Today, Patrick and Mark are discussing Wonder Woman 7, originally released September 28th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Patrick: When the odd-numbered issues of Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman kicked off a story arc called “The Lies,” we all thought we had figured out what the titular lies were. Presumably, these are lies about Wonder Woman’s origins – a kind of meta-reading of the dozen or so conflicting origin stories that have been put forth for Diana of Themyscria. Is she the God of War? A champion of submission? The Justice League secretary? Diana’s voice over in issue #1 supports this read, but as we move throughout the series, it becomes more clear that the lies Rucka is exploring have more to do with the roles women play and less to do with the roles Wonder Woman plays.
Wonder Woman and Cheetah have caught up with Caludo’s men and they’re able to reverse the #BringBackOurGirls narrative before the title page even hits. Artist Liam Sharp absolutely rules this page with some amazing captive imagery, carefully laying out a cage-as-panel-divider theme that he’ll return to later in the story. Since this particular cage is literal and physical, it doesn’t really stand a chance against the mighty strength of Wonder Woman.
This is an easy victory for Wonder Woman – or at least, we’re able to take it as a foregone conclusion that she’ll be able to overpower some awful men (and monster-men) and save these girls from captivity. Still, it’s satisfying to see those last two panels combine into one, as Wonder Woman’s hands are physically altering the medium itself.
That’s kind of what we expect from Wonder Woman, right? She can save the day and she can do so by blasting away any of our assumptions of the role of women in comics. She’s Wonder Woman, dammit! But the issue gets so much more interesting when Rucka and Sharp shift their focus to the metaphorical prison that is so clearly represented by Cheetah’s relationship to Urzkartaga. It’s a straight-up abusive relationship, and Urz / Caludo employ all the shittiest tactics to force Cheetah to turn on Diana. Caludo calls her a slut, Urzkartaga leverages their marriage vows, they both try to pit the women against each other. These are societal constraints on women, and Sharp hints at the same cage imagery from the first page.
Urzkartaga’s power comes directly from the women that worship him, and while she can’t punch that power out of him, all it takes is the power of Wonder Woman’s golden lasso of truth to free everyone else from that delusion. Actually, on that note, this is probably the coolest application of that weapon I’ve ever read. Patriarchy is fundamentally based on lies, and this asshole is a living manifestation of those lies. So when he’s confronted by truth, he just shrivels up and dies, leaving a peaceful little flower in his place.
Of course, that begs the question of what’s next for Cheetah. Rucka and Sharp aren’t particularly optimistic about the poor woman that has to sacrifice herself to escape the bonds of an abusive relationship. The last page shows us that she’s human again, but she’s also naked, unconscious and covered in bumps, bruises and scars. It’s a scary image, but oddly hopeful. Wonder Woman rushes over to comfort her friend, and Sharp’s persistent use of that cage-paneling disappears.
So Mark, I ask you: was that “The Lie?” Wonder Woman still can’t access Themyscria, and the tease at the end assures us that the quest to find Paradise Island continues in issue 9. I’m starting to get the feeling that we can’t unravel the lies about Wonder Woman’s past until we unravel the lies about women in general. I gotta give it up for this series – at first, I thought these odd numbered issues were stuck asking insular questions about a single, albeit important, superhero. Turns out the questions Rucka poses are both more universal and more relevant that I had originally assumed.
Mark: I admit to kind of dreading the odd-numbered Wonder Woman issues initially. There’s no getting around the fact that they’re less fun than the bright and optimistic even-numbered issues. The plotting here is slower, the world appreciably darker, and I felt impatient, waiting for Rucka to just get on with it already.
But “The Lies” about Wonder Woman’s past and the lies about women in general are tied together. So while the heart of the mystery promised in Wonder Woman Rebirth remains unanswered, Rucka is still revealing truth about Diana’s past. Rucka and Sharp have cleverly and quietly pivoted Cheetah from being ostensibly the biggest bad in Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery to being another of Wonder Woman’s allies. That’s a pretty major correction to the “lies” of the past.
Perhaps the most radical thing about Rucka and Sharp’s work is that it’s positioning Wonder Woman more directly as a surrogate for all women—moving far beyond her oftentimes role representing non-threatening and facile Girl Power. Rucka can’t speak for women, but he can speak to the bile men are capable of spewing. The heroic resolve of the women in this issue reminds us that, just as Superman represents the best of humanity (and his superpowers are merely cool bonus features) so too does Wonder Woman.
I’m still not sure what to make of Rucka’s characterization of Steve Trevor in these odd-numbered issues. He’s barely a character at all, mostly used to deliver weak quips directed at the issue’s villains. Caludo barely registers at all. Whether this is intended as a clever inversion of the usual gender roles found in superhero stories or whether it’s just a lack of interest on Rucka’s part, I can’t tell. But it’s also not like Trevor’s presence is missed in the issue. The main action is so compelling that his existence or non-existence feels entirely irrelevant; perhaps he was merely included merely to tick a box off the list of “Things People Expect From a Wonder Woman Comic.”
All around, the balancing act Rucka and Sharp continue to pull off is impressive. This is an issue that wrestles with big ideas but also manages to include the kind of large-scale action we anticipate in a superhero comic book. And looking at the broader Wonder Woman book, the emotionally heavy and more muted odd-numbered titles are an appropriate yin to the even-numbered issue’s yang.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?