Everybody Must Get Stoned


On Wednesdays I’ll be taking a look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. This is the fourth in a series of posts on Greg Rucka’s much-lauded stint writing the Wonder Woman comic. The first three installments are herehere and here. My write-up of the most recent era of Wonder Woman is here.

I’d say look where you’re going, but yeah, you don’t want to do that.

Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon, DC Comics, 2005.

By Sam Hurwitt

When people talk about how great Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman was, the story collected as Eyes of the Gorgon (an arc originally titled “Stoned”) is one of the biggest shining moments that they talk about. It’s certainly the first thing I think of when I think of Rucka’s WW. So it was a surprise to me to discover that I’d never actually read it till now. I thought I had, because I certainly knew what happened, but when I actually sat down to read it I found that I was wrong.

You see, I wasn’t really reading comics in the early part of the 2000s. Part of it was certainly that I couldn’t afford to buy them anymore, but also a lot of the excesses of the 1990s had turned me off of superhero comics, and it took me a while to come back. When I started reading comics again, it was mostly through checking out what I’d missed through the local library, and reading about other series on comic blogs. In any case, when I went to move on to the next volume of Rucka’s run to write about it this week, I found that I didn’t have it. Neither did any of my local libraries (which was clearly why I’d never read it). And when I ordered a copy, lo and behold, I quickly discovered that I was reading it for the first time. And I’m awfully glad I did.

Coming at it cold, however, does present a few problems in writing about it. It’s even harder to tell where one issue ends and the next begins in this volume than it was in the last collection, because the cover gallery’s still relegated to the back rather than opening each issue, splash pages seem to have gone out of style, and most of the book is really one continuous story—just as it’s presented here, I guess.

There’s a healthy amount covered in this collection—eight issues, which ain’t bad at all. But I have to say, I bought a new copy of this on Amazon, and after I read it once the cover came clean off the spine of the book, as though it was barely glued on. I read a lot of trade paperbacks, and it’s rare that I come across one quite that cheaply made. Maybe I just got a bum copy. Why, Pallas Athena, why?

I dunno if this is a take on the classic Hulk cover or what, but it’s pretty cool.

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #206, DC Comics, September 2004.

When the book begins, Athena is meeting with several other goddesses to discuss the recent unrest on Mount Olympus that led to the tantrum that sent Themyscira and other neighboring islands flying. Along with Aphrodite, one of these deities is the harvest goddess Demeter, but the way she’s depicted—a young tomboyish archer in torn military fatigues—seems much more like Artemis, goddess of the hunt. It makes me wonder if she was originally supposed to be Artemis but it was nixed to avoid confusion with her namesake, the redhead Amazon who served as Wonder Woman for a while and is now co-ruler of Themyscira (Paradise Island). If so, calling the goddess by her Roman name wouldn’t help either, because Diana is Wonder Woman’s name. As for the goddess of wisdom, she’s dressed in casual modern clothes and hunched over a laptop, with her trademark owl on her shoulder.

By the mighty bow of Demeter! Um, if such there be.

Joining them is a contingent of Egyptian goddesses, including Neith (dressed as a cowgirl, with a rifle slung over her shoulder), Isis (in modern business attire), and cat-headed Bast in a leather biker jacket. These colleagues are here to help Athena and company face down Hera, who nearly destroyed Paradise Island in a fit of pique when she saw Zeus spying on Amazonian Artemis. It quickly turns out that this intervention is mainly a ruse on Athena’s part to get the ladies plotting against father-god Zeus himself.

The first step is admitting you have a problem–and the problem is your husband.

The Egyptian goddesses don’t really do much but add to the number of voices in this scene, but I like that they’re there. It reminds me of the old Thor comics in which the Norse gods routinely seemed to go ask other pantheons for help, and it’s always fun to see that sort of thing pop up with the Olympians in Wonder Woman too. Like the Greek goddesses in the room, the Egyptians are surely there because they’re patron goddesses of some of the Amazons—in their case, the Bana-Mighdall tribe that lived in exile for many centuries—but this isn’t said explicitly.

