It’s quite easy to overestimate the role which Ares actually played in Greek Mythology. He was, after all, one of the more memorable of the twelve Olympians, and one of the five planets known in antiquity was named after his Roman counterpart, Mars. Moreover, he was the god of war in a particularly bellicose period of history (aren’t they all). The Peloponnesian War, the Greco-Persian Wars, Alexander’s Conquest – surely a great many soldiers in such conflicts prayed as Arcite had for victory over their foes. And yet Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale is assuredly a more significant appearance of Ares in literature than any myths from Homer or Hesiod. Apart from the founding of Thebes, Ares appears in few other accounts, and rarely as the central figure.
Likewise for another Greek god (or goddess, rather) of war: Wonder Woman. It’s not difficult to overestimate the significance of her stories relative to the rest of the DC pantheon. After all, she’s a pop culture icon, the earliest super-heroine of lasting notoriety, and a member of the DC Trinity. And yet, for all her cultural cachet, her comics have rarely cultivated critical acclaim or fervent fandom. Each new writer to take up her titular series promises to finally pen a defining run on Diana, one which would be to Wonder Woman what Claremont was to the X-Men. George Perez was perhaps the most successful in that so many subsequent writers channel his interpretation every bit as Marston’s original vision.
Still, where is Wonder Woman’s The Killing Joke? Where’s her Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? Her Sinestro Corps War or Blackest Night? Hell, where even is her Knightfall or Reign of the Supermen or Emerald Twilight for gods’ sake? A few years back, excitement surrounded Azzarello’s run briefly, but if Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 is any indication, far from being a lasting influence and a foundation on which to build her mythology from now on, DC could not be more eager to burn away that entire chapter in the character’s history.
Such is evidenced by the fact that Greg Rucka did not even bother to feign any narrative impetus for dismissing the last four years of stories. Beginning with the first panel, Diana suddenly knows that some of her memories are false, her post-Crisis history coming into conflict with her recent New 52 adventures. After musing on such matters while brawling with the patrons of a strip club (to at least keep the issue visually interesting, lest it be the single large though balloon it easily could have without changing the first half of story whatsoever), Diana binds herself with the Lasso of Truth, confessing (contrary to the lasso’s magical properties) a truth unbeknownst to herself: she has been deceived.
This revelation causes her to shed her New 52 armor and garb herself in her Rebirth duds. The new outfit is an enormous improvement, to be sure, but again there exists no narrative rationale for it. Rather, it’s clearly a symbolic statement on DC’s part, especially given that both David Finch and Jason Fabok had long ago stopped utilizing the costume design. She takes it up once again in this issue for the sole purpose of casting it off, and the past four years with it. As if to truly hammer home the point, Wonder Woman effortlessly crushes the Helm of Ares in her hands.
The issue spends so much effort repudiating the New 52 that it does nothing to excite the readers for Rebirth. And where it falters as an advertisement it fails all the more as a story. There’s little in the way of plot and no logic to how those few plot points are pieced together. I want Wonder Woman to get her due, to finally be the well written character the non-comics reading public must surely assume her to be, giver her iconic status. Perhaps that will begin in Wonder Woman #1 next week, with her finally getting a fresh start. But Zeus above knows it’s not here in Rebirth.