Thursday, June 20, 2024

Wonder Woman dives back into a story that they tried so hard to escape

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Wonder Woman‘s series began a new arc with issue #31, and unfortunately it struggled right out of the gate.  It was the first issue by new ongoing writer James Robinson, and it couldn’t keep its focus on Diana — the title character — and spent most of its time dealing with plotlines from other DC series instead of crafting its own story.  Hercules (yes, that Hercules) was murdered by Grail, daughter of Darkseid, who hoped to use his life force to re-age Darkseid to his full and proper power level.  When it does not get Darkseid the full way back (Leaving him with a young teenage body), they resolve to simply kill more children of Zeus in the mortal world.  Diana, in turn, is notified by a lawyer that she is Hercules’ sole heir, and has inherited his vast fortune.

Now, in Issue #32 Diana needs to look into who could have killed the powerful demigod that Hercules was said to be, and what this means for her own life.


The issue opens with Steve Trevor leading the Oddfellows (An A.R.G.U.S. operations team) into the Parisian catacombs to deal with a nest of Parademons, the foot soldiers of Darkseid’s forces from Apokolips.  When Trevor checks in with Major Nicholson he explains that Wonder Woman has flown ahead of the rest of them, and when Nicholson asks why, Steve actually says that it is a ‘dumb question’  As he points out, there was a battle waiting for them deeper into the catacombs, and Wonder Woman is a warrior.

She’s not one to lag behind

The Oddfellows catch up to Wonder Woman and engage in battle in a two-page layout, and then the scene jumps back to “Four Hours Ago” with a little mini-cliffhanger as Steve notices a Parademon headed straight for him.

How we got here

Back at A.R.G.U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND, Steve and Diana are overlooking the corpse of Hercules, which is apparently semi-mummified after Grail had drained out his life force.  Diana explains that despite being connected to the same mythologies she didn’t actually know Hercules, and so she doesn’t have a whole lot of information to give at the moment.  She does, however, quickly put together that it must have been Grail who killed him, since A.R.G.U.S. detected Apokoliptic energy signatures around the site of his death and Grail is the only point of connection between Greek mythology and Apokolips (With an Amazon mother and Darkseid for her father).

Dr. Peril explains that Hercules’ death wasn’t the only one with Apokoliptic energy found at the location, and opens a doorway to a morgue with fifteen additional shrouded bodies.  They don’t know why all of these people have been killed like this, and are hoping that Diana can help shed some light on the situation.  She mentions that Blake Hooper, the lawyer who approached her about being Hercules’ heir, must know something more, but before they have a chance to dig into that Nicholson burst in to explain that they’re detecting Apokolips energy signatures in Paris.

Grail’s been very busy

We jump back to the catacomb fight, and Wonder Woman swoops in to knock aside the Parademon that was about to take out Steve.  Steve, Wonder Woman and the Oddfellows banter a bit about how Steve is always being rescued, then promptly take out the rest of the Parademons.  Once the fight is all over, they remark that something is clearly up with Grail and Apokolips, but there’s no real connection between this Parademon infestation and all of the other deaths they’ve had.    Diana realizes that she needs to speak to Blake Hooper to figure out more of what happened with Hercules, and hopefully from there figure out the bigger picture as well.

Who Hercules was

Diana and Blake Hooper drive towards Hercules’ home in Elexinor, Oregon to review his last communication and property.  Diana explains that she could have more easily flown them straight to his house, but Blake declines the indignity of dangling in the air as she carried him, even using a quote from Nelson Mandela on the subject.  When they finally do arrive at the house, Diana drops the big news: Hercules was her brother.

Diana did not lie earlier when she said that she did not know Hercules, and she does not even know which of the contradictory stories she’s heard are the truth, but nonetheless they were both children of Zeus.  That is why Hercules made her his heir.

Blake now gives her the letter from Hercules which lays out how he had been so proud of Diana’s goodness and worthwhile use of her powers.  At its end, Hercules explains that one specific reason he made Diana his heir was because he has information regarding her birth and family: She has a twin brother, Jason, named for the captain of the Argo.

Hercules leaves Diana map coordinates for where she can find Jason, and she travels to Greece with Blake.  On the coast of the Aegean Sea, Diana finds Jason working on a fishing boat.  As she approaches and introduces herself she claims she can feel their connection, and before she finishes talking Jason says he can feel it as well and recognizes that she is his sister.

