All Together Now


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.

A few weeks back I talked about how Gail Simone got me back into Wonder Woman after a long lapse. Last week I explored some of the parts of the run I wasn’t quite on board with, with the introduction of the big bad killing machine Genocide. A whole lot happened in that arc—the Olympian gods came back after a few years away, the Amazons were awakened from the amnesiac exile they’d been cursed into after Amazons Attack!, Zeus created a whole new male race of Manazons to supplant the Amazons, and Wonder Woman killed Ares and foreswore her gods.

I didn’t really talk about this last week, but one funny thing to me is that nobody really seemed to give a crap about the disappearance of the Amazons. Even Wonder Woman seemed to accept it pretty readily. Granted, they were only gone for a year or so, but the ramifications were never really explored much in the Wonder Woman comic, except insofar as Queen Hippolyta was pretty much alone on Themyscira when it was invaded by Supernazis in Simone’s first arc. I guess there was some nonsense with Fake Athena (actually Granny Goodness of the evil New Gods of Apokolips) assembling her own Fake Amazons (or “Shamazons”) in the Countdown to Final Crisis series, but the less said about that the better.

In any case, now they’re back, just in time for their world to be turned upside down yet again. Even though Zeus had just created the Manazons’ island and decreed that no woman shall set foot there, once the two tribes united to fend off a sea monster attack, Zeus seemingly decided, okay, scratch that—instead let’s just put my boy Achilles in charge of both the Manazons and the Amazons, and have Hippolyta step down in his favor. That was the last straw for Diana, but everyone else pretty much went along with it.

Oh yeah, she’s got lightning powers now. Deal with it.

Wonder Woman: Warkiller, DC Comics, 2010

Collecting six issues, Warkiller isn’t quite as generously proportioned as the previous eight-issue collection, but this volume comprises a couple of fairly strong stories that feed in their own ways into the larger tale Simone is weaving. First we get a two-part romp with Wonder Woman and Black Canary going undercover into an underground of superpowered gladiatorial combat, and then a story that starts to bring it all together—the threads of the baby-hating former royal guard of the Amazons, the rise of the Manazons, Zeus’s folly, Ares’s schemes, and Genocide, or at least her essence.

I really wouldn’t suggest messing with them.

Wonder Woman #34, DC Comics, September 2009.

This issue is just plain adorable. First we get a great scene of Wonder Woman communing with polar bears. The funny thing is that it’s framed as Diana coming to the Arctic to process all that she’s been through lately, musing to herself that she really doesn’t see what Superman sees in the place.

One power that Wondy’s displayed off and on over the years, but very rarely, is an ability to talk to animals, a gift from the goddess Artemis. During Greg Rucka’s run, for instance, she was shown communicating with birds at least once. When Simone shows Diana talking to animals, however, it always seems to be the way any particularly insightful person might, not so much with the conceit that they might be talking back—except of course in the case of her gorilla houseguests, who actually can talk. This is why Geoff Johns’s idea that Wonder Woman’s problem was a lack of insight into how people live was so ludicrous. If there’s one constant to Wonder Woman—and admittedly, there aren’t that many, because they keep trying to make her “all new” every few years—it’s how grounded, perceptive and compassionate she is. Diana really listens and she really connects with people, even when that person happens to be a polar bear.

If this was a year or two ago, that bear would be nagging her about Max Lord.

Speaking of the gorillas, we get to spend a teensy bit of quality time with them in this issue, which is nice because it’s been a while. And we learn they hang around Diana’s apartment watching “the operas of soap,” just like any good gorillas warriors would.

But the meat of this issue is Diana and Black Canary infiltrating this superhuman fight club. The pretext that gets them there is very, very thin. Supervillain turned ally T.O. Morrow tells Diana that Genocide’s still out there, just dormant, and that Doctor Psycho is in Japan working to make the creature functional again, and “he’s using an illegal metahuman arena operation as cover . Now, this is implausible for a number of reasons. One, unlike Morrow, Psycho’s not that kind of mad scientist. Two, Psycho doesn’t have any real connection to Genocide. He wasn’t around for her creation, because he’s been posing as Diana Prince’s boss Director Steel all this time. Sure, Gen was a Secret Society of Super-Villains project, and Psycho’s in the Society, but that’s a pretty thin connection. Three, the whole find-Genocide’s-body part of the mission is forgotten entirely after this page of exposition and we see no evidence that it’s true at all, except that Morrow sure seems to be sincere about it.

Well, that explains that.

But seriously, who the hell cares? Wonder Woman and Black Canary put on ridiculous disguises to go be gladiators. If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, then I can’t help you. Dinah’s dialogue is priceless, even if I can’t imagine anyone actually talking like that.  Even if calling a butt a “rumpus mcgoo” isn’t a real thing, maybe it should be. In my perfect world, Dinah’s weird folksyisms (“Oh, pish tosh, b’gosh”) and Golden Age Steve Trevor’s elaborate oaths (“By the great horn spoon!”) are both totally things that happen all the time. And her teasing Diana about having “our community’s second most famous bosom” (next to Power Girl) is a pretty hilarious wink to fandom.

