Manazons Attack


On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.

I reckon that must be the Olympian.

Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian, DC Comics, 2009.

Just as Gail Simone got me back into Wonder Woman when she started writing the Amazon’s adventures, this third book of Simone’s run, “Rise of the Olympian,” is where I started having trouble with the storyline. The main reason is the introduction of Genocide, an inarticulate, unstoppable murder machine that was supposed to be for Wonder Woman what Doomsday was for Superman. I had trouble with this on a number of levels. One, Doomsday was a kind of a dumb idea in the first place. Two, that trick never works: Veronica Cale was introduced as Wondy’s new Lex Luthor during Greg Rucka’s run, and that was pretty much the last we heard of her as a Wonder Woman foe. Three, the character design for Genocide is kind of silly-looking.

There were a number of strange things going on in these next few issues, and I have to say, I like them better looking back at them than I did at the time, now that I can chill out about what direction the book was going in and just focus on the story. But enough generalities!  Let’s take a look.

Well, this doesn’t look good.

Wonder Woman #26, DC Comics, January 2009.

After abandoning the Earth way back at the end of Rucka’s run, the gods come back! From space. In a spaceship. Brought home by the Ichor, that divine space race we glimpsed back in the first volume. And, for some reason, they’re wearing jumpsuits now, like any good starship crew. They arrive dazed and confused, their memory seemingly failing them, to find Olympus wrecked and vandalized by the evil New Gods of Apokolips who’d taken over the place in their absence.

That’s certainly not very nice.

Meanwhile, the Society—the current incarnation of what used to be called the Secret Society of Super-Villains (or, more aptly, the Legion of Doom from the old Super Friends cartoon)—has built a monster, sending its mad scientists to gather soil from the locations of the worst genocides of the 20th century. That includes Dr. Poison, the first of Wonder Woman’s recurring villains (the first to be introduced, that is, not to recur) and some Justice League baddies.

Overseeing the operation is the Cheetah, and her appearance here is interesting. It couldn’t be farther from the feral oversexed Cheetah that Geoff Johns wrote in the Flash crossover with Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman. Now Dr. Minerva appears fully human, in business attire, looking basically like a corporate boss type—enough so, in fact, that I’d wonder if Simone had hoped to use Veronica Cale in this role but wasn’t able to. Cale was last seen in charge of another assemblage of mad scientists on Oolong Island in 52, so it wouldn’t be so strange for her to do something like this (and it would keep her in the loop as a Wonder Woman villain, something that never happened as it is), but Cheetah’s role in the Society is well-established by this point.

We don’t know what the project is, but we know that T.O. Morrow, the old Justice League and Flash villain who created the android hero Red Tornado, is having serious second thoughts, actually pleading with the Cheetah to call the whole thing off because what they’ve created is too horrible to contemplate. And, you know, Dr. Morrow is not a good guy, so that’s not encouraging.

We were so wrong. So very wrong.

And then we meet Genocide. She’s in the middle of wholesale slaughter at a mall, killing innocents just because that’s what she does. The character design by Aaron Lopestri, again, isn’t all that fearsome. All in green, with spiky red hair and green spikes where her eyes should be, she’s like a pineapple-headed Jolly Green Giant, and her moaning monosyllabic speech makes her sound like Zombie Hulk. One thing Gen is, though, is tough, pretty much beating the crap out of Wondy and then taking her lasso, which is apparently a much bigger deal than it used to be back when people used to take it and tie her up with it all the time.  Diana senses that whatever this thing is that she’s fighting, it’s a god, and it’s bringing everyone’s darkest emotions to the surface in addition to, you know, killing them.

If her secret identity is Dorothy Gale, that’s one sly callback.

In other news, Sarge Steel is still cray-cray, his raving paranoia becoming more and more obvious.  I swear, that man has not had one normal moment since he landed in this series. What can it mean?  Well, we’ll have to stay tuned for that.  This time he tries to have Tom Tresser taken into custody as a traitor, emphasis on “tries.”

You will believe a pseudo-Amazon can cry.

Wonder Woman #27, DC Comics, February 2009.

