Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Writer Greg Rucka is at his best with tales of high politics and espionage, and the Rebirth Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth has espionage in spades. To the question of "the lies" Diana has uncovered about her past, Rucka provides about the best answer he probably could. The proceedings are compelling, and Rucka's particular triumph here remains the ties he establishes between Diana and her rejuvenated supporting cast of Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, and the Cheetah Barbara Ann Minerva.

At the same time, Rucka's new Wonder Woman origin remains markedly frustrating, further irritated by the fact that these are Rucka's final issues on the book (though not his final collection). Were Rucka staying, I might be placated by the idea that he could still explain in better detail the facets he glosses over and address the contradictions that threaten to swallow whole what advances he's made with the Wonder Woman character. Instead, what we have is a nice Wonder Woman story on the surface that disintegrates on second look, one that auspiciously wipes Diana's slate clean but then offers nothing to replace it. Rucka's return to Wonder Woman has ended up being only half of what we needed.

[Review contains spoilers]

In no uncertain terms I would read a dedicated Steve Trevor book by Greg Rucka (even better, a dedicated Steve Trevor/Etta Candy book, or just an Etta Candy book). But given how precious every page here is both for Rucka to redefine Wonder Woman for the Rebirth era and because of Rucka's imminent departure, to devote nearly half of this book to Steve and Etta while Diana is locked in an asylum seems wasteful to the extreme. Arguably Rucka is working here to re-establish not just Diana but also Steve and Etta, but I think we get them well enough already as supporting characters; especially given how foreshortened this book's ending is, surely Steve and Etta's role is oversized. (And don't even get me started on the space the book devotes to a cartoon snake.)

Even with bolstering Diana's rogues' gallery with Veronica Cale, Dr. Cyber, Colonel Poison, and (I'm pretty sure) Circe, it is right and proper that the culprits behind Diana's apparent false history are none other than her own divine patrons, and all of it for the good of the world. It's a shocking but fitting revelation, and moreover that Rucka -- having seemed to echo George Perez too well in using Ares in Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One -- takes everything we once knew about Ares and turns it on its head. The hallmark of Rucka's Wonder Woman is that she's been about love and peace, differentiating her from other recent Wonder Woman comics portrayals, and that's no truer than when she defeats her enemies in the end with kindness and finds what seemed a conspiracy was in fact cooperation.

And yet, the "what about"s set in all too quickly. It is fine and good, heroic and tragic, that Diana has never actually been home to Themyscira all this time, but to say that she hasn't leaves so many unanswered questions. Batman recently came to Themyscira trying to resurrect his son Damian; was Batman also privy to Diana's hallucinations? When the New 52 Superman was just recently felled in battle with Vandal Savage, did Diana actually bring him before her gods? Were they her gods, and only Themyscira proper was an illusion, or were the gods illusions too? Did the gods really take their ruse so far as to make Diana believe she was the God of War when she was not? How could that possibly have been necessary? Did Hera ever visit Diana's London flat? Do Zola and Zeke exist? What was the inciting action that caused Diana to begin to be able to perceive these lies now?

A good amount of this, I'm sure, can be explained away by what I imagine will be the eventual complete dissolution of anything that happened in the New 52 era. But a satisfactory story needs to feel complete, and taking this volume on its own, Rucka leaves the reader wanting. Geoff Johns's original Green Lantern: Rebirth, for instance, did much this same thing and left nearly no stone unturned, and I understand Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi are doing a pretty comprehensive job spelling out Superman's new history over in those titles. Essentially, Rucka does well establishing why nothing we knew about Diana before is true and how that came to be, but doesn't give us a lot of foundation for what the truth actually is -- up to and including, so far, whether Diana was actually born of clay or flesh.

Understand that if I'd grant any writer the right to be self-aggrandizing, it'd be Rucka, one of my favorites. But doubling-down on his reintroduction of Sasha Bordeaux and Veronica Cale -- the latter already making this story essentially an ode to Rucka's Wonder Woman run previous -- Rucka also reintroduces his Ferdinand the Minotaur (actually a Kythotaur), who just so happens to be the one to show Diana "the way out" of her -- read: our -- previous-continuity delusions. The commentary might not be so biting here if Ferdinand actually stayed around, but he disappears so quickly that his presence is purely symbolic. Later Diana glances sidelong at the reader and maintains that she "deserved better," the implication being that Wonder Woman's alternate history up to this point -- the most recent one, at least -- did not do justice to the character the way Rucka now has. He's not totally wrong, but I wouldn't say he's totally right either.

Following Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth, what remains of Greg Rucka's Rebirth Wonder Woman run is the final, past-set fourth volume Godwatch, coming around in November. Seemingly what else remains untold here is Diana's first encounter with Colonel Poison and the events that created Dr. Cyber and injured Veronica Cale's daughter, and I imagine that's what that book will cover. That's worthy ground, though again I'd be far more sanguine about it if I thought Rucka was writing the future as well as the past. That James Robinson is joining the Wonder Woman title isn't too shabby, but when his storyline seems assuredly to deal with Themyscira, I'd very much have liked Rucka to put more of this to bed first.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth
Author Rating
4 (out of 5)
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4 comments:

  1. When all is said and done, I think Rucka's run on this title is the best-written run of Rebirth, balancing espionage, suspense, and character development very well. But I wonder how well it reads in trade. Starting with this arc, the alternating past and present issues begin feeding into each other. The issues set in the past flesh out character motivations, and I'm not sure if these character arcs are complete with the way DC collected them. Perhaps the Deluxe Editions will collect them in the order they were meant to be read.

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    1. I'll be curious to see how they handle that as well.

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  2. This was the best TPB post rebirth that I've read. Up til now that was the first Volume of Detective Comics, but this outshines it by far. Having read this, I'm glad they got James Robinson because he's one of a handful that can match this quality.

    The next book will hopefully fill up the things that are being referenced to in this book. But the book itself doesn't suffer from the missing knowledge. The first volume felt a bit incomplete without the knowledge of the second, here it feels as if it is a great story with bonus content to be released later.

    I wonder how good this is when read issues in the correct order, if the Hard Covers are 2 books that collect the series, as HelloThere mentioned, I might buy them on top of the TPB. The TPB for the time line nut in me and the HC for the great story.

    Addressing a few points you made.

    I don't mind not being told how Diana is made. I've got a bit tired of origin stories being told over and over again with only 20% changing, maybe try that again in 5 years or so.

    I like it that he brought back some of his pre-flashpoint characters, we needed that part to be filled in and there are a lot worse runs to take characters from. And sometimes I'm just glad to see some characters that I liked back in continuity.

    I assume that all visions/meetings of the gods were all imagined, and I'm more at peace with it than when I was assuming this before I read the first 3 volumes. A bit like Diana was in the last issue here. I am going to miss Zola though.

    BTW did you read Tim Seeley his Wonder Woman: Steve Trever one-shot?

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    1. Haven't read the Trevor one-off yet; it should be collected in Shea Fontana's Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon.

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