Man, Dinah’s the best foil for Diana ever. They should hang out more.

Anyway, Dinah and Diana dress up in some amusingly lurid getups and infiltrate the fight club as new meat, taking on whoever is thrown at them, and the fight scenes are a lot of fun. There they find Director Steel, still in Doctor Psycho’s tiny body, dressed up in a jester outfit, zoned out and forced to play the sleazy emcee. And yeah, the real Psycho, in Steel’s body, appears to be running the show behind closed doors.

One odd thing is that in the past, when Psycho’s posed as someone it’s been an illusion, because he can make people see whatever he wants them to see. But for some reason, that’s not what he did here. He just did a straight-up mindswap with Steel, and he hasn’t really displayed any of his psychic powers during this whole story.  Maybe he left them in his other body.

A couple of interesting things happen here, both of which do come into play later. Diana find herself using a power she didn’t even know she had—lighting bolts from her bracelets—and she has no idea where the heck that came from. And a challenger shows up claiming Diana killed her father, and something tells me she’s not talking about Ares.

I told you you didn’t wanna mess with them.

Wonder Woman #35, DC Comics, October 2009.

Amusingly enough, the first thing we see in this issue is Diana and Dinah marveling at an Ame-Comi statue of Wonder Woman and how embarrassing it is. They’re taking in the pleasures of Tokyo, a city Canary knows pretty well, and she introduces Diana to her favorite noodle joint. One thing I like about Simone’s comics in general is that it’s refreshing to see superheroes taking the time to take pleasure in food. Simone has a lot of fun with the contrast between Dinah’s joie de vivre and Diana’s dignified reserve in a way that makes me wish the two characters hung out more, because the dynamic between them is great. For two heroes that have been teammates in the Justice League for so very long, I don’t recall them teaming up much in the past.

Even her unsolicited life coaching is charming.

Wonder Woman takes a beating from the angry grieving daughter glimpsed in the last issue, who of course is a goddess, and a particularly fierce and powerful one not often seen in comics: Pele. As a mythology buff, I’ve always enjoyed how gods and mythological figures from various pantheons hobnob with each other, a common feature of Thor and Hercules comics at Marvel and also of Wonder Woman at DC. That’s why Wonder Woman’s short-lived allegiance to the (also short-lived) Hawaiian god Kane Miholai earlier in Simone’s run was so interesting, and same with the better-known volcano goddess who now comes to avenge him. Of course Wondy didn’t kill him, but by pledging allegiance to him she inadvertently set him up as a rival to the Olympian gods, which wasn’t going to go well.

I guess she has costume-changing powers, because they weren’t wearing those under their disguises.

After a good whomping, Diana is left having made Pele a “terrible promise,” and the whole Dr. Psycho plot gets wrapped up in a few panels, with nary a mention of the whole Genocide thing. We don’t actually get to see how or whether Steel gets his body back, but it looks like Psycho’s got some ’splaining to do.

And so does Wonder Woman. She and Tom Tresser never had that talk after she confessed under duress that she didn’t love him after making such an elaborate show of wooing him, but we don’t get to see that either, at least not in this issue. Gotta keep us on the hook somehow.

Oh hey, it’s that guy again.

Wonder Woman #36, DC Comics, November 2009.

The issue starts not with that talk we’ve been waiting for, but with its aftermath—with Wonder Woman beating up on Giganta just because she happens to be there and Wondy needs something to hit. Besides, if Giganta’s there she must be up to no good, right? Right? Well, no. Giganta’s just about to go on a date with Ryan Choi, the All-New Atom, whose adventures Simone also happened to be writing at the time (and who would be senselessly killed off by DC not long after).

Do not cockblock the giantess.

Meanwhile, Achilles gets married!  To none other than crazy, fanatical Alkyone!  That seems like a good idea. Oh, and five Amazons are suddenly pregnant, though they insist they didn’t have sex with a man, not even when they were in man’s world and didn’t know who they were.

And we finally go get to hear The Talk in flashback. Diana bares her soul to Tom—literally, using the lasso. She matter-of-factly explains her initial attraction to him and how it grew into a plan to have a family with him—none of which she ever discussed with him at the time, of course.

You’d think he’d be flattered. And he is, but I mean, sheesh, more so.

All of this is framed in Wonder Woman and Giganta hanging out and dishing about men, which is bizarre because they’re supposed to be mortal enemies, but it’s still amusing to see. They even team up to fight Achilles’s men when they’re going about their business of waging war on the warmakers of the world. And to his credit, Achilles is at least conflicted about being called upon to fight Wonder Woman and oppress the Amazons all the time. But he does what he’s told.

That guy’s getting to be a real pain in the ass.

Wonder Woman #37, DC Comics, December 2009.

