Saturday, May 6, 2017

Wonder Woman: The Lies (comics)

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Liam Sharp
Collects: Wonder Woman: Rebirth, Wonder Woman (2016) #1, #3, #5, #7, #9, #11

I might as well start by admitting something straight up; I've never liked Wonder Woman. I've always liked the idea of her, what she represents, but as a character, I can't think of a time she's ever done anything for me. Unlike most of her counterparts, she doesn't have a particularly spectacular roster of villains, she doesn't offer any unique settings that I find appealing or anything as a character that I found particularly interesting. The strength of Wonder Woman at times seems to be what she represents as opposed to any of her trappings. Wonder Woman has always been the icon, the most famous female superhero in the world, but I've always preferred the others, the Black Canary, the Huntress and even the Zatannas of the world.

I mean, unless we're talking about Kate Beatons grumpy, chain smoking take on the character. I'd read the hell out of a book about her.

Rebirth seemed like the perfect time to give her one more honest shot. The entire line has seen glowing reviews and the five or six I've tried a couple issues of through Comixology sales have lived up to the press. Not to mention, while I have no attachment to Wonder Woman, I do like Greg Ruckas work, even if a project or two left me cold. It's good, very good, but I'm not sure the direction they went with, or the implications, were the best place to start.

Why? Our new, Rebirth era Wonder Woman book deals almost entirely with her past. The big question of the volume regards her history and how much of it may or may not be true; the titular Lies from which this collection takes its name. Wonder Woman sets off in this volume in search of answers and Themyscira, because she senses something is off about it. Along the way, she drops in to deal with a cult in Africa rooted in some serious, old school misogyny, looking for the help of Cheetah, who may or may not have a new origin*.

Right away, this stokes a fear I had about Rebirth, mainly that this relaunch, meant to merge the New 52 with things from the old universe everyone knew and loved better, will be so concerned with the continuity of it and making sense of everything that it might be a turn-off. I've read comics for years, but don't know squat about Wonder Woman. The question of her continuity doesn't really grab me much. I can't imagine this approach would hold much appeal for anyone else like me, or someone who wanders in just looking for an accessible Wonder Woman story. This would have been fine if it were condensed into a Rebirth special, but it looks like the question of it is what is going to drive the entire run. Look, I've been a fan of Teen Titans for a long time, and I can tell you the whole "Who is Insert Character" schtick hasn't worked out well for her younger counterpart.

I've read enough Rebirth specials and first issues from the line to know that this, thankfully, is not the norm, but it kind of sucks that the one I probably needed to be the most accessible ended up so concerned with resetting the table and swiping at the New 52 era title**. I do wonder if it would have read better were the book collected in publication order rather than by arc. You may or may not have noticed the "collected" section had all the odd numbered issues. That's not a mistake. The book alternated issues with a classic Year One arc for the character, something long overdue. Personally, I think the book should have opened with that in itself, then gone on to new things, reconciling any continuity with the New 52 elsewhere, maybe a miniseries, but I also don't write comics, so hey.

Those misgivings aside, this is a good, well written book, as I'd expected it would be, and problems aside it did draw me in, whether in spite of that or not. Diana herself is exactly what you would want or expect the character to be. Her compassion and love for others is endearing. There's a moment where she's shopping with old friends for clothes and a bunch of fans show up, having been alerted to her presence through social media. She doesn't shy away from it, or treat it as much of a burden. In fact, she leaves the shop to greet the throng, not because she has to, not because it's some burden she has to deal with, but because, as another person remarks, she knows what it means to those people. That's awesome. That's likable. That's also so reminiscent of the way DC heroes used to be, the way they should be, that it's kind of hopeful in itself.

It's well drawn as well. I'm not familiar with Liam Sharpe, but they impressed me here. The linework has plenty of detail and the page composition is occasionally done in eye catching, interesting ways. One sequence in an early issue, when Cheetah goes almost feral and tears into attackers, frames panels of Wonder Woman reasoning her with gutters that have suddenly gone from black to a stark white. Over the course of several pages, the composition starts to make the panels line up, until one page before Wonder Woman breaks through resembles the bars of a cage that might trap an animal. On the page where Wonder Woman appeals to Cheetah and promises to free her from her curse, the gutters break down with jagged edges, as though the cage has been busted. I'm not sure it was intentional - the white gutters do appear in another place in the arc without the seeming pattern, so it's likely a happy coincidence I'm looking way too much into - but it works regardless. Other standouts include a similar page, where between the bars of a wooden cage are panels depicting soldiers planning an escape, then Wonder Woman appearing before them. Yet another has the vegetation of the surroundings act as the gutters.

Top shelf work all around.

The next trade is, as mentioned, a proper Year One arc, which ran in the even numbered issues opposite "The Lies". I'm a bit more interested in this one. But even with my misgivings, Wonder Woman's new Rebirth series is a fine read, good enough that I'll be continuing with it. That feels like a big win in itself.

My Opinion: Read It

* I genuinely have no idea if Cheetahs origin in this volume is all new or a holdover from a prior era. It doesn't resemble any I've ever heard mention of. This might just be my inexperience with Wonder Woman coming into play.

