THIS REVIEW OF ‘WONDER WOMAN’ #58 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Brendan Hodgdon. When you look back over the last few years, there’s no denying that Wonder Woman has had her share of identity crises. Unlike Superman and Batman, who have long been settled into particular personalities and attitudes, Diana of Themyscira has seen her voice and her stories change much more frequently. Even after seminal Wonder Woman scribe Greg Rucka came along during DC Rebirth to set our heroine’s house in order, the ensuing year and a half has been a bit all over the place. The character deserves a long, well-considered creative run to continue the work that Rucka, Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott did to cement Diana’s best self, and not a moment too soon.
It is in this maelstrom that writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Cary Nord take the reins of Wonder Woman, and what better creative team could one want for Diana’s solo title. Wilson, having demonstrated her talent for writing compelling and earnest superheroines in Ms. Marvel, and Nord, a veteran of sword-and-sorcery heroism via the Conan the Barbarian comics, have exactly the right backgrounds for this title. And while a lot is still uncertain regarding their run so far, this opening chapter does plenty to prove them worthy of DC’s premiere female hero.
In the broad strokes, this story feels pretty familiar: Diana leaping into a war zone to save Steve Trevor, while Ares plots in the background towards some uncertain goal. The quick pace and comfortable characterization are the most immediate links back to Wilson’s Ms. Marvel work; the tone and scope are (rightly) much different. Initially, Wilson & Nord’s approach almost seems rote, as even Diana’s big hero moments are delivered with an understated energy, like this is just another day in the life of our hero. But it is in the grace notes that the creative team demonstrates their suitability for the role of Diana’s latest stewards.
For starters, Wilson does not forget the importance of Diana’s earnestness, but she also brings a certain wry weariness to our hero. Diana dryly observes America’s supposed obligations in the conflict at hand, her belief that there is a clear right and wrong filtered through her frustration with mankind’s shortsightedness. And Nord, while still capturing Diana’s strength and worldly bearing, also avoids depicting her with the regal sternness that seems to be the norm for many artists. In her brief moments with Steve, for example, she feels playful and human rather than austere and godlike as we might otherwise expect. The cumulative effect makes Diana seem more rounded and full as a character, and not some detatched avatar of justice and war.
The rest of the art team contributes solid work throughout the issue, ensuring that this opening chapter of the new creative run is polished from start to finish. Mick Gray’s inks and Ramulo Fajardo Jr’s colors work great in tandem to amplify Nord’s illustrations. Fajardo tends to go with solid, blunt colors that work equally well for both the big dramatic daylight moments and the more haunting, mysterious parts, the latter of which also rely on Gray’s impressive ink work for the unsettling shadows. Pat Brosseau’s letters are straightforward, but they get the job done.
The big puzzle piece that will truly make or break this initial story is what Ares’ plot is, and how it reveals Wilson’s themes. Here, the writer casually reveals her narrative smarts in the cold open, as a captive Grail sets up an easy thematic softball of “love conquers all” only for Ares to swat it aside for a much murkier idea, one that is equally relevant and essential to Wonder Woman’s character. That theme is then further driven home by Diana’s disdain for American politics in the midst of an insurgency, which in turn sets up the issue’s denouement with Ares. Wilson weaves in the theme of the story very carefully, using the familiar components of Wonder Woman lore to set up a new approach. While we don’t know where she’s taking this train yet, the savvy with which she lays track for it promises a well-considered narrative to follow.
As far as debut issues go, Wonder Woman #58 is a frustrating one to review, as it largely relies on the been-there, done-that as a misdirection before the team gets into the real meat of their story. But given the back-and-forth that her solo title has seen over the last year-plus, it’s reassuring to see Diana back in comfortable, reliable territory before going somewhere new. In the end, the deity is in the details.
Written by G. Willow Wilson.
Pencils by Cary Nord.
Inks by Mick Gray.
Colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters by Pat Brosseau.
8 out of 10