Vanessa, the Silver Swan—Diana’s child pal turned crazy terrorist who attacked her only to collapse, dying from her cybernetic implants—seems to be on the slow road to recovery. She’s been given shelter in the Themysciran embassy and is being treated after by Doctor Leslie Anderson, a specialist who also happens to be the best friend and business partner of Wonder Woman’s new enemy Veronica Cale, who secretly masterminded the Silver Swan attack in the first place, and whom neither Leslie nor Diana knows even is an enemy yet.

Pretty much anything the gorgon sisters say, you can be pretty sure they’re wrong.

Speaking of enemies that Diana doesn’t know are enemies, the gorgon Medousa has been resurrected by the witch Circe at her gorgon sisters’ insistence. Medousa doesn’t even know Wonder Woman, seeing as how she was killed by Perseus thousands of years before Wondy was even born. But it was Athena who gave Medousa snakes for hair and a face that turns whoever looks at her to stone, and Wonder Woman is Athena’s champion, and that’s good enough for the gorgons to want to kill her, sight unseen. Diana’s longtime foe Circe seems to go back and forth between trying to dissuade Medousa and egg her on, which is funny because she’s the one who sicced the gorgons on Wonder Woman in the first place. She’s a tricky one, that Circe. Also, Medousa finds she has some trouble adapting to the modern world after three thousand years (cars are scary, for instance).

Things that make you go boom.

Diana goes to confront the Silver Swan’s last known manipulator, Sebastian Ballesteros (aka the short-lived male version of the Cheetah), having no reason to suspect Cale.  Instead she finds only his mauled body with a note from the previous and better-known Cheetah, just before his base blows up. So I guess we’ll be seeing her later, unless this is some elaborate ruse of Cale’s, or Circe’s, or Ares’s, or… well, let’s not overthink this too much just yet. Being Wonder Woman and all, Diana survives, having retrieved Ballasteros’s computer files to help Leslie find a cure.

Oh lord I think I’m falling…

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #207, DC Comics, October 2004.

The separate strands that Rucka’s been weaving for a while start to come together at last when Circe sends the gorgons to Veronice Cale. Not that the Amazon-hating pharmaceutical CEO is acquainted with Circe to begin with (and won’t become so yet, because the latter makes the connection anonymously), but the witch knows stuff about things. We quickly learn that the whole turning-to-stone thing works even though security monitors, which will be an important bit of information later. (The logic of it is a bit confusing, because mirrored surfaces are safe and “the gaze must be direct,” which hardly describes electronically transmitted images, but never mind.)

Oh Stheno, you scamp.

One of Medousa’s two immortal sisters, Stheno, is amusingly childish, always touching things she shouldn’t and making messes. But both of them are surprisingly useless, at least when it comes to stalking and killing. It seems they leave all that to their mortal sister.

A little birdie tells me something’s amiss.

There’s a bit of cute, gradual bonding between the minotaur Ferdinand (the embassy chef) and Leslie, and Ferdinand shows that he knows how to take charge when danger’s afoot, as one little stone bird tips him off that something’s very wrong here.

Not to get all crazy stalker, but…OK, yeah, actually that’s totally what I’m doing.

All this and Doctor Psycho too!  The sadistic, mind-controlling loon taunts Wonder Woman by making people all over New York threaten to jump off of buildings unless Diana comes a-running. It’s a good reminder that he’s still out there (in case we forget that he escaped just a couple issues ago) and still very dangerous, but more importantly he spills the beans that Cale’s the one to beware of.

Whose house? White House!

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #208, DC Comics, November 2004.

Diana finally meets her latest nemesis! But first she attends a dinner at the White House with Themiscyran co-rulers Artemis and Phillipus as a pretext to discuss American security concerns about having Paradise Island suddenly less than a hundred miles off its coast (a geographical result of Hera’s little tantrum).

