The Warriors Four


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

Those aren’t the four warriors. Those are just the four outfits.

Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth, DC Comics, 2009.

This second volume of Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman run goes on a delightful tangent when Diana teams up with three heroes of DC Comics’ sword and sorcery line of the 1970s. There’s the soulless swordsman Stalker…

Only a man entirely without soul could wear that tunic.

…DC’s shameless Conan clone with a demon hand, Claw the Unconquered…

He was wearing one glove wayyyy before Michael Jackson.

…and everybody’s favorite Olde English poetry star, Beowulf.

In which he meets Odysseus, Dracula and flying saucers!

Using Wonder Woman as a sword and sorcery heroine is such a natural fit that it’s a wonder that it’s not done more often.

There is precedent for her crossing over with fantasy series, however. During Diana’s nonpowered Emma Peel period of the early ’70s, she and Catwoman traveled to the world of Nehwon, home of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, in a 1972 story written by Samuel Delany that is, amazingly, included in DC’s reprint collection Diana Prince: Wonder Woman vol. 4. (Stories featuring licensed characters are all too often omitted from reprint volumes.) DC went on to run a short-lived Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series in Sword of Sorcery the following year.

Dude, Fafhrd, you’re not invited to this catfight.

These particular DC swordsmen haven’t often been seen outside of their respective fantasy worlds, which are not the same world. This Beowulf hadn’t been seen at all since his 1970s series, as far as I know, though he’s now starring in a backup feature in the revived Sword of Sorcery series, with a reboot of Amethyst, Princess of Gemword filling the main feature. Claw had also been largely forgotten for a while, although he’d pop up occasionally in titles as varied as Sandman and Time Masters: Vanishing Point, but he had been revived two years before for a series under DC’s Wildstorm imprint, even crossing over with his role model Conan’s old pal Red Sonja. (Now, a Wonder Woman/Red Sonja crossover is something I’d really like to see.)

Stalker was the only one of the above who had really crossed over directly with DC’s superheroes before this story . In fact, Simone’s story seems to be ignoring the last time we saw Stalker, when he served as the unlikely Big Bad villain in a 1999 Justice Society event. There he had become a demon much like his old nemesis Dgrth, who’d stolen his soul in the first place, and Stalker was seemingly destroyed at the end. And honestly, ignoring that story is a fine idea—though because it involved time travel it’s possible that it still happened, just later in Stalker’s life.

She gets a different costume for every fantasy world she visits. For reals.

Wonder Woman #20, DC Comics, July 2008.

The story opens with Diana fighting wolves in the snow outside a mead hall that of course turns out to be the same one Beowulf hangs out. But how’d she get there, and what’s she doing in that fury barbarian version of her outfit? Well, let’s backtrack. Six hours earlier she’s in her office at the Department of Metahuman Affairs as Diana Prince. Sarge Steel (sorry, Director Steel) continues to act really weird, cagey and paranoid around her. She and her pal Etta Candy go to her office, where they find that same mysterious guy with glowing eyes who Etta found in Diana’s apartment a few issues back. It turns out that wasn’t Ares, nor anyone we’d have a reasonable expectation to show up in the Wonder Woman series. It was Stalker, on vacation from his fantasy world and hanging out in a very modern green leisure suit.

Yeah, you probably don’t want to do that.

Weirdly enough, even though the guy seemed about to have a conversation with Etta when last we saw him, now it seems they didn’t really talk at all, or at least he didn’t tell her anything. She pulls a gun on him, which he slices in two with his magic sword, and Diana promptly disarms him. He says he only wants her to save the world—several worlds, really—and invites her to use her lasso to gauge his honesty. But the lasso has a completely unanticipated and unprecedented effect. Simone had recently established that the lasso doesn’t just compel people to speak the truth but it also allows her to look inside their souls and make them face the contents—but as anyone who read his ’70s series knows, Stalker had his soul ripped from him a long time ago, and Diana is completely incapacitated, in shock at the gaping emptiness inside him, and just sits there in the interior darkness, spouting portentous nonsense like…well, like a 1970s sword and sorcery character. Etta tries to snap her out of it, even clutching the lasso to go in and get her, but she’s still near catatonic. In fact we don’t ever get to see exactly how Diana came out of that state; only that she did, and Stalker sent her off on a quest to gather some heroes and kill D’Grth, the demon who stole his soul (who’s now apparently obtained an apostrophe).

