Tomorrow, the film adaptation of Wonder Woman premieres across the nation, and if everything goes according to plan, the Amazon Warrior will gain the big-screen popularity and success the character so deserves. So, it’s fitting therefore that DC Comics honor Wonder Woman with a splashy over-sized Annual to celebrate the icon. And while Wonder Woman Annual #1 features some enjoyable moments that speak to the heart of the character, it’s also unavoidable that it winds up being a mixed bag; pleasant overall, but hardly essential.
Part of that is due to the anthology nature of the issue. Anthology issues are often a tricky thing. here are comic book creators that find it difficult to craft an effective and affecting done-in-one story, let only one with a quarter of the page count available. Wonder Woman Annual #1 features some very good creators and they all deliver stories that work economically and all tell an effective tale, though the fact of the matter is that for the most part these are slightly disposable stories whose memory will for the most part fade entirely soon after reading.
The centrepiece of Wonder Woman Annual #1, and its first story, is a charming enough read. Written by Greg Rucka with art by Nicola Scott, the story fits in with Rucka’s current aim at telling the early years of the New 52 version of Diana and her introduction to the wider world. This story sees her meet Superman and Batman for the first time in a charming scene that effectively communicates what sets her apart from, and in some ways above, the other members of DC’s Trinity. And while I enjoyed the way that Rucka wrote each of these characters, particularly the wry sense of humor he gives to Superman, for an attempt at depicting such a titanic moment it feels remarkably casual and slight. There’s some nice insight on display into what makes each of the characters tick, but not much heft or drama to the story. Thankfully, Nicola Scott’s incapable of rendering a panel of uninspired art, so the story is great to look at.
The next story, by writer Vita Ayala and artist Claire Roe, does pack more of a dramatic punch. It follows Diana as she is sent to the country of Markovia to prevent the unjust execution of King Shark at the hands of a corrupt military official. The story is probably my favorite of the issue, as it illuminates unique qualities of the character through the action of the story. Ayala and Roe’s Wonder Woman is tough and powerful and is positioned in the story as a warrior for truth, and through that, justice. There’s an equity to Wonder Woman that is more evident than in her male counterparts, for whom justice often lacks subtlety and nuance. She is capable of rescuing King Shark while still acknowledging his crimes and his debt to society. But her idea of atonement is not dogmatic or rigid or simple, and the story has a nice ending that reveals Diana’s ability to think outside the box when solving problems. Unlike Superman, who too often uphold a status quo idea of justice, or Batman, whose code is too rigid and unyielding, Diana has the ability to really see people as they are and alter her conceptions to fit the person. Roe’s art reflects this approach, giving us an athletic and powerful Wonder Woman that is always drawn for maximum impact and action, rather than simply being beautiful. Roe’s Wonder Woman looks stronger than everyone in the story, fierce and muscular and dynamic. The action scenes show her blocking gunfire and stomping soldiers and yet she remains beautiful and attractive, it’s just that she feels functional and more real. It was really a nice story, and I thought it the best of Wonder Woman Annual #1.
The third story is by writer Michael Moreci and artist Stephanie Hans. This one was the least successful, in my opinion, focusing on the tired cliche of warrior’s honor between combatants who share mutual respect. There was nothing poorly done about the story per se, except to say it’s of a kind we’ve seen countless times before, and therefore devoid of surprises. The art is very nice as Hans uses a painterly style that is nice match with the style of the script, and results in some gorgeous panels. At the end of the day, however, the story examines an aspect of the character that we’ve seen a lot before, and it doesn’t do it in a way that is particularly novel.
The final story is written Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing with art by David Lafuente, and it’s a slight but really fun story involving Diana battling a giant monster. You can’t go wrong with Wonder Woman versus a Kaiju, and this story has some fun with the idea. There isn’t much to the story, frankly, but it is sweet and charming, and while it’s not going to blow your mind, it might give you a chuckle and cause you to exclaim, “Aww!” at its fun conclusion.
All in all, Wonder Woman Annual #1 offers a fairly innocuous and charming quartet of stories that fans of the character can enjoy, even if none of them ever rise that high above serviceable (with the possible exception of the second story). If DC was hoping this would act as a doorway for new readers, I think the anthology approach is the wrong one to take. None of the stories here try to do too much to define the character beyond exemplifying some basic attributes. If you’re looking to show a curious newbie why you love Diana, Wonder Woman Annual #1 isn’t the one I’d pick, though it remains a fun and diverting, though hardly memorable, collection of stories. 6.5/10