I suppose “Amazons in the motherfluffin’ house!” would have been too informal.

Good old Steve Trevor makes an unexpected but welcome appearance as the new deputy secretary of defense. Cale’s there too, but the real danger is her new ally Medousa, who charges in, in full attack mode.

And my bow! And my ax! Oh wait, wrong movie.

Wondy fends her off, looking away the whole time, but the gorgon makes it clear that she’s going after Diana’s friends next. Ruh-roh!

Justice is blind…and so is this can of whupass I just happen to be carrying.

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #209, DC Comics, December 2004.

Athena’s scheme to depose Zeus and take his place proceeds apace, and she ropes Ares into the plan, telling him that someone will invoke him soon and he’ll have to answer. So whatever’s going on here doesn’t appear to be part of any great master plan of his, unless he’s very, very good at concealing it. Ares is strangely sympathetic here, as if he really meant all those promises about turning over a new leaf, despite all the evidence to the contrary in the first volume. I guess time will tell.

I’m guessing land shark. Always a sound policy.

But more importantly, at least for the moment, Medousa doesn’t waste any time in attacking the embassy. Ferdinand leaps into action, defending as best he can, but Wonder Woman isn’t far behind Medousa and comes to the rescue. A knock-down, drag-out fight ensues, but what’s hilarious is all the hate and venom (both figuratively and literally) Medousa has for someone she doesn’t even know. That comes up beautifully with all the civilians. Is that guy over there your lover? Oo, there are kids—are these yours? How about if I kill this one—how would you like them apples? It’s a great combination of wanting to hurt Diana deeply without bothering to do any homework. Unfortunately, Diana cares deeply about everybody, so her odds of hurting her are pretty good.

How about this lamp? Are you boning this lamp? Gimme something to work with here!

And indeed, something pretty darned bad happens, bad enough to make Diana want to kill Medousa right then and there. Unfortunately, that’s when Medousa evokes Ares, challenging the woman she’s battling at the moment to a formal fight to the death. Apparently the fight the gorgon’s already losing badly at the moment doesn’t count.

Oh, right, the entrails. Yeah, that’s not so nice.

Diana is compelled by divine law to follow the rules, even if she’s so upset right now that she needs some convincing.

Spear and magic helmet, check. Wait, it’s not magic? Not even +2? Well, crap.

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #210, DC Comics, January 2005.

This may be the defining moment of Rucka’s run, certainly among its most well-remembered: Wonder Woman’s duel with Medousa at Yankee Stadium. The whole world witnesses the fight through a global television broadcast arranged through Circe’s magic—and if Medousa wins, everyone watching when she turns her eyes to the camera will be turned to stone.  (Or, I suppose, if she happens to look that way at any point in the fight, but like I said before, it’s best not to give the electronic transmission of Medousa’s gaze too much thought.)

I’m guessing with tea and biscuits.

Showing up in armor, Diana tries various ways of ensuring that her own gaze never meets Medousa’s by effectively blinding herself. She keeps her helmet visor down and a blindfold over her eyes, still pretty much mopping up the floor with Medousa. She is fighting blind, however, and Medousa gets in a lucky shot, stabbing her through the gut with her sword and removing her blindfold. So Diana does the most extreme and badass thing she can think of: she takes one of the severed snakes from Medousa’s hair and blinds herself with the its venom. Having done so, she immediately cuts off the gorgon’s head.

She blinded me with snakes, or here’s venom in your eye.

Now, it’s easy to quibble about this. I mean, she kills Medousa so immediately after blinding herself that she could just as well have done it with her eyes closed. But you can also make the argument that she only won that easily because the gorgon was too busy flipping out about being “cheated” of turning Diana to stone that she neglected to defend herself properly. In any case, it’s a moot point. Diana did what she did, and it was incredibly badass, with the world watching.