There’s a whole lot of strumpet-shaming in this story.

Meanwhile—or rather six hours later and at least a thousand years earlier, in another world—Diana picks a fight with Beowulf, who is bitching and moaning (boasting, really) about his manly suffering. Whatever her encounter with Stalker did to her, it’s made her meaner, and she knows it. She mentioned earlier that she doesn’t have her powers on this world, for whatever reason, but she does have a taste for bloodshed. In any case, as with usual with meetings of heroes, she and Beowulf are soon fighting side by side.

Aaron Lopestri steps in to draw this arc, as well as all the covers in this volume. He has a sharp, expressive style that’s well suited to the fantasy/superhero mashup, and despite the occasional awkward pose his characters are always recognizable and distinct–which should be standard in the industry but really isn’t.

She should really see a dermatologist.

Wonder Woman #21, DC Comics, August 2008.

 Director Steel just gets crazier and crazier. Now he tells Tom Tresser (Diana’s partner and new romantic interest) that he’s convinced both Diana Prince and Etta Candy are involved in some vast Amazon conspiracy to destroy America, and assigns Tom to keep an eye on them. It’s worth mentioning that Steel had brought Etta in to spy on Diana in the first place (a bad idea, because they’re best buds), so he’s clearly not thinking too clearly. But what the hell is up with Sarge? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.

Tom stakes out Diana’s apartment, just like he was told to do, and finds that maybe there actually was something to Steel’s crazed rant about her being allied with Gorilla Grodd. Her flat is full of white gorillas! Of course we know these are just her friends, but Tom doesn’t know that, and wacky misunderstandings ensue.

Meadhall fight!

Diana, meanwhile, is in a full-on bar fight. She and Beowulf are fighting a bunch of crazed followers of his old foe Grendel. Who knew he even had followers? And she’s casually chopping off limbs, because, as mentioned earlier, this trip has changed her. Once she and Beowulf are clear of danger—that danger, anyway—Stalker shows up to make with the exposition. He talks about meeting a mysterious Oracle who, interestingly enough, is red-haired and legless in a curious parallel to the wheelchair-bound earthly Oracle who used to be Batgirl. She told him that D’Grth was set to conquer all the worlds across dimensions, and he can only be killed on a particular altar “at the end of the world” by him and “three other…particular swordbearers.”

He’s single, ladies!

The Oracle also gave Stalker a piece of the Rock of Eternity—the same one the wizard Shazam lives on—which apparently exists in all realities, and that and the magic seashell that Diana’s new patron deity Kane Milohai gave her can take them all to other worlds to gather their posse. But of course when they go to the next world to find Claw the Unconquered, he fights them all in a bloody rage until Diana finally clocks him. But she also finds herself transforming in disturbing and unforeseen ways, taking on some of her allies’ worst characteristics.

That’s what happens when you listen to that heavy metal music.

Wonder Woman #22, DC Comics, September 2008.

Diana’s posse is now all assembled, and they’re off to see the wizard… or rather the witch, the Oracle that seems to exist in all worlds (so perhaps her superficial resemblance to Barbara Gordon is no coincidence). There’s a cute scene along the way where Diana gives Stalker a name, a thing he’s never had before. She names him “Elpis,” which means hope in Greek. It’s actually kind of a lousy name (and, as she points out later, “a girl’s name”), but hey, it’s the thought that counts.

