilers; Sean Parsons as inker; and Jeremy Colwell and Laura Martin as colorists.

One of my favorite things about this issue is the cover, done by Sharp and Martin. Holding her sword up in a classic salute to an adversary, Sharp did a great job capturing the Amazonian princess’s confident smirk and the determination in her eyes. It’s a great introduction, for first-time readers, to a classic character.

Of course, the art continues to impress even beyond the cover. Clark and Sharp are talented at including a high level of detail in some panels, while keeping other panels minimal, without losing my interest in any of them. Colwell and Martin’s color palette compliment the illustrations nicely, especially the use of different background hues to match Wonder Woman’s mood.

The story, as well, captivates. It begins with a fairly standard encounter in the life of any superhero: a brief tussle with some gun-wielding thugs. Of course, these scenes never put the heroine in any great danger, but they do serve to introduce the character beyond narration. This particular scene shows how WW charges fearlessly into a hail of bullets, the poise with which she does battle, and the precision she uses when wielding her weapons. It establishes her as a graceful, practiced warrior who maybe enjoys mixing it up with the bad guys. WW also shows off her compassionate side near the end of the scene, which is a critical element of the character in my opinion.

All in all, it’s a great introduction to Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, especially for new readers who might be lulled into picking up the issue because it’s a #1, a new beginning.

I think my favorite part of the entire issue was the central theme of “the story keeps changing”. I don’t know if this was intentional or not on Rucka’s part, but considering how often DC keeps tweaking, retconning, and rebooting the origins of their iconic line-up, I kind of know how Diana feels. The fact that the multitude of conflicting versions of the character is written in as a motivating plot point… well, I just love that.

As a huge fan of ancient mythology, especially Greek and Roman, I especially appreciated the later pages. Diana’s brief battle with the minotaur, Cerberus, and a centaur – made of clay or bronze (it’s not really clear) though they may be – was a great acknowledgement of the character’s Greek myth origins.

Most importantly, Rucka presents the reader with a mystery, and a compelling one at that. This isn’t just a matter of finding out “what happens” – it also provides an avenue for readers to discover what “has happened”, in terms of the DC canon, at least for Wonder Woman herself.

19.-Wonder-Woman-1Beyond the relaunch issue that is Wonder Woman: Rebirth, I love what they’re doing with Wonder Woman in the current run, with two different storylines running simultaneously under the same title. Starting with Wonder Woman #1, and every odd-numbered issue thereafter, writer Greg Rucka, artist Liam Sharp, and colorist Laura Martin will be helming a storyline dubbed “The Lies”, in which WW continues seeking answers to the questions posed in Wonder Woman: Rebirth.

My biggest quibble about Wonder Woman is the confusion regarding the relaunch of the title.  Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 is very different from Wonder Woman #1 (which says “Rebirth” across the cover).  Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 is (apparently) a stand-alone issue serving as the launching-off point for the ongoing Wonder Woman series.  Wonder Woman #1 is the actual, “official” beginning of the new storyline, though it continues the events from Wonder Woman Rebirth #1.  Confused yet?  Maybe, maybe not – regardless, I feel they could have handled this a little more elegantly.

Anyway… Part 1 of Wonder Woman: “The Lies” is, as mentioned, the continuation of WW: Rebirth.  The issue introduces some “new” players, including Commander Etta Candy, Chief Steve Trevor, and the savage Cheetah.  While these are recurring characters within Wonder Woman’s canon, this first look at them in the Rebirth era definitely provides some interesting exposition about their current pursuits (in the case of Candy and Trevor), as well as posing some interesting questions for how things are going to shake out moving forward.  I’m especially interested to see Cheetah and Wonder Woman working together to solve Diana’s little mystery.

The artistic team-up of Sharp and Martin continues to impress, especially in the panels where Wonder Woman searches the Bwundian rainforest.  The sinister and oppressive jungle jumps off the page, and gives these scenes a persuasively intimidating atmosphere – I especially love the totemic shrine of bones that Diana discovers just before issuing her second warning.  Trevor is rendered as a true bad-ass, suitably grizzled, bearded, and war-weary.  By contrast, Sharp’s depiction of Candy and her assistant, Leah, seem almost cartoonish.  While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it did jar me out of the story slightly, interrupting the momentum that I felt the issue had up to that point.

I appreciate Rucka’s pacing throughout this issue.  He does a great job of starting slowly, building tension and stringing along my sense of curiosity.  WW’s fight with Cheetah’s worshippers, though brief, offered a few panels of Amazonian awesomeness.  Juxtaposed with Wonder Woman’s seeming passivity in the final pages of the issue, it helps to hammer home that Diana is there hoping to find answers, not a fight, ending the issue on an emotionally heavy note that makes me want to have the next issue in hand ASAP.

Now, let’s tackle Wonder Woman #2, which is part 1 of “Year One”. Going forward, all of the even-numbered WW issues will focus on this storyline, which brings readers back to Diana’s Issue 2 Coverfirst encounter with Steve Trevor. While Rucka will still be writing these stories, illustrator Nicola Scott and colorist Romulo Fajardo, Jr will join him for all of the “Year One” issues.

Now, I already said that I liked Sharp and Martin’s work on WW: Rebirth. But I think I might like the pairing of Scott and Fajardo even more. The amount of detail that Scott puts into each panel is downright stunning, from the decorative touches on columns to the sequins on a wedding dress. Scott has a knack for expressive characters, and I think that drew me into the story more than I anticipated. At the end of the issue, Scott expertly renders the wounds suffered by Steve Trevor and his doomed friend Nick, highlighting how serious Trevor’s injuries are (Nick’s wedding ring dangling from the end of the metal rod that impaled him is an especially dramatic touch).

Fajardo’s coloring is easily on par with Scott’s illustration, offering a blending of cool and warm colors in scenes of nighttime revelry, giving the feeling that courtyard braziers valiantly keep the chill night air at bay. As an aside, the Amazons’ colorful wardrobes were extremely helpful in differentiating characters even in busy scenes, and I always appreciate it when comic creators go to the trouble of minimizing my confusion when keeping characters straight.

As for the story itself, it starts off slow. Character introductions and exposition dominate this issue, providing context for the events to follow. While many comic book fans might cry for action, I was drawn in by the brief snippets of everyday life in Themyscira and on American military bases. The sedate pace offered a nice contrast to Rucka’s work on WW: Rebirth, proving that he can spin an engaging tale without falling back on fight scenes all the time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the issue was without its surprises and drama. As mentioned already, the crash site at the end of the issue is plenty dramatic. Even before that the mysterious appearance and disappearance of the gnarled tree and its venomous inhabitant (nice Biblical imagery, there) provides a bit of an unexplored plot thread that should prove interesting down the road.

As with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and WW: Rebirth, this issue comes in at $2.99, which is a steal as far as I’m concerned. I’ll definitely be following along with Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, and I recommend you do the same!

Have you read the new Wonder Woman comics?  Did you like them?  Let me know in the comments below!

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