The vast majority of Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp’s Rebirth-era Wonder Woman series has focused on Diana’s search for a path back to Themyscira and her fellow Amazons. In this week’s issue #21, we finally get an idea of where Paradise Island might be and why she can’t return.
If you haven’t been keeping up, there are a few things you need to know about the current wonder Wonder Woman series that set it apart from its New 52 predecessor. In this universe, Diana recalls growing up as a princess on Themyscira, a magical island where women who are killed by men are reincarnated by the gods and blessed with immortality.
Everything about this Themyscira is fairly similar to the version you’re familiar with save for a few key ideas. Unlike the pre-New 52 Themyscira, this island is apparently impossible to find, whereas before anyone could locate it (with some work), although men couldn’t set foot on it. There’s also now a very creepy tree high up on a hill that gives off some very Weirwood vibes. The tree is important.
One day, Diana wanders near the tree and touches it, only to be attacked by venomous snake whose bite puts her into a brief coma.
Though the sickness that takes over her body is intense, Diana recovers soon enough — just in time for Steve Trevor to conveniently crash land on the island and set off the events that lead to Diana leaving and becoming Wonder Woman. The key things to remember here are the weird tree-thing, the snake, and that after leaving Themyscira, Diana seemingly lost her ability to find or go back to the island because she left.
In today’s issue of Wonder Woman, Cheetah (of all people) is guiding Dr Veronica Cale and a pair of demonic hounds to what appears to be a tree similar to the one on Themyscira. Cale, the Lex Luthor to Wonder Woman’s Clark Kent, is a master manipulator whose spent her time trying desperately trying to find a way to get into one of the trees.
Cale explains that the trees are actually “gates”, and she’s convinced that a cure for her daughter’s lack of a face lies on the other side of this one. Initially, it’s unclear where the pair want to go, but we’re also shown that an army of Amazons are waiting in front of their tree-gate, prepared to slaughter whatever may come through.
Back on Earth, Diana shows up to thwart whatever dark magic Cale and Cheetah plan to use to open the gate. During a fight, it’s revealed that the snake bite that Diana received all those years ago never healed and that she’s been covering it with one of her armour bracelets. As Cheetah and Diana go blow for blow, a drop of Diana’s blood falls onto the bark of the tree, opening the gate, and sucking everyone inside where they end up meeting…
Ares. Trapped in his personal prison.
In this telling of how Diana got her iconic powers, she’s visited by a number of gods in the form of animals who all imbue her with various gifts like strength and flight. Conspicuously missing from that gathering of gods, though, were any snakes, suggesting that Ares might not have paid Diana a visit.
This leaves us with a couple of key clues about the nature of how the tree-gates work, how Ares factors into Diana’s origins, and why she can’t go home.
It’s obvious that a person could use a gate to get to Themyscira — the Amazons expect as much. Also, it would seem as if the gates are activated by the shedding of blood. One imagines that Diana’s blood would open up a path back to Themyscira were it not for the fact that whatever venom was in the Ares-as-a-snake has apparently been inside of her all this time.
As far as rebooted origins go, Wonder Woman’s is… dense, to say the least, but Rucka’s mythos building is careful and full of purpose. Understanding this new Diana isn’t impossible or even all that hard, really. You’ve just got to be willing to give her a very close reading.