By Michael DeLaney and Taylor Anderson
This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Michael: The concept of a higher power is one that many men and women struggle with at least once in their lives. One popular debate between believers and non-believers is the question “why does God let bad things happen to good people?” More to the point, “why does God let bad things happen?” After all of the trials and tribulations that she has gone through, Wonder Woman faces her gods and demands answers for it all.
Greg Rucka has put Diana through the wringer in his dual stories of “The Lies” and “The Truth,” making Wonder Woman 25 serve as an oversized epilogue to both. The issue opens with Wonder Woman single-handedly taking down The Shaggy Man, leaving her Justice League teammates somewhat stunned. Sometime after, Batman and Superman ask Wonder Woman to meet them at “the usual place” — as seen in Wonder Woman Annual 1 — to discuss what happened.
Typically I’m going to enjoy any well-executed scene involving The Trinity, but this one in particular felt relevant to the here and now. If Superman is the best that man can hope to aspire to, then Wonder Woman is that same ideal for women. I think a big reason for the success of the Wonder Woman movie is that it’s inspiring female audiences across the country with a leading hero that they can connect to.
If Wonder Woman is “the ultimate woman,” then the Trinity scene that Rucka writes could be construed as the ultimate example of mansplaining. Previously Rucka has used Wonder Woman’s “fashion sense” to exemplify the way we obsess over how women should or should not dress. Here he places Batman and Superman in the (regrettable) roles of policing a woman’s emotions. It’s 100% clear that they are coming from a position of concern — Superman references Diana’s typical righteous anger — but at the same time this could be boiled down to the superhero equivalent of “you should smile more.”
Gender politics aside, this scene reminds me that each of us is on our own personal journey. Batman and Superman are concerned with Wonder Woman’s actions and emotions but they have no idea what she’s going through. I think it’s smart that Rucka hasn’t introduced Batman and Superman to Wonder Woman until recently. The World’s Finest are reacquainted with the fact that life Diana’s life goes on once a Justice League mission is completed. Batman and Superman may have their mommy/daddy issues but Wonder Woman also has a whole world of issues that she has been dealing with.
Towards the end of the book, Wonder Woman does something that none of us mortals have had the chance to do: she asks her gods “why?” Diana confronts her gods and demands to know why she has been lied to about her reality. Over the course of five pages, the “patrons” contend that Wonder Woman’s life has become everything she ever wanted. They assure her that they love her and that despite “The Lies” they could never take away what essentially makes her Wonder Woman.
This exchange doesn’t sit well with me, to be honest. While I think the argument of “why does God let bad things happen” is fundamentally flawed and two-dimensional, I also don’t subscribe to the idea that god has a master plan. As I see it, Diana demands answers from her patrons — the ones who lied to her — and they essentially say “well, this was all a part of our plan and…we love you.” I sympathize with Diana’s anger in the beginning of Wonder Woman 25, but I’m not satisfied with the way she accepts the gods’ “we love you, let’s move on” answer.
I’ve said this before, but I find Steve Trevor to be an incredibly boring character. Granted, Rucka made Trevor more interesting than any New 52 incarnation, but he still seemed without a purpose besides loving Wonder Woman. Then again, maybe that’s a fitting characterization for Steve Trevor — lord knows we’ve experienced scores of female characters who have no purpose beyond loving the male hero. As ambivalent as I am to Steve Trevor, I can’t help but feel for the guy. Diana is struggling with broken friendships and existential crises and Steve is just trying to fix up a new home for her. The issue ends with Diana returning to Steve and romance ensues, but I can’t help but think of Steve as a placeholder for whoever takes the place of Diana’s true love — and not Superman.
Taylor, what did you think of the finale of Rebirth’s first Wonder Woman story? Does it feel like Etta Candy lost more than Diana? With her unimpeachable wealthy status, is Veronica Cale now Wonder Woman’s Lex Luthor?
Taylor: This finale was kind of mixed bag, as many finales are. One the one hand, the questions and problems this issue left unresolved made it an ending that I find highly intriguing. On the other hand, those things which the issue chose to wrap up fell flat on their face. As you said, Michael, the way Diana’s issues with the gods were resolved felt especially hollow. To add to your point, I just want to highlight how Diana’s acquiescence to the ways of the gods was illustrated.
The wordless sequence above is something straight out of a Disney movie. Cue the reprise of Diana’s theme accompanied by a choir and we’re all set. That we have that stag, very similar to Bambi’s dad, doesn’t help the situation either. To be clear, I have no problem with Disney endings. Moana, a modern masterpiece, has just such an ending, and I don’t mind it at all. It fits with what came before. In Wonder Woman, though, the pretty bow on top of the ending doesn’t match the box that came before it. When addressing themes like the will of the gods and why they let bad things happen I expect an ending that is more subtle and/or complex. That’s not only true to life, but true to the story as well.
Even if the primary theme of the Wonder Woman is resolved unsatisfactorily, there are other beats that the issue hits right on tempo. One of these is Diana’s relationship with Etta. In this issue there is a brief scene where we check in on Etta and what she’s doing on her own. At one point, she’s asked to recruit Wonder Woman and she respectfully declines.
Still smarting from Diana’s failure to rescue Barbara from the Cheetah curse, Etta doesn’t want anything to do with Diana. That the relationship between Diana and Etta is unresolved is a much more satisfying ending than that pertaining to the gods. The reason for is that it smacks of the realism and complexity of actual human relationships. Etta feels betrayed by Diana and that’s not something that is easily fixed by someone saying “I love you” or the appearance of a magical lasso. While I don’t require realism in my comic books, I do ask that characters act in realistic human ways because without that much, a story quickly loses its way. Etta’s beef with Diana is legitimate and that’s something that only time, and more issues, will heal.
Something else that made this finale decent is what it promises for the future of the series. The best finales are those which resolve one major conflict but leave the door open for future problems (note: this only works in a serialized format like monthlies; movies and books are a whole other beast). The way that Rucka hints at future problems is through the ongoing antagonism between Veronica Cale and Diana. Pissed off about the way things ended up with Barbara, Diana demands that Veronica take responsibility for the role she played in turning Barbara in to the Cheetah.
As Veronica sees things, the only thing she is guilty of is giving Barbara what she wanted. In her eyes, it doesn’t matter that this probably ended up being something that Barbara wouldn’t want — as a business woman that’s not her prerogative. She supplied a service to someone and that’s that. This capitalistic standpoint stands in stark contrast to Diana’s worldview, which resembles something close to socialism. For Diana, everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions and everyone has a moral imperative to care for others. Veronica sees herself as coming first and foremost. The two viewpoints these women hold couldn’t be more different and fundamental and it foreshadows conflicts to come in the future.
Michael, you asked if Veronica is Wonder Woman’s version of Lex Luthor. I have no qualms in saying it appears this is exactly how it is. The simmering conflict between her and Diana promises to be ongoing and, just like Diana’s relationship with Etta, it is unresolved. With that in mind, this issue is effective not so much because of what things it brings to a close, but because of the things it promises for the future.
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