The past few issues of Wonder Woman’s present-day story, which are told in the odd-numbered issues of the series, have had more than a few stumbling blocks. From the way Steve Trevor became the hero of the story instead of Diana, to its problematic depiction of mental health, the entire “The Truth” story-arc has lagged far behind the past-timeline stories of the even-numbered issued. Even the issues that were okay in and of themselves lacked that special punch which gets you to stand up and say “This is what comics should be like.”
Issue #19, part three of “The Truth”, starts to climb back from that.
Truth be told, the improvement actually began in Issue #17, which shifted the focus away from Steve Trevor and back to Diana. But here is where they start to bring it back into the main story. The issue begins with Diana’s mind coming back to her, spurred by the presence of Ferdinand, her Minotaur friend. There are some metaphorical allusions to how—as a Minotaur—Ferdinand is used to labyrinths and can help Diana find her way back from being “lost”, but the comic does not actually say what it is that he does to help her here.
Normally that is the kind of thing which pulls me out of a story and gets me ranting on-line about lazy writing, but I think it was the best possible option they had here. No explanation they could have presented at this time would have satisfied me; with the weight of the earlier arc bearing down on this issue, any information they gave would have either not made sense or been unable able to escape from a lot of unfortunate implications. Leaving it vague like this is still not a particularly good explanation, but at least it avoids being actively bad. With all that had come before, we can call that a win.
The best part of this scene comes just at its close, when Ferdinand explains that “the whole gang” is here to watch over and assist Diana, but Diana herself instantly notices that he did not mention Barbara Ann when he listed who was there.
That exchange serves two important purposes: 1) It demonstrates that Diana really is able to remember and think critically again, since she is able to piece together information based on what wasn’t said, and 2) To Diana, Barbara Ann is part of ‘the gang’. There has been a lot of questions about that recently—primarily from Steve Trevor who did not fully trust Barbara Ann—but these panels show that, to Diana, there is absolutely no doubt that Barbara Ann is a trusted friend and close part of her circle.
The next scene shows us the aftermath of Barbara Ann’s transformation back into the Cheetah, and it is not pretty. She is almost feral, growling about her hunger (Her cannibalistic hunger, remember) and repeating several times the she has been lied to. The part about the lying ties in to the “Godwatch” arc, the past-timeline story where we learned the precise details of her original transformation into the Cheetah, but the truly unsettling part of the scene is the way the other characters (Veronica Cale, Dr. Cyber and Colonel Maru) barely even acknowledge her as a person.
Despite the huge impact of Barbara Ann turning into the Cheetah and the way it has ruined her life (Again), to the other women present it is barely worth acknowledging. They talk over her, talk about her, and only speak a bare few words to her directly. The meaningless reassurances they offer are extra-meaningless because in this scene Colonel Maru is given permission to attack Wonder Woman and Co. again, when it was their agreement to spare Steve, Etta and Ferdinand that got Barbara Ann to agree to become the Cheetah again in the first place. Veronica Cale has already gone back on their bargain.
The issue climaxes with Wonder Woman and Co. finally storming Veronica Cale’s base of operations, hoping to rescue Barbara Ann and finally determine just what it is that Veronica Cale is after. They face off with Dr. Cyber, argue with and exhort one another, and at the end of it all pull out the comatose body of Sasha Bordeaux, who had apparently been stored here while she was impersonated earlier in the series. They learn that Veronica Cale and Barbara Ann are not here any longer, and move out to track them down, when things take a somewhat unexpected turn right on the final page courtesy of Colonel Maru herself…
Admittedly I have some…questions…about how this works (Wonder Woman has previously been shown to be fast enough to block gunshots from behind her), but you cannot deny that it is a Big Moment. The use of her bracers has always left Diana’s exact bulletproof nature somewhat up in the air in different circumstances, so we cannot look at this and just wave it away with “She’ll be fine next issue”. Given the nature of comicbooks I’m sure that she probably will be fine, but it will not be because they just wave this off. Whatever comes next, they will need to deal with this.
In addition to the main storyline, with its somewhat large sniper rifle conclusion, this issue brought in a lot of the background touches and nods that I personally love to see in my comicbooks. Comics are a visual medium; the story is told through scenery and camera angles (So to speak) as much as dialogue-balloons and action, and I love to see that taken advantage of. In the scenes set at Veronica Cale’s base of operations, Dr. Cyber is seen in a different projected bodyform in almost every panel, many of the images cute or goofy. Nobody is talking to her, she is not using them to get a reaction out of somebody, she is apparently just messing around and having fun with herself. Veronica does not even acknowledge as she does this, implying that Cyber does this all the time. Then, when she is speaking to WW & Co. at the end of the issue, she does the same thing with a much more malevolent bend, emphasizing her power and control. Both give insights into her psyche that her more “normal” evil actions do not give.
We also got a brief detour to Themyscira in the middle of the story, showing the Amazons wondering about the signs and portents that have been occupying them recently, and this is the only part of the issue that feels out of place. Almost unnecessary. We have gotten sequences with the Amazons in the preceding issues as well, showing them encountering the Wicked Tree and debating its meaning and mystery and what it means for Diana out in Man’s World, but this time it seems almost pro forma, as though they felt they had to include another one because they had already shown up so many times before. There’s nothing new happening or information imparted to the readers, it is largely just the Amazons debating what has already happened. Even with the Signs from the Patrons that show up, I feel like the whole sequence could be removed and not leave the issue any less.
Still, to balance out the extraneous bits with the Amazons, we at least got a scene where Veronica Cale pointed out that Ferdinand is a kythotaur, not a Minotaur (he is from Kythira, not Minos), and Etta had him smash up Dr. Cyber’s hologram projectors but good. It always bothers me when characters continue to let an AI (Or even just a phone call or recording) continue to rant at them because they can’t “really” kill it, since just shutting it up can often be its own reward. The comic also gives Etta a chance to express some of the emotions she has been going through for the past few issues, and again emphasizes that she and Barbara Ann are closer and more deeply tied than anybody else. They all might love one another—heck, Diana is one of the embodiments of love itself—but Etta and Barbara Ann are in love, and that makes all the difference.
This issue completed the steps that began back in issue #17: It has become a Wonder Woman comic again. It is still not quite as stellar as the past-timeline adventures are, but at least it is within throwing distance again. They either move beyond or sidestep a lot of their problems from the past few issues, and pull together again for an ongoing adventure.
Images courtesy of DC Comics.
Wonder Woman #19 Credits
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colors: Laura Martin
Cover: Liam Sharp & Laura Martin