Wonder Woman Annual #1 review

Ahhh, the fifth Wednesday of the month.  Annuals season.  It’s a weird day as a comic book fan, because new material is still released but there isn’t nearly as much of it.  Considering DC has been double-shipping like crazy for the past year it’s especially weird seeing only four new books released today.  Funny enough, we’re covering three of them.

Appropriately enough too, given the week, we’re covering the Wonder Woman annual.  It seems as good a time as any, considering she’s starring in her own movie that comes out Friday.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it?  It’s supposed to be pretty okay.

Instead of telling one long narrative, the annual here is broken up into four smaller stories, each focusing on a different aspect of Diana’s goodness.  If you can’t tell by the score, this is a winner through and through, with hardly a weak story in the bunch.

First off: I’m not even going to try and make sense of the continuity here.  Batman’s wearing his New-52 suit and Superman is in his post-“Reborn” outfit, but this is supposed to be the boys’ first encounter with Wonder Woman.  It… doesn’t really line up, but eh.  It’s a fun story and that’s all I care about right now.

Helmed by series regulars Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, “And Then There Were Three…” follows Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne as they discover a new presence in the world: a tall, graceful female hero who doesn’t speak a lick of English.  The boys wind up tracking her to the same spot, trying to get a better handle on the Amazon.

All while being snide little dorks to each other.

Rucka’s a solid writer, no doubt about it, and he’s had a great handle in this book since the launch of Rebirth.  For all the fun he has with they boys, though, it’s the Princess who truly shines here.

She appears and everything just stops.  That’s a very good thing, too, as Bruce and Clark aren’t quite sure what to make of her.  She’s graceful and seeks non-lethal means of apprehension, yet clearly has a warrior’s spirit about her.  The three share in understanding by holding Diana’s lasso, giving each other insights into their hearts and motives.  Cornball?  Possibly, but it’s a good way to establish the deep connection between the three and sets up the absolutely brilliant last line.

And then Nicola Scott… man her work is pretty.  Her faces are outmatched, full of expression and life, and she has a great gift for pacing and comedy.  She and Rucka worked really well together on the “Year One” arc that ran through the first half-dozen even issues of Wonder Woman, and hopefully she’ll make her presence known in Themyscira again.

No, you’re crying after reading a King Shark story.

Things are looking bad for Mr. Shark.  He’s been detained in Markovia and is under fire for supposedly murdering a general.  For that, he is sentenced to death.

Or at least he would be if Wonder Woman wasn’t sent to intervene.

See, being a foreign citizen, Shark technically can’t be sentenced to death by Markovian citizens.  He needs to be extradited so he can be judged rightly, and that’s why Diana is here.

Plus there’s the fact that it all may just be part of a military coup and the giant shark man is innocent.  As it happens.

Vita Ayala’s slow moving script here is pretty powerful, focusing more on the politics of the situation than on wall-to-wall action scenes.  It gets there eventually, sure, but for a time there’s an attempt made to discuss the situation.  Ayala was one of the writers featured in the New Talent Showcase from last year, so it’s nice seeing a fresh face getting another crack at a big character.  With some refinement I think she’ll have a nice long career ahead of her.

Claire Roe of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey and the great Jordie Bellaire of almost literally everything bring a disappointingly drab visual style to the story.  I actually kind of like Roe’s style for Wonder Woman, but Jordie is relegated to using a bunch of greys and earth-tones.  There isn’t a whole lot of color here.  Even Diana’s usually vibrant outfit is flat and dull, which is disappointing.  I will say that it’s not muddled or muddy, so it’s always clear what’s going on, I just wish there was more color.

That last line, though… man.  If you don’t get goosebumps over the plight of King friggin’ Shark then I don’t know what to tell you.

If the first story was about Diana’s goodness and the second was about her sense of justice, “The Curse and the Honor” is about her sense of duty.  Taking place in some gorgeous snow-covered Japanese environments, this story reminded me of The Hiketeia in its intent if not the details.  Wonder Woman spars with an old friend and, in their conversation, becomes almost duty-bound to help him keep his village safe at any cost.

That becomes more difficult when Diana realizes her friend is also the monster that has been preying on the small town.  She tries to do everything she can to save both her ally and his people, but sometimes hard decisions have to be made for the greater good.  Solid as Michael Moreci’s script is, the beautiful visuals from Stephanie Hans really set this story apart.  If the preceding tale was a bit flat and drab in its lack of color, “The Curse in the Honor” is a vision in its limited palette.  The deep reds of Diana’s cape are striking against the largely white backgrounds, while the visible brushstrokes and watercolor quality make individual panels almost frame-worthy.

It’s a lovely, sad tale, this one.

Wonder Woman versus a kaiju!  On paper, this sounds absolutely amazing.  In practice, it isn’t what you were expecting, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

This is all about Wonder Woman’s grace and her willingness to give even the most monstrous creature the benefit of the doubt.  Kelly and Lanzing, they who took over on Grayson when King and Seeley left to prep for Rebirth, spin a fun little yarn that has a surprising amount of heart.

I mean, yeah, at first it’s all about Wonder Woman fighting a giant monster.  It’s crazy and fun for a few pages, until she actually tries to understand the creature.  See, the kaiju is actually the last of its kind, wandering the world in confusion after the death of its mother.  This moves Diana, so she takes it to Dinosaur Island where it can live among other creatures that may not be identical, but are still a good physical match.

Really, it’s just a cute story.  A little corny, maybe, but it’s a nice light ending to a great annual.  The writing is pretty moving, and David Lafuente’s art has a nice animated quality to it.  Not a bad closer at all.

Recommended if:

  • You love Wonder Woman.
  • …you’re going to pick up just one comic this week.  Trust me, make it this one.

Overall: With four great stories that celebrate Wonder Woman, this is a great primer for new readers and existing fans alike.  There have been a lot of really good Wonder Woman comics released in the past year, and this is just another in the bunch.  The creative teams gathered are top-notch, with the explorations of different aspects of Diana’s personality making for some intriguing reading.  Read it to prep for the movie, and once you’ve seen it, read it again.  It’s just that good.

SCORE: 9/10