Each week, Big Issues focuses on a newly released comic-book issue of significance. This week, it’s Wonder Woman #10. Written by Greg Rucka (Black Magick, Lazarus) with art by Nicola Scott (Black Magick, Earth 2), and colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Midnighter And Apollo, The Omega Men), this issue reinforces Wonder Woman’s place as one of the world’s most inspiring superheroes. (This review reveals major plot points.)
Leave it to Wonder Woman to provide a glimmer of hope in the midst of a harrowing week. Instead of an overwhelmingly qualified woman in the White House, the U.S. will have a man who has cultivated a climate of xenophobia, misogyny, and racism among a huge percentage of the American people. These are the facts, but given the long history of lies told by the president-elect, American voters don’t care much about facts.
Wonder Woman stands for truth. Wonder Woman stands for compassion. Wonder Woman stands for social equality. The election season has made it extremely easy to be cynical, and I can’t deny that the general idea of superheroes feels trite and naïve this week. And yet, reading this week’s issue of Wonder Woman is cathartic. Here is a story about an immigrant coming to the United States, and despite receiving an unfriendly welcome from the U.S. military, she wastes no time befriending strangers and leaping into action when their lives are in danger.
Greg Rucka is a writer that doesn’t shy away from politics in his comics writing (key examples: his creator-owned series Queen & Country and Lazarus), and it’s difficult to disengage with the political subtext in this issue given the real-world context surrounding it. Nearly the entire issue takes place at an outdoor mall where Diana starts to acclimate to American culture, but her pleasant trip with new friends is interrupted when a group of armed white men start shooting up the place. The United States has a serious problem with mass shootings, the majority of which are committed by white men, and having Diana introduced to the horrors of man’s world through this all sadly all-too-common occurrence situates her as the kind of hero the country could desperately use right now.
Violence isn’t going to diminish now that hateful ideology has been empowered, and so much of that hate is directed at people who threaten cis-het white male superiority. It’s not a coincidence that the big moment of this issue is Wonder Woman saving a black family from a barrage of bullets. The shooting doesn’t appear to be racially motivated (there are also white victims), but that image of Wonder Woman putting herself in harm’s way to save a black family from bullets fired by a white man can be read as a statement on who is really being victimized in this country. The children of this family are also the first civilians Diana introduces herself to at the start of the issue, a decision that shows Wonder Woman as a friend to all people, regardless of age, race, or gender.
Wonder Woman’s Golden Perfect (previously referred to as her “golden lasso”) has typically been used as a combat weapon and interrogation tool, but in this issue, it’s also an object that brings people together. Before the carnage breaks out, Diana, Steve Trevor, Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, and Etta Candy are sitting at a restaurant, trying to have a conversation about Wonder Woman’s powers. When Etta grabs on to the Golden Perfect while Diana is holding it, they are suddenly able to understand each other because they instantly speak the other’s language. The four of them pass the rope around the table and hold on to it at the same time, revealing truths that ultimately bring them closer together because they are compelled to validate and support each other. It’s a small but effective moment of personal connection through emotional honesty, and it’s a great way of showing how Diana’s equipment is intended to help, not hurt.
Nicola Scott has been a consistently strong artist that grows with each new project, but working with Rucka on Black Magick resulted in a particularly huge leap forward for Scott. Sharing ownership of the title gave Scott a more personal investment in the book’s success, motivating her to refine the details in her character and environment design to give the book a memorable cast and setting. Working in black-and-white forced Scott to think more about atmosphere and clarity in her compositions and linework because she couldn’t rely on color to reinforce those elements, and she’s carried those skills over to Wonder Woman, where she has the benefit of colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. adding dimension and texture to her artwork.
