Greg Rucka completes Wonder Woman's rebirth journey with heart, compassion, and wonder.
By every measure, Wonder Woman is having a great year. For the first time in her history, it's not unreasonable to say that hers is the brightest star in the DC trinity. Superman and Batman can have their epic battles and bitter disputes, but only Wonder Woman can say she raised her profile while maintaining the heart that makes her so endearing. She's conquered both the box office and the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, something that Batman and Superman's epic clash cannot claim.
Wonder Woman's star is burning so brightly at the moment that it's easy to forget that part of that flame has been regularly stoked by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp in her comics. After the events of DC Rebirth, Wonder Woman goes through a sobering process of sorts. The world she thought she knew is shrouded with lies that she didn't know were plaguing her. The life she thought she had lived has gaping holes in it that she cannot ignore. For a woman used to extracting truth with her lasso and her charm, that's an unfamiliar feelings.
Like many other DC Rebirth titles, the narrative in Wonder Woman is crafted in a way that builds and escalates. At times, it tends to drag. On top of that, Rucka and Sharp explore some of the gaps that emerged while the DC universe underwent its messy rebirthing process. They end up having to retell, reshape, and update Wonder Woman's story, often while trying to tell a parallel story in the present. It's easy to lose track of the story, but it can make for a uniquely satisfying payoff.
Wonder Woman #25 marks the end of Rucka's run on the series. It also marks the epilogue of sorts of all the various plots within Wonder Woman's rebirth-induced history. It's no easy feat, revamping and retelling Wonder Woman's entire history in just 25 issues while a major Hollywood movie is making headlines in the background. Rucka rises to the challenge, providing a capstone of sorts to a journey that balances the hardened warrior, the loving spirit, and the feminine ideal that she embodies.
It's an important balancing act for Wonder Woman. Throughout her history, multiple writers approach her from various angles. For some, she's only that hardened warrior. For others, she's only that loving spirit and feminine ideal. As iconic a character she is, the stories about her tend to segment her character. All too often, only parts of her personality are explored. Rucka dares to use every one of them in Wonder Woman #25 and in many ways, it completes her rebirth process.
The story itself is built around the aftermath of a lengthy arc that jumps between time periods, exploring Wonder Woman's initial arrival into man's world and her latest clash with a couple menacing gods. Along the way, she faces an identity crisis that makes a rebirth all too necessary. She faces a painful, soul-crushing revelation. For someone who's used to getting the truth out of everyone with ease, that's an accomplishment, even for gods.
Entire chunks of Wonder Woman's life are called into question. Her faith in the gods, her heritage, and herself become subject to major doubt. At the same time, she's still trying to help her friends and still be a full-time member of the Justice League. It's stressful, to say the least. It sends the message that if someone like Wonder Woman can crack under the strain at times, then what hope does anyone have?
That hope doesn't stay lost for long, though. Early on, Rucka shows that Wonder Woman can still be Wonder Woman in the midst of so much upheaval. She can arrive on the scene with the Justice League, fight giant monsters, and hardly break a sweat in taking it down. The hardened warrior aspect of her character is rightly preserved. However, that's not the sole focus of the story or Wonder Woman's journey over the course of the past 25 issues. It's never more than a secondary focus because Wonder Woman embodies more than just a fighting spirit.
Much more of Wonder Woman #25 focuses on her heart, which is heavy and wounded. She spent a great deal of her recent journey trying to save Dr. Barbara Minerva from the clutches of Cheetah, but circumstances beyond her control make that impossible. That's pretty heart-wrenching because when something is impossible for Wonder Woman, who regularly deals with gods, monsters, and Batman, that makes clear that some things are just beyond anyone's control.
She still makes an effort to help her former friend. She also makes a desperate plea for help from the last person who would want to help her. Even with all her love and heart, it isn't enough. It shows in the way she fights. Even her fellow friends on the Justice League sense it. When she finally gets around to confronting it, she has to essentially accept what she can't control. The truth may hurt, but that doesn't make it any less important. There are people who go their entire lives avoiding that. Wonder Woman confronts it, even when she's angry and wounded. Given her immortal heritage, that's quite an accomplishment.
Rucka goes heavy on the symbolism, giving Wonder Woman a love/hate relationship with her magic lasso at a time when the truth can hurt even an immortal warrior woman. Sharp's colorful artwork keeps the tone of the story from getting too bleak or dire. In the end, her willingness to take back her lasso and accept the harsh truth for what it is highlights the end of a journey that Wonder Woman needed to take. It's a journey that strengthens every part of her character, as well as those around her.
As fitting an end as Wonder Woman #25 is to that journey, it does gloss over a few issues and rushes a few others. There's never a clear resolution with Cheetah and Wonder Woman's acceptance of the truth feels somewhat rushed. The fact she only needs a pep talk before taking back her lasso feels somewhat unremarkable, if not contrived. There are a lot of arguments she could've and probably should've had with the gods that deceived her. However, those conversations are essentially shrugged off in favor of some sexy time with Steve Trevor. On some levels, though, that's a fair trade-off.
Overall, Rucka's run on Wonder Woman is a remarkable accomplishment. At a time when Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Patty Jenkins are elevating Wonder Woman's star to new heights, her DC: Rebirth journey finds a way to make that star burn a little brighter. Wonder Woman is tough, compassionate, loving, loyal, and beautiful on every level. It's not something that most people need to be reminded of, but some reminders are still worth having.