Comic Review – Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

DC’s Rebirth continues this week, and if my total failure to pick up a few of last week’s one shots yesterday is anything to go by, it is going fairly well for them. It’s at least selling well, and most of last week’s Rebirth output seems to be going down positively too (check out Kit’s review of Batman: Rebirth from last week). This week in particular I was looking forward to Wonder Woman: Rebirth, having dropped off the character since the end of Azzarello and Chiang’s New 52 run. The return of Greg Rucka to the series has had a lot of people excited (myself amongst them, as he is one of my favourite writers), and on this issue he was joined by the two art teams of Matthew Clark on pencils, Sean Parsons on inks and Jeremy Colwell on colours for the first 14 pages, and art from Liam Sharp and colours from Laura Martin for the last 6 pages. Jodi Wynne lettered the whole book.

WWrebirth

Cover by Sharp & Martin

Wonder Woman: Rebirth is a comic about truth. More specifically the lack of it. Diana of the Amazons finds herself disconnected from the people she is saving, in part because they are unsure of who she really is. And they are not alone. She thinks back on her life up to this point, and much of it is split between two different realities with an uncertainty that goes right back to her birth: was she formed from clay, or is she the daughter Queen Hippolyta and Zeus? Faced with a schism of her own past and questioning her whole life, Wonder Woman uses the Lasso of Truth on herself, tying it around her arm and asks herself who she really is. Diana, princess, daughter of Hippolyta, tenth queen of the Amazons. And she has been deceived. And she intends to find out who has done this to her and, possibly more importantly, why?

This is a story about the fluidity of serialised storytelling and the malleability of the origins of superheroes, but it is also a metatextual look at the inconsistencies and complicated facets of Wonder Woman that appear both presently and in her past. The initial disconnect with the women she saves at the start of the issue represents a disconnect with the audience, which Rucka deftly renders into a story point that leads up to Diana literally crushing and stepping out of symbols of her New 52 guise. In that way, the issue continues the Rebirth theme that someone is fabricating reality. However, here it feels much more personal. Rucka’s Wonder Woman is intensely reflective here, but rather than wallowing in self doubt as the character has recently, she maintains a graceful strength in the face of her doubt with regards to reality itself. It’s this simultaneous intensity and care to her introspection that displays a perfect characterisation from Rucka that will serve as a through line as the story moves forward.

Art by Sharp & Martin

Art by Sharp & Martin

Both of the art teams are very strong in Wonder Woman: Rebirth, and while they are distinct from each other the transition works in a way that feels natural rather than jarring. Clark and Parsons produce a sharp and familiar rendering of Diana (with a superb double page spread of her smashing through the lies), with Colwell’s bright colour palette rounding off the art in the first section that feels rooted in the New 52 stylistically. When she essentially steps out of her New 52 costume and heads to Olympus for answers, the comic switches to Sharp’s slightly finer lines and rich, overgrown visuals that almost moves the whole genre of the book to more of a classical fantasy leaning – something that suits the character and her world just fine. Sharp’s gorgeous art is completed with colours awash with an ominous sunset from Martin, resulting in a dark and brooding tone that makes the air around seem thicker with heat and dread.

When Wonder Woman returns in two weeks it will be as one of DC’s twice-monthly books. Interestingly, Rucka will be splitting these into alternating stories that presumably will intertwine or connect down the line, but will be set at different times in Diana’s life. Each of the two will have a different art team, which will provide an internal consistency within the story while also giving each a great deal of distinction. The first story, set in the present day, is ‘The Lies’. This will presumably be picking up where this Rebirth issue left off and Liam Sharp will be continuing with that. If his work on this issue is anything to go by, that is going to be a hell of a good book and I hope Laura Martin is sticking around to colour it. Issue #2 will be the start of the alternative story ‘Year One!’, which has a reasonably self explanatory title but I expect will go into where some of these lies and fabrications have taken root. This story will be drawn by Rucka’s Black Magick collaborator and all-round excellent artist Nicola Scott, and the preview art shows a much brighter and youthful take that I’m looking forward to just as much.