** I remember it had a lot of purists up in arms about how it depicted Wonder Womans lore and mythology, with the amazons in particular being a sticking point. I can understand that. I get the impression Greg Rucka feels the same, because the lies the book is centered around involve the New 52 history almost entirely. I never did get around to reading it, so I don't have much attachment to it - though the creative team enticed me and I'd meant to try it - but there's something a little... off-putting, I guess, about how directly this book seems to want to address and refute it. It's hard to explain. I don't want to say it feels petty, because I don't think that's the right word for it, but I'm not sure what you would call it.


  1. I have this (and Vol. 2) on order from the library and I'm really looking forward to reading them. It's a little frustrating, though, that pretty much every major Wonder Woman storyline or graphic novel of the 2010s has been about revising the character's origin. Like, is there really nothing more interesting about this character than where she came from?

    I think the alternate-issue publishing scheme for this series is a neat idea, and I'm interested to see how (or whether) it manifests in the stories themselves, but at the same time it does feel like a way of forcing readers to read/buy yet another origin story.

  2. I think they can kind of get away with the origin here, because while it has always sounded like Wonder Woman was obsessed with origin revisions, they've never done an out and out retelling of her origin that I can think of since Perez. There was never a classic "Year One" style deal for her. I think it's kind of necessary, especially right now, with Rebirth being as successful for them as it has been overall.

    I'm actually kind of looking forward to getting that in the next volume.

    After that, though, they definitely need to move on. I guess we'll see what happens post-Rucka. I don't think they've mentioned who is taking over after him quite yet, but I imagine it has to be announced soon. They can't really wait until SDCC with the book double shipping.

    The alternating issues conceit is a pretty decent idea. I do wonder how it's going to be collected in those deluxe edition hardcovers DC's putting out for Rebirth, that collect two trades worth of material. Do they print them in publication order then? That would be the way I'd go. If you wanted the arc based version, you can get the softcovers.

  3. I remember seeing they'd announced that Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo would be taking over the book after Rucka, but that might only be for a few issues before another team comes in. At any rate, it's a great call. They're both very talented, and has there ever been an all-female writer/artist team on Wonder Woman's main series before? I don't think there has.

    That's a good question about the deluxe hardcover! I hadn't even considered that. I'm sure there will be people who complain no matter which way it's collected, but I agree that publication order would be the best way of doing it.

  4. I must have missed that announcement. I don't check Newsarama every day like I used to and CBR has become a bit of a dumpster fire. Nothing but lists these days, which wouldn't be an issue if the lists were good. Just a couple of days ago, they had one about fifteen concepts DC shouldn't make shows about for their streaming service that included goddamn Angel and Ape and Gunfire. Yes, please, DC, don't make shows about these concepts you would never in a million years waste money making a show about.

    Gunfire. I mean, come on.

    Anyway, an all female creative team sounds like a decent idea. I think it's definitely a first. After all, it's only fairly recently - in the last decade or so, even - that women have really become a "thing" in the creative side of comics. To an appreciable extent. Prior to that, it was pretty much Ann Nocenti and Gail Simone and that was it, executive positions aside.

    If the deluxe hardcovers are done in publication order, that'll be cool. I'm fine either way, though. I still think Rebirth should have led with the Year One arc, then did something in present day, but eh. It is what it is.

  5. CBR is an absolute disgrace now. Didn't it used to be a staple nominee for the Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Journalism? It's pretty telling that it was surpassed this year by The AV Club -- which is a great site, in all fairness, but really only posts comics criticism once a week. It's sad that there are really no major comics news sites anymore that aren't at least 50% devoted to "listicles" and movie coverage.

    The "Year One first" route would have been really cool, but I imagine the people at DC knew themselves well enough to know that they'd never be able to pull that off in any kind of coordinated way. Just look at how confusing that was for Justice League, at the beginning of the New 52...I never could make heads or tails of the timeline for the beginning of that series. Rebirth seems like a more considered effort to understand their limitations and to do the best they can within those limitations.

  6. Newsarama is still okay, but not much beyond that. CBR is just kind of pathetic now. It's like, look, Cracked can get away with lists. Because they're usually funny and fairly worthwhile. CBR is just sad. Comics Alliance used to be great, but they died recently. Sadly, even there, they felt very... I don't know. "Safe", maybe, in their last year. It's hard to describe, but it wasn't the same.

    I pretty much just go to Newsarama and Adventures in Poor Taste. AiPT is a hybrid media site, but the focus is generally on comics and they do a lot of reviews of most of what comes out a given week. Judging by a byline or two, one of two Comics Alliance writers migrated there after that shuttered, so there's that.

    I wonder how much of this comes down to the publishers pulling the old "muscle them until they give coverage you want" trick until they caved.

    As for Year One, I don't know. I think it would work. Did anyone bat an eye when Batman did the Year One arc in the Batman title proper, then jumped back to present day? I was barely born when that happened, much less reading, so I don't know how that worked out. I think a clear designation at the start of the present day, like a caption that says "five years after Wonder Womans arrival", would fix any of that.