DC’s Rebirth initiative has been polarizing to say the least. But if there’s one thing that all fans are celebrating, it’s Greg Rucka’s return to writing Wonder Woman. Rucka’s first full time stint on the character lasted from 2003-2006, and it’s considered by many to be a seminal take on Princess Diana of Themyscira. His return makes for a great excuse to revisit that initial run and break down what made it so remarkable.
First things first – before he took over the monthly series, Rucka wrote The Hiketeia, which ranks as one of the best Wonder Woman stories of all time. The graphic novel tells the story of a young lady who performs an ancient Greek ritual (the titular Hiketeia), binding Wonder Woman to protect her without question.
It’s a story of duty and justice, which would become tentpoles of Rucka’s run, and it manages to capture the essence of Diana’s character in under 100 pages. In it, she demonstrates her selflessness, her ferocity, and her belief in the inherent good nature of humanity. And to really drive home the point, Rucka pits her against Batman, whose cynical outlook on life makes Wonder Woman’s sense of hope all the more palpable. Simply put, The Hiketeia is the perfect primer for any new fans looking to gain an understanding of the character.
The Hiketeia‘s success then granted Rucka the chance to pen the Amazon’s stories on an ongoing monthly basis, which in turn allowed him to explore the vastness of her character. Over the course of three years, he showed that she’s more than just a goddess; she’s a woman of the people.
Diana serves as ambassador of Themyscira to the United States, and the book is a solid mix of superhero action and diplomatic drama. She of course takes on the supervillains and the Gorgons that you would expect, but the first baddie of this run was actually a corrupt CEO. In much the same way that Lex Luthor is the ultimate foil for Superman, this powerless businesswoman’s exploits only demonstrate that Wonder Woman is more human than she could ever be.
Regardless of who (or what) Diana is fighting at any given time, the core of the series always remains the same. It’s about the balance between being a fierce warrior and a humanitarian. Moreover it’s about sacrifice, with the ambassador always putting the needs of others before her own. It’s often sad but always heartwarming, and reminds readers about the kind of person they should try to be on a daily basis (with hopefully far less death and destruction).
Speaking of other people, it would be remiss of me to not mention the wonderful supporting cast of Rucka’s stint. Each member of the Embassy’s staff brings his or her own charm to the series, coming close to stealing the show in more than a few issues. Her chef Ferdinand is especially a treat to read, and not just because he’s a snarky minotaur.
Now Rucka’s run does end somewhat abruptly – Infinite Crisis sees to that. But although Wonder Woman is suddenly forced to go up against Maxwell Lord and OMACs, it’s all perfectly tied in to the run’s overarching story. Truthfully, the Crisis tie-ins actually allow Rucka to end his tenure on a note that encapsulates what he’s been trying to convey in his previous 30+ issues.
Comics are a wonderful medium; they allow creators to show small lessons on a grand scale, which is sometimes the only way people can learn. If an Amazonian warrior has to fight Medusa at Yankee Stadium to teach readers about selflessness, so be it. The important part is that the work at least tries to reach them and provide them with something of value to take away. Greg Rucka did that from 2003-2006 with Wonder Woman, and here’s hoping he can do it again in 2016.
Wonder Woman: Rebirth hits shelves today, June 8th, and Wonder Woman #1 follows on June 22nd.