A word about the killing. That’s not the sort of thing you think of Wonder Woman doing, because she’s so kind-hearted and talks to the animals and all, so it’s interesting that from the second she hears that Medousa’s back she never considers doing anything else. I’m thinking that’s because as far as she’s concerned, the gorgons aren’t people, aren’t something to be negotiated with or rehabilitated. They’re monsters, dragons to be slain. Gorgons are made to be beheaded. It could certainly be written another way, and at plenty of points in Wondy’s past it probably would have been. But for now the point is that she’s an Amazon, a warrior, and she doesn’t mess around.

The credits don’t tell you who drew which issue, just listing them all together at the beginning of the book, but Drew Johnson has been handling the art up to this point, and he does a great job. He has a strong sense of composition, his characters are attractive and clearly defined. His action scenes really pop, although some of the poses of people at rest are sometimes awkward, especially in larger group scenes.

An eye for a head–that’s how it works, right?

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #211, DC Comics, February 2005.

This one’s all aftermath as Diana recovers from her ordeal and struggles with her faith, challenging Athena whether the price needed to be so high (meaning the death of an innocent friend in Medousa’s attack, not her own seeming incurable blindness).

Dude, I’m like your archenemy, not your rabbi. 

Despite their immortality, the gorgon sisters Euralye and Stheno prove to be useless in battle themselves, easily knocked out by the Pegasus that rises from their sister’s blood. (That’s the special bonus prize when you kill a gorgon, after all.)

Artist Sean Phillips fills in this issue, and it’s a striking difference. There’s a lot of atmosphere and personality in his panels, which is good for an issue that’s all about regrouping. But some of the pages are on the rough side, thickly inked, and some of it is jarringly cheesecakey, especially the scene where Cale finally meets the scantily clad Circe. Also, his Io the Amazon blacksmith looks interestingly like Maggie from Love and Rockets, which makes me look at her in a whole new way.

She makes a compelling argument.

It’s funny that Circe made such a big deal about staying anonymous when she set up the meeting between the gorgons and Cale, because no sooner are they out of the picture than she reveals herself to Cale and enlists her help to get her daughter Lyta back from the Amazons (a plot point left over from the Phil Jimenez run).  Sure, supervillains love to step out of the shadows and reveal themselves in dramatic fashion, but that’s usually really for the reader’s sake. It doesn’t work as well when we’ve known it was them all along.

Everyone comes together to try to help Diana, but there’s nothing to be done about her eyes. And Athena answers her prayers to tell her to quit her bitching—everything happened for a reason and the innocent had to die for the greater good.

Let us console you with a clobbering.

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #212, DC Comics, March 2005.

So now Wonder Woman is blind! How’s that going to work? Well, turns out the Justice League is wondering much the same thing, so Batman shows what a sensitive, caring friend he is in this time of loss by having the entire Justice League dogpile on her as a test of her fitness to serve among them. And, well, she’s still the most highly trained and powerful warrior of the bunch, so she more than holds her own. Still, she seems to have a little more trouble than usual mopping up the floor with her colleagues, which is a matter of concern. Superman doesn’t join the pile, presumably because that would just be unfair.

Now, there are a few odd things about this scene. One is that up to this point in Rucka’s run it’s been easy to forget that Wonder Woman’s even in the Justice League. A few of her super friends from the group have dropped by from time to time, but the team hasn’t been mentioned. And she’s been so busy with other things that it’s hard to imagine when she’d find the time.

Et tu, Gun Man?

Another odd thing is the gun. Batman has one of her colleagues shoot her in the back, and it’s the one least likely to ever do such a thing. Ever. Sure, he knows that she can deflect it with her bracelets (at least normally) but even so having him do it at all is shocking—which I’m sure is the point—but it’s shocking because it’s so obviously out of character.  As for why Batman doesn’t do it himself, he says he can’t, which is an odd treatment of his aversion to guns—it’s not usually portrayed as “I can’t use guns, so here, you do it.”  It’s not a phobia, it’s a moral stance. And sure, the gun isn’t used here with the intention of harming her. It’s used to test her because people are going to shoot her with guns, and they have to know that she’s prepared.  That all makes sense. It’s just a strange way for Batman to treat the whole thing. But here too, maybe that’s the point.  Shocking!