With an introductory pose like that, you know he has a costume in his future



Returning to the New 52

So, we are pretty much just tossing out everything that came with DC Rebirth then.

This issue, and what seems to be the entire arc, comes across as a deliberate reset of everything that’s been done with Diana’s story in the Rebirth line.  They’re including bits and pieces of the New 52 Wonder Woman series that have been explicitly retconned by the Rebirth storyline, and returning to the mythos that this iteration of the character was designed to refute.

Which Steve are we talking about again?

A.R.G.U.S. was a government agency introduced in the New 52, operating under the Department of Homeland Security and headed by (Among others) Colonel Steve Trevor.  When he was reintroduced at the start of this Wonder Woman series, which was a clean slate unconnected to prior continuity, Master Chief Steve Trevor was a US Navy SEAL with no referenced history of ever having served in the US Army, US Air Force, or ever having been a commissioned officer.  He was a relatively young man, too, with no time for huge chunks of his in-universe history to be redacted in off-the-books government operations.  His modern-day operations are with The Picket.

It all served to wipe away the entirety of his relationship with A.R.G.U.S.

In this issue, however, that old past is brought back into the story without making much sense.  The characters of Nicholson and Peril are reintroduced, they reference that Steve used to be a part of A.R.G.U.S., and they even talk about how he used to be a Colonel.  We’ve followed Steve Trevor’s career for the past ten years, when was Steve with A.R.G.U.S.?  Was it before he ever met Diana, meaning he somehow managed to make it to “Colonel” while still in his early twenties?  Since he’s now an enlisted man, what horrible crime did he commit to get his commission withdrawn?  If it was that horrible, why wasn’t he dishonorably discharged or even arrested instead of being allowed to transfer to the Navy at the highest enlisted rank?

The rank issue might seem like a minor nitpick, and I’ll admit that there’s been far worse rank uses in comics (Don’t even get me started on all the different Captains), but I’m latching onto this.  It’s a simple, clear point where this series has previously said “This is Steve’s history.  We are no longer using the old history”, and now they’re tossing it away.

Apparently Diana’s not complete without a father figure

As I went over in my review of the preceding issue, the Rebirth series spent twenty-five issues painstakingly explaining that Zeus is not Diana’s father.  Even if he was one of her two biological progenitors, that doesn’t earn him the title of parent.  It doesn’t even earn him the title of bad parent.  To be crass, he was a sperm donor, nothing more.  Diana did not grow up desperate to know him, she didn’t resent him for not being in her life, and she didn’t feel that intangible emotional bond between father and daughter.  To Diana, Zeus was nothing but a god from Olympus, with no more of a connection than she felt with any of the other Greek deities (Some of whom she fought, some she worshipped, and some she ignored).  Her parents are Hippolyta and the rest of the Amazons.  Her family are the Amazons and the humans that she has come to know and love.  Her siblings are the rest of the Amazons, and the bonds of sisterhood she feels with the entirety of humanity.

It was in the New 52 that the idea of Zeus being her parent arose, and it was in the New 52 that this idea bombed.  I briefly recapped this in my very first review ever for The Fandomentals, where this storyline was so antithetical to Diana’s character that I had to stop reading the series.  Greg Rucka relaunched this series in Rebirth with a single cohesive storyline specifically designed to undo the damage to her mythos, explaining away what he could, and bringing it all into line.  To have it all undone like this, to reintroduce background and story elements that were deliberately removed because they don’t work, is either ignorance or arrogance.

Either James Robinson never bothered to read what came before in this series, or else he read it and decided that he knew better than the author who single-handedly crafted this iteration of the character.

Either way, they are bringing this series right back to the continuity they fought so hard to escape.

The little bit they got right

What this issue did manage to do well, especially compared to the preceding comic, is make it Diana’s story.  Despite including a lot of Steve’s backstory, and being about her search for information about Hercules, it is at least her search for information.  Since the very title of the series is Wonder Woman, it is appropriate that she be the central figure, and they brought that back at least.

They also featured the Oddfellows, who are comic adaptations of the supporting cast from the live-action Wonder Woman film.  They had been introduced a few weeks ago in a special one-shot comic, but now they’re in the official self-titled Wonder Woman series.  As somebody who enjoyed the live-action film (I didn’t LOVE it, but I enjoyed it), I liked seeing them pop into the comic as well.

L-R: Chief, Steve Trevor, Sameer, Charlie

Wonder Woman #32 and all images courtesy of DC Comics

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