She can do anything she damn well pleases. Because she’s a princess.

They find the Oracle, who tosses prophecies left and right, including one that may become relevant later—that the gods are searching for Diana “in a flying ship of gold and green.” She apparently also tells them that there’s a traitor in their midst, although oddly enough we don’t see her say it, only hear about it later. No sooner do we hear about it (on Stalker’s hellish wasteland of a world) than the traitor gets started with the betrayal.

Things start happening fast and furious here, with Grendel and D’Grth showing up, the traitor revealed, and a whole lot of battling going on. Wonder Woman loses her soul like Stalker (or rather, to Stalker), and drags D’Grth kicking and screaming to a shining planet called…Earth. Actually right to the mall in Washington, DC, in case Amazons haven’t laid waste to it enough lately. (It’s looking surprisingly nice and all repaired now, though. Somehow.)

Oh, and Tom has a knock-down, drag-out fight with the gorillas, until they’re finally interrupted by someone who shows up surprisingly seldom in Wonder Woman—her sister, Donna Troy, who clears everything up as best she can. And next thing you know they’re all having a nice cup of tea. Maybe they should try that over in the other realm.

He seems nice.

Wonder Woman #23, DC Comics, October 2008.

Now, you’d think Diana bringing D’Grth to her world would be a terrible idea, and you’d be right, but at least here she has her powers back. Most of them, anyway—her lasso still isn’t on speaking terms with her because of the soullessness. And she’s not quite in the state of mind to worry about collateral damage anymore. In any case, she gives the towering demon one hell of a fight.


My money’s on the lady in red.

It’s not too much of a spoiler to say who wins, but just let me say that the winning is awesome, and involves a surprise use of an element of Wondy’s arsenal we haven’t seen in a while.

Diana is just ridiculously badass.

It’s a satisfying ending to a rollicking and sometimes confusing journey, and the stuff between Donna and Tom is pretty cute too.


But there’s some awfully ominous stuff at the end, in which it seems that Steel may be even crazier than we thought, and, more troubling still, Grendel appears to have followed Diana home.

Well, this is a change of pace.

Wonder Woman #24, DC Comics, November 2008.

One thing I appreciate about Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman is the sense of fun. Gorilla houseguests? Fun! A trek through the sword and sorcery comics of the ’70s? Fun! And now she takes a couple of issues for a good old-fashioned romp. First Diana takes her new boyfriend home to meet her mom. I say “boyfriend,” but they haven’t even kissed. There’s just been a lot of formal wooing on her part and lascivious comments on his. (For those of you who came in late, Tom’s kind of a tool, despite Simone’s attempt to make him more sympathetic.)

Now, trying to make a good impression on the queen of the Amazons, who haven’t let men set foot on their island for thousands of years, is intimidating under the best of circumstances. But when it’s the immortal monarch who set that rule in the first place, and she’s just finished launching a bloody, all-out attack on the United States, well, that’s just awkward.

Tom talks as if he’s never seen Diana’s mother before, which is strange because he certainly did during Amazons Attack! He even disguised himself as her briefly. But all that’s best forgotten, even if it was very, very recent.

Griffins are notorious player-haters.

After taking him around with her an intimidating round of verbal sparring and let-me-show-you-my-monsters, Hippolyta does a couple of things that seem pretty strange and out of character. (Although frankly she hasn’t acted in character for even a moment since her recent resurrection, so who’s to say what her character even is anymore?} First she dubs Tom an Amazon, which is…weird. I don’t think there’s any precedent for that. Admittedly her Amazons are in short supply these days, but she just met the guy, and she never offered Manazon status to, say, Steve Trevor or Diana’s sometime best friend Superman.

In conclusion, babies.