Athena finally makes her play to depose Zeus, but he happens to have this bodyguard—the fifty-headed, hundred-armed giant Briareos. So Athena calls in her own champion, Wonder Woman, no matter that she’s just made it home from a funeral for a friend. Never mind that she’s just been blinded avenging that friend from an enemy whose beef really was with Athena in the first place. Never mind that she’s weakened, blind, and up against a mammoth champion who makes the gods quake.

Yeah, he’s like a million feet tall. Deal with it.

Circe and Cale develop their scheme to get Lyta back, but that’s a story for another volume. And Circe continues to be pretty darned cheesecakey. James Raiz draws the last couple of issues in this volume, and his art is refreshing—crisp, dynamic, and great for action sequences, which takes up the bulk of these issues. It’s fight after fight, and the Briareos is pretty freaking imposing.

When Zeus said he wanted a little head, I don’t think that’s what he meant.

Wonder Woman vol. 2 #213, DC Comics, April 2005.

It takes some convincing for Diana to get involved in this mess, not because she’s scared of some ridiculously immense, hundred-fisted bodyguard to the gods, and not because she’s blind, but because getting involved in coups—especially godly coups—is not her bag. Fortunately, Zeus makes up her mind for her by acting like a crazy paranoid jerk, and it’s on. It’s a pretty great battle, even if its ending is spoiled a bit by the issue cover. (Good thing the covers are tucked away in back, huh?) And no sooner is a new regime in place than others convene to plot against it. ’Twas ever thus.

Yeah, that’s going to go over well.

The issue leaves Athena having risen up in the world, with her much-abused champion to thank for it. But it also leaves Wonder Woman’s relations with her patron decidedly chilly, as Diana is troubled by the high cost of Athena’s Machiavellian machinations. And she doesn’t know the half of it: She knows that she’s really been fighting Athena’s fight all along, as that’s the only reason Medousa came after her in the first place, but she doesn’t know that Athena engineered the situation that lost Diana her eyes by making sure that Ares answered Medousa’s call. In a way Athena’s rise to power is more troubling than the status quo, because it’s hard to imagine what she wouldn’t sacrifice to have her way. For all his vast faults, at least Zeus is predictable.



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  1. 8 / 1 / 2012 1:20 pm

    While I don’t think it’s as obvious as it could have been, I’m pretty sure the reason Diana blinds herself is that when Medousa says “LOOK AT ME!”, it is a magical command. Steve Trevor nearly gives into it before Athena’s owl intervenes back in the White House. Even as strong-willed as she was, the only way Diana could guarantee she’d never look at her was to blind herself.

    In any case, it is an amazing scene. Gives me goosebumps every time I read it.


  2. Sam Hurwitt

    8 / 1 / 2012 1:27 pm

    Ohhhh! I bet you’re right. I had wondered what the heck was paralyzing Steve like that, because sheer terror didn’t seem like his style.


  3. Stanlos

    2 / 17 / 2016 8:32 pm

    Hi, Sam–thanks for this detailed review of the Eyes of the Gorgon trade. I wanted to point out a couple things that could be an enhancement. Bats has Superman shoot Diana because he is the only one among the League members she is facing that could take action to prevent harm should Diana’s senses and reflexes had proven diminished. “Faster than a speeding bullet” and all of that jazz. Of course, it proves an unnecessary caution as Diana is ‘Swifter than Mercury”. She may be slower since the God of Speed and Messengers bit the dust way back when in WAR OF THE GODS #4 but she is still mighty fast and more than able to defend herself.





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