Why The Upcoming WONDER WOMAN Run Shows She Still Doesn’t Get Respect

Despite a cinematic triumph, she's still getting the short end of the stick in comics.

When Greg Rucka’s excellent run on Wonder Woman, which included art by Liam Sharp, Bilquis Evely and Nicola Scott, ended recently it was bittersweet. Few modern writers penning Diana, the famed Princess of the Amazons, bring such care and respect to her mythos. The Lies storyline ended by highlighting her romance with Steve Trevor, re-establishing her trust in the patron gods that granted her amazing abilities, and highlighting the tragedy at the heart of her story: by leaving her homeland of Themyscira to aid Man’s World, she will never be able to return or see the mother she so loves. Rucka’s latest Wonder Woman comics weren’t just a stunning portrait of heroism brimming with nuanced relationships, dense mythology and a keen interest in re-establishing the feminist undercurrent of the character. It was also the first time in years that Wonder Woman’s headlining comic respected and reveled in feminist aspects of her canon that make her so unique. With the renewed profile of the character thanks to Patty Jenkins’ highly successful film, Wonder Woman, along with Rucka’s efforts, I truly believed it was the dawn of a new age in which she finally would get the respect she deserves. Unfortunately, the newly announced James Robinson-penned comic, set to run after the five issue series by Shea Fontana, proves that DC Comics continues to misunderstand what draws audiences to Wonder Woman in the first place.

Given his inconsistency as a writer and past problems, Robinson is a misguided choice to take on Wonder Woman at the height of her popularity. This is the perfect opportunity to bring fresh blood to her comic and have faith in a female writer who cares for the character. Just as troubling is the plot line of the comic itself. While I bristled at Jenkins’ film including the very recent update on Wonder Woman’s origins that comic writer Brian Azzarello introduced only a few years ago, the film was undoubtedly at its best when leaning into the weirdness of the character and how female oriented her story is. Robinson’s take on the character is set to run for six months beginning in September and will focus on a storyline that has the potential of making the same mistakes Azzarello did by de-centering Wonder Woman from her own story. “Children of the Gods” will expand on a twist introduced near the end of the New 52, DC’s last reboot of the canon I thought was completely out of the picture, about Wonder Woman’s long lost twin brother, Jason. The very aspects that make Wonder Woman an icon — her feminist ethos, her radically different sense of justice than that of her peers, a sincere belief that the relationships amongst women are worthy of focus — are the very attributes DC Comics seems uncomfortable with highlighting for too long. No one comes to Wonder Woman comics to read stories that center on men. She’s always been a respite within superhero comics in which women are far too often fridged, sidelined, poorly developed romantic partners, or off-shoots of male heroes whose mythos doesn’t quite stand on its own. Furthermore, this shows a far too common recurrence in Wonder Woman’s history in which DC Comics decides to tweak her origin in order to obscure the more radical aspects of the character. Centering this story on a twin brother no one is interested in isn’t a bold new direction but an insulting one.

Like many other comic readers, I fell in love with Wonder Woman due to her nature of being an explicitly female power fantasy. Formed by clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, and raised as the only child of an all-female, diverse and martial culture, there is no one quite like her. Wonder Woman’s most important relationships have always been with other women, with Steve Trevor being a notable exception as her romantic interest and sometimes dude-in-distress. She doesn’t need her origin overburdened by more complications or powerful male characters to be worthwhile. Rucka’s work reaffirms everything that made me fall in love with Wonder Woman — her fantastical mythology, her trenchant politics, her deep bench of great female characters. It’s hard to imagine another storyline that positions Wonder Woman as not knowing the truth of Themyscira and puts a man at its center would offer that.

Robinson’s run may end up being fun but it doesn’t seem like it will be much about Wonder Woman but hinge upon another twist in her origin. It’s also narratively and canonically confusing. One of the greatest aspects of Rucka’s approach to the character were his efforts to fix all the damage made to Wonder Woman in the past few years. Rucka’s run ends by showing that Wonder Woman’s memories were altered by the gods themselves and she had never actually returned to Themyscira. The Lies and Year One, written by Rucka, in turn suggests that the 2011 revamp which revealed Wonder Woman to be another child of Zeus was also an elaborate illusion. By seemingly returning Wonder Woman to her made-from-clay origin and strengthening the sisterhood of the Amazons, it makes the focus on Jason rather confusing. If Wonder Woman is once again made from clay, how can Jason exist since Justice League #50, penned DC’s COO Geoff Johns, explicitly shows Queen Hippolyta giving birth to Diana and Jason? If her origin as a demigoddess remains intact doesn’t that undermine the efforts by Rucka and by extension, the female-oriented nature of her birth, that makes her unique? If she needed a sibling why not bring back Nubia? When DC Comics introduced its Rebirth line last year, which once again revamped the canon, it seemed that the company finally understood Wonder Woman’s unique nature was something to lean into, not run from. Finally, she’s canonically bisexual, her kindness is on full display, and her story is completely female-oriented, aided with a dash of romance with her relationship with Steve Trevor. But the announcement of Robinson taking the helm just proves everything that makes Wonder Woman unique continues to garner little respect or interest from DC Comics itself.

It’s hard to understand how new fans of the character who were drawn to Robin Wright’s fearsome Antiope and the sisterhood of the Amazons in Wonder Woman would connect with Robinson’s upcoming comic. What has attracted readers to Wonder Woman throughout her 76-year history has been how her mythology explores the relationships amongst women, from family like Queen Hippolyta to villains like Circe, as complex and full of emotional resonance. DC Comics’ decision to have Robinson’s run focus on a long lost twin brother whose existence is very new within her history is insulting and confusing. What’s the point of tweaking her origin again so soon after Rucka re-centered it on her core values? Why should fans care about this long lost twin brother when Wonder Woman’s other relationships are far more intriguing? One of the most beautiful moments from Rucka’s run comes near the end in issue #23. Wonder Woman learns that she never actually returned to Themyscira as her confusing memories suggest, a clear critique on how often her origins are upended; it was an elaborate lie by the gods. By leaving Themyscira to help the rest of the world she’ll never be able to return home. Wonder Woman and Queen Hippolyta stand on opposite sides of the portal that leads to Themyscira yearning for each other but unable to actually reach out. It’s a moment full of such pathos and tragedy it brought tears to my eyes. By introducing Jason as a crucial aspect of Wonder Woman’s past she didn’t know of, it undermines her connection with her mother and her mythos itself. Maybe Robinson’s approach to Wonder Woman will actually be engaging. Yet even if it proves to be a better comic than I believe, I worry that it won’t be much of a Wonder Woman story at all. Superhero comics need characters like Rucka’s take on Wonder Woman now more than ever. It would be great if DC Comics realized that.

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