Three years ago, 2016’s ‘DC Universe: Rebirth’ was all about reconnecting DC's characters and histories with their treasured lineage. But considering the radical reinvention of Wonder Woman’s origin in 2011’s ‘Wonder Woman’ as the daughter of Zeus at terrible odds with her Amazonian sisters, the task of returning the Princess of Themyscira to her roots in 'Wonder Woman: Year One' would be a particularly challenging problem to lasso. In truth, there may have only been one person who could have pulled off such a feat with the grace of Diana herself: comic book writer Greg Rucka.
Rucka was no stranger to reinventing Wonder Woman. He had first done so in 2003 for a much-praised three year run, re-establishing Diana’s commitment to love, truth, and humanity by appointing her a UN ambassador to the nation of Themyscira. Though Diana faced some of the greatest physical challenges of her long comic book history during this period, Wonder Woman was above all a champion of progress and communication between differing peoples. So when the time came in 2016 for Diana to lay down her Godkiller Sword and discover the truth behind her origins, DC called upon Rucka once more to realign the character's moral compass.
Considering the universal accolades that this reinterpretation of Diana’s origin received, it’s clear that DC went to the right person to re-write Diana’s history. But considering the relatively straightforward tales Rucka told with the character in the past, nobody at the time could have predicted just how unorthodox his approach to Wonder Woman in 2016 would be.
So extreme was the work needed to retool Wonder Woman to resemble the hero she once was, Rucka deemed it necessary to tell not one, but two concurrent stories reshaping the character: one in the present day of the DC Universe, and one which retold the story of Wonder Woman’s debut in man’s world.
For two years, there would be two issues every month. Odd-numbered issues, illustrated by Liam Sharp and collected as 'Wonder Woman: The Lies,' would tell the story of a modern Wonder Woman reckoning with a web of lies which had shaped her misinformed reality. Even-numbered issues, illustrated by frequent Rucka collaborator Nicola Scott, would be the unfiltered truth, ambitiously going back to the very beginning, redefining Diana’s mission and relationships with the most important people in her life. With aspirations in their hearts to reach the character defining heights of Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli before them, Rucka and Scott (and for one memorable interlude in ‘Wonder Woman’ #8, Bilquis Evely) embarked upon ‘Wonder Woman: Year One.’
And so, in every other issue of the series, ‘Wonder Woman: Year One’ accomplished feats even the most devoted Diana fans might have considered impossible. Tears were shed over villains like Ares, a god with a raw deal, and poor Barbara-Ann Minerva, who for the first time truly did feel like Diana’s best friend. We delighted in the commanding presence of Circe, who was always far too cool for the room, no matter which room she occupied. Forgotten powers like Diana’s ability to confer with animals are gloriously remembered in brightly illustrated scenes that would melt even the coldest heart. Even letterer Jodi Wynne accomplished miracles, with an expert deployment of fonts and emphasis to convey cultural and sociological differences in ways rarely seen elsewhere in the comic book medium.
And in a brief but memorable interaction early on, confirmation came once and for all that Diana had taken on many lovers during her adolescence on Paradise Island. Diana’s bisexual identity which had long existed merely as subtext in her comic book history from her very first appearance was now, finally, open text. The secret was out for good.
But perhaps the most important element of ‘Wonder Woman: Year One’ is how it differentiated its eponymous hero from her peers in the Justice League. Through her relationships with friends and enemies alike, Diana’s unique perspective and philosophy defined her as a hero all her own.
“One of her powers is love,” Rucka explained in an interview with 'CBR,' regarding the story arc. “One of her patron gods is Aphrodite! Aphrodite’s portfolio is love! She goes out there with an open hand. She doesn’t go into the world with a closed fist. [...] Batman’s solution to most problems is, ‘How hard can I hit it, and where?’ Diana’s solution to most problems is to say, ‘I want to understand, come with me.’”
Throughout ‘Wonder Woman: Year One,’ that’s exactly what she does. Diana’s epic showdown with Ares, God of War is no budget-blowing cinematic smackdown, but a show of pure openness; an earnest offer to listen and help, however Diana can, in a way that can satisfy everyone. Reimaginings and reinterpretations might make over Wonder Woman again and again. But with thanks to ‘Year One,’ she’ll always be an ambassador, who embodies humanity's noblest aspirations.