Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back


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

So The Twelve Labors are over and Wonder Woman’s back in the Justice League. We’re also back in the realm of issues that have never been reprinted, and will be for quite some time; none of the issues between mid-1976 and 1987 have been collected in trade paperbacks. We’re also settling into a period with Martin Pasko as the regular Wonder Woman writer. He’d written the last five issues of The Twelve Labors and would go on to write the next nine issues of Wonder Woman after that.

Who could it be now?

Who could it be now?

Wonder Woman #223, DC Comics, May 1976.

This issue promises to be a shocker, so much so that the title on the splash page is “We Dare Not Reveal the Title!” Sounds like a pretty big deal!

So what’s the hubbub, bub? Well, although Wonder Woman’s earned her way back into the JLA to her own satisfaction, she’s still freaked out by her amnesia of the last few years, which is what made her insist on being tested by her team in the first place.

Remember months ago when we were having a virtually identical conversation?

Remember months ago when we were having a virtually identical conversation?

She knows it’s basically her mother’s fault, because Wondy lost all her memory after being grazed by a sniper’s bullet, and while restoring her memories through advanced Amazon technology, Hippolyte decided to simply leave out a chapter or two. So now Diana’s heading back to Paradise Island for answers.

That’s pretty messed up, ma.

That’s pretty messed up, ma.

What’s interesting is that this story hinges on Wonder Woman’s complete loss of memory of her “mod” years, a memory lapse that Pasko himself seemed to have forgotten all about two issues ago when Wondy reencountered Doctor Cyber, who shouldn’t have been familiar to her at all. More likely, however, it’s not so much that he forgot as that he was counting on the readers to have forgotten, because it wasn’t convenient for the story he wanted to tell at the time.

Anyway, Diana gets back to Paradise Island to find it under attack—by men! But if a man sets foot on the island all the Amazons will lose their immortality under Aphrodite’s law—and they’ll all fall in love with him, as explained to Black Canary a few issues back, but you know, mostly they’ll die. And indeed, some of the men land on the island, and the Amazons start withering and dying, which is way more immediate than anyone thought; Wondy had figured they’d just start aging normally from that point forward.

How exactly do you forget about your mother?

How exactly do you forget about your mother?

This launches an extended flashback of how Diana first learned of the curse, when Steve Trevor first crash-landed off the shore and they brought him onto the island (careful not to let him touch the ground) to be healed, and Diana fell in love with him. This leads into a flashback-inside-a-flashback, as her mother Hippolyte remembers being seduced, betrayed and enslaved by Hercules, and later being charged by Aphrodite never to let men onto their new refuge.

Back in the present, there’s other weird stuff going on too. The men don’t seem to be real men but some kind of animated dummies. And yet Amazons are dying, so Wondy reasons that at least one of them has to be a real man. Oddly she doesn’t seem to be all that distressed by what’s going on, but more perplexed. Even when her mother crumbles to dust before her eyes, her reaction is mainly curiosity and a nagging feeling that it just doesn’t add up. After all, why hasn’t Diana herself been affected?

She deduces that all these fake men are made of clay, and only mighty Aphrodite can bring clay to life, just like she did when she brought baby Diana to life from a clay sculpture. So somehow the goddess is behind this whole thing. But why? And who’s this man that Aphrodite brought to the island to break her own law? Well, he’s wearing a mask like all the other invaders, so Wondy pulls it off, Scooby-Doo-style, to find…

Well, here’s a hint. The actual title starts on the page just before she unmasks him, reading “Welcome Back to Life…” Who on Earth could Aphrodite be bringing back to life? Once we’ve come this far, there’s really only one answer possible. I Ching? Um, no. Mer-Boy? You gotta be kidding me. The Glop? Now you’re just being silly.

Queen Hippolyte: Always a jerk.

Queen Hippolyte: Always a jerk.

It’s Steve Trevor, of course! Aphrodite and Hippolyte brought him back to life as some kind of perverse test of, um… well, I dunno. Her wisdom, her mom says. Mostly she was just pissed off that a bunch of men got to test her daughter instead of her, so she orchestrated this really messed-up stunt just to get in on the action. Anyhoo, Diana passed the test and figured it out, so thanks, Steve, back you go to the land of the dead!

For some reason Diana objects to this plan and begs Aphrodite to let Steve live. Apparently this idea didn’t even occur to the goddess of love or the queen of the Amazons. They just thought it would be fun to dangle Diana’s dead love in front of her face and then take him away again. But eh, all right, sure, Aphrodite will let him live. Why not? Oh, but now he knows Wonder Woman’s secret identity, which apparently he learned in the afterlife. And of course the whole world thinks he’s dead, just because he was, but they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. Hippolyte has a nagging feeling that this is a bad idea, but it should be noted that she’s the one who thought this whole horrible ruse in this issue was a good idea, so she’s not the best judge of anything, ever.

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