[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” #1.]
Keeping a constant continuity seems to be too much to ask from nearly every major comic book publisher. As the years pass, and company-wide reboots arrive to inject youth or originality into stale or stalling titles, any future attempts to draw on legacy – or, indeed, welcome new readers – becomes a massively complicated and confusing endeavor. Case in point: the DC Comics Rebirth: a return for nearly every major DC superhero to the roots of their characters, paired with some of the industry’s top talent, telling brand new stories – all spinning out of one major twist.
But even with a company-wide initiative, “Rebirth” means something different to everyone. For Batman, it’s the introduction of new allies. For Superman, it’s out with the new, and in with the old – literally. But for Wonder Woman, the creative team of writer Greg Rucka and artists Nicola Scott and Liam Sharp are tackling something else entirely. The New 52 rewrote Diana’s origin story substantially, and now that the change in timeline has been revealed to be the work of an unknown force (who we actually know the identity of), the contradicting continuities are being addressed.
For those eager to pick up “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” #1 – and if you’re not a fan of contradictory origins, you really will want to – we’re here to give some backstory. Because her old origin and new aren’t just required reading – they’re the heart of a mystery Diana is out to solve, and the work of an enemy she’s determined to find.
The Classic Origin
While it’s not technically Wonder Woman’s first origin, the character’s extensive history was spelled out following the famous “Crisis on Infinite Earths” of the 1980s (DC’s first attempt to simplify their catalogue). Queen Hippolyta, leader of the Amazons living in seclusion from man’s world on Paradise Isla– sorry, Themyscira, longed for a daughter. She fashioned a newborn child out of clay, and prayed to the Olympian gods that they would bring the clay to life, so that she could be a mother to more than a nation.
The gods answered her prayer, and Diana, princess of the Amazons was born. By the time she had been trained to be their greatest warrior, the arrival of an American soldier revealed that the Amazons’ secret had been found out, and Diana won the right to represent her people to the world. Taking the name of Wonder Woman – due to the gifts of beauty, strength, invincibility and flight bestowed upon her by the Olympian gods – her career fighting supervillains, and encountering gods, goddesses and mythical beings began.
Until, of course, the launch of the New 52 changed all that.
The New Origin
If that origin story sounds a little too fantastic, or simply too hard to follow, then the New 52 may draw on more well-known aspects of Greek mythology. In her new origin, Diana learned that the story mentioned above – fashioned from clay, gifted by the gods – was merely a lie concocted by her mother to keep Diana’s true lineage a secret. In reality, Hippolyta had encountered a strong, godlike man on the shores of Themyscira, and a romantic liaison soon followed. But the man was no man at all: it was Zeus, King of the Olympian Gods, engaging in one of his many trysts among Earth’s women.
The child produced from the encounter – Diana – was therefore a demigod, like Hercules. And like Hercules, her strength and superhuman skills were understandable to anyone familiar with the children of Zeus. The following story sent her up against the gods themselves, encountering other unknown children of the gods, and culminating recently in her claiming the title of God of War herself.
But with “Rebirth” showing that the New 52 was much more than a simple ‘alternate timeline,’ the Diana of “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” #1 is aware of both origins – and knows it isn’t the whole story.
Where Rebirth Looks to Set Things Straight
From the very first page of the issue, Diana is shown to be fully aware that her origin is multiple choice. And adding one of the most shocking twists of “Darkseid War” – the major Justice League story acting as prologue for “Rebirth” – has only complicated things further. According to that story, Diana is a twin – but what happened to her brother, Jason, remains a mystery. Normally, the characters themselves would be oblivious to the hands of the writers and authors rebooting or retconning their history, but in “Rebirth,” Diana seems to be just as keen at detective work as her caped, cowled League colleague.
After all, “truth” is kind of Wonder Woman’s domain, as famed for her royal grace and character as her fighting skills. And as the history changes, and the facts of her life are massaged for the sake of larger DC narratives, she comes to realize that the truth of her is unknown. So, relying on the golden lasso of truth, Diana asks the important questions. “Who am I?” – still Diana, daughter of Hippolyta. But “WHAT am I?” is a trickier one: she is a hero, a friend, and a warrior… but that’s not all:
But realizing she’s been deceived is only the first step to uncovering why, or who is behind it. Thus Diana’s “Rebirth” begins: casting off her New 52 costume, and returning to that of her homeland (which also happens to be an exact replica of the one worn by Gal Gadot in Batman V Superman). A trip to Mount Olympus pits her against supernatural forces, only to realize that even this is not as it seems. The result, in short, is the storyline that finally explains the unique narrative structure of the upcoming “Wonder Woman” comic series, beginning in two weeks’ time.
To uncover “The Lies” – the title of the first story arc – Diana will set out in the present day. But in the alternating issues, a “Year One” story will act as a companion piece, allowing Rucka to tell the beginning of the story as the present-day Diana attempts to remember and understand it. It’s a unique approach, but without a doubt one of the most clever solutions to the twice-monthly release schedule DC has adopted for its major titles. And with the first page of the first issue calling out the confusion caused by changing canon, it seems a perfect distillation of the not-so-subtle message of “Rebirth” as a whole: that the New 52 relaunch may have lost as much as it gained.
Either way, it’s positioning Wonder Woman as one of the most important figures in uncovering the real cause of the changing New 52 timeline, and relying on her mythical heritage to do it. In other words: “Wonder Woman” just jumped to the top of plenty comic fans’ reading lists.
Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 is available now.