Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Wonder Woman 9, originally released October 26th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Mark: I find the romantic entanglements of superheroes to be deeply uninteresting territory. For every Lois Lane—in her best portrayals an ambitious, go-getting reporter for The Daily Planet— there’s a dozen Gwen Stacy-types, a character known primarily for two things: the color of her hair and her untimely death.
After the explosive climax of Wonder Woman 7, Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp take a breather with Wonder Woman 9. Focused more on the private life of Diana Prince, the issue features the most Steve Trevor we’ve seen in the run thus far and, not coincidentally, drags the most when he’s around.
Rucka’s Wonder Woman is particularly interested in reflecting on Wonder Woman’s real world position as cultural icon. This leads to meta moments like Diana noting how the public is unusually fascinated by what she wears.
Redesigns of anchor superheroes always generate discussion, but rarely do they make national news in the way a new Wonder Woman costume does. She should project power, but also vulnerability. Her armor should be tasteful, but sexy. Her body thin, but powerful. Pity the poor individual tasked with serving these many masters.
By acknowledging these conflicting mandates, Rucka continues to use Wonder Woman as a proxy for all women. The impossible balance Wonder Woman is supposed to achieve is the same one we see required of any woman in the public eye. Samantha Bee recently devoted a segment of her TV show to the pervasive sexism female heads of state experience everyday. And while every bit of superhero casting is scrutinized by fans, few were parsed as throughly by the darker fringes of the fan base as Gal Gadot portraying Wonder Woman in DC’s wider cinematic ventures. I count it as a minor victory that we’re at least more aware now of how casually pervasive these conversations are in a way we maybe weren’t a few years ago when Julia Gillard served as Australia’s first prime minister, but awareness hasn’t stopped the conversations from taking place.
Okay, so Steve Trevor. I guess it’s inevitable that Rucka would have to reconcile Wonder Woman’s editorially misguided “romance” with Superman of the past few years with Trevor’s canonized role as Wonder Woman’s Primary Romantic Interest. This was a hump I was not looking forward to getting over, but Rucka handles it as well as can be hoped. The dread I was feeling leading up to this moment is my own baggage, since I consider Diana’s relationship with Superman to be Grade A Dumb, but I also find Steve Trevor to be a boring Ken doll of a romantic interest.
Rucka’s solution? Acknowledge Diana and Steve’s shared history, but leave Diana mercifully romantically unbeholden to anyone. One beachside slog through the past and we’re out of there! Like much of Wonder Woman 9, it’s a moment of housekeeping that was necessary to get out of the way before moving “The Lies” into its final moments.
In conjunction with Laura Martin on colors, Liam Sharp delivers some striking images. There are no action sequences this issue, but Sharp’s layouts are never boring. The issue ends with Diana and Steve making their way back to Themyscira, and I’m particularly enamored with the way Sharp and Martin frame our heroes’ arrival on the island with the stunning colors of the skies above Themyscira.
What’d you think, Michael? Any idea what to make of whatever’s going on at Empire Enterprises? It continues to be a plot point I simultaneously don’t understand and find uninteresting outside of the fact that it continues Wonder Woman‘s trend of featuring women as the major power figures in the book (See also: Director Bordeaux.) And I believe we share a mutual dislike of Wonder Woman and Superman’s rock stupid pairing, but I’m curious to know if you’re more invested in the will they/won’t they of Diana and Steve.
Michael: Damn Mark, leave some for the rest of us son! Excellent points across the board my friend – you’re not gonna hear any arguments from me. I think that my favorite part of Wonder Woman 9 was the scene in the mall that could effectively be named “Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman thesis.” From the meta-commentary of female scrutinization to the celebration of Diana as a champion of the people, this sequence felt spot-on for the character. Some writers lean a little too hard on Wonder Woman being a jolly Thor-like warrior, but one of her most important characteristics is that she considers herself to be one of us – she is a sister to all of us. Etta Candy tells Barbara that when Wonder Woman greets a massive crowd she understands the power behind that gesture.
Barbara helps Diana and co. find the missing island of Themyscira by locating the physical location of where the real world and the divine meet. As a hero and symbol, Wonder Woman serves as this bridge between her people and humanity. After all, one of her original purposes was to be a representative of Themyscira to “the world of man.” Wonder Woman recognizes her power as a symbol and uses that gift to empower and honor the men and women who are lined up to see her. Liam Sharp does a little bit of honoring himself as we see Easter Eggs of Wonder Woman creators spread throughout that packed double-page spread.
“The Lies” has been about Wonder Woman (and us) discerning through the continuity and contradictions to get to who she is and what is true. Rucka downplays the “God of War” persona that Brian Azzarello gave her and instead makes love one of her greatest strengths. This is evidenced in the way she treats her friends, her former enemy, and her would-be lover. I love that Diana instantly forgave Barbara Minerva for all of the things she did as The Cheetah, she doesn’t even skip a beat before taking her shopping. Of course, the most overt example of Diana’s love and compassion comes in the form of an explanation to Steve Trevor as they have t-shirt time on the beach. Diana has come to the realization that she firmly believes in the power of love and the ability to commit to that ideal with abandon. She understands how silly it may sound but she doesn’t apologize for what she believes.
The mystery structure of “The Lies” is an interesting way for Rucka to tell us which elements of recent Wonder Woman continuity work for him and which don’t. Superman and Wonder Woman as relationship was dumb. It could have worked, but I don’t think any of the creators involved in that “celebrity romance” really believed in it. That being said, Diana’s explanation of the complicated simplicity of love is probably the best one we’ll ever get for that strange moment in comic book history. We’ve all had questionable relationships before, right? I suppose the cape and tights crowd should be no different.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find the Steve Trevor/Wonder Woman relationship all that interesting, and I’m not sure the blame falls solely on Steve. As heroes (not lovers) Wonder Woman and Superman have a lot in common. But at the end of the day I believe that Superman belongs with Lois Lane – I don’t know if I have that same kind of reaction for Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor though. Like I mentioned earlier Wonder Woman is a hero of the people, and I don’t know if I see her settling down with someone in particular; at least not Steve Trevor in his best Oliver Queen cosplay. Was it just me or did Liam Sharp intentionally make me think of a Ford commercial with those two in their blue jeans and white tees? I’ll admit that I did enjoy how Diana kept her bracelets on while she was in her civies.
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