The other weird thing she does is demand that Tom make lots and lots of babies with Diana. Again this is odd because this is basically their first date, and that’s pretty heavy. But also it’s strange because no one on Themyscira has ever made babies. Not in the conventional way, anyway; of course Hippolyta herself sculpted Diana out of clay, but that was the first baby “born” among the Amazons ever. I mean, I get that she wants to repopulate the island and all, but jeez, tone down the psycho wannabe grandma act, lady.

Oh, and there’s a glimpse of the baby-hating Amazon traitor Alkyone from Simone’s first arc, just to let you know she’s still out there, watching and waiting.

But you know what? None of that is even the focus of this issue. The main story is, Wonder Woman goes to Hollywood! And she brings her ape pals with her. And they’re holding briefcases, because gorillas with briefcases are awesome.

Well, they are.

You see, they’re making a Wonder Woman movie, and they want her to…be okay with it, basically. It’s not an authorized project, and she’s a public figure and thus fair game, but they don’t want her speaking out against it. They want her to endorse the film, and they’ll make a big donation to those Athenian Women’s Help Shelters from that weird fill-in issue that Will Pfeifer did the previous year. The apes continue to be quietly imposing and awesome, and the Hollywood types are all very effusive and solicitous except Allison, the lawyer, who’s weird and standoffish. But clearly she has Issues, which Diana tries to address with compassion and hugs.

Stop a war with love!

The movie they’re making, of course, is awful, with borrowed subplots and catch phrases from pretty much everything (including Red Sonja!), and Diana pretty quickly gets incensed enough to want to shut the whole thing down. But in the time-honored tradition of superheroes-go-Hollywood stories since at least 1962’s Fantastic Four #9, which featured the Sub-Mariner as a Hollywood producer…

I don’t know why Namor doesn’t dress that way all the time.

…it’s a traaap! The whole thing is orchestrated by the Queen of Fables, a nutty Justice League villain created by Simone who somehow has gotten it into her head that Diana is really her old enemy Snow White—and unfortunately Diana accepted an apple from her back in the office. Why does she think Wondy’s Snow White? Well, no reason, really, except that it amuses Simone to make it so, which is good enough for me. Most amusingly, the Queen conjures many doppelgangers of Wonder Woman to fight the real Diana, including the martial arts version of the early ‘70s, the Cathy Lee Crosby version, the Golden Age Wonder Woman, and various iterations of her pre-Crisis outfits, one of which may or may not be intended to be the Lynda Carter TV version. It’s hard to tell with artist Bernard Chang’s likenesses, because while all the Wondys are comely, facially they look very much alike.

Chang’s Wonder Woman is the best thing about his art on this arc. Songs of his other humans are a bit stiff and static-looking, but his Wondy’s great, as are the gorillas, gryphons, dragons and other beasties. He also has a flair for composition; I like the ornate borders he puts around some pages, though there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to when he does it and when he doesn’t.

Adorbs! And if only that poster were true.

Wonder Woman #25, DC Comics, December 2008.

 The Queen of Fables traps Wondy in the terrible, terrible movie being made of her life. One delightful side effect of this is that we get a glimpse of one of my favorite Silver Age creations—Wonder Tot, who’s Wonder Woman when she was, you know, a tot.

Sadly, she doesn’t say things like “Me no want” anymore, but you can’t have everything.

But the Queen soon bores of this cheesy exercise and opts for gladiatorial combat instead, which of course is fine with Wondy because she thrives in the arena. She mops up the floor with all her opponents handily—including the Queen herself morphed into a giant dragon.

I think she means Sleeping Beauty. There are no dragons in Cinderella.

Not only does she defeat her enemy handily, she does it with a maximum of cheesy Hollywood talk. Because, fun!

Insert David Caruso theme music here.

All this and a very sweet epilogue exploring exactly what that lawyer lady’s problem was anyway. It’s a cute, lighthearted couple of issues, but it really drives home that, for all that there are a zillion ways to do it wrong, someone really, really needs to do a Wonder Woman movie. Seriously, it’s high time. It’s long past time.  Just do it already.

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