Graphic Novel Review: Wonder Woman Volume 2 – Year One

This week the film “Wonder Woman” is being released on DVD and Blu-ray! As result, this week I will be reviewing the first three volumes of “Rebirth’s Wonder Woman” that have been released.

Rebirth – Wonder Woman: Year One (Volume 2)

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Nicola Scott
Published by DC Comics
(Collects Wonder Woman 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 of the single issue series)

It is important to note, quickly, that the way that this series was written was that it alternated issues of what is being collected in Volume 1. As a result, the stories at times may have intersected or revealed details in the second volume that we didn’t fully get here. I did not find this to be jarring though having finished both volumes at the time of this writing. The first volume simply adds another layer to the story, but can be read alone.

This focuses on the “origin” of Diana coming to “man’s world.” It is literally what the title says “Year One.” It takes the moment that most of us know (i.e. Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira and Diana wins a contest to be the hero of man’s world). Those elements are still here. The story focuses on her coming to man’s world and not being able to interact with most of the people within it because her language is different than those that we know of currently, so they call in a specialist (someone from the past, if you have read the series this will please you). This specialist acts as an interpreter for Diana as she learns how to live in a different world than her own. The focus quickly becomes that there is an evil in man’s world that is trying to create war wherever possible and it just might not be coincidence that Diana was called into this world after all.

I didn’t want to like this book. No, I wanted to hate it because who needs ANOTHER origin story for this character? I thought, this has been done to death. I only got it because I wanted to have all the Rebirth collected editions to date and continue picking it up in trades as it is published. I read it though because I knew I wanted to do this week, so I went in very skeptically. I was like “this is going to be horrible” and I am shocked. It wasn’t horrible. It was better than I thought it would be. This is because Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott created just the right touches for this storyline. There are so many elements I can talk about, so lets start…

While this is an origin story it felt like Rucka breathed some fresh life into the darn thing. The most enjoyable part of the story to me was that it wasn’t instantaneous that people understood Diana. This might seem minor, but she had been on an island for years. There was a huge chance she didn’t speak English and this addresses that in such a fascinating way that adds a new layer to the character and one of her relationships with another constant character within the series. Rucka really seems to be able to create futures for characters out of the past that are great for new and old fans all at the same time. I also loved that Rucka didn’t overkill certain moments that have already been such an integral part of the series (the contest here is SHORT and I was like THANK YOU RUCKA!)

The villain was one that I guessed pretty quickly in this volume, but it was one of the first times I didn’t roll my eyes at the ease that I guessed it. It was a natural choice and one that made sense since they needed to add the element of the gods to the storyline that have been central to her character. That is the biggest hint of the villain that I am giving you, no I will not spoil it. I also loved how they showcased the gods in this. In many tales the gods didn’t just appear to people as people, but they did appear in the form of animals and that is what happens here. It was a beautiful touch that I haven’t really seen done within the series before (I skipped a lot of New 52, so if it happened there SORRY). The way she obtains most of her powers was awesome and I loved that moment at what would have been the end of one of the single issues of the series. So much about how she obtained powers and came into this world was better told here and I think really does the series justice on reestablishing her origin in a much more believable and modern way than could happen when there is as many years behind her (I think it is over 75 years at this point). This revitalizes her and places her in the strong female superhero category.

I always have to discuss the artwork when I discuss a graphic novel, so I have to commend Nicola Scott on her work here. It was another element that I didn’t want to like, mainly because it contrasts in a very striking way (to me) to Liam Sharpe’s work (the artist on volume one that this was alternating with). Scott’s work always seems more upbeat and optimistic to me than many other artists and in some stories that is awesome, but I wasn’t sure how it would work against the much more “classic superhero” look of Sharpe’s work. It works though! It makes it feel more idealistic, which I think was important in portraying how Diana would have felt going into a new world.

Without getting too indepth with the storyline that is contained within I want to say that the ending of this book is an interlude that focuses on one character (Not Diana) and I found this fascinating to see it. It added an important element to the series that cemented as one character as more important than has been in other versions of the series. It also has made a plot point more interesting in the grand scheme of the series. This series really plays well off the stuff that was in volume 1 and I am glad that this was considered volume 2 instead so that people actually read the first volume first to see some of those things that intersect. There are moments that play well off of each other if you read them in order of how they were published. Do not fret though! If you don’t want to do this you won’t miss anything because these stories really are able to be read by themselves.

While I could not see anyone not loving the first volume, I can see some Wonder Woman fans not liking this particular volume, especially the diehard fans who are used to her origin stories and also certain classic villains in the series. This may be frustrating to those fans, but if you look at the elements (such as her not speaking English and the additional origin character) I think even those people will enjoy this version of Diana’s first year.

I think anyone trying to get into the “Wonder Woman” world or has lapsed as a reader of the series that this is a good place to join the story. This will orient you on what is going to be going on with the character for awhile. It will also allow you to see a strong representation of the character and the world she inhabits. You will also find out her core as a compassion person and also see what characters are central to her as an individual as well. This book cements those characters, so new readers will learn who is important in “Wonder Woman” without having to feel lost. Also anyone that loves strong female characters READ THIS! You will see a great representation. I swear DC comics is not paying me to endorse this character! I just love her this much!

The character of “Wonder Woman” has appeared in other self-contained books like “Wonder Woman: The True Amazon”, “Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia” and “Wonder Woman: Earth One.” She has also appeared in other series books as a central character. Some titles (not exhaustive by any means) are “Justice League” and its various incarnations, “Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman”, and “Superman/Wonder Woman.” If you don’t want to invest in a longer-term story you should check out those that are stand alones. For people that don’t just want to have just “Wonder Woman” as their focus can find other superheroes included in these other titles along with the “Wonder Woman” stories.

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