Diana of Themyscira (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) has always considered herself a complex woman, though that complexity lends itself to paradox. She is a warrior who fights for peace. She is a princess who fights for equality. She is a lover who would rather not fight at all, yet always relishes an opportunity to fight the good fight.
Lately, Diana has been feeling truly conflicted – not only regarding her nature but her very past! She remembers completely contradictory facts.
How she was made of clay and had life breathed into her by the goddesses of her people. How her mother came to know Zeus in the form of a mortal man and lay with him.
How she was the first child born among the Amazons in centuries and beloved by all. How she was one daughter among many and an outcast.
How she was blessed with amazing powers due to her divine heritage and training under the tutelage of Ares. How she earned divine power after a tournament to determine the Amazon’s ultimate champion.
How her journey to Man’s World was brought about by the arrival of the first man to set foot of Themyscira in their history. How a prophecy sent her to combat the evils of Ares and serve as an Ambassador.
These visions lead Diana to do what she had never done before – turn the Lasso of Truth upon herself and see what she may see. It is then that Diana learns a horrifying truth – that nearly everything she believes she knows about herself is a lie and that someone has been manipulating her for a very long time.
It would be fair to say that Wonder Woman, as a character, has undergone far too many pointless revisions to her backstory and motivations. This was a problem even in the 1940s, where William Moulton Marston’s feminist icon joined the Justice Society of America only to become their secretary and spend many of their missions staying at home, worrying about “the boys” and dreaming of a day when she could marry Steve Trevor.
The problem has become more pronounced in recent years, with J. Michael Straczynksi’s 2010 Odyssey revamping Wonder Woman into a street-smart urban warrior, just one year before the New 52 changed the entire DC Universe. It was there, under Brian Azzarello’s pen, that Diana was revamped into the bastard daughter of Zeus and secretly trained in the art of war by Ares himself. The Amazons, in turn, were changed from an advanced Utopian society into a murderous nation of misandrists, who abduct men for procreation and sell their male children into slavery.
Rather than eliminate this confusion, Greg Rucka embraces it and further adds to it. He recalls the history familiar to those who still think of Lynda Carter when they picture Wonder Woman in their heads while half-explaining references to the more recent comics, where Diana replaced Ares as God of War. By doing this, Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 is made largely inaccessible to new readers at the expense of providing fan-service to those fans of Rucka’s Wonder Woman run who have been ill-pleased by Azzarello’s take on Diana and The Amazons.
It’s a shame the writing is so muddled because the artwork for this issue is largely excellent. Matthew Clark has an unfortunate tendency toward forced poses but otherwise possesses a good sense of composition that is perfectly enhanced by Sean Parsons’ inks and Jeremy Colwell’s colors. The closing sequence where Diana visits Olympus (or what she thought was Olympus) is ably illustrated by Liam Sharp, whose heavy inks blend with Laura Martin’s crimson-hued palette to create a truly nightmarish vision of paradise lost.
Apart from the wonderful art, there’s little to recommend Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1. There’s no real story to this issue – merely an affirmation that things are screwed up and that Diana will need to fix them. What we needed was a bold declaration of who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for. What we got was a promo-book, promising that we’ll be getting to that in the months to come, with Diana’s modern adventures in the odd-numbered issues and a new Wonder Woman: Year One unfolding in the even-numbered ones. So stay tuned, kids, and be sure to drink your Ovaltine!