It’s often felt like DC Comics hasn’t known what to with Wonder Woman, imbuing her with sensibilities and backstories that clash with each other. The new comics featuring Princess Diana are attempting to mold her history into one cohesive whole.
The Batman and Superman books have come out of the gate with strong, fast-paced starts. The older Kal-El from a deceased alt-reality faces a Lex Luthor who’s laying claim to the name of Superman. A more emotionally accessible Batman has deputized Batwoman to train a team of Gotham crimefighters with the mission of repelling an army that’s targeting vigilantes. The third member of DC’s Trinity is undergoing a slower, deeper reconsideration of her mythos, but things are starting to heat up.
The Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang run on Wonder Woman that started in 2011 was hailed as a breath of fresh air for the character, but the idiosyncratic soap opera the creators built around the Greco-Roman pantheon upended decades of established lore about Diana and her origins. The New 52 version of the character wasn’t shaped from clay by Queen Hippolyta and infused with life by the gods. Instead, she was a demigoddess born of a union between her mother and Zeus. Now we have a Wonder Woman who can’t trust anything she thought she knew about her own history. That’s the gist of Princess Diana’s stories under the aegis of DC’s Rebirth initiative.
The new Wonder Woman series is being written by Greg Rucka—an acclaimed veteran who wrote the Amazing Amazon in a great run back in the early 2000s—with alternating art teams anchors by Liam Sharpe and Nicola Scott. Diana’s nagging sense of unease, fueled in part by the death of her lover Superman, has led her to use her Lasso of Truth on herself, pulling back the veil on an apparent web of contradictions about her own life.
The celestial realm of Olympus and its resident gods aren’t where they’re supposed to be and Wonder Woman can’t find her home of Themyscira, either.
The new Wonder Woman series will be alternating between the present and the past. In this week’s Wonder Woman #2, we go back to Diana’s youth on her hidden island homeland to see the beginnings of her journey to Man’s World. It also tracks Steve Trevor’s life from his early days as a young soldier to the fateful day that the aircraft carrying him and others crashed on Themyscira.
Seeing as how this is all building to a new canonical origin story for DC’s premier superheroine, it’s interesting to see which elements of other Wonder Woman origins Rucka is nodding at. The series written and drawn by George Perez after Crisis on Infinite Earths re-imagined the Amazons as the reincarnated spirits of women who were violently killed by men. That beat gets revived here, in an exchange that shows the island’s warrior women fully retaining memories of her past.
It’s a good moment, because it reinforces thematic ties to a clever thread in a beloved past run and sets up the longing that will eventually pull Diana away from the island. All her immortal Amazon sisters have already lived past lives in the world beyond; she hasn’t and that serves as a believable catalyst for her curiosity and wanderlust.
This younger Diana is an affectionate day-dreamer, one who loves her mother while simultaneously chafing under the authority of a queen.
So far, Rucka has made a point of explicitly stating the ethos of his vision for Wonder Woman. As a younger woman, she loves freely and relishes the thrill of testing her skills. She’s a little cocky, too.
As an older superhero, combat is a last resort for her but she’ll stomp your behind if you test her.
The tricky thing about writing Wonder Woman is that it requires a finely tuned balance of her various contradictions. She’s a ferocious warrior who’s not above killing yet is on a mission of peace. Her real-world origins are tied up in theoretical explorations of bondage and submission but she later became an icon of feminism and a subject of gawping male gaze. She came of age on a women-only island yet has traditionally been written as having boyfriends and being attracted to men.
In addition to finding a narrative path to thread through all those polar opposite elements, a writer has to give Wonder Woman a distinct personality, dramatic threats and a supporting cast worth caring about. It’s still early days for Rucka’s return to Princess Diana’s adventures but I’m already seeing enough to convince me that a stronger, thoughtfully composed Wonder Woman is going to emerge from the storylines that are unfurling in her past and present.