It’s true, Ares has been reborn on Earth—but has he changed for the better? Of all the role models in the world, he seems to have chosen…Wonder Woman?!
“After all this time…is it really possible to change what we are?”
G. Willow Wilson’s much anticipated tenure on Wonder Woman has proven to be incredibly intriguing. It’s a thoughtful refocusing of the character and franchise that has a lot to say. With artist Cary Nord, colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. (who’s been coloring the title since Rebirth) and Pat Brosseau on board, the creative team is moving Diana into space that is both familiar and yet fresh. The major hooks, Steve Trevor going missing, Diana venturing out to rescue him, Ares returning are all familiar and classic elements of the canon. But they’re spun into a new narrative here that is set to surprise.
Despite being past the celebrated initiative, ‘Rebirth’ is a core motif at the heart of this run so far. Rather than just do the more grounded political dramas or just the high fantasy epics, Wilson and Nord are opting for an approach that seeks to blend the two together. We’re in a troubled nation during a civil war and deal with the notion of intervention, it’s an explicitly political setup. It’s something that has echoes of the work Greg Rucka did with the character in the 2000’s, a run that was very much a political drama. But weaving that together with the high fantasy aspects with a fallen Themyscira and Olympus, lost mythological creatures and a reborn Ares creates a different kind of Wonder Woman than we’ve grown used to in recent times. It’s not quite Greg Rucka’s pulpy mythological spy-thriller from Rebirth, but it’s a take that has operates in that same space. Reconciling the past with the present is a lot of what both are about and overall, the new creative team’s approach is very complementary to Rucka’s two tenures on the title.This issue picks up from the last as we find Steve Trevor in the grasp of a Griffin and other mythological creatures from the now fallen Olympus. They now reside in a crude and broken facsimile of their home in Durovnia, where war rages. And war is very much the central focus of the story. Not only the idea of war, but the divine personification of it in the form of Ares. The story’s title ‘The Just War’ is a succinct summary of the themes and ideas the book is dealing with. Is war ever just? Can it be? And what is war in this contemporary age? All of this becomes extremely important to the title as Ares returns seeking to be heroic and enforce justice, just like Diana does. It’s a fascinating scenario to be placed in. Her greatest foe now wishes to be her best ally, fighting for her cause, having learnt his lesson.
Things quickly go awry, however, when Ares grabs a missile and aims it at a region full of people. “To turn the weapons of a tyrant against his own people…is there any greater poetry?” he says, as homes and piles of bodies burn on the floor. It’s a brutal massacre and Diana is horrified. She tackles Ares and asks him to end his cruel lie, only for him to reply that he merely did what she would’ve done. He informs her that the people who died supported the merciless government and stood by it, letting their neighbors be persecuted and debased. Once again claiming his cause to be just, Ares brings up Diana’s sword, a tool to cut and stab. Ares sees little difference between Diana and himself. Diana rebuts by noting that she only takes up arms against those who do the same, with Ares questioning if war and conflict could be so clear cut in these times. And that’s, again, what’s really at the story about.
The book is examining and questioning the nature of war and conflict in our contemporary times and forcing Diana to face these truths. Beyond that, it’s a look at Diana’s very nature. She’s an icon of peace and her core is love, she is made to carry a sword. Increasingly with the passing decades, the sword has become the go-to choice for creators over the lasso when it concerns Diana. The Lasso is a tool that binds, its purpose is not to hurt. A sword is meant solely to inflict pain. There’s a fundamental issue and contradiction that is raised when it is made a signature tool for Diana. Wilson and Nord understand this issue and tackle it head on, forcing to Diana to re-examine and consider if she is truly living up to the high standards of her great mission. It’s a great way to address the issue and evaluate the core ideas of Wonder Woman.
The story then proceeds with Ares charging to cause more death, only for Diana to stop him. Ares, holding his mighty axe, swears to uphold justice and exclaims that if Diana gets in the way of it, she too must fall. Meanwhile Steve Trevor flees captivity for a brief moment before being caught and then set to be taken to the Olympian creatures’ leader. We’re informed that whoever it is, they are not male and with that, the issue ends.
Although a bit too decompressed, this is a run moving in interesting directions. Going beyond just Wonder Woman, it’s rather reminiscent of JMS’ tenure on Thor. The rebirth of the divine also shares similarities with Neil Gaiman’s ideas for Thor, Eternals and even with Grant Morrison’s concept for The New Gods. It is especially fitting when one considers Wilson’s angle, mentioned across interviews, being essentially ‘superhero Sandman.’ It’s a very exciting time for Diana and her world as Wilson and Nord bridge the past and the present to build to the future.