On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments, including Greg Rucka’s run, the earliest 1940s comics, and the current “New 52” era.
Wonder Woman #5, DC Comics, May 2007.
I don’t have time for a long write-up this week, so it’s convenient that the next issue after Allan Heinberg’s short run on Wonder Woman (explored in the last two entries) was a misfit single issue that hasn’t made it into any of the trade collections.
Wonder Woman vol. 3 no. 5 was a fill-in issue written by Will Pfeifer, who one month later would start his universally derided Wonder Woman-centric crossover miniseries Amazons Attack! (More on that in a couple of weeks.) Pfeifer was the regular writer of Catwoman at the time and had also written H.E.R.O., a few issues of Aquaman, and the Captain Atom: Armageddon miniseries for DC.
This story, “Gimme Shelter,” is akin to one of those “very special episodes” of a TV show in which they tackle some important social issue. In this case, it’s spousal abuse and women’s shelters. It’s about the Athenian Women’s Help Shelter, a grassroots organization with multiple locations where both the staff and those who take refuge there have been emboldened by glimpses of Wonder Woman to stand up against abusive men.
We’re shown a series of testimonials by women who say they were stuck in abusive relationships until they saw Wonder Woman and suddenly decided it was time to get help or fight back. One of the women specifically attests to being inspired by seeing WW kill Maxwell Lord on the news—the same footage that was being used, devoid of any context, to portray her as a cold-blooded killer. “And I figured if Wonder Woman didn’t take any crap from a man, then why the hell should I?” the anonymous woman says, as she’s shown basing her abusive husband in the head with a bottle and with an ashtray, sending him reeling headfirst into the TV.
What these testimonials are supposed to be isn’t clear. They’re part of a series of videos promoting the shelter that Sarge Steel shows agent Diana Prince, ordering her to find out what the shelters’ connection to Wonder Woman is. These are presumably informational videos rather than TV commercials, but they contain visual flashbacks to the actual incidents of violence that must be a bit of poetic license on the parts of Pfeifer and artists Geraldo Borges and Jean Diaz rather than anything that’s actually in the video.
Sarge keeps referring to Wonder Woman as a fugitive, even though Heinberg established a few issues ago that the World Court dropped the murder charges against her. But now Sarge and Diana keep talking about her crimes and the “murder” she committed as if she were still a fugitive from justice.
So he sends Diana Prince to check it out and make sure there’s no connection to that fiendish criminal Wonder Woman—little suspecting that Diana Prince is in fact the notorious Princess Diana. (Secret agents are not very bright, it seems.)
So Diana goes to check it out and finds out that indeed, people just think she’s really cool and inspiring, and it makes them see that a woman can take control of her own life. But wait! They get an emergency call from a woman who’s in danger right now! Diana quickly makes an excuse and flies off to the rescue before she’s even bothered to change—despite the fact that Heinberg established in the very last story that Diana doesn’t have powers when she’s not in costume anymore. Doesn’t DC have editors who are supposed to pay attention to things like that?
This woman’s husband, Joey, apparently used to be some kind minor supervillain. He talks about “back when I was wearing the mask and the gloves and the boots” and how he used to just go up against “a bunch of b-listers,” but I’m guessing he’s not supposed to be any particular established character, just your average costumed goon. He refers to himself as a former “rogue,” which is what the Flash’s foes call themselves, but it may just be meant generically. Anyway, now he’s just a big bully with no powers or gimmicks, and Wonder Woman beats the crap out of him and drops the woman off at the shelter. Hooray! Oh, and Diana tells Sarge that there’s no connection other than that people think Wonder Woman’s awesome, so he should just shut the hell up.
There’s a truly wretched twist ending, the kind that illuminates nothing and calls into question everything that we’ve been reading. That is to say, it might be all right as a cliffhanger to the next issue, although more in the “What the hell is this shit?” mode than “But what can this mean? I can’t wait to find out!” But as an “end…for now” that’s just left dangling, it’s just infuriating nonsense. (And not to get too spoilery, but as a public service I should also warn that it’s gory as hell.)
It’s funny, while I was writing this I read a post on another blog talking about how good Pfeifer’s Catwoman was, but man, based on his Wonder Woman work that’s hard to believe. And we haven’t even gotten to Amazons Attack! yet. But we will. Sadly, we will.