Last week’s “Rebirth” titles more or less fell into one of two categories: a reminder of the characters’ origins or a setup for a new relationship between two characters (and, sometimes, both). Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark, Liam Sharp, Sean Parsons, Jeremy Colwell and Laura Martin go one step further in “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” #1, which starts to tear down the origin of its title character and isolates her on a voyage of self-discovery.
It would be simple for Rucka to simply and quickly proclaim “Everything you know is wrong!” and charge forward with his new “Wonder Woman” storyline. It’s much to his credit that “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” #1 isn’t so simple. Instead, Rucka quietly dissects what it means to be Wonder Woman, with everything from her conflicting origins to the very meaning of her name and how it changes as the public’s perception of her shifts. It’s as much etymological as it is societal, but it never comes across as a lecture. Instead, what we see here is a person who’s quietly in crisis, trying to figure out who she really is, both in relation to the rest of the world and to herself.
“Wonder Woman: Rebirth” #1 quickly shifts beyond soul-searching, though, as Rucka brings up the idea that some or all her life has been a lie. He’s careful to not reveal what is and isn’t true, even as he casts doubts on her current portfolio as the Goddess of War. Fans of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s run on “Wonder Woman” (one of the early bright spots of the New 52 relaunches) needn’t worry just yet; Rucka isn’t simply wiping the slate clean, at least for now. Some lies definitely have definitely been told, but — as this is in many ways a prologue — it’s still unclear what is and isn’t sticking around. It’s the second time Wonder Woman has doubled as a deity (John Byrne briefly made her the Goddess of Truth in the late ’90s), and — while the concept of a sometimes-ambassador of peace echoes the personification of war — it’s easy to see the temptation to walk that addition back to something simpler. For the moment, it’s a waiting game, but an intriguing one that serves well as a hook for readers.
Clark pencils the majority of this issue, and he’s a smart choice to do so. Rucka and Clark have worked together in the past on titles like “Adventures of Superman,” “Crime Bible” and “Felon,” and Clark drew some issues of “Wonder Woman” back when Eric Luke was the writer. He, Parsons and Colwell provide a steel-faced, confident Wonder Woman rescuing an exploited woman, only to see that strong shell crumble when Diana uses the lasso on herself and learns of deception in her life. The pages are drawn in a clear way, and the moment where the full-length mirror’s shards show important moments in her life from both pre- and post-“Flashpoint” is impressive.
Once Diana starts to move forward, though, Sharp and Martin take over the book, and it’s a subtle but strong shift. Sharp’s art is a little more textured and lush, and his design of Wonder Woman’s armored outfit looks and feels like it’s heavy and almost plated in its segments. The Olympus sequence is jaw-dropping; the landscape is full of vegetation and Greek-styled architecture, and Martin has overlays a deep red sky that is as much a startling sunset as an ominous warning. The movement of the automatons is impressive, portrayed in a way that makes them feel manmade and hulking as they snort and march across the page. Sharp has come a long way since I first encountered his art on “Incredible Hulk” back in the mid-’90s, and I’m eager to see a lot more from him and Martin each month.
While “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” #1 stops just as things are about to get particularly hairy, the pacing here is pretty much perfect. This is as much teaser as it is a lure; it doesn’t take a Delphic Oracle to know that readers will want to see much, much more. Rucka, Clark, Sharp and company have created one of the strongest “Rebirth” comics to date and laid out the groundwork for exciting times ahead. I’m definitely back for more, and I think you will be, too.