Everyone’s pretty upset about Diana getting creamed, enough so that Donna Troy has to tell her successor as Wonder Girl to stop sniveling and get to work. Diana’s all tied up with rebar, and Tom tries to free her, but good luck with that. His fellow Department of Mutant Affairs agents are supposed to capture or kill him on sight, because of the director’s aforementioned craziness, but Etta won’t allow it, telling her fellow agents that that guy who’s obviously Tom isn’t Tom but “just some random dude in black.”  It’s a fun moment that would work a teensy bit better if everyone’s uniforms weren’t actually red, not black.  Ah well.

Etta’s awesome at pretty much everything except identifying colors.

Tom’s a little pathetic and helpless here, but to be fair, he’s been in way over his head for a while now. He does get one cool moment, though—ridiculous, but cool—when he insists on his right as a newly appointed Amazon to come along to Themyscira for Diana’s treatment.

He’s a Manazon, baby!

Meanwhile, amid the ruins of Mount Olympus, Athena is dying, apparently of ennui. Or perhaps more accurately, of a plot device to put Zeus back in charge, because Athena had deposed him when last we saw them. She makes Zeus promise to help the Amazons on her deathbed, which is a pretty unwise idea for the goddess of wisdom, because Zeus’s idea of helping is never, ever helpful. Whenever Zeus gets involved in anything, it’s certain to spell disaster for all concerned.

I grow weary of this world!

Anyway, he wakes up the Amazons who had been cursed to live the lives of unsuspecting humans, and they all get naked and go home to Themyscira.

And Gen? Well, she’s really no friendlier back at villain central, but she takes time off from trying to kill everyone around her to insist that the lasso be surgically implanted into her, wrapped around her bones. Ewwww. Apparently whatever the lasso’s powers are now, it’s not doing wonders for her disposition.

With the lasso’s powers as well as her own—which include super-strength and teleportation as well as being so very fearsome and kill-crazy—Gen mops up the floor with the Justice League. And with the lasso’s newly revealed ability to trap people in the depths of their own souls, in the hands of someone who already radiates hate and fear and despair enough to infect everyone around her—well, that’s enough to make the badly wounded Diana turn back and fight before anyone’s even had a chance to try to heal her.

This was a “Faces of Evil” theme month for DC covers. Cheetah’s hardly even in this issue.

Wonder Woman #28, DC Comics, March 2009.

Wonder Woman suits up for battle, which means putting on the chicken suit.  That would be her “golden eagle” armor, originally designed by Alex Ross for the alternate-future miniseries Kingdom Come. And though she could hardly speak in the last issue and we’re told she has internal injuries, Diana isn’t so banged up that she can’t make flirty banter and smooch the heck out of Tom, which I’m pretty sure is their first kiss.  She steps up to the occasion, is what I’m saying.

Way to boost morale, Tom.

Hey, you know who we haven’t seen at all in this volume?  Diana’s housemates, the white gorillas! Well, that gets rectified right now when they join her in battle. So do Donna and Cassie, and they, they’ve got chicken suits too! Of course, it’s nice when the gorillas are used for something more than cannon fodder, but we’ll take what we can get.

Where eagles dare—and gorillas too.

And we finally find out what the heck is going on with Director Steel. You see, they have Doctor Psycho in custody, and in fact that’s who Genocide is tearing up the building to find.  It’s hardly the first time we’ve seen Psycho posing as someone else, and of course it’s at least the third time someone else has been posing as Steel. In fact, as I’ve said before, I’m not convinced we’ve ever seen the real Sarge Steel in this series, just an endless series of imposters.

And Zeus’s cunning plan? He’s decided to help the Amazons by supplanting them, giving them a rest because saving the world with love is man’s work. So he’s created his own island of Amazons, but this time they’re all dudes, and he’s calling them Olympians. No women are allowed to set foot on Thalarion, just like men on Themyscira, and Zeus has resurrected great Greek heroes to lead them, Jason and Achilles. Just as the Amazons were created from women killed by men, these Olympians are made up of men who died in battle—not just the resurrected souls this time, but the undead bodies, because Zeus isn’t much for subtlety. And he’s tasked them with bringing an end to war by killing all the warmongers. That will go well.

So I’m guessing it’s on, then.

Wonder Woman #29, DC Comics, April 2009.

