So far, DC’s Rebirth annuals seem to be using their expanded space to present readers with either one longer story (see the Superman or Titans annuals), or a handful of smaller vignettes (the Batman annual). Wonder Woman Annual #1 falls into the latter category, with four separate stories that present the Amazing Amazon at her best.
The opening story, by series writer Greg Rucka and ‘Year One’ artist Nicola Scott, shows the post-Rebirth first meeting between Diana and the other two members of DC’s trinity, Superman and Batman. It’s a pleasure to have Rucka, who has at various points in his career written main titles for both Superman and Batman, writing these three characters together again, though their dynamic is vastly different here than it has been when he’s tackled the trinity in the past. He also subverts the typical superhero meeting trope in a way that’s both surprising for readers expecting the trope to play out, and perfectly in-character for Diana. The interactions between Superman and Batman are particularly fun, and their reactions to meeting Wonder Woman reveal both their characters and Diana’s. Nicola Scott’s linework is smooth and nigh flawless as usual, and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s bright primary colors make the art really pop off of the page. As a last hurrah for this artistic team on the title, you’ll find yourself wishing they would never leave.
The remaining stories are less beholden to continuity than the opener is; in other words, they’re timeless Wonder Woman stories. In the first, “In Defense of Truth and Justice,” Diana must rescue King Shark from capture and execution by a foreign government; the next, “The Curse And The Honor” has Diana helping an old warrior face his impending death; and the issue closes with “The Last Kaiju,” a downright cute story in which Wonder Woman faces off against – and ultimately helps – a giant monster. The stories, written by Vita Atalya, Michael Moreci, and Collin Kelley & Jackson Lanzing, respectively, each highlight the singular quality that has made Wonder Woman a role model for 75 years: her compassion. In each story, Diana seeks justice not through violence, but through understanding. That works out better in some stories than others, but in each story fighting isn’t Wonder Woman’s first choice. They’re solid tales that reinforce the greatness of the character.
The artists on these stories do a strong job of bringing each story to life with their own singular styles and flourishes. Where Nicola Scott and Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s work on the first story is smooth and bright, Claire Roe and Jordie Bellaire’s work on “In Defense of Truth and Justice” is frenetic and dark. Roe’s Wonder Woman is a force of nature in the action scenes, and Bellaire’s muted colors – on everything except Diana – highlights the murky nature of the story. David Lafuente and John Rauch appropriately bring a more manga-esque style to “The Last Kaiju,” effectively channeling the look of old Japanese monster movies while still maintaining a modern sensibility. The standout, though, is Stephanie Hans, who’s snow-covered work on “The Curse And The Honor” is absolutely breathtaking. Each page is gorgeous, and her storytelling ability is spot-on. It’s easy to imagine, if the dialogue were removed, this story being every bit as effective as it is with text.
When it was originally solicited, Wonder Woman Annual #1 was planned to tie together the past and present storylines that have been alternating in the title since its Rebirth relaunch. The finished product serves more as a celebration of the character, with four separate short stories that all reinforce Wonder Woman’s core principles: goodness, strength, and compassion for all. It’s a great primer for new readers, and a welcome reminder for old fans of just what they love about the character.