So yeah, Wonder Woman killed Ares, but that’s never stopped him from causing trouble before. His ghost shows up to taunt Diana with talk of doom and death and destruction. Bernard Chang guest-pencils this issue, and his slightly rougher style is a little jarring, because Aaron Lopestri’s art has been delightful all through this volume. (Except the covers, which are a bit uneven. If it’s the difference between Matt Ryan’s inks on the internal pages and Hi-Fi Design on the covers, let’s hear it for Ryan.)

I have to say, he’s looked better.

Speaking of taunting, Achilles threatened to do harm to Hippolyta if Diana continued to stand in his way, and now we learn that it was Alkyone who put him up to it. In fact, she’s doing a lot of scheming and calling the shots now that they’re married (but not lovers, because it’s very unlikely that either of them swings that way). For a great warrior, Achilles is the wishy-washiest king ever. Now he’s lured Diana to Paradise Island to rescue her mother, where she’s immediately set upon by her sister, Donna Troy, who apparently is still crazed from proximity to Genocide a few issues back, thinking (insanely) that Diana killed her family. And weirdly, Diana’s magic lasso causes Donna physical pain, which shouldn’t happen, but maybe the thing’s still somehow tainted and malfunctioning since Genocide got hold of it, although really it seems like the lasso should be above that kind of thing, and it seemed to be functioning all right when Diana used it to open her heart to Tom and to awaken Sarge Steel out of his stupor. In any case, whatever’s going on with Donna, the lasso is just making it worse. So despite the time-tested method of trying to bring Donna around by beating the crap out of her, Diana only manages to snap her out of it by taking extreme measures, throwing her lasso into the ocean.


Still, Diana hasn’t won anything, really, because her mother’s still a prisoner, and the one-fiery Hippolyta submits to her captivity willingly, because it’s the decree of Zeus.  Worse still, although it’s Alkyone calling the shots, Hippolyta is allowing herself to be chained and dominated by men, which is exactly and specifically what the Amazons’ entire existence is defined against. What makes them Amazons is their unwillingness to ever let that happen, and without that there’s no such thing as Amazons anymore. So Hippolyta’s sudden submissiveness is infuriating on principle because it’s not just out of character, it’s the antithesis of her character, much more so than her ridiculously irrational behavior in Amazons Attack. Anyway, you’d think she and Donna could just sort this out right now and take the island back, and it’s not as if they wouldn’t have help, but mom says no, it’s what’s meant to be.

Dave’s not here, man.

Wonder Woman #38, DC Comics, January 2010.

So now Diana’s a prisoner, inhabiting a cell that looks very much like the one that Alkyone was imprisoned in for decades. Her old rival and friend Artemis comes to bust her out, but no, Diana says they’ll kill her mom if she submits, so she submits. Whatever the hell is wrong with Hippolyta’s brain, it seems to be catching.

You mean the bracelets that remind them never again to be chained by men? No wonder they forgot!

Alkyone just straight-up seizes power, because she’s queen now and Amazon law doesn’t allow for a king to issue commands. She orders Diana executed, of course, because that’s all she’s wanted since the princess was a baby, and orders her allies rounded up and killed—including those gorillas who opted to stay on the island and keep Hippolyta company, who had gone unseen and unmentioned till now.

In fact, a whole lot of things come together in this issue. Alkyone and her circle of guards take on the essence of Genocide, that Ares had given her in the form of that grotesque little golem baby. The Cottus, the primordial monster that lives in the cave deep in the heart of Themyscira from which the clay used to sculpt Diana’s baby body, rises up to take it back.

And not one Father’s Day card all these years. No wonder he’s pissed.

The pregnant Amazons turn out to be part of some weird plot of Ares’s that plays out gruesomely in the background during all the confusion, although exactly what it is and how it happened remains unexplored for now. And Wondy’s new lightning powers turn out to be a gift from Zeus, as some small consolation for him being such a dick all the time, even (or maybe especially) when he’s trying to be helpful. Even the silly sci-fi jumpsuits that Zeus and the other gods have been wearing all through this arc are explained: they’re restorative suits given to the gods by the Ichor, their elder sparefaring relatives, to help them heal after being kidnapped and tortured by the evil New Gods of Apokolips—and not even the particularly powerful ones, but subordinate sadists like Granny Goodness and Desaad. The old gods really ain’t what they used to be.

Wotta revolting development.

And, of course, there’s a final battle, which is tremendously satisfying considering all that’s gone before, packed with plenty of “fuck yeah!” moments as various characters step up to the occasion. Diana even gets her lasso back, by special delivery from one of the giant sharks that guard the island.  It’s a pretty fabulous ending to the arc, leaving some puzzlers for the future (what was the vow to Pele, and what’s up with those babies?), but clearing the deck in many ways for whatever Simone has in mind next. Whatever it is, she only has a few issues left to tell it—the next collection, Contagion, is sadly the last of her run. It’s sad especially because what follows after that—another complete reinvention of the character, then another, then another—is really, really not good. Basically this is the last we’re going to see of a Wonder Woman recognizable as the character we know and love. But that’s a tale for another day.

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