It’s been clear from the start that Genocide brings everyone’s bad feelings to the surface—regret, hate, whatever—but apparently she also makes them crazy.  Donna Troy is suddenly convinced that Diana killed her husband and child, and of course there’s no truth to that at all.

Zeus goes to visit Kane Milohai, the Hawaiian god whom Diana agreed to worship in exchange for his aid, and Zeus’s demand that he give her back doesn’t go at all well. Like I say, anything Zeus does is guaranteed to be a terrible idea.

Release the Kraken!

And, well, pretty much everything else hits the fan at once. Jason and his men attack naval ships—with sea monsters, even, because they’ve got a son of Poseidon in their crew. Cheetah attacks, just to keep her hand in. (Simone throws in a sly nod to how inconsistently the character’s been portrayed over the years: “She never faces me the same way twice,” Diana says in her internal narrative.) And Fake Sarge is faced with no less than a very, very angry Deputy Secretary of Defense Steve Trevor.

Heck yeah, Steve Trevor! Oh yeah, and Wonder Woman!

In a backup feature—one of those little teasers leading up to Blackest Night—Hippolyta tells Tom all about Diana’s birth. We’d always known the baby Diana was sculpted out of clay, but the queen reveals that it wasn’t just any clay, but magic clay from the walls of the cavern that housed and preserved the primordial hundred-handed Cottus of myth. What the significance of this might be is a tale for another day. Hippolyta also warns Tom that Diana may have been surrounded by so much love that she takes it for granted: “Beware my daughter.”

This would be the rising, then.

Wonder Woman #30, DC Comics, May 2009.

Genocide is gradually becoming more eloquent from her earlier monosyllabic grunts, though she still speaks only in gloomy portents and freshman philosophy. But give her a break; as Gen points out, she’s only a few days old. Oh, and she has Etta Candy and is torturing her, which coming from her qualifies as hospitality.

See, it’s all black because they’re deep inside the soul. Which is black. It’s a thing.

To be fair, Diana’s doing more or less the same thing to Cheetah to find out where Gen’s taken Etta. When will she learn that intelligence gained through torture is notoriously unreliable?

That tail’s getting to be a liability.

In this case, though, Cheetah spills the location of Society HQ, leading to Wonder Woman single-handedly laying waste to the place, so much so that the assembled villains—some of whom have single-handedly faced the JLA—can do pretty much nothing but cower.

This is one of my favorite moments in the whole story. Felix Faust has the right idea.

Still trying to copy the Amazons wherever possible, Zeus figures he needs a child of the island hand-crafted to be its hero. This is Achilles, and he gives it a powerful heart he picked up in his travels in the last issue.

War? Huh. Good god, y’all.

Wonder Woman #31, DC Comics, June 2009.

Hey, remember Alkyone, the former captain of the queen’s guard who tried to kill Diana in her crib? Well, she’s been skulking around Paradise Island ever since the first volume of Simone’s run, and now she’s making deals with Wondy’s old foe Ares. The god of war appears in the distinctive armor he’s worn most of the time since the George Perez reboot of the 1980s; no space jumpsuits for him, nor the more casual look he took on during Rucka’s run.

Who’s a widdle demon baby? You are! Yes, you are!

I seem to recall Simone saying somewhere that she wanted to use some elements of the Rucka era, but Rucka preferred that they be left alone. No matter, though: like most Wonder Woman writers, she built her own supporting cast. That’s one of many reasons why it seems like Wondy is reinvented from scratch every few years.

Speaking of supporting cast, she’s managed to pick up supervillain T.O. Morrow as an ally, because he’s still haunted by what he’s created and wants a chance to set things right.

This, on the other hand, is my actual favorite moment in this arc. Who knew T.O. was such a softie?

The ghost of Athena pops up to make with the exposition, spilling the beans on what Genocide’s deal is. I won’t say what it is, exactly, but it ain’t good, and at the same time it doesn’t really sell me any more on Gen as a villain. Not everything’s going to connect with everyone. Heck, I’m sure some people liked Doomsday.

Achilles and his men are attacking soldiers and politicians left and right, and now they’re marching on the United Nations with flying lions and three-eyed, two-trunked giant elephants. That can’t be good.

Excuse me, I think you’re in my parking space.

