Superman's Rebirth storyline requires some pretty in-depth knowledge of Superman stories spanning decades. Batman's rests at least somewhat on a scattering of events in the New 52. But in this week's Wonder Woman: Rebirth one shot, the Amazon warrior appears to be blowing up her continuity entirely. And that makes it the perfect time for new readers to jump aboard.
Mild spoilers for Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 will follow.
The key fact established in Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark and Liam Sharp's Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 is that nobody knows exactly how Wonder Woman came to be. Not even — as she realizes in a stunning two-page spread depicting a myriad of Wonder Woman stories — Wonder Woman herself.
There's a supreme metatextual irony here, for a character whose unsuitability for mainstream adaptation has often been chalked up to her perceived lack of an iconic origin story. Wonder Woman's origin story is absurdly simple, when you compare it to some recent additions to Hollywood's comic book community.
The reason why Wonder Woman's origin isn't thought of as iconic lies not in its complexity — which is no greater than that of her fellow members of DC's "Trinity," Superman and Batman — but rather in how, compared to Superman and Batman, her story has been introduced to a mainstream audience vanishingly less often. Superman first appeared in theaters in 1941, Batman in 1943, and there hasn't been a decade without at least one Batman or Superman-based film since. Despite an incredibly popular television show that still holds a significant place in the cultural consciousness, Wonder Woman has, in the year 2016, appeared in a mere two movies, as a brief cameo and a secondary character.
It's not that Wonder Woman's origin is complex. It's that it's relatively unfamiliar. (And it should go without saying that in an era when even Marvel's second incarnation of Ant-Man can put butts in theater seats, a unfamiliar origin story is no longer an excuse to balk at an adaptation.)
Diana, princess, daughter of Hippolyta, 10th queen of the Amazons
Wonder Woman is the daughter of the Amazons, an ancient, matriarchal and exclusively female society of philosophers and warriors who reside on a magically hidden island. She has come to Man's World to spread the Amazonian ethos of egalitarianism and of pacifism before aggression, but victory above all, in a time when violence threatens the future of humanity. And even in our world, isn't that all times? She is aided in her work by superhuman strength, stamina and reflexes — as well as items of Amazonian power, including her indestructible bracers and lariat, which has the power to compel any being to speak truly.
And Wonder Woman: Rebirth is fundamentally about that least-superhero-y but, when you get down to it, most powerful tool in her arsenal: Wonder Woman's ability to divine what is true.
"The first casualty of war is truth," she monologues more than once in the issue. Weighty words for a woman who currently stands for both.
The events of the New 52 included a new backstory for Wonder Woman, one that replaced the miracle of her virgin birth with a secret affair between the Amazons' Queen Hippolyta and the god Zeus, rebranded the Amazons as rapists, murderers and slavers of male children and saw Diana succeed her traditional foe Ares as the God of War. (Also she finally got a second concurrent title... which she shared with Superman. It was about them dating.)
Rebirth gives us "Diana, princess, daughter of Hippolyta, 10th queen of the Amazons."
Everything else we know about Diana? Everything else she knows about herself? Up in the air. Wonder Woman: Rebirth gives its hero a clear and compelling mission and direction vastly more emphatically than Batman or Superman — Diana is on a search for her very identity, her origin, her culture, her mission and her true place in Man's World.
Rucka's story treats editorial shakeups and changes of direction as the push and pull of mythological narrative demands, a tactic that writers have previously applied to characters like Batman and Superman in a way that I have always found to feel contrived and tonally jarring. But with Wonder Woman, a literal living myth within her own universe, it works. Did Athena spring fully formed from Zeus' head? Or was she born outside of Olympus and raised by Triton? Or was she the daughter of Chronos, making her sister to Zeus, Hera and the other senior Olympians?
Perhaps it would take a truth lasso to tell.
A Wonder Woman story that no one can deny is iconic
It's a trick that will allow Rucka and his collaborators, Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott, to remake the character entirely as they see fit, and that's clearly what they intend to do. Going forward from Wonder Woman: Rebirth, the creative team will be splitting the narrative into two stories: one set in the modern DC universe ("Lies"), and one that tells the story of her first year as a superhero ("Wonder Woman: Year One"), a story that Rucka and Scott have been waiting years to tell.
DC couldn't have lucked into a better team for the job. Rucka has a superlative, widely lauded mid-00s run on the character, and that's aside from his role in creating or raising the visibility of some of DC's best-realized female characters, like Batwoman and Renee Montoya. Sharp has an extensive background in densely pencilled but clearly depicted fantasy art of the classic pulp style, and Scott, well. Nicola Scott draws Wonder Woman like she's the last thing you see before you die — a glimpse of heaven and the person who struck you dead, in one.
All this is to say: of the DC Trinity's Rebirth storylines, Wonder Woman isn't just shaping up to be an incredible book — it's also looking to be the one most accessible to new readers. Wonder Woman: Rebirth just established that it cannot rest on any of her previous continuity unless it brings up, specifies, and establishes that continuity anew, perfect for folks unfamiliar with the DC universe's decades of history. And with Rucka, Sharp and Scott at the helm, we just might get that Wonder Woman story that no one can deny is iconic.