“Rebirth” is so close now. Today’s Wonder Woman #51 is the penultimate issue of the series. The Finches will wrap up their run next month, and then Greg Rucka’s coming in with Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott to relaunch the book and hopefully make it not terrible anymore. Yes, another relaunch is sort of ridiculous, but I’m very much looking forward to it because a) Rucka knows how to write comics, b) Sharp and Scott are great artists, and c) there’s no way that they could make a worse Wonder Woman than what we’ve been getting over the past year and a half.
Case in point, this month’s issue. It serves as both a tour through the unpleasant missteps DC’s made with Wonder Woman throughout the New 52 era and as just a bad comic that’s part of a dumb arc. Wonder Woman’s in Tartarus because Hecate sent her there through a variety of painfully obvious lies and manipulations that sailed right over Diana’s head, and so she’s stuck dealing with some troubling manifestations of her subconscious mind or whatever. It’s not great stuff. We’ll discuss it all for as long as I can handle it (you’ll notice I didn’t even review last month’s issue; I was out of town visiting family and just couldn’t muster the energy to engage with the fiftieth issue “special”), but first:
I am about to tell you ALL OF THE THINGS that happen in this issue!
Look away if you haven’t read it yet!
Or don’t! Whatever! I don’t care anymore!
So Wonder Woman is in Tartarus because she’s an idiot, basically. Or rather, because she’s being written as such. Everything about Hecate screams “SHE’S A VILLAIN!”, from the spiky horns coming out of her head to her telling Diana that she needed to steal from her friends and not tell anyone what she was doing or who she was working with. I mean, come on now. Those are some red flags. This is the issue where Wonder Woman figures out that she’s been duped, but it’s several issues too late. She should have put the pieces together on this one as soon as she met Hecate, just like every reader did.
The attempted emotional reveal of Wonder Woman realizing the mistakes she’s made falls completely flat. Having Wonder Woman look stupid never makes for a fun read. Furthermore, this astoundingly poor characterization of Wonder Woman takes you right out of the story. Instead of engaging with what’s going on, the reader is left wondering why Diana is even in this situation in the first place, and why a writer would do this to the character, and how an editor could possibly let this story be published.
While in Tartarus, Wonder Woman has some visions related to her past. First, we get her Amazon foe Aleka making fun of a young Diana, a reminder of how the Amazons have been the worst in the New 52. It was really interesting to hear Greg Rucka talk about the Amazons on the Word Balloon podcast after his return to Wonder Woman was announced, because he made the point that the Amazons are all about love, support, and trust. Jealousy and bitterness just aren’t how the Amazons should roll, yet that’s been the core of the Amazons since the New 52 relaunch. Rucka didn’t call out any of the New 52 books specifically because he’s a classy dude, but you got the sense that he saw the current depiction of the Amazons as a big misstep by DC.
Wonder Woman also has a vision of Superman, another of the New 52’s poorest choices. Their relationship never made much sense, nor did they have a lick of chemistry. Several writers took a stab at it too, across a variety of books, but it never landed in any real way. In fact, most of the time it was poorly handled and offputting. So this conversation, in which Diana talks about how she thought about settling down and starting a family with Clark, is an unpleasant reminder of their ill-fated relationship as well as not particularly believable. Their entire relationship was DC telling us they love each other without ever showing it or selling it, and this was more of the same.
Then Hera shows up and she and Wonder Woman fight, and Wonder Woman realizes that she was dumb to trust Hecate. After making up, they escape Tartarus and head back to Olympus to check on Zola’s baby Zeke, whose illness was the genesis of all of this foolish subterfuge. We don’t learn what’s up with Zeke but, shocking twist, it looks like Zola is dead.
This had better be a fake out, because Zola has been a great character and one of the consistent bright spots in what’s been a very up and down five years for Wonder Woman. I like Zola a lot, even though the Finches never seemed to get her right at all; she was so much fun during Azzarello and Chiang’s tenure, and I like what she adds to the Wonder Woman mythos. She’s sort of a charming, redneck Etta Candy, and serves the important role of keeping Diana grounded with a human friend. So if she’s actually dead, I’m going to be pretty upset.
I suppose we’ll find out next month with the series finale. Given the entirety of what’s preceded it during the Finches’ run, I have no hope that it will be good, but it will be the end. And then “Rebirth”! One issue to go, gang. We can do it.