So, of course, Wondy has to preempt her climactic battle with Gen to put a stop to this nonsense. She finds Achilles arrogant, condescending and eerily able to predict her attacks. She also finds him woefully naive, as someone (guess who?) is taking advantage of the confusion to launch a nuclear missile. So it’s up to Wonder Woman to stop the nuke by, um, punching it.

I’m pretty sure there’s a warning label against doing that.

Now it looks like Wondy’s significantly more powerful than we ever knew her to be—on a Superman level at the very least—or at least she is when poetic license dictates that it’s time for her to do something truly (and literally) unbelievable.

They’re like two sides of the same cover, man.

Wonder Woman #32, DC Comics, July 2009.

It’s the final battle with Genocide!  And it’s as knock-down, drag-out and as brutal as you might think, but that’s not the interesting thing. The interesting thing is this: Genocide makes Wonder Woman confess that she doesn’t love Tom, not really. I imagine there’ll be an awkward talk about that later.

She loves me not!

It’s interesting that Tom’s whole personality has changed since this whole courting thing started. Before that happened, he was, well, a dick. And since then, he’s been a bit of a drip—a wisecrack here and there, sure, but just sort of on call and reactive, waiting for Diana to tell him what the next move is. Maybe he’s just the kind of guy who loses himself entirely in relationships—even in not-quite-even-dating relationships.

One weird thing is that in this issue there’s a random cameo by the Shield, Archie Comics’ flag-suited hero who actually predates Captain America. This issue came out during a brief period when DC Comics had licensed the Archie heroes and was incorporating them willy-nilly into the DC universe. This didn’t last long, and they disappeared in the “New 52” reboot, but it’s jarring to see them pop up in a story like this, because the use of licensed characters has so often interfered with reprints in the last. Marvel Comics, for instance, can’t reprint issues of The Incredible Hulk that featured Rom: Spaceknight, and can’t reprint its old Master of Kung Fu series at all, because although it owns the hero Shang-Chi, it no longer has the rights to his father Fu Manchu and other supporting characters. Same with the issue of Batman featuring the Shadow, Marvel Two-in-One guest-starring Doc Savage, and many other examples. I can only hope that DC worked all those details out in advance so that this collection doesn’t have to go out of print, although honestly the one-panel cameo of the Shield is so self-contained and nondescript that you could just redraw him as, say, Aquaman and call it a day.

Love is a battlefield.

Wonder Woman #33, DC Comics, July 2009.

Gen’s down and Wondy’s in a bad way, but no rest for the wrecked. The Amazons are under attack! By really freaking huge sea monsters!  Some of them even looking like big old Kirby monsters. Now, who do we know who commands those?  Oh right, that son of Poseidon who hangs out with Jason and the Olympians.  And Poseidon himself, of course, but we haven’t seen him around lately.

Oh yeah, might need that.

The newly returned Amazons all rise to the defense—as do Alkyone and her fellow rebels, though surely the fingerprints of her ally Ares are all over this. I seem to recall that some of the gorillas stayed behind on Themyscira to keep Hippolyta company, but there’s no sign of them now. The battle is freaking badass, bringing together Amazon and Olympian alike, and even the giant sharks that patrol its waters, but what’s interesting is what happens afterward.

I’m not going to be coy about this, because it sets up much of what’s to come in the next volume, which is called Warkiller because, um…

Who knew it was that easy?

…well, because Wonder Woman kills War.  And cold-cocks Zeus when she finds out what he’s been up to. And renounces the gods entirely. And weirdly, her killing Ares isn’t even a big thing.  It’s just something that happens, almost offhandedly, and everyone pretty much shrugs it off. “I can always make new children,” Zeus says. Talking back to Zeus, on the other hand—that’s just not done.

Well, that settles that, I guess.

Zeus decrees that his Achilles rule over the warriors of both islands, and Hippolyta seems uncharacteristically willing to do whatever she’s told (she really has been all over the place lately, personality-wise). Even Achilles thinks this is kind of messed up. Oh, and of course Alkyone’s little plot hasn’t even begun, so there’s plenty of fodder for the arc that follows.

Much of what happened in this particular volume had me perplexed or dismayed, but never so much so that I thought about dropping it. One thing Simone does very well is get me hooked in enough to really want to know what happens next, no matter how dubious I am of what’s happening now.

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