Annual issues aren’t always worth buying. At best, they can feel disconnected from the main narrative and at worst, they can feel like an excuse for the publisher to charge extra money. However, while Wonder Woman Annual #1 doesn’t follow up on the revelations in Wonder Woman #23, it is totally worth buying. Rather than tell a single, long-form story, the issue is separated into four parts. Each section tells a self-contained story written and drawn by different creative teams, the issue’s overall goal is to examine different aspects of who Wonder Woman is.
The first, “And Then There Were Three…,” reunites the team that made Wonder Woman Rebirth one of DC’s best ongoing series: writer Greg Rucka, artist Nicola Scott and colorist Romulo Fajardo. That said, it is a little jarring to see a story about Wonder Woman start by focusing on the other members of DC’s Trinity: Batman and Superman. However, Rucka uses them to highlight what makes her unique. Both men were–to varying degrees–driven to become superheroes because they experienced loss. Diana, however, wants to help people simply because she’s good. There’s a purity to her heroism that is both inspiring and humbling.
Scott’s work only emphasizes that purity. There’s something youthful and innocent in her style. The characters’ faces are almost Cabbage Patch Kid-like, with their full cheeks and big, hopeful eyes. There’s a lushness reminiscent of Botticelli that Romulo Fajardo’s colors only enhance. He gives the skin tones a rosy hue that emphasizing the supple fleshiness of Scott’s figures. Even Bruce and Clark look boyish—which makes sense considering this story takes place early in their superhero careers.
While the other stories in the issue take place much later, they’re united in the way they portray Wonder Woman as a hero committed to an unclouded view of justice. However, some are a little darker than others. The issue’s third story, “The Curse and the Honor”, for instance, shows Diana struggling with whether to mercy kill a good man. The moral dynamic here is complex and writer Michael Moreci uses it to emphasize that doing the right thing isn’t always easy. It’s an intriguing take on the character and one that artist Stephanie Hans (who both draws and colors her work) renders with surprising simplicity. Her colors are stunning: solid blues, reds and blacks set against the white and grey-blue of snow. They seem simple at first glance, but the restraint in her art is a striking contrast to the story’s complexities.
That said, it is nice that the issue ends with a somewhat sillier story: Wonder Woman fighting and then teaming up with a kaiju. That’s not meant as an insult to writers Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. “The Last Kaiju” is not only a highlight of the issue, it helps demonstrate just how versatile the Wonder Woman character is. In fact, that’s precisely what makes Wonder Woman Annual #1 worth buying. For the character’s longtime fans, it’s a reminder of what makes Diana so great. For newcomers or novices, it’s a sampling of everything she can do. What better way to prepare to see Diana finally get her very own movie later this week?