Comics journey #8: Wonder Woman Rebirth – “The Truth” and “Godwatch”

Back to our regularly-scheduled Wonder Woman this week with the final two volumes of Greg Rucka’s DC Rebirth run. It’s deep, it’s complicated, everybody has a lot of feelings…hold onto your butts.

Like The Lies and Year One, these two storylines ran concurrently in alternating issues, and this time I read them issue by issue since they’re new enough for the trades not to be out yet. The Truth covers ongoing events in the present day leading on from The Lies, while Godwatch flashes back to various points in the past; it all wraps up in bumper issue Perfect, which came out at the end of June this year.

I’m trying to be as spoiler-free as I can, but in summary: as the curtain rises on The Truth, Veronica Cale and Doctor Poison take out Steve Trevor and Etta Candy’s military agency, and they and a de-Cheetahed Barbara Minerva go on the lam. Wonder Woman is temporarily out of action, driven out of her mind by the shock of learning ~the truth about her past~ at the end of The Lies. She still doesn’t know who lied to her or why, but it turns out she and Veronica have a common goal: finding Themyscira. In between, Godwatch features Cale and Diana going on a date, a fun cameo by Circe, Cheetah’s updated origin, and the Amazons preparing for a Themyscirapocalypse (when are they not?)

I had some issues with Veronica Cale’s characterisation in Rucka’s last run, but I love the complex makeovers he’s given to her and Cheetah. Veronica has ditched that dated early-2000s look where she was fueled by her envy of Wonder Woman’s status as a media darling. This time, she merely rolls her eyes at “only love can truly save the world” – but then Wonder Woman’s enemies target Veronica’s daughter. As a motivation it’s much richer, and it leaves room to go into how much they have in common and explore the other side of Wonder Woman’s emphasis on mercy: that it’s a privilege not everyone can afford.

Cheetah, too, blames Wonder Woman for the mess she’s in. It’s a double blow because as Barbara Ann Minerva, she was Diana’s first friend when she arrived, as well as becoming Etta Candy’s lover (YES. CALLED IT). All that history and bitterness and guilt gives their final showdown a deep emotional resonance. It’s far more satisfying than Cheetah’s other various characterisations of “split personality” or “brainwashed environmentalist” or just kind of grabby and evil.

Liam Sharp continues as artist for The Truth, but Nicola Scott is gone (and lo, great is my sadness.) Bilquis Evely draws for Godwatch, except for issue #22 which features Mirka Andolfo’s romantic style on inks – a great choice for the issue where Veronica and Diana end up on a date.

date

Evely and Sharp have very contrasting styles and I have to say, reading them in an alternating pattern like this doesn’t highlight their strongest points. Evely is big on realistic figures, which I appreciated, and her Cheetah is terrifyingly just-off-human.

cheetah

clunky

But side by side, her muted style sometimes seems drab while Sharp’s bold exaggeration can look overdone. Sharp’s backgrounds are beautiful and I was into the muscled look he gives Wonder Woman – but he draws pretty women like Diana and Veronica with the faces of botoxed Barbie dolls, forever frozen in the same improbable pout. It’s like he’s afraid to make them unfuckable by giving them, I don’t know, feelings? I always look for expressive faces, they have a lot to do with how much I engage with a comic, and these just didn’t get across the subtle emotions I was searching for.

faces
Veronica Cale, whose emotions have been replaced by lip fillers.
faces 2
I don’t even KNOW what’s going on with Diana’s face here.

Bitching aside, shout-out to Jenny Frison for her gorgeous variant covers! This one was my favourite:

jenny frison

The conclusion of the whole thing features Rucka doing what he does best: understated action, heavy impact. The end of Veronica’s arc is closely entwined with Diana’s story and completely heartbreaking. Wonder Woman gets all her emotional buttons pushed. Perfect ties everything together with a couple of threads left trailing for other writers to weave with if they choose –  though I did feel like the scene in which Diana confronts her gods was wrapped up a little too easily.

Completely new readers might not feel the full weight of the big retcon of Wonder Woman’s earlier life, but other than that, because this is immediately post-reboot, this arc is a decent place continuity-wise to start your exploration of Wonder Woman comics – beginning with The Lies and/or Year One. My only caution would be that if you’re here to see some righteous ass-kicking, you may be disappointed. There’s definitely plenty going on and Diana does get to kick a few behinds, but there’s quite a lot of talking and personal drama.

As an aside, the 2016 Wonder Woman Annual also came out during this run, featuring a Rucka/Nicola Scott collaboration tying into Year One. You might have seen these panels floating around the internet:

trinity

trinity 2

Guys, if this Superman is what he’s actually like, I think I’m into it. He’s so cheeky and boyish and I adore their whole dynamic. Still don’t ship it though, ick. He and Diana are much better as a brother-sister type of thing.

Two of the other stories in this issue (“In Defence of Truth and Justice” by Vita Ayala, and “The Last Kaiju” by Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing) caught my attention by following almost exactly the same plotline. Everyone is attacking a scary creature until Wonder Woman talks to it and learns that it doesn’t want to hurt anyone, so she gives it a new home somewhere safe and everybody’s happy. It’s cute and there’s nothing wrong with it, but I can’t help wondering if this is a symptom of writers not knowing quite what to do with the character.

I’m up to date with “Heart of the Amazon,” the current arc by Shea Fontana, but as it’s only six issues I’m planning to review it as a whole once they’re all out – until then I’ll try to confine my excitement to Twitter. I’m also making my way through Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 Years, which is hella long but I definitely have some Thoughts. So next up will be either that, or some gleeful yelling about Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!

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