Title: Wonder Women: Mission’s End
Editor: Greg Rucka
Star Rating: * * * *
Genre: Graphic Novel, Superhero
Wonder Woman, the superhero, the diplomat, and the princess of an entire culture, comes face-to-face with the conflicts inherent in her many roles in Mission’s End. Her task has been to bring a message of peace and diplomacy to the world outside of Themyscira, but this work has been complicated by the fact that she spends so much of her time defending Earth from terrifying threats. When a new villain arises who is able to control Superman and use him as a weapon, Wonder Woman determines that the only way to protect the planet is to kill this enemy. However, she faces extreme backlash from both her fellow heroes, as well as the civilian population of Earth. How can someone supposedly devoted to peace bypass all systems of justice and act in such a vigilante manner? On the other hand, was there any other rational choice?
There has been a lot of talk recently about the character of Wonder Woman and how she is supposedly “tricky” and difficult to handle. However, after reading this Rucka volume of her comic, I cannot actually see how this is the case. Rucka delivers a well-crafted character who fulfills a unique role in the DC universe. Wonder Woman is kind and compassionate, but also a warrior who can act harshly when needed. She’s dedicated to her position as a superhero, but also works hard as a diplomat and political figure. She’s a woman with a lot of responsibilities, and, unlike the other two parts of the DC trinity, she lives her entire life in the public eye. This Wonder Woman is an interesting and nuanced character to read about, and she’s ready to admit that being one of the good guys means that sometimes you have to do terrible things to serve the needs of peace.
The Wonder Woman comics have also been criticised for having boring and unmemorable villains. However, Cheetah’s introduction in this volume is positively chilling. She’s a woman turned into a half-cat creature who craves raw human flesh. She’s smart, fast, powerful, and otherworldly, so exactly what makes her a boring villainess? The OMAC are terrifying in their number and single-mindedness, and even Checkmate is a frightening foe because of their ability to infiltrate and grow close to the superheroes they are so dedicated to bringing down. The only reason that villains from Wonder Women’s books are not more well-known is because DC does little to promote her books.
Mission’s End was also a good example of how a superhero comic can have consequences that don’t involve the death of a major character or the reboot of a universe. In this book, anti-superhero forces are attempting to undermine the position of associations like the Justice League, and their machinations push Wonder Woman into a situation where she must kill an extremely dangerous man even though she knows that this action will make it almost impossible to carry out her duties. However, the book ends with Wonder Woman recognising that her mission must change, not truly end. She grows without becoming too cynical, and retains her dedication to helping the people of Earth. Things are challenging and complicated for her, but I didn’t leave the book with a bleak perspective. In fact, I was hopeful!
Finally, the art in this volume is rather solid. It’s a good example of traditional superhero art, and Wonder Woman herself is well-proportioned and not even wearing heels! I really enjoyed the deep and rich colours used in this volume. They were bright when the story called for it, but also managed to be dark and sinister when needed.
One of the central complaints that I had with this book could be applied to many superhero graphic novels: continuity. When you are looking at a character like Wonder Woman, she’s embedded in an entire universe of other superheroes. Consequently, it’s understandable that sometimes Wonder Woman’s story will crossover with that of other DC characters. This sort of mixing of books, however, should be carefully balanced. It is difficult for readers to keep track of the long histories of singular characters, and adding stories from different series makes this even harder. This particular volume of Wonder Woman is paired with a Superman story as well. In order to make sure that readers know what is going on, there are pages in the middle of the book dedicated to summarizing these other comics. If you want a complete view of Mission’s End, therefore, you need to seek out several single issues of Superman. As a reader, these summaries are frustrating, and it can be difficult to find a long ago released single when you’ve picked up a trade several years later. If the story was important enough to be summarised, it should be important enough to be included in the volume whether or not it was a Wonder Woman single.
Finally, while the art is mostly solid, you do get some very unfortunate design flaws. For example, Circe wears a truly hideous lace-up bustier that boggles the mind when one tries to figure out how it stays up (her own special spell, perhaps?). There are more than a few gratuitous shoots of half-dressed women, but fortunately, these are not so common as to become entirely grating.
I’ve been on a Wonder Woman kick recently, and Mission’s End has been my favourite book so far. I enjoy the fact that Wonder Woman is a diplomat in this part of her timeline, and I feel as if Rucka understands the complexities of this character torn between the conflicts of a warrior culture that believes so strongly in peace. Wonder Woman herself receives a lot of deep characterisation, and the story line shifts dramatically without a descent into gritty angst. Looking at all of the different authors that I have sampled so far (Simone, Heinberg, Picoult, and Azzarello), Rucka’s Wonder Woman canon is my preferred era of the Wonder Woman stories.