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This issue is notable for several reasons. Firstly, George Perez made a point of expanding the wardrobe of the post crisis version of Diana, allowing her to wear other outfits for different situations instead of constantly be depicted in her traditional Wonder Woman costume. This helped to add more realism to the stories and make her more of a rounded, multi-dimensional character. In this issue we see the introduction of the Wonder Woman Armour, the design of which I personally love.
This issue also see us returning to the mythological aspects of Wonder Woman as we embark on a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Challenge of the Gods!". It is noticeably dark in tone as the male Gods' express their desire to ravish the Amazons and in particular, Zeus' stated intentions to effectively rape Wonder Woman. It also shows Diana once more killing an opponent, emphasising that unlike the previous incarnation, this version of Wonder Woman is a true warrior.
It also features a unique foldout cover which expands into a montage of events from the forthcoming plot and again demonstrates George's passion for the character and his attention to detail.
In Mount Olympus, Pan plays his legendary pipes as he skips through the marbled palace. Eos remarks to Dionysus that Pan seems uncommonly joyful of late. Dionysus replies that he has been this way ever since the fair Princess Diana thwarted Ares' mad scheme to destroy the other Gods. He believes Pan is also looking to become unsolicited advisor to Zeus on all matters Amazon related, which concerns him greatly.
Pan approaches Zeus and asks whether the Father of all Gods had given any more thought to their earlier conversation? Zeus says that indeed he ponders it still and he is beginning to think Pan is right. Themyscira is a paradise well worth his personal favour. As he surveys the Amazon Homeland below him, he watches Princess Diana riding a horse with her friend Euboea. She is a most special breed and faced the awesome power of Ares on her own and bested him. Pan says that an Amazon such as she deserves his special favour just as Zeus' own son, Heracles, once favoured her proud mother, Hippolyta. Pan adds that it is only fitting that the daughter should be the first of the Amazons to experience Zeus' manly grace.
Just then Apollo interrupts, advising Zeus that while that may be a tempting thought, Queen Hera and the Goddesses still have plans for their precious Amazons. He doubts they will take kindly to his amorous intentions! Zeus replies that the Amazons' mission was to put an end to Ares' insanity which has been accomplished. Now it is time they were welcomed to his bosom!
Hestia and Artemis meanwhile watch Zeus through a magic mirror. It is as they feared! Zeus seeks to make the Amazons his playthings! An enraged Artemis rushes off to speak with Hera and Athena, vowing that Paradise Island will become no one's brothel!
Meanwhile on the long sandy beach of Paradise Island, Princess Diana tells Euboea how she is glad to be home. Her friend responds that may be so, yet Diana has seen so many miracles in her time away from Themyscira. She asks to hear more Man's World and in particular, what she misses most about it? Diana replies that she misses her new friends the most. Vanessa had even left Diana her precious necklace in the bag they had packed for her. They are so different from the Amazons and yet so much the same. There is much to learn from each other. Euboea replies that it sounds wondrous and yet terrifying! Even as they ride, the Council of Justice ponders the gifts and records Diana had brought back from Man's World. Diana responds that there are those whose hearts and minds live only in the past, but she has seen of Man himself seems to show much promise.
At the Hall of Justice, the council have finished reviewing the treasures Man's World has to offer and must now make a decision. Mnemosyne asks the council whether they now share this knowledge with their fellow Amazon sisters? Philippus says no and Mnemosyne replies she had assumed a warrior such as Philippuswould say that. But, as a teacher and the mother of memory, she knows the inestimable value of knowledge. Acantha, joins in, adding that based on the translations from the books Diana had brought back with her, little has changed over the years. Still, if what they say about the fate of their centuries lost sister Amazons is true...
Philippus snaps that this is nothing but a lie as Man has always lied to them! She wants nothing to do with Man's World! His weapons almost destroyed them once and she has no urge to give him a second chance! But Acantha asks what if these things are part of Princess Diana's destiny? She holds up the American star-spangled banner and says that they have seen this before...once at a moment of their salvation, the next at a moment of near catastrophe. Are the Amazons somehow tied to this coat of arms through the Princess?
Queen Hippolyta finally speaks, saying that just because Diana wore these colours as her cloak when she battled Ares does not mean anything. Whatever the importance in the past, this banner holds no meaning now. Her daughter is home to stay!
But elsewhere, the oracle Menalippe fears otherwise. For days she has sensed an impending danger but has said nothing. Now she fears it is too late! But how can she when to speak the source of the danger would make a mockery of all she has ever believed?
A few miles away from the city, Diana and Euboea's conversation is interrupted by a booming voice from the skies calling the Princess' name. Diana recognises the voice of mighty Zeus himself and wonders what he wants? In the city, the other Amazons also hear his stentorian tones as he tells them not to be alarmed as they are beloved in his sight. Philippus whispers to Hippolyta that their God praises them and yet she feels uneasy. The Amazon Queen agrees, recognising something painfully familiar in his tone.
Zeus continues to pronounