With a movie on the horizon, Wonder Woman is more in the spotlight now than maybe ever before. And with Greg Rucka leaving as writer of “Wonder Woman,” we’re looking back at one of his first stories with the character. A little one-shot from 2002 called “Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia.”
Written by Greg Rucka
Illustrated by J.G. Jones
Inked by Wade von Grawbadger
Coloured by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Todd Klein
WONDER WOMAN: THE HIKETEIA is a brilliantly orchestrated modern Greek tragedy of duty and vengeance.
When Wonder Woman partakes in an ancient ritual called the Hiketeia, she is honor bound to eternally protect and care for a young girl named Danielle Wellys. But when the Amazon Princess learns that Danielle has killed the drug dealers who murdered her sister, she suddenly finds herself in battle with Batman, who is searching for the female fugitive.
Caught in a no-win situation, Wonder Woman must choose between breaking a sacred oath and turning her back on justice.
The thing about Wonder Woman is that, compared to her peers, she is remarkably ill defined. Writers and artists across more than seventy years have poured so much story over the likes of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the like that they’ve become known more by slogan than story. For truth, justice and the American way. With great power comes great responsibility. Guns are bard, I guess. Yet, there’s never been that breakthrough moment for Wonder Woman. She remains defined by what she isn’t. She is a not a man. Male superheroes are defined by their symbols or their superpowers or their ideologies. Wonder Woman is defined by her gender.
Even to this day, her stories struggle to define who she is and what she stands for what with her upcoming movie deciding to giver her a large discus shield and have her fight in that other World War before returning to fight with a group of other superheroes in modern day.
In 2002, a year before he started his run on her main series, Greg Rucka worked with J.G. Jones, Wade von Grawbadger and Dave Stewart on a one-shot that would use the format of a Greek tragedy to explore just who Wonder Woman is. “The Hiketeia” is perhaps best known for it’s cover depicted Wonder Woman’s boot driving the head of Batman into the ground. From the cover, you might think it’s your standard superhero brawl, a punch up between characters who are otherwise friends over a simple misunderstanding. There’s elements of that here, to be sure, but also so much more.
What’s perhaps most surprising about “The Hiketeia” is how much Greg Rucka delves into the mind of Wonder Woman herself. His superhero stories often have another character be the emotional focus of the story and use them to frame the hero in a new light. Here, Rucka uses first person narration not just to allow Diana to explore the concept of the Hiketeia and what it means to be bound by it, but also to explore the tragedy of the real main character, Danny Wellys, and her inability to change Danny’s fate.
“Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia” is tragedy, make no mistake about that, and it’s a tragedy that looks to explore just what Wonder Woman stands for. This is where Batman comes in. Rucka’s writing of Batman paints him as a dogged crusader, almost hypocritical of his hounding of Danny. When Danny tells Batman that the crimes he’s chasing her for were justice he replies “That’s not for you to decide.” This, coming from a billionaire who dressed as a bat one night and declared himself law in Gotham. This is the situation in which Wonder Woman finds herself in: bound to protect a girl who has admittedly committed a crime against the vigilante sworn to bring her to “justice.”
The definition comes in the form of tragedy. This is a story where bad things happen to those you love and the man who did it are never caught while the cops laugh while bagging your loved ones’s corpse. This is a story where justice is met out by the hands of those who can carry that weight. And in the middle of it all, Diana cannot change fate. But she can protect and she can comfort. Who is Wonder Woman? She is a sanctuary, when the world turns against you. She is a purpose, when you’re left with nothing. Not just to Danny, but to readers. The tragedy is that her sanctuary can only protect you from the world for so long.Continued below
While it would be easy to wax poetic about Greg Rucka’s writing for the rest of this review, “The Hiketeia” isn’t a novel and this story isn’t Rucka’s alone to tell. Joined by the art team of J.G. Jones, inker Wade von Grawbadger and colourist Dave Stewart, this is a gorgeous comic. Jones’ layouts are sublime, melding stark, simple design during the scenes set in New York with more elaborate layouts during the scenes that flashback to ancient Greece. His Diana is a figure of power and grace. A statuesque woman with a warm smile. Strong, but kind. Protector and sanctuary.
And yet, we rarely see Wonder Woman in action, is it were. This isn’t much of a superhero tale, more of a character drama. Sure, there are superheroes in it, but we get what amounts to one punch lovingly rendered in a two-page splash that’s been posted in message for years whenever someone thinks Batman is so cool as to be undefeatable. Jone’s pencils inked by Wade von Grawbadger are full of heavy, oppressive shadows. Despite the primary colours of Diana’s wardrobe, von Grawbadger and Dave Stewart bring a darkness to this story. Stewart’s palette is heavily contrasted in warm and cold colours, but he tends to stick to secondary colours. Grey-ish purples and garish oranges.
The gold, red and blue of Wonder Woman’s costume stands in marked contrast to a world of shadows, of violence and of injustice. It’s a heavy, emotional story. A tragedy. And the art in all stages of development bring that tragedy to the fore with a sense of heavy foreboding and darkness with a figure of strength and kindness garbed in some of only primary colours seen in the comic standing at the centre as protector and sanctuary.
While Wonder Woman comics continue to be a mixed bag of quality ever since the editorial mismanaging of the end of Greg Rucka’s run as writer during “Identity Crisis” (more on that one day) led to her becoming more of a killing avenger than a protector, “Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia” still stands out. The creative team are all perfectly in sync here, painting the portrait of a hero in the midst of a tragedy. Trying to define her by her actions against the inevitable. Providing comfort and care to those who need it most.
If we need anything right now, it’s protection and sanctuary.