Wonder Woman reborn, supporting cast demoted

wonder-woman-1If you want to read some godawful comics, I suggest reading Wonder Woman in the ’60s and ’70s. Every issue with the “Wonder Baby” should be burned and the writer who had Diana pining like a lovesick schoolgirl should be forgotten for his infamy.

Wonder Woman is one of the great characters but, like Steve Rogers and Hal Jordan, when the writers get it soar to great heights and when they don’t we get a travesty. The great George Perez in his post-Crisis run on Wonder Woman got it and created masterpiece after masterpiece. Brian Azzarello’s 35-issue story arc is even more impressive on marathon second reading.

Where Batman is the dark side of the coin and Superman the light, Wonder Woman operates above them. She is optimism without naivety. Batman sees justice as black and white without compromises. Superman sees justice with a capital “J”,  a Platonic Ideal to always strive for. Wonder Woman sees justice as a component of compassion and mercy. Taken together, their visions of justice form the Trinity of the DCU.

The writer tapped for the “ReBirth” Wonder Woman is Greg Rucka, an old hand at DC who has taken a turn writing to Wonder Woman before and whose best work was on The Dark Knight. Rucka has a fine eye for the grime and dirt of Gotham, as well as the harsh edges of the Batman.

However, it is evident that Rucka is a Wonder Woman fanboy and I mean that as a compliment. While he lives and breathes Gotham, he aspires to walk the boulevards of Olympus. Having had the chance to write Wonder Woman Earth One snatched from him, he takes full delight in showing Dan Didio what he missed. Wonder Woman ReBirth starts strong with the mystery of Diana’s multiple origin stories and different interpretations over the years.

The traditional origin was that Queen Hippolyta, desiring a child, formed one of clay and then the gods breathed life into it. In the New 52, Brian Azzarello recast Diana as the literal child of Zeus and Hippolyta.

“Rebirth” opens after the end of  Wonder Woman #52. With all the lies and betrayals of Hermes, Hera, Ares and Discord, Diana is now wondering what is real and what is not. She cannot trust her own memory of who she is and how she came to be.

Even her lasso can’t force her to answer the question: “Who is Wonder Woman?” Playing with these conflicting stories, Rucka forces Diana to acknowledge that her past is an inconsistent hodgepodge. The curtain closes on this prelude of what is to come.

Wonder Woman #1 opens with Diana heading to Africa to confront a mysterious someone in search of the truth. The art by Liam Sharp is beautiful and the scenes of Diana working her way through the jungle are lush and rich. Counterpoint to Diana’s quest is the nearby special ops mission led by “Master Chief” Steve Trevor whose team is being run by Amanda Waller, er, no, I mean Etta Candy.

The remake of these supporting characters was like nails on a chalk board. Let’s start with Etta Candy. The New 52 recast the cheery plus-sized sidekick as a svelte, no-nonsense assistant to Trevor. In ReBirth she’s still svelte, but now in personality resembles Amanda Waller.  This misses the whole point of Etta.

Creator William Marston, while being openly rebellious to the traditional women’s role by creating Wonder Woman, was being subversive when he introduced Etta in Sensation Comics #2 (1942). Etta was overweight and didn’t care. She was happy and confident in who she was, and didn’t define her identity by her dress size. As for men? “What can you do with a man once you have him? With candy you can eat it,” she once explained.

Diana may have been designed to break into the boys’ club of superheroes, but Etta was created to break down the walls of convention. In today’s image obsessed society women are still judged by their dress size. We need the original Etta Candy shaking things up more than ever.

Now I’m going on a real rant. Sorry, but 28 years in the Army does give me the right to complain about the representation of the military in comics.

“Master Chief” Trevor? Someone has been playing too much Halo. For more than 91% of the public, the military is something experienced on television, movies or video games. “Master Chief” is in fact one of the highest ranks an enlisted service member can achieve.

Originally Trevor was an officer in the Army Air Corps, and when that became the Air Force, Steve joined what we in the other services call the civilian branch of the military.

Why “Master Chief”? Why demote Air Force Colonel Trevor to a senior enlisted sailor? I’m guessing that between Halo and SEAL Team Six, DC thought this would be current and relevant. Guys, maybe you could have talked to a veteran or serving service member first?

Trevor is one of the characters that no one seems to know what to do with. In the ’50s and ’60s he played a hapless Lois Lane stand-in always getting into trouble only to be rescued by Wonder Woman. In the ’70s, when Diana was recast as a feminist everywoman after she lost her powers, Trevor was killed. Perez revived him as an older character, who acted as mentor to Diana. Azzarello never showed or even mentioned him.

Now, he’s back as, I can only assume, a no-nonsense SEAL. In anyone else’s hands, Trevor would be reduced to a one-dimensional caricature. I am hopeful that the veteran Rucka will do better.

After ReBirth and issue #1, it’s still too early to tell where Wonder Woman will go, but with fan favorite Rucka at the helm, I guarantee we won’t be seeing any “Wonder Baby” stories.

 

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