Wonder Woman #1 cover by Sharp

Wonder Woman #1 cover by Sharp

When DC first announced that several of their books would be going twice-monthly I was worried. After Wonder Woman: Rebirth I’m still worried, but more for my bank account than my ongoing interest in DC Comics. The set up for the series is compelling, but the quality in the whole creative team in this issue and seeing one arm of what is to come working so well here is what will be bringing me back in two weeks. If last week is anything to go by head to your local comic shop soon before it sells out, though I think DC are reprinting all of the Rebirth books anyway so keep an eye out. This is definitely one to check out.

Score: 9 Crushed Helmets out of 10

Comic Review – Star Wars: Shattered Empire (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. Marvel’s Star Wars comics so far have all been roundly excellent, but largely confined to further fleshing out the period between Episodes IV-VI. Shattered Empire is the first of this new batch of Star Wars comics to be set after Return of the Jedi, a four-part mini series part of the lead up to the hugely anticipated Episode VII in December. If that wasn’t enough to sign me up, the creative team of Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto (previous collaborators on the superb and upsettingly short-lived Punisher series back in 2011), rounded off with colours by Andres Mossa and letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna, certainly sealed this is a must-buy for me.

Shattered Empire, despite being part of the ‘Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, actually picks up during the final act of that third film, during the Battle of Endor. Rather than directly focusing on the key familiar faces, our lead characters (at least at this point) appear to be two other members of the Rebel Alliance, the married pair of Shara and Kes, as they play supporting roles during the fight against the second Death Star. Shara is an A-Wing pilot in Green group, desperately trying to defend the lead ships from TIE fighters immediately following Admiral Ackbar’s immortal line and before the Death Star’s defence shields drop. Meanwhile Kes is down on the moon of Endor, part of Han Solo’s strike team as they and a group of cuddly Ewoks try to shut down the shield generator. Following the destruction of the Death Star and the retreat of the Galactic Empire forces, Shara hasn’t heard any word of her husband down on the moon, so she heads down to join in the celebrations and to find him. After a brief reunion, Kes’s squad is called into action by Solo, and Shara volunteers her services as mission pilot. It seems like the Empire hasn’t just given up after the destruction of the Death Star and the demise of the Emperor, and the rebels will have their work cut out for them if they want to solidify their victory.

I think it was a really good call to have this issue focus on new characters during the iconic events of the last canonical film. We’re all very familiar with Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie and what they were doing, and it was nice to have characters that were working on the sidelines and in Shara’s case explaining the seemingly insane amount of luck involved in Luke’s escape from the Death Star, while still fitting in organically. The story is given plenty of room to breathe, and to allow for a real human core to develop alongside the action. We may not have seen as much of Kes, but I really warmed to Shara immediately as a brilliant pilot and a character with a deep emotional resonance. As for the plot, rather than picking up cold after the celebrations at the end of Jedi, starting the issue during the space battle side of the Battle of Endor was a great way to ease the familiar reader into the new story, and the direction seems to track to what we’ve seen of an existing Empire in some form (or The First Order) 30 years after our heroes triumphed. It stands to reason that the complex machinery of the Galactic Empire wouldn’t fall apart just because the second overblown boondoggle and the insane leader who created it have both perished in an impressive explosion, so where to go next makes for a compelling starting point for the series.

As for Checchetto’s art, I’d say that the opening pages were the main reason for the spine tingling excitement that I felt reading the rest of the issue. The space battle is stunning, showing the rebel fleet fight off squadrons of TIE fighters and Shara helping to guide the Millennium Falcon to the Death Star itself, before saving Skywalker from being scattered into debris. The facial work is brilliant too, at worst the only crime here is that everyone is a little bit too beautiful, but that isn’t a real complaint. Similarly the assault on the Imperial base on the other side of Endor looks chaotic and visceral without being gratuitous, and the familiar technology and vehicles is rendered perfectly. Mossa has to contend with several totally different environments and situations here, and the colours are exactly in step with the art all the way, resulting in a gorgeous looking comic.

Admittedly I’m already very much on board for new Star Wars content as I count the days down to Episode VII, and Shattered Empire would have had to have been pretty bad for me to be disappointed in any way. But Marvel has been turning out excellent stories with all of the Star Wars books, largely because they are trusting some of the very best creators to work on them. Rucka and Checchetto have absolutely continued this trend, and have produced a truly exciting Star Wars book. Buy this.

Score: 9.5 A-Wings out of 10