I’ve enjoyed reading the Robert Kanigher/Ross Andru/Mike Esposito run on Wonder Woman (volumes One, Two and Three) so I’m disappointed it ended so poorly with Vol 4. It opened with the infamously racist Egg Fu story, then followed with an insane but entertaining meta-story in which Kanigher fires most of the cast.
This set up for a new status quo rebooting to the Golden Age (as the stories and covers emphasized). A retelling of WW’s origin, her meeting with Lt. Diana Prince and an agreement to trade identities (freeing Prince to go off and marry her own true love), and the return of various old super-villains: Paula von Gunther, Cheetah, Dr. Psycho, Draska Nishki, Giganta. There was a lot more of WW being bound by her own lasso, and a couple of stories where she loses her bracelets (which symbolize brute strength under love’s restraint) and goes berserk, something I hadn’t seen in any of the previous Kanigher volumes. Hippolyta switches from blonde to her original brunette.
It’s kind of hard to figure out where the dividing line is when Kanigher stopped doing Golden Age (I guess it didn’t produce whatever sales bump DC hoped for). They’re not set back in the 1940s, so it’s mostly externals such as WW’s mother’s hair color, the choice of villains. But Wonder Woman 168 has Hippolyta blonde in one story; the next issue is a very Golden Age story with Mars and Aphrodite done a la the original WW artist, H.G. Peters.
All that said, the point is not that he shook up continuity years before rebooting was the norm, it’s that the results sucked. Not the Golden Age elements, but that in writing Diana/Steve Trevor, he also seems to borrow a lot from DC’s romance books.
As I said in my review of Vol. 1, part of what I enjoyed about the early volumes is that Wonder Woman is not all about finding a man (less so than a lot of more recent super-books). She loves Steve, she tells him she wants to marry him some day…. but only after she’s wiped out injustice from the world, sorry about that Steve honey. He’s the Lois Lane who wants the ring, she’s the hero with no time for that stuff.
Not this volume. She’s in looooove with Steve, always thinking about him, twice as worried about him, constantly mooning over him. While she sometimes played tricks in previous volumes to make up for Steve showing no interested in “Diana Prince,” here she’s getting very Lois herself. In one story, where Steve gets super-powers and Wonder Woman loses hers, she thinks how “it makes me feel more like a woman, being protected.” No. No. And no.
Steve, in turn, becomes something of a dick. In the Egg Fu story, he begs Lt. Prince to role-play as Wonder Woman for an hour so he can have a pretend romance before going off on a possible fatal mission. In two stories, the villain binds WW in her own lasso and compels her to make out; a furious Steve vows he’ll never forgive her for kissing the bad guy, never mind that she was magically compelled to do so! In Wonder Woman #167, Steve takes it a step further: he binds Wonder Woman herself, then order her to come with him down to city hall and tie the knot. This is presented as wacky rom-com hijinx—wow, can Wonder Woman outsmart her boyfriend?—rather than creepily coercive. And of course they forgot about it next issue.
In the end, none of it made a difference. Andru/Esposito left, then Kanigher (the last story in 4 is by Bill Finger) and Mike Sekowsky transformed Diana into the non-super, boutique-owning adventurer she became for the next few years. More reboots followed.
It would have been nice if Kanigher could have gone out on a high note, but that’s life for ya.