Wonder Woman has been a creative stand out in DC’s “Rebirth” initiative and is selling extremely well, at levels the book hasn’t hit in decades. Over the course of the “Rebirth” special and the initial four issues, the series has largely lived up to the hype of writer Greg Rucka’s return, but Wonder Woman #5 is the first issue that’s fallen a bit flat. It’s not bad by any means, just a little dull and lifeless, especially compared to the spectacularness of Wonder Woman #4 two weeks ago. Rucka’s writing feels languid, Liam Sharp’s art looks scratchy, and the overall story is moving toward “The Lies” the title has promised at a snail’s pace. We’ll dig into it all, but first:
All of the happenings in this issue are about to revealed!
Look away if you haven’t read it yet!
So this issue was disappointing, and continues the trend of “The Lies” being several orders of magnitude less enjoyable than “Year One.” The first issue of “The Lies” was fine if a bit slow, but it had to set the board. The second issue of “The Lies” was also slow, but had a moving conversation between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah that was nicely done. This third issue of “The Lies” continues to be slow, with very little in the mix to counter the dullness of the pacing. In fact, the writing and art both feel like a step down from the previous two issues.
Let’s start with a quick rundown of the issue: Not much happened. Steve and his fellow soldiers are still captured, the villain Cadulo goes on about his evil god Urzkartaga, and Wonder Woman and the Cheetah show up to save them. The only real twist is that Etta Candy goes to visit Sasha Bordeaux, an enjoyable guest star, and it turns out that Bordeaux might be working for some sort of fiendish operation. I didn’t recognize the symbol on the bizarre object that showed up; it looks like Hydra, but that’s the wrong universe completely. And Sasha mentioned a doctor, so maybe it’s Dr. Psycho? He’s the most obvious doctor with a Wonder Woman connection. Anyway, that was about it for twists and turns. The rest felt like a lot of treading water.
And not in a fun way. We got a villain monologue, which can sometimes be a good time, but Cadulo is a boring foe. There’s no nuance to him at all; he’s a megalomaniac under the thrall of an evil god. There are no layers to him, just one-dimensional villainy. And the lack of nuance continued with Steve, who served as the enlightened white knight to Cadulo’s misogynistic bad guy. I’m all for Steve standing up to sexist rhetoric, but dialogue like, “You’ve got some toxic ideas of masculinity, dude,” is a little too on the nose for me. It’s pretty clear that Cadulo represents toxic masculinity without Steve having to spell it out for us.
There were a couple of fun bits in the issue. In particular, I liked the flashback to Diana leaving Paradise Island, a scene we just saw two weeks ago in “Year One.” One of the cool things about the alternating storyline format is that there can be references and call backs across the years that unite the disparate storylines. And we did get a hint of information about the titular “Lies” when Wonder Woman talked about her false memories and we saw scenes from past incarnations of the character, like the gorillas from Gail Simone’s run and an Ares that had a George Perez vibe. We’re getting to the lies, just very very very slowly.
But the bulk of the issue felt uninspired, on the art side as well. Liam Sharp’s first two issues were strong, but this one felt scratchy and sloppy, as if he were rushing through the pages. Which may well have been the case; the alternating storylines give each artist a full month to do an issue, but even that’s quite a grind. It’s hard to keep up high quality work at such a pace, and that may explain the messiness of this issue. For whatever reason, Sharp’s usual detail is replaced with thicker, slapdash lines that don’t look great. And his choices are odd as well; on one page, he draws Wonder Woman’s hair in detail, as if he’s aiming to render every strand, and on the very next page her hair is drawn as more of a solid mass with few strands at all. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition and it feels like two totally different artists drew the pages. Plus, neither image of Wonder Woman is particularly good, and she’s the star of the dang book. You’ve got to make Wonder Woman look nice, at the very least.
The colouring is muted as well and adds to the flatness of the book. Laura Martin’s colours complimented the first too issues of “The Lies,” highlighting Sharp’s detailed line work without overshadowing the intricate art. But with sloppier art this time around, the colours fail to lift the panels like they’d need to in order to compensate for the drop in quality. To be fair to Martin, she doesn’t have a lot to work with, but the colouring on several of the pages feels overly monochromatic and dull, and merges with the messier art to create a rather muddied look overall.
Again, this isn’t a bad issue. Just a step down from the first two parts of “The Lies,” which were only in the good range for me. It’s not terrible so much as forgettable, an uneventful outing in a story that will hopefully pick up soon and turn interesting. We’re only halfway through the arc, but it’s hard to see its purpose right now in the greater context of “The Lies.” Wonder Woman’s trying to get home and discover what’s wrong with Paradise Island, so here we are stuck in a slow-moving outing in the middle of an African jungle? It would be fine if it was a more exciting and compelling story, but it hasn’t been thus far. Especially compared to “Year One,” which has hit it out of the park with its first two issues. It’d be nice to get out of this jungle at some point in the next installment, or at the very least to learn that this lengthy jungle adventure is key to a larger plot. Because so far, it’s been a bit underwhelming. The first two installments had other redeeming qualities, but this issue was just kind of lifeless.