Wonder Woman #23: The Truth is Finally Revealed

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With Greg Rucka’s time writing Wonder Woman nearing its end, all of the threads are starting to come together now. This week was the finale of “The Truth,” then we’ve got an annual next week, the finale of “Godwatch” two weeks later, and then one last issue that wraps everything up in Wonder Woman #25 two weeks after that. So basically, we’re a month away from the conclusion of one of the best Wonder Woman runs ever. It’s sad, but at the same time it’s always felt like a story that has a definite end. There were questions to be answered, and now that we’re getting the answers it’s clear that things will wrap up in a satisfying way that adds fascinating new dimensions to the Wonder Woman mythos. We’ll dig into the finale of “The Truth” momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to discuss EVERYTHING that happens in this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Wonder Woman #21 left us somewhat puzzled. The issue ended with Wonder Woman and Veronica Cale finding Ares, but he didn’t at all seem like the Ares we’d encountered in “Year One.” That first Ares was all angry bluster, decked out in armor while talking in fiery proclamations and demanding respect and obedience. This new Ares just looked like a pretty chill, friendly dude, so what was up? That mystery, and several others, were solved with this issue.

We quickly learned that the first Ares was Phobos and Deimos impersonating their father, and that the second Ares was the true Ares, who’d been imprisoned beneath Themyscira all along. After he was consumed by war and driven mad, Aphrodite had locked up Ares in chains forged by Hephaestus and tasked the Amazons with watching over his prison. This was the first step in what became “The Lies,” or Diana’s false memories of her home after she left Themyscira; the location of Ares’ prison was such an important secret that the gods not only wiped away all memories of her true home but also created a false reality lest she seek to understand the hole in her memory. Ensuring that Ares was never freed again was paramount, and keeping the location of Themyscira hidden was key to that, thus the deception.

But Wonder Woman isn’t a normal mortal, so of course she eventually realized that something was up. I like that despite all of the gods working together to create this elaborate ruse, Wonder Woman still found the truth. The gods feared her strength of purpose from the beginning and did their damnedest to keep her in the dark, and even against these odds she figured it out. Or, in short, nevertheless she persisted. Sounds like Diana to me.

The revelations in this issue brought everything from the past year of Wonder Woman together tremendously well, and looking back we can see Rucka’s full plan unfolding. The truth behind the lies was a clever, intricately plotted mystery, and I can appreciate why it took so long to finally get the answers we were so hungry for when the book began. All four arcs weave together to get us to this point where finally everything makes sense. It was very well executed and smartly done, but beyond all of that it’s a conclusion that pays respect to Wonder Woman’s history and sets her on a new path that embraces key elements of her past.

With Ares’s imprisonment and Wonder Woman’s handling of Phobos and Deimos, we see the Marston era’s focus on love and submission. Ares didn’t find peace through the binding of some magical chains; he found it through Aphrodite and her ability to see through his madness and love his true self. So too did love help Wonder Woman, as her compassion and forgiveness allowed her to overpower Phobos and Deimos, the embodiments of terror and panic. They came expecting a fight, and instead found an acceptance that they’d never known, which overwhelmed them and eventually freed them. And, just like their father wearing Aphrodite’s chains, this freedom came through binding, via the lasso in this instance.

Meanwhile, the notion of Themyscira as a gateway and the Amazons as its guardians dates back to the Perez era. Liam Sharp underscored this reference when he drew the Amazons coming out of the water, just as they were created in the second Wonder Woman #1 way back in 1987. Both Nicola Scott’s and Sharp’s take on Ares were clearly inspired by Perez’s designs as well, and we can see similar touchstones with both of their takes on the Amazons.

