WONDER WOMAN #18
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Bilquis Evely, Scott Hanna, and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: March 8, 2017
Veronica Cale starts to assemble the individuals that will become the villain group known as Godwatch, and key to that is the origin of the Cheetah! This is how the friendship of Barbara Ann Minerva and the Princess Diana fell apart — all to stop the machinations of the sons of Ares.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot going on in the latest chapter of Wonder Woman’s Rebirth saga, particularly because issue #18 takes place in this nebulous in-between time, approximately 20 months after Diana’s departure from Themyscira.
It’s an interesting time period for Rucka and company to delve into, because it still represents such early days for the Amazon Princess, who we see still mastering nuances of the English language. But at the same time, this is a hero with an international profile, a Justice League membership, and a daily routine of saving the world where she can.
It’s part of why I find myself torn on the shift toward what I think of as retroactive nostalgia with the art styling in this and the last issue. Reminiscent, of course, of Bilquis Evely’s single issue exploration of Barbara Ann Minerva’s early days, this issue has this quality that echoes early Wonder Woman comics, as we would read them today. The yellow-orange tints can’t help but make me think of aged newsprint, and all the warmth and good feelings that brings with it. Evely’s purposeful curls, particularly in Diana and Ann’s hair, references so much of the Amazons’ looks in those early Marston adventures without coming off as anachronistic.
It’s pleasing and it provides a nice contrast with Liam Sharp’s work in the other storyline, which employs much more of the fantastic and wild and reflects that in line and color. Here, we get a sedateness that comes with watching all the chess pieces of Deimos and Phobos’ game move into place. Rucka is telling a story that relies far less on hero punching and active resistance, and much more about how a particular class of villain can subvert Diana right under her own nose. It’s the price of innocence and devotion to the truth that a plan this complex simply won’t be visible.
And more than anything, it leaves me to wonder if these brothers’ plan even comes to fruition until these two storylines — these even and odds — come together in “the end”? Is this truly the long con? And if so, what will poor Izzy Cale’s condition be when woken up in the real world under Sharp’s pen?
This is all not to say the art team isn’t still growing into their collaboration. This issue has the consistency I was hoping for from the beginning, with only Scott Hanna handling inks rather than a plentitude of actors. The line work is clean, although not as nuanced as Evely’s work when inking over her own pencils.
The real curiosity is how Romulo Fajardo Jr. shifted his color palette so significantly from working with previous arc artist Nicola Scott. It does give this sort of timeless nostalgia to an origin story meant to be read as from X years back, but the palette also falls flat in some places, particularly in larger splash scenes. What works for intimate talking heads moments doesn’t feel as delicate in action scenes. It just comes off as dark and muddy.
What may make this entire issue worth the price of admission, however, is the deft work Rucka does on juxtaposing female friendships and how failure and best intentions leave them ruined nonetheless. I feel strongly that it all comes back to this beautiful, but haunting set of lines Diana utters to Ann before the latter embarks on her next expedition:
[The Gods] have my faith. They have my loyalty. And some have my love, too.
But that does not mean they have my trust.
That line, and the ones that ominously follow, are going to stick with me for a long while. And I suspect, with Diana and Barbara Ann through the rest of this arc, if not longer.
The Verdict: 8.5/10