With the news that G. Willow Wilson will be leaving Wonder Woman, Steve Orlando was revealed to be taking over the book. Orlando is no stranger to Wonder Woman, having done a five-issue arc before Wilson and guest issues during her run. While he has not officially taken over the ongoing yet, Wonder Woman Annual #3 can be viewed as a prelude to his run. It should be noted that despite the issue being labelled as an Event Leviathan tie-in, this issue is completely standalone and does not require reading Event Leviathan in the slightest.
The issue is framed around the life of Helen Paul, an A.R.G.U.S. agent whom Diana saved in her past. Helen joined A.R.G.U.S., later graduating to a full agent, to work alongside Wonder Woman. A.R.G.U.S. is an organization in the DC Universe created by Geoff Johns and Gene Ha during the New 52 as a branch of the U.S. government focused on dealing with super-humans. Effectively, it’s the DC equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D., but much less interesting. This annual is one of the more engaging uses of A.R.G.U.S. since its creation. The majority of the issue follows Diana, Steve Trevor, and Helen on an adventure in Gorilla City. Diana is concerned about the political ramifications of this A.R.G.U.S. operation and whether or not they should even be interfering in Gorilla City’s politics, yet she goes along with it. Bombastic action abounds as the situation escalates from a stealth mission into a brawl between Diana and the nefarious Gorilla Grodd. A particularly notable scene has Diana and Grodd enter the Lasso of Truth as a sort of shared mind space. It’s a creative use of the Lasso and gives the conflict character. This scene wraps up with a particularly questionable Steve Trevor moment.
With the mission quickly getting out of control, Steve Trevor pulls out his gun and escalates the situation to a usage of lethal force. Steve Trevor is a soldier, and while killing is not something his character is a stranger to, it’s questionable that he’d take a life in such a situation. He’s someone who would kill to protect others if he needed to, but he’s also an inherently loving person who would not kill unless it was truly necessary. While he was in a situation where his enemies would have certainly killed him if given the chance, to draw first blood in a morally gray situation. In that sense he’s akin to someone like Captain America. It’s these qualities that led to him and Diana having such a close relationship. Luckily, Wonder Woman intervenes and brings a stop to the violence.
She manages to get everyone out alive and peacefully, revealing Grodd’s reign of Gorilla city was in fact legitimate. A.R.G.U.S. had no right to be there, and this leaves several questions. Why would Wonder Woman work alongside a U.S. military organization on a mission she knew from the beginning was problematic at best? Even if it was Steve Trevor leading this operation, placing Diana into a conflict rooted in United States interference in the regimes of other nations is a strange choice. The end of the annual does not offer much resolution to this after Diana saves the day and gets everyone home. It is possible Diana’s relationship with working among military organizations is something Orlando will explore throughout his run, but for this annual, it feels a bit shallow.
Another major problem with this issue is the art. This issue has pencils by V Ken Marion, inks by Sandu Florea and colors by Hi-Fi. The art is fairly generic and similar to the standard sort of art often seen in superhero comics. It cheapens the value of the issue and lessens the impact of key emotional beats.
The final scene of this issue does actually tie into Event Leviathan, albeit in a very minor way. Leviathan himself does make a brief appearance. During Leviathan’s interaction with Helen Paul, Orlando sets up a key character who will no doubt play a major role in his Wonder Woman run. This character is a revamp of a Golden Age Wonder Woman character and shows off the strengths of Orlando’s DC knowledge. In this final scene, the true purpose of this annual issue is revealed. This is not only a standalone Wonder Woman adventure, it is key setup for this Wonder Woman character. Orlando explains exactly why readers should care about this character and what her relationship to Wonder Woman is.
While it is difficult to recommend the annual’s main story, the epilogue is essential for those considering reading Orlando’s run on Wonder Woman. The issue’s strengths unfortunately do not negate its questionable choices, and the art brings down the value of the book. One can only hope Orlando’s full run on the character will draw more from the exciting epilogue than the flawed main story.