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Wonder Woman #195

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2003
By: Ray Tate



"The Mission"

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Drew Johnson(p), Ray Snyder(i), Trish Mulvihill(c)
Publisher: DC

Novelist Greg Rucka made his name known to the insular world of comic books with Oni's Whiteout. The highly recommended first series rocked. The second one-shot follow-up tanked. His work led to a critically lauded run starting with No Man's Land on the Batman titles. I cannot fathom why he received such accolades, as it was during this run that Batman became a subhuman, emotionless, allegedly crimefighting automaton in all but five of Rucka's stories. Later, Mr. Rucka launched Queen and Country, which never lived up to its premise and quickly fell from my subscription list.

It was my intention never again to pick up a book by Greg Rucka. That changed when I read Tales of the Slayer. Imagine my surprise upon finding that one of the few outstanding short stories was one by Mr. Rucka. Since it involved a well characterized Grecian Slayer, I decided to pick up Wonder Woman. Mr. Rucka may have an affinity for the Greeks. Just because Mr. Rucka does not understand Batman does not mean he cannot comprehend Wonder Woman.

Mr. Rucka takes Wonder Woman back to the bronze age of comics. It was during this age that Diana was the most powerful, most intelligent, most sophisticated, most heroic and most meaningful. Mr. Rucka even brings her closer to her former life of Diana Prince U.N. attaché. He has made her an ambassador for Themyscira, given her a staff of supporting characters that fit her "redefinition" and removes, or at least de-emphasizes, deadweight continuity.

In the book, Alanna Dominguez refers to Diana as "THE Wonder Woman." This means Hippolyta's Wonder Woman is not the legend. Diana is the legend. This suits me just fine. John Byrne's well-meaning but half-assed time travel fix made little sense. Diana used to be as eternal as all the other Amazons, and DC could have reorganized the mess left over from the Crisis by making her the first super-hero in their adjusted continuity. Diana could have fought in the Revolutionary War as well as World War II.

The Crisis orphaned Donna Troy. According to Mr. Rucka in the new series--it certainly feels that way--will not be discussing Donna Troy's stupid, stupid, stupid and unnecessary death in Graduation Day, which has no reason to exist and should be boycotted. The last thing a new series needs is angst over a character whose retconned relationship with Diana is confusing at best.

To my deepest heartfelt gratification, Trevor Barnes is just a painful memory. In fact because he's not mentioned, I can imagine the character being painfully killed by having his skin ripped off his sissified body. In fact, Diana is unattached in this series, and although I like the idea of a bronze age or animated Batman/Wonder Woman pairing, the principles the character holds should be more important than whom she is dating. Again, Mr. Rucka comes through.

The implication in Wonder Woman is that all you see has been in existence for quite awhile. It's not exactly a retcon. It's more of a reduction of a complex and often inane history to the essence of Diana. Like a pleasant perfume, this premise entices. The eternal Diana, a full-fledged member of the Justice League, a well-known hero tries to deal with civilization or force it to deal with her.

There are many ideas at work in Wonder Woman. On one level, the comic book operates as a political drama. On another level, the comic book creates a mature, exciting super-hero tale that parallels the real world's problems. On a third level, the comic book peers into Diana's noble desires and gives insight into why this character has lasted for so long.

Such ideas should not be lost in distracting artwork. Drew Johnson brings a realistic, uncluttered approach necessary for the large cast and textured settings. The settings are detailed but not in an overly meticulous fashion. Rather, they create a sense of place and community. They also establish the ordinary to contrast the awesome.

One of my long running complaints--and I admit to have many--is that super-heroes are no longer spectacular. Artists who haven’t learned anything but somehow lucked into their position have dimmed their shine. Mr. Rucka and Mr. Johnson address this problem.

Superman's arrival in cameo is an event. He towers over the characters. His physique exceeds the hopes of the most diligent body builder. His proportionate sinew bulges within a costume that through subtle inking and colors that denote depth distinguish him from the grotesque incarnations found in his own titles. He even sounds in character. The last time I heard Superman speak like himself in a continuity title is when Louise Simonson wrote his dialogue; Grant Morrison's JLA rests outside of continuity. This same care in craft can be found in Diana.

Mr. Rucka has a sense of film, and he builds up to the first appearance of Wonder Woman. We first see her as a blur. We next see her draped in shadows. We then glimpse her in a classic bullets-and-bracelets pose that resonates not only because of the history but also because of the unfolding drama. When Wonder Woman states "You're under arrest, General." you realize what has been missing in the post Crisis DC heroes: the sense that they are law enforcers who fight to make the world a better place.

When Wonder Woman stands revealed readers will not be disappointed. Mr. Johnson composes her with power and dignity. Her uniform is symbolic and eye-catching rather than exploitative and sexist. Her countenance bears distinctive character and ethnicity. Her straight, black hair echoes to the bronze. Mr. Rucka gives back Diana her intelligence and poise. He gives her back her confidence and experience.

I've been a fan of Wonder Woman ever since the Bronze Age issue in which she and her Amazon friends have been shrunken to the size of the Atom. I know this character, and to find the same chill I get every time I watch her in Justice League within Mr. Rucka's and Mr. Johnson's Wonder Woman is a delight. Wonder Woman may be the beginning of a new golden age of super-hero comics. I am impressed.



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