Release: August 2016
Writer: Greg Rucka
Pencils & Inks: Liam Sharp
So here begins Wonder Woman Vol 5 in earnest. This is one of DC’s biweekly books, which means that a new issue comes out every two weeks instead of monthly. Unlike most of the biweekly books, though, this book is split into two. The odd issues are Wonder Woman in the present, trying to figure out just what the hell is going on with her sense of self (as we discussed in Rebirth #1 last time). The even issues are Year One, Wonder Woman’s origin retold as supposedly the canonical version that will serve as an amalgam of all the versions that have come before. We’ll cover the first of those next time.
One of the things that bears a bit of discussion as we get into these books is that a 2016 comic book is a radically different beast than a 1987 comic book. Production values are much higher, but with that comes decompressed storytelling, which basically means that far less happens per issue but it’s way better drawn (at least in theory). So, it definitely bears mention that unlike the exhaustive rundowns of the Vol 2 comics, not much happens in these comics. Which is good for me, but when it seems like my summarizing is short, that’s because the comics are short on story. It’s just how things are now.
Diana is in Bwunda, which is DC’s default fake African nation. It comes with a lot of the tropes of war torn African nations in popular media, mostly for bad. In this instance that means being both where Diana is confronting some sort of death-god worshiping animalistic monster cult, and at the same time Steve Trevor and company are on a mission for DC-universe’s version of Shield, ARGUS. ARGUS is of questionable morality, being run by that DC shades of grey stalwart Amanda Waller. But apparently the New 52 established Steve Trevor is an agent who works for them, and Etta Candy is basically Amanda Waller but not evil, being the director of Steve’s field unit.
The two groups both being in Bwunda is a coincidence, but one that doesn’t set very well with ARGUS, who view Wonder Woman’s involvement as a threat to national security. There’s some concern that maybe Steve Trevor brought her there, but in this continuity Steve and Diana haven’t had much contact in some years, though he seemingly remembers said contact fondly.
Steve Trevor is there to investigate abuses by an evil warlord named Cadulo, who is stealing women from villages and killing anyone who objects to his actions. This kind of unilateral US interventionism has certainly never been a bad idea that’s done more harm than good, and these are good guys, who what could possibly go wrong? Of interest, despite the comic positioning ARGUS as the good guys in these, Steve Trevor’s definitely a pretty grim and war-weary guy, seemingly. I would hope that that means that ARGUS won’t get a pass, and we don’t just get Steve shooting people all the time.
Diana, meanwhile, is fighting strange animal beings, calmly defeating them and claiming that all she wants to do is speak to their leader. Here’s where I admit I don’t know if I had enough context to know exactly what was meant by all of this, but her request for parlay as answered as that leader shows up—Barbara Ann Minerva, also known as the Cheetah, tackling Diana to the ground and demanding to know why she was there. Diana tells her plainly what was hinted at in Rebirth #1: Themyscira is gone, and Diana needs someone outside of herself to help her uncover the truth of what has gone wrong with her and all those around her. Why Barbara? Well, this is modern comics, and this is Rucka to boot, so those answers will have to wait until more comics have come out.
I’ll probably gripe about this more as we go on, but the inability of comics in the modern era to tell a coherent, complete story isolated to a single issue is one of my least favorite parts of comics. I get that we’re building broader arcs, but if you compare this to one of the Vol 2 comics, this could easily have been about 5 pages (less, even, but I’m feeling generous and it’d probably have a splash). I appreciate the art that goes into these books, an inhuman amount of effort to put together 22 pages of drawings every month, but I struggle with how little storytelling is done with all that art sometimes. Some writers are definitely better than others about this, and Rucka is particularly prone to writing for the arc over writing for the issue, but it’s something that I find an obstacle more than an enticement to keep reading.