On my way to reading Wonder Woman: Bitter Rivals, I just finished re-reading Down to Earth, and I've got to say, this book just blows me away every time. I mean, Greg Rucka's Batman: Evolution is certainly good, as is Gotham Central (I wasn't as impressed with Superman: Unconventional Warfare, but even that was ten times better than comics coming out six years ago) -- but Wonder Woman is absolutely where Rucka's hitting gold. For instance, check out the scene where Diana brings flowers to Vanessa and ends up strangling the scientist -- Rucka's obviously imaging his comic book scripts like television shows, to end the scene focusing on the flowers. Writers with half his talent might just let the flowers fall off "screen," and never think to add such details.
And all that's even without mentioning that Diana never throws a punch until the last chapter (though, re-reading it a second time, I notice far more "background" violence than I did the first time, something maybe to examine the third time around). Mainstream comic books without slug-fests are an interesting concept -- Joe Casey tried it over in Adventures of Superman post-Ending Battle, with questionable results, but it showed that it could be done. And why not? You hardly ever had an episode of Star Trek without Captain Kirk throwing a punch, but by the time Next Generation came around, I think Roddenberry figured out that "hero" didn't necessarily mean the one with the best uppercut. Or maybe society figured it out.
Anyway, millions of people tune in for West Wing every week (thousands at this point? hundreds? ten?) and they don't punch each other out every week (this past week an exception); why can't it happen in comic books? And not "why doesn't it," but why can't it? Aren't there writers out there with enough ideas not to need to pad their pages with fights until it's truly necessary? (If it was me, Clark Kent would be Superman for about two pages and Clark Kent for the entire rest of the run. I mean, an investigative reporter with super-powers -- how much more do you need? But I digress ...) Or, is it just a virtue of a Wonder Woman comic?
I mean, Casey showed that you can do "non-violent" (but not immature) comics with Superman -- but how about Batman? Let's see someone do a Batman comic where Batman is tough, brilliant -- and yet throws no punches. Is it so far-fetched? If Batman's supposed to be so intimidating, shouldn't he be able to look a crook in the eye and have them confess -- without ever knocking someone out? There's the gauntlet -- I'd like to see it happen.
So that's my long-winded way of saying Greg Rucka really seems to know what he's doing. How he controls the scenes, the way he even uses when you do and don't see Diana to his advantage, when violence happens and why -- all good stuff. And I'll be curious to see from here how Wonder Woman: Bitter Rivals stands up.