So we can see the Marston and see the Perez, yet at the same time this take on Wonder Woman is something new as well. Rucka’s borrowed old elements and reshaped them into a new status quo for Wonder Woman, the Amazons, and the mythos as a whole. We’ve still got a few issues to go, but at present it looks like the Amazons will remain separate and hidden from the outside world to keep Ares at bay. Phobos and Deimos may be defeated, but there is no shortage of fools who wish to unleash war upon the world. If the interaction between Diana and Hippolyta at the end of the issue is the last we see of them together for some time, it’s a heartbreaking and powerful moment to close on.

And yet, there is hope. Because she was split between our world and Ares’ prison, Veronica’s daughter Izzy can’t re-enter the world. But since Themyscira is connected to Ares’ prison, she can live there among the Amazons. The daughter of Wonder Woman’s greatest enemy living with her family when she can’t is a brilliant stroke on several levels: On the one hand, she has what Wonder Woman desires most, but on the other hand she’ll be away from her mother and raised by her mother’s nemesis’ family. It’s a move that stings both Wonder Woman and Veronica, yet at the same time one they seem to know is for the best. Wonder Woman knows that Themyscira must stay hidden, and it seems that Veronica knows that perhaps she’s not the best influence. Furthermore, having a human girl among the Amazons maintains a link to the outside world, one that could conceivably lead to a larger reconnection some day.

Overall, Rucka and Sharp have wrapped up “The Truth” very well and explained the major mysteries behind their run on Wonder Woman in an excellent fashion. There’s still a lot of story left to tell here, but the core question of the run has been solved in a clever, satisfying manner. I’m curious to see how everything shakes out over the next few issues before this run concludes. If this issue is any indication, Rucka and his fine artists will stick the landing nicely.

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3 Responses to “Wonder Woman #23: The Truth is Finally Revealed”

  1. Hannah G Says:

    Overall, I thought this was a beautiful end to a fairly mixed story. The panels of Ares and Aphrodite were breathtaking – the contrast of love and war were so apt for a Wonder Woman comic and so stunningly illustrated. And I have to admit, I was close to tears when Diana was separated from her mother again, straight after Veronica said goodbye to her daughter.

    A few things however bothered me – the defeat of Phobos and Deimos felt very anticlimactic, and reminded me an awful lot of Azzarello’s Diana declaring her love for Hades in the New 52 run. Equally, I find it strange that Ares is simply going to be locked up for the rest of eternity – how does that explain the wars that go on in the meanwhile? And has he no interaction with the other gods whatsoever, so that even they can’t visit him?

    I do however love this version of Ares as a less villainous character. It’s much more in line with Greek Mythology, and I hope its not the last we see of him in future issues. I just wonder now how quickly Rucka’s story will be forgotten when the next writers come in?

  2. Jeppe Dittmer Says:

    A good ending to what I think is one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever. As a piece of continuity housecleaning, I think this double ark of The Lies and The Truth is amazing. Rucka found a way to reconcile the new52 with his new Rebirth status quo without disrespecting the previous runs.
    Rucka is obviously very keen on the idea that Diana can’t go back to Themyscira as that was the justification for the Lies about her past, and I agree that the idea has a lot of pathos, illustrated again at the end of this issue with Diana and her mother. But I can’t help but feel it is a bad choice non the less. Themyscira and the Amazons aren’t Wonder Woman’s Krypton. That is to say, a backstory element that only exist to explain where the hero comes from and why she has these amazing powers. Others creators are going to wanna use the Amazons in their stories, and they should because they are a huge part of Wonder Woman’s appeal, so this idea that Diana can’t go back to Themyscira is going to get discarded as soon a possible. But apart form that I think Rucka has added or reinvented a lot of elements to Wonder Woman’s world and mythology that I think, and hope, will remain part of the comics for a long time to come. And I hope Liam Sharp’s redesign of Cheetah sticks around forever, no long hair please.

  3. Saint-Amy Says:

    I’m sorry but the bits about Area confused me here. Is he only traditional bloodthirsty Ares when he’s not bound? So if he is released he will be manipulative Ares again? Overall a great end to a great run.

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