Comics can do a lot in 20-32 pages. In Single Issue Ramblings I celebrate my favourite comics – one issue at a time.
…And then there were three
How do you introduce the world’s most famous superheroes? Or more precisely, how do you introduce them to each other?
There’s more to this question than it first seems perhaps. First impressions are important after all and how you start things off, influences where they are going for a long time. Do the heroes meet in battle, or do they seek each other out in a moment of peace? Is it a meeting built on trust, or something else entirely?
Setting up an origin story for your superhero team is always tricky business. Telling an origin story of 3 of the most famous heroes in comics ever? Probably not as easy as it looks.
There are plenty of stories about how the Trinity (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) met. Matt Wagner wrote a mini-series, conveniently called Trinity, about it. Geoff Johns imagined their meeting as part of the larger formation of the Justice League. And those are just some of the most recent examples.
But very few have done it as succinctly, or successfully in my opinion, as Rucka did it in the Wonder Woman (2016) Annual #1. So why do I think this story works? Well, That’s what we’re here to find out in this very first episode of Single Issue Classics.
The Final Hurrah to a Major Run
Wonder Woman (2016) Annual #1 came out on March 31st 2017. It was a 48-page issue, featuring 4 stories. For this episode of Single-Issue Classics, I’ll mostly discuss the first story ‘And Then There Were Three…’, written by Greg Rucka. The art is from Nicola Scott, colours by Romulo Fajardo Jr and Lettering by Jodi Wynne.
This story came at the end of the second part of Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman. He wrote 2 major runs on the character. The first lasted from 2003 (2002 if we include the Hikketeia) to 2006. Rucka came back for a second run after the New 52 ended with DC Rebirth in 2016. This run lasted until June 2017, two issues after the Annual we’re here to talk about.
If you haven’t already, both runs are worth reading in full. We’ll see more on this later, but Rucka gets Diana and you see that in plenty of his stories.
But for now, the only thing you need to know is that Rucka’s second run included a new origin story for Wonder Woman. During the new 52, Diana’s origin was infamously retconned to make her the daughter of Zeus, rather than a miracle clay baby. This was rightly trashed and when Rebirth came around, a reimagined origin story was in order.
Rucka wrote this origin in the even issues of his run. It follows Diana all the way from Themyscira to her first adventures and Fights in Man’s World. The story in the Annual #1 functions as a bookend to that run. The last origin story is also a tale of what’s to come. The origin of the greatest team-up of all time.
Artistry on display
Now, before we talk about the story. We need to have a discussion about the artwork. The whole story is illustrated beautifully by Nicola Scott. She has a way of drawing these characters that I love. Their facial expressions especially work to sell these heroes as people. And they underline the themes of the story very well. If there is a gripe I have, it’s that Scott draws the heroes roughly the same height. We all know Wonder Woman is the tallest and Batman the smallest.
Another thing that really pops out is the colouring. The page that introduces Clark Kent has him wearing a red, white and blue combo. And if you know, you know. Other than that the backgrounds are always coloured so the heroes pop out of the panels. Making us constantly focus on the core of the story: the Trinity.
How Heroes Meet
*Spoilers start here – You’ve been warned ;)*
How did the Trinity meet? Many stories have them team up in the face of some kind of massive threat. They can’t fight it alone because of a plot device. So they band together, learn to deal with their differences and start to fight as a team.
Hey! It worked for the Avengers in the MCU, why shouldn’t it work for the Justice League? Well, because the league and especially the Trinity is supposed to be more than just a kind of superpowered assault force. Sure, they are Earth’s greatest defenders and all that. But all three of them stand for something more. Be it Truth, Justice or Love, they all try to make a better tomorrow. Yes, there’s more even to Batman than punchy-punchy.
That’s what bugs me about stories that have them team up to fight some alien threat. It reduces the many goals the Trinity have, many of which include changing our world for the better, to nothing but another monster to punch.
So that’s the first thing that Rucka does right. He lets our heroes meet up without a threat insight. In doing that he makes who these people are the beating heart of what the Trinity is. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman team up because they have similar dreams for the future. Not because Darkseids thingamajig can only be stopped by their combined force.
It’s all in who you love
The second bit Rucka does right is introducing both Superman and Batman together with their closest ally. The first person they fully trusted with their dreams. Superman with Lois and Batman with Alfred.
Right from the start, these aren’t lone fighters recruiting their next champion. These heroes care about their world and look out for potential allies and threats to their ideals. A few panels later this becomes even clearer.
See how they both notice, and comment on, how Diana took the gunmen alive? Yeah, it’s because that’s what they would do.
Also, I’m glad Bruce mentioned the rope because it becomes crucial when Wonder Woman arrives.
The Golden Perfect
This being a Wonder Woman Annual, she gets the biggest entrance (as she should). Batman and Superman sought her out to gauge her as a potential ally or threat. Diana turns it around on them perfectly with the help of her greatest weapon: her golden lasso (or rope, or perfect).
Calling it her weapon is a deliberate misnomer on my end. It can be used as a weapon sure, it can even kill as Batman pointed out. But that is not its sole, or even true, purpose. Instead, it is the source of truth and understanding between people. Or as Wonder Woman puts it:
The golden perfect is at the heart of Wonder Woman and many writers don’t get that. They give her a sword instead, better to kill monsters with. But Wonder Woman isn’t just about killing monsters. Even if Batman probably has 14 techniques to kill a monster in a file somewhere. Wonder Woman fights monsters, and the patriarchy, through truth and understanding. Her lasso is the perfect tool for that.
What I like about Rucka’s version of the Golden lasso is that it’s not just a lie detector test. It’s not one-way. Sure, Wonder Woman knows the truth of anyone who touches it. But they know what’s in Diana’s heart as well. It’s a two way street of truth or a method of understanding each other. And not just a one-way street by which some kind of authority deems another to be truthful.
Superman and Batman came to see if Wonder Woman was an ally or a threat to their ideals. Now they know. And I daresay this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I mean, you can practically see a new dawn in the panel above. The dawn of the World’s Finest.
The Trinity should always be a group of friends, trying to create a better future together. Sure, they won’t always agree on how to reach that future. But they try to understand each other to reach their ideals. In just 12 pages, Rucka, Scott and Fajardo Jr. gave them the perfect origin story to start their quest.