NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for “Wonder Woman” #6
In the weeks and months leading up to the relaunch, DC Entertainment boss Geoff Johns was making sure everyone understood that the upcoming DC Comics gamechanger wasn’t a reboot, but “a Rebirth”. In the weeks since those new creative teams, titles and storylines have begun to play out, his meaning has gotten clearer, as existing heroes are seeing their past adventures, be they New 52 or beyond, return to craft new drama, new bonds, and new conflicts. In the best cases, this reminds readers and fans why they gained popularity to begin with.
But as heroes like Superman battle old foes, and The Flash takes the next step in his crusade of helping others, things have been a bit different for Wonder Woman. Instead of simply accepting the changes made to Diana’s origins in the New 52, writer Greg Rucka has put his heroine in the position of the reader: recognizing her changing origins, and being determined to find out the truth behind them.
The result is an origin story that honors the past while improving upon it, following Diana’s first encounter with Steve Trevor and the fallout in “Wonder Woman: Year One.” And in the latest issue, fans get to see how Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Queen Hippolyta gains the powers that will help her become the superhero known as Wonder Woman.
Given just how much the origin story has changed on a fundamental level, and how many false assumptions are made about Wonder Woman’s origin by even established fans, it’s easy to see why Rucka (with artist Nicola Scott) would seek to set a new origin in stone. And already, the changes are hard to miss. While alternating issues tell the story of “The Lies” Diana seeks to expose in the modern day, “Year One” has established Diana as a young, curious, romantically experienced princess. In the process, this offers a modern interpretation of her and Steve’s attraction (bonded as warriors), her selection as the Amazon champion (a title all knew she would win, and be forced to leave her sisters when she did), and even her famous “invisible jet.”
It may not be the top priority, but it’s obvious Rucka and Scott are attempting to bring new meaning to these iconic moments and beats. Instead of Diana being a lovesick princess infatuated with the first man she sees, there’s little romance between the two (with Steve a bit preoccupied by his fellow soldiers killed in the crash that brought him to Themyscira). Instead of disguising herself to compete for the role of the Amazons’ champion, Diana’s mother accepts her daughter’s fate. And even Diana’s famous crossed bracers are given new meaning, taking the pose to deflect a bullet fired straight at her – the final test, sealing her fate.
But when she accompanies Steve home, things get even more interesting.
Welcome to Man’s World
To be clear, in this version of the story, Diana and the Amazons are an ancient society of warrior women, honoring the gods who, in turn, bless them with immortality. But Diana’s strength and excellence in combat is strictly due to her upbringing and culture – not any superhuman abilities. That means that when she arrives back in America with Steve and his fallen brothers, she puts the man trying to restrain her on the ground with nothing but muscle and training. It’s the kind of misunderstanding that readers will expect, but it’s complicated in this version by the fact that the Amazons don’t actually speak English (obviously).
So while Steve Trevor tries to get his superiors to believe that the island of magically gifted women is a real place, not a hallucination (greatly aided by his appendix, which has miraculously regrown under the Amazons’ care), Diana sits in a jail cell, regretting her decision – and her belief that all men would be as trusting and compassionate as Trevor. And from her arrival to her imprisonment, nearby animals have been watching with surprising intensity. Once again, “the owls are not what they seem.”
The Gods Pay a Visit
Soon enough, the animals taking in man’s treatment of Diana (and Steve, the first outsider to earn her trust) decide to pay her a visit. But among the deer, mice, and birds gracing Diana with their presence – none of which is captured on surveillance video – can also be seen the towers of Mount Olympus. The scene concludes without much clarification or elaboration, but as Trevor’s superiors try to find a linguist who can understand the language being spoken by their prisoner, one person emerges to help clear the air. That person is Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, an expert in archaeology and classics… who may be better known as the villain Cheetah, also appearing in “The Lies” story set a decade later.
At this point, Barbara Ann has yet to encounter the curse that turns her into the human/feline hybrid with a score to settle, and succeeds in deciphering Diana’s language. Unfortunately and, understandably, she’s disappointed to find that the first translated statements are frantic, excitedly revealing that Diana had been visited by the gods of the Greek pantheon… in the form of forest animals.
Since she had hoped to unlock a secret of antiquity surviving today – not communicate with a hysterical women believing in mythological deities – Barbara Ann doesn’t even give a second’s thought to the entity of Diana’s revelation: that the God’s had visited her in her cell, and blessed her with the gifts needed to help not herself, but her friend. Keep in mind that the classic origin story of Wonder Woman showed Diana born from a lump of clay brought to life and blessed with powers by the gods, and the New 52 charted those powers up to her being the daughter of Zeus, and you can guess which “gifts” Diana is referring to.
The gods may have decided to give her said gifts a bit later in the story than usual, but it doesn’t take long for Diana to start putting them to use – and showing she can stun those around her with more than her beauty or grace.
Wonder Woman is Born
It’s a significant tweak on recent versions of Wonder Woman’s origin, even if Diana’s parentage is still largely a mystery in this story. And in almost all versions, Wonder Woman’s abilities are, in one way or another, god-given (the New 52 even blessed her with flight from one of Hermes’ feathered ankles). But what Rucka and Scott have done with “Year One” is a bit more important – not so much in the “how” of Diana’s powers, but the “why” of them.
It isn’t a case of Diana having powers because of her people or parentage, but because after rising to the very top of Amazon’s warriors, her compassion and trust in mankind has cost her more than she’s gained. And after watching how humans react to her arrival, her strength, and her willingness to trust – responding with fear, anger, and even trained pistols – the gods gave her the gifts they, at least, think she will need.
It’s a bit sad to think that the gods must bless a perfect, caring, compassionate, powerful, and virtuous woman with super strength and invincibility just to make sure mankind wouldn’t chew her up and spit her out, but… it’s not exactly far fetched, either. And if the present day storyline of “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” is so determined to show how the world has weathered and worn both Diana and Steve in the intervening years, then this new reason for Wonder Woman’s powers may ring true.
The gods were right: she’ll need more than her character to survive a world not quite ready for a hero like her.
Wonder Woman #6 is available now.