Returning again, to Wonder Woman’s late Silver Age depowered years, now written, drawn and edited by Mike Sekowsky … At the end of the initial arc, Diana, having been again betrayed by a man she’s attracted to, runs off sobbing into the London night. To her surprise an Amazon appears, garbed in armor, and telling her Paradise Island’s under attack; will Diana obey her mother’s command and return? As Diana’s trying to digest this, I Ching shows up (having tracked by the simple trick of asking people if they saw her running by) and insists on going with her.
I’m really curious why Sekowsky went this route for this two-part tale. As my friend Ross has observed, bringing the Amazons back seems to fly in the face of rebooting Diana into a mortal woman. I’ve read that getting rid of the Amazons was all O’Neil’s idea, though not with any quotes or links to that effect. So maybe that was it; maybe Sekowsky figured he could get the best of both worlds or throw some variety into the mix. Like the previous arc, though, it suffers from not wanting to acknowledge the book’s history: surely I Ching walking on Paradise Island, where men are forbidden, should be a bigger deal?
In any case, Diana arrives to find the island in ruins. It turns out Ares (accompanied by Deimos, Phobos and Eris years before George Perez used them) wants the secret of traveling between Earth and whatever realm the Amazons now live in. He will then invade Earth, drench it in blood and war and restore the worship of the Olympians, with himself as top dog. Hippolyta refuses her father — oh, didn’t I mention that? Yes, this mentions out of the blue that Ares is her father and Diana’s grandfather, which everyone treats as established canon.
The war has gone badly, and Eris has trapped Hippolyta in nightmares that will only end if she gives up the secret. Diana rallies the Amazons but it’s clear they have no chance. A chance remark by I Ching inspires Diana to travel to other worlds of myth, recruiting Roland, Siegfried, the Knights of the Round Table and other heroes of legend. They, however, are burned out on heroism and refuse. Brunhilde and her Valkyries sign up, however, and eventually this inspires the men to come along. Ares’ forces go down to defeat, but in retreat he tells Diana he’s proud of her. Which I like — the Golden Age Mars was too misogynist to ever acknowledge the Amazons’ prowess as warriors. It’s a good story overall, but this new genealogy is way weird, even given this is the Earth-One Mars and not the Golden Age version.
At the end of the story I Ching stays behind to study Amazon mysticism (again they seem remarkably chill with this) and Diana returns to her boutique where she finds a young girl, Cathy, hiding from Them! In the next issue we learn “them” are Moose Momma, Pinto and Top Hat, a trio who took in the teenage runaway, then took away her clothes and money, then forced her into slavery (wearing a dog collar). The BDSM/lesbian overtones aren’t at all subtle.
When the trio show up to reclaim Cathy Diana throws them out of the boutique. They retaliate with a campaign of harassment, slashing the dresses and later setting the store on fire. Finally they show up with some toughs in tow to reclaim Cathy and force Diana into a dog collar of her own. OMG, can a martial arts mistress and former Amazon defeat these three weirdoes? No worries, a local tough guy named Tony Petrucci shows up and intimidates the muscle, then Diana handles everything else and reunites Cathy with her family (they’re local, so she can still work at the store). “Them” turn out to be thieves as well so they go to jail and Diana gets a reward.
I really like the idea this and the next issue play with of Diana as a neighborhood protector: she’s not just helping fight evil in general she’s helping clean it out of her neighborhood (the Falcon does the same in Harlem, though that’s also tied up with his role as a black hero). But relying on a Tony to save her from three ordinary women and their muscle? That’s not just sexist, it’s ludicrous.
Which is a problem with the next issue, too. A friend of Cathy’s shows up with a bullfrog she claims is her boyfriend, transformed after he dabbled in black magic and summoned up Morgana, the daughter of Morgan le Fay. I Ching identifies her as more powerful than her momma and manic-depressive to boot (the story really didn’t need that element). Morgana proceeds to unleash chaos on the neighborhood, (beautifully visualized by Sekowsky) and shrugging off Diana’s attempts to stop her. Finally I Ching uses his magic (which is a new thing — up to that point he’s been mystical, but not magical) to block Morgana working magic on Diana’s turf. Diana thinks this will turn the tables but Morgana kicks her butt in hand-t0-hand combat too. However I Ching’s magic impresses her enough she takes a powder. The frog’s girlfriend restores him to normal with a kiss.
It’s a fun story, with Morgana functioning as a Mxyzptlk-like prankster. But it’s heavy on the sexism — if only Diana had listened to I Ching, this could have been wrapped up so much faster!
Next up, Wonder Woman and Superman finally go on a date, plus other team-ups.
#SFWApro. All images by Sekowsky, all rights remain with current holder.