Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Wonder Woman Annual 1, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: With her big screen debut just around the corner there’s a regular Wonder Woman frenzy these days. Wonder Woman Annual 1 seems to be joining in on the fun with several short stories that embody what makes Diana of Themyscira such a powerful symbol. I’m pretty sure that Batman and Superman are already on their second Rebirth Annual issues but this is only Wonder Woman’s first? What gives, DC?
Some of the themes present in these stories are right there in the title – like Vita Ayala and Claire Roe’s “In Defense of Truth and Justice” – while others might take a little more scratching beneath the surface. Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott tell us a tale of trust in Wonder Woman’s first meeting with Batman and Superman. Michael Moreci and Stephanie Hans show us Wonder Woman’s warrior code in “The Curse and the Honor.” Finally the collective of Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and David Lafuente give a more lighthearted tale of Diana’s heart and humor in “The Last Kaiju.”
It should be a no brainer that Greg Ruck and Nicola Scott’s “And Then There Were Three…” is far and beyond the best story of the issue. I mean, who doesn’t love a successful Trinity story? And if you New 52 fans are saying “Hey waitaminute – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman met when they fought Darkseid!” then you must remember we are living in the no-rules time of DC Rebirth. Rucka writes a gentler, kinder first meeting between Diana and already established pals Batman and Superman.
This is such a welcome stark contrast from Geoff Johns’ cold New 52 introduction and Batman v. Superman’s…whatever that was. Batman and Superman may be the reader’s POV but the focus is still on Wonder Woman and the world’s awe of her. Superman is friendly and humorous while Batman plays the straight man without being a judgmental asshole. That’s why this story works so well: the skeptical Dark Knight even has to admit that there’s something admirable and hopeful about Diana.
Gosh darnitt this story just leaves you with the warm and fuzzies – in no small part due to Nicola Scott. Scott’s got a knack for getting two-dimensional drawings to really emote. You can feel Superman’s joy and warmth beaming off his face. The calm confidence in Diana’s eyes makes you want to trust her the same way the World’s Finest do. And Scott draws a Dark Knight whose emotions are on the surface but don’t allow him to break. Then there’s this great moment where they say their names while compelled by the lasso of truth:
Superman is really Clark Kent/Kal-El. Batman is Batman, first and foremost.
“In Defense of Truth and Justice” is a Wonder Woman story that has lofty and commendable goals but I’m not quite sure it reaches them. The people of Markovia are about to execute King Shark for his alleged murder of a military general. Markovian Captain Beckers and Wonder Woman step in to defend the big ‘ol shark from the firing squad.
Wonder Woman is there on behalf of the Justice League to uphold international law; Markovia has no right to execute a person of foreign birth. Beckers on the other hand exclaims that she’s defending the truth, saying that King Shark has been framed. Diana deflects some bullets and lassos King Shark to admit that he was innocent of this crime.
And like a Scooby Doo villain General Jansen confesses to the whole thing and is hauled off to prison. Maybe it was the limited amount of pages but this conclusion felt like it came too swiftly. Just because King Shark was innocent doesn’t mean that Jansen was automatically guilty. While this story got “the Truth” of it all, I’m not quite sure it got the “defense of Justice part.”
Taylor I leave the remaining two stories for you to cover. Did you like the idea of Wonder Woman in Japan? I thought it was a pretty cool story choice. Any additional thoughts on the Trinity or the showdown in Markovia? I really wanted to see Markovian royalty Geo-Force show up.
Taylor: The Markovia segment is by far the weakest of the four stories presented in this issue and I think that’s because it loses focus about what Diana’s character is all about. In this story, she basically uses her awesome strength to expose an evil-doer threatening to harm someone who is somewhat innocent. True, she uses her lasso to confirm that King Shark is innocent, but we already knew that to be true thanks to Captain Beckers. This reduces Diana’s role role from truth-sayer to strongman, which really isn’t her bag.
That being said, I enjoyed the last two stories in this issue much more. Moreci and Hans’ unique take on Diana stems not so much from the portrayal of her character, but from the location the story is set. Diana is very much a superhero of the West, with deep roots in Ancient Greece and America. Those two civilizations bookend the past and present of Western influence on the world and Diana’s ethos, as much as her costume, are reflected by this. This is all just a fancy way of saying that Wonder Woman in Japan feels new, fresh, and exciting. But maybe that really shouldn’t be the case. One of Japan’s most famous exports, the Samurai, deals exclusively with the code of the warrior, which has as much to do with Diana as does her search for understanding and truth. Here, we see her fulfill this part of her identity a tee.
This story resonates with the ideals of honor, sacrifice, and what it means to be a warrior. Forced to kill her friend and sparring partner, Kikori, Diana must confront what it means to be a hero who is frequently involved in violence. Obviously she tries everything in her power to save Kikori from the curse that threatens him and his village, but ultimately she is forced to take his life. The idea of sacrificing yourself in battle for something more important than yourself isn’t unique to Japan, but it certainly has been a well chronicled in Samurai lore when warriors give their life to save their lord. Here, Diane sees that being a warrior, and therefore hero, means death is always around the corner, and that what’s bad for you, might be good for the society you protect.
I enjoyed seeing Diana out of her element but I enjoyed her run-in with a kaiju even more. This story, like two others in this annual issue, sees Diana in her most natural habitat – that is defending the innocent by discovering the truth. In this case, it means finding out that a kaiju who is ostensibly attacking a city because that’s what monsters do, is actually looking for his long lost mama. Diana uses her lasso to find this out in a scene that wonderfully drawn by David Lafuente.
As we see, the kaiju isn’t evil at all. Instead we see in several panels that he’s just lonely instead. It’s marvelous the way that Lafuente organizes the panels on this page. They are all guttered by Diana’s golden lasso in a mess of chords that encircle each panel. The collective result is a mass of images rather than a linear story. This not only looks great, but shows how when Diana learns about someone using her lasso, the flood of images she gets from their mind isn’t just a single linear story. Instead it’s thoughts, emotions, feelings, and scenes all scattered and mixed up. This is a such a clever way to show this aspect of Diana’s powers and frankly is something I never had considered before this page. I would be remiss to also mention that Lafuente draws the kaiju adorably in other parts of this issue and when Diana plays fetch with him and some other dinosaurs at the end of the issue my heart just melted.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by this annual issue. So often annuals tend to be bloated affairs with stories of middling quality that just aren’t any fun. All of the stories about Diana here are fun, fast, and a great introduction to anyone interested Wonder Woman or her comics in the future.
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