Wonder Woman Rebirth Volume 1: The Lies
Wonder Woman Rebirth Volume 2: Year One
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Liam Sharp (The Lies) and Nicola Scott (Year One)
Acclaimed writer Greg Rucka returned to the character he wrote back in the early, the mid-2000s. This time he was forced to work through the reboot of the New 52 era of DC Comics. Add to that the company-wide initiative to rework their continuity once again to find some sort of middle ground between old-school approaches to their characters and injecting modernity into them. To accomplish this Rucka decided to make his biweekly run alternate between the present day adventures of Princess Diana and her early years becoming the hero of legend she is today. This unique structure allowed Rucka to drop a reference to a past event in his present-day storyline only to follow up two weeks later with the detailed telling of that story in the past. It makes for some mind-boggling reading when jumping back and forth but reads smoother in individual collections.
The Lies begins with the revelation that Diana is struggling with her memories of her home of Themyscira. Rucka makes references to the multitude of continuity reboots this series has had in the last thirty years and how it has left the title near impenetrable by new readership. A quartet of character is shaped in this story, which will carry over into year one. Diana. Steve Trevor. Etta Candy. The Cheetah/Barbara Minerva. This first volume is incredibly demanding to work through the eschews a focus on Diana for the most part. Instead, we spend a lot of time developing this new version of Etta Candy, Steve Trevor’s boss at ARGUS and detailing a military conflict with a terrorist after the totem that gives Barbara Minerva her Cheetah powers.
Rucka doesn’t shy away from the natural gender politics that come out of a series like Wonder Woman. The terrorist spouts his knowledge of the Cheetah god which details a deity that kept women in slavery. Of course, he is defeated in a pretty anticlimactic way, and he just isn’t that compelling of a bad guy. Barbara Minerva emerges as the most compelling character in this new run, living a tortured life cursed by the cheetah god and how it has taken her life away. The problem with this opening arc is that it is still way too dense for what I would consider the purpose of Rebirth. It never finds a way to balance old-school concepts with a fresh start.
This is the opposite of what Rucka does in the Year One collection. What we get in the first issue is a very faithful telling of Wonder Woman’s origins. She is the daughter of Hippolyta, Steve Trevor comes to the island, there a contest which Diana wins, and she travels to Man’s World as Wonder Woman. The changes occur when Rucka brings in his other two major characters, Candy and Minerva. Diana is detained upon her arrival, and the U.S. government tries to make sense of the world she presents to them. Barbara Minerva is brought in due to her expertise in obscure ancient languages. How Diana gains her powers is an exciting and different take that goes against some more recent established continuity. But she still ends up in a battle with Ares at the conclusion of this arc, a pretty typical turn of events for a Wonder Woman origin story.
There is a lot of groundwork being laid in these two but only one of them, Year One, tells what I would consider a truly satisfying story. In the conclusion of Year One, we get a one-shot epilogue about Barbara Minerva’s background, and she once again proves to be the most compelling character in this run so far. I found myself thinking back to the George Perez introduction of The Cheetah and would agree that Rucka does a much better job handling and developing this character. In some moments she becomes dangerously close to being a more interesting character than the book’s lead.