The results have been gorgeous. Scott and Fajardo Jr. created a lush Themyscira teeming with vitality in their first issues together. That same energy is present in the two-page spread at the top of #10 revealing the busy mall Diana and friends are visiting. That spread creates a strong sense of place, and the majority of the events in this issue occur inside the space that Scott and Fajardo Jr. depict in this establishing shot. While the majority of people on the mall’s ground level are colored with dulled shades, but the black family that plays a bigger role throughout the issue is highlighted with brighter colors (as is Diana’s group). It’s a small detail that a lot of readers will probably gloss over, but even if readers aren’t consciously paying attention to it, the coloring subtly tells them to pay attention to this family.
The page before the big rescue builds anticipation by slowing down time over the course of 12 panels showing Diana sprinting, bullets rushing, and the eyes of the terrified girl screaming for her mother, all colored with a soft gold palette that gives the impression of moments frozen in amber. Time speeds up again when the first bullet bounces off of Diana’s bracelet, and the page turn reveals a striking spread of Diana standing in front of the family, deflecting fourteen bullets in quick succession. What makes this image even more powerful is that it’s a complement to an earlier moment in this run when Hippolyta shot a gun at her daughter to test if she was ready to handle the threats of the world outside Themyscira. That sequence in Wonder Woman #4 ended with an intense shot of Diana’s eyes staring out from behind her silver bracelets, and the creative team made a bold decision in withholding the visual of Diana deflecting bullets that readers were expecting to see next. They saved it for when Wonder Woman is deflecting bullets to save the lives of others, adding more meaning to the action that is an integral part of the character’s image.
Jodi Wynne has become Rucka’s go-to letterer for his recent creator-owned books, Lazarus and Black Magick, and she’s doing very smart work depicting language barriers in Wonder Woman. Diana’s Amazonian speech is depicted with a bold, italicized font inside word balloons that have an extra border, which visually separates Diana from the people around her while giving her dialogue more impact. That lettering carries over to Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva when she attempts to communicate with Diana in her native tongue, but grayed words with varying letter sizes indicate a lack of comfort and confidence with the language. Minerva does have a strong understanding of Amazon vocabulary and grammar, but the lettering indicates that she still needs to actively think about how words fit together while she speaks. The Golden Perfect is also a translating tool, so when Diana wraps the rope around other people, the lettering adjusts to indicate that others can understand what she’s saying, like when she tells one of the shooters, “Put the guns away.”
I’ve written a lot about Wonder Woman this year, largely because DC Comics has been putting out so many interesting titles spotlighting the various facets of the character that distinguish her from the company’s other two most prominent heroes: Batman and Superman. Bruce Wayne is a rich white guy with a tragic past who takes it upon himself to fix a city that he claims ownership of, and while much of Batman’s history has involved Bruce coming to trust other people and bringing them into his mission, he’s still a person with overwhelming privilege pursuing his own personal agenda outside of the law. Superman is an immigrant analogy like Wonder Woman, but he’s an immigrant raised in the country that takes him in, with no recollection of the home he left behind. Wonder Woman was raised in paradise, and she leaves it so that she can spread its values to the rest of the world. Diana’s behavior is informed by the ideals that allowed her people to live in harmony. She’s not motivated by a vengeful sense of justice like Batman or a duty to protect an adopted homeworld like Superman, but the beliefs of her Amazon sisters and the example they’ve set for achieving a society built on empathy and equality.
There have been four different Wonder Woman origin stories this year—The Legend Of Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman: Earth One, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon, and the “Year One” story in the main Wonder Woman ongoing—and while they each share basic fundamental elements, they build off that foundation in unique ways to showcase the huge storytelling potential in the concept of a young Amazon woman who leaves her utopian home behind to help create paradise in a world dominated by war. These approaches range from triumphant (“Year One”) to tragic (The Last Amazon), kid-friendly (Legend) to kinky (Earth One), and while these interpretations of Diana may conflict, taken together they provide a fascinating, complex exploration of who Wonder Woman is and what she represents. Diana is getting the dimension that every female character is owed, and that kind of thoughtful representation is going to be even more important in the years to come.