With Wonder Woman #16, writer Greg Rucka continues with the alternating system that forms the foundation of his most recent run on the character, with each issue alternating between one story arc set in the present, and one set in the past just after Wonder Woman appeared in the human world. This issue forms the first chapter of the flashback “Godwatch” arc, and also features the debut of new alternating regular artist Bilquis Evely. And like every issue of “Wonder Woman” since Rucka and his collaborators took over, it’s another terrific book.
The shadowy Godwatch organization has been lurking in the background of this series for a while now, clearly positioning itself as the big bad of Rucka’s run. And so it’s good to see how the antagonists get their start. What’s going to be interesting moving forward is how the creative team is positioning the inciting incident for their conflict with Wonder Woman; how the beginnings of Godwatch may be rooted not in some evil desire for world domination, but in the fallout from tragedy that may have directly or indirectly been brought about by Diana’s presence and the doors she opened with her arrival. It’s always much more interesting to create antagonists with a morally complex motivation, and Wonder Woman #16 sets up a story where it’s conceivable that Godwatch may have a few good points, even if they utilize morally questionable tactics. And that’s why you hire a writer as good as Rucka.
If there’s a bit of a flaw to the story it’s in how quickly the main character of the issue capitulates to a threat she finds herself under. Admittedly, she is being threatened by two beings who purport to be gods, and who hold a significant bargaining chip over her head. But I felt that a character as powerful and strong-willed as she is presented would have at least a moment or two of trying to negotiate or bargain. It’s such a minor aspect of the story (and a necessary aspect to get past for the issue to work) that bringing it up feels very nitpicky, but it was a moment where I thought, “Well, we skipped past that decision a little bit quickly.” Maybe a panel for two showing her make the decision, just a tiny bit more space, would have made that moment land with more force. But, as I say, this is such a teensy thing.
The art by Evely is top notch. Nicola Scott is a tough act to follow, but Evely does so with ease, packing the issue with drama, action and emotion. Her work with figures and expression is particularly strong, resulting in characters that feel, move and look individual and well-defined. Evely’s as skilled at handling an action scene with Wonder Woman facing off against a chimera as she is tackling a long dialogue scene between two characters. This issue has a lot of ground to cover and each moment is given the space it deserves, and there’s a classical, iconic approach that works for the title without coming across as old-fashioned at all. She’s a welcome presence on the title moving forward.
Wonder Woman #16 builds upon a run that’s been strong right out of the gate, as the series continues to move from strength to strength, telling fun and iconic super hero tales without sacrificing the shades of grey that provide nuance. 9/10