WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Wonder Woman #38 by James Robinson and Emanuela Lupacchino, in stores now.
After a storyline that saw Wonder Woman reunite with her long-lost brother, where the Amazon Princess faced off against Grail as well as her father, Darkseid, who returned to full power once more, Wonder Woman slows things down a bit with issue #38. After all of the godly twists and turns of recent issues, James Robinson and Emanuela Lupacchino give us a much smaller, quieter story, albeit one that includes a major revelation regarding a returning villain.
The new issue is told almost entirely from the point of view of Vanessa Kapatelis, who narrates the flashback sequences. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it is the alter ego of a classic Wonder Woman villain, one making her Rebirth debut in this issue: Silver Swan.
There have been three different incarnations of the Silver Swan in DC’s past. The first was named Helen Alexandros, who first appeared in 1982’s Wonder Woman #288. Helen was an overlooked ballet dancer who struck a deal with the Roman God of War, Mars. She would destroy Wonder Woman, and in return, she would become beautiful. The second Silver Swan was named Valerie Beaudry, first appearing in 1988’s Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #15. This Silver Swan was much different, gaining her abilities as a result of radiation, mutation and experimentation.
The third version of Silver Swan was named Vanessa Kapatelis. The character herself debuted in 1987’s Wonder Woman (Vol. 2) #3 as a friend of Diana Prince, before being turned into the supervillainess much later — 168 issues later, to be exact. Thanks to the manipulations of Doctor Psycho and Circe, Vanessa would be turned against Diana, and transformed into the newest version of the Silver Swan. This third version of the character is the one who makes her Rebirth debut in the most recent issue of Wonder Woman.
In Wonder Woman #38, we witness a new origin story for Vanessa, as part of DC Rebirth continuity. While some elements are different and a bit more streamlined this time around, some of the broad strokes are surprisingly the same. This time around, Vanessa is introduced as a young ballet dancer who was a victim of collateral damage during a fight between Wonder Woman and Major Disaster. Diana saved her life, but due to the Major’s attack, Vanessa had lost the use of her legs.
In the hospital, Diana stands at Vanessa’s side, urging her to be strong. The two become fast friends, Diana encouraging Vanessa to walk again thanks to a new medical procedure that involved injecting her with nanites. And the procedure started to do the trick — that is, until Diana stopped showing up at the hospital. It wasn’t that she had forgotten her new friend, but the entire world needed her — and that meant spending less and less time with Vanessa. The anger boiled inside Vanessa until it became too much, transforming her into something else.
The next time we see Vanessa is in the present, now in full Silver Swan mode, bloodied corpses at her feet, ready for battle against the superhero who “abandoned” her.
Within Vanessa’s narration, it seems we seem to have gotten a hint of another villain, one who could turn out to be responsible for her condition. When Vanessa first hears of the nanite procedure, she says that the idea was suggested by a doctor with “big ears and a nice smile.” While this is by no means an actual confirmation, it suspiciously sounds like what Doctor Psycho would look like: big ears, and an unsettling smile. If Psycho disguised himself as a doctor to manipulate Vanessa, that means here, just like in the previous continuity, Doctor Psycho created the Silver Swan.
Next issue promises to deliver a devastating and personal battle between former friends and, if issue #38’s hints are to be believed, we just might also witness the Rebirth debut of Doctor Psycho.
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