Since her début 75 years ago, Wonder Woman has been one of the most iconic superheroes–female or otherwise–in pop culture. Besides a steady life in comics, she’s had a TV show, countless cartoons and next year she finally gets her own movie. With all that history, it would be hard to fault her for showing a few signs of age. And maybe she would be if Greg Rucka weren’t currently helming Diana’s story, but they have a long history too and it’s probably why Wonder Woman #10 is so damn good.
In order to keep the bi-weekly release schedule from exhausting his artists, Rucka split his story into two concurrent arcs. One shows Diana in the present day, after her New 52 boyfriend Superman’s death and after she helped former friend Barbara Ann Minerva end the Cheetah curse. The other takes place a decade ago, when Diana first left the safety of Themyscira for the dangerous world of men. This week’s issue, which continues the latter story, features Diana’s first foray into public via a trip to–of all things–the mall.
While the scene mirrors a similar moment in the previous issue in which Diana takes Barbara Ann to a mall to buy clothes for the first time post-Cheetah curse, it serves to emphasize what makes Rucka’s work on this storyline so remarkable. By placing Diana’s origin story in the modern day and showing us how she discovered some of her most basic traits, Rucka is taking a 75-year-old character and making her journey feel new and exciting, even dangerous.
The mall trip starts simply enough: Diana experiences everything with a childlike sense of wonder. Indeed, her companions (pre-Cheetah Barbara Ann, Steve Trevor and Etta) even assume she has an unsophisticated understanding of their world—but she and Rucka are much smarter than that. As the other characters prattle on about teaching Diana to read and speak English, artist Nicola Scott conveys just how much Diana understands about our culture just by immersing herself in it—the smells, the advertising, even the simple wonder of seeing children for the first time. Perhaps the most, remarkable moment, though, comes when Barbara talking about buying “some children’s books” for Diana is juxtaposed with Diana frowning at the sight of a girl wearing red platform heels. It’s the first sign that she may not be as impressed by our culture as her companions think—and it’s far from the last.
Her true introduction to the the world of men comes thanks to that most American of horrors: a mass shooting. “Why do they make this a battlefield?” Diana asks when bullets cut through the scene’s mundaneness. But her incredulity soon turns to anger and we all learn just how powerful Wonder Woman is. We watch her deflect bullets with her gauntlets, use her lasso of truth to swing into action, even neutralize a grenade simply by covering it with her hands. We are in awe of her power and the innocent bystanders she saves are too. We get to understand, maybe for the first time, what it is like to see a woman so powerful.
Wonder Woman’s power should be obvious. And it is, but having her as a figure in pop culture has also made it easy to forget just how remarkable it is. This week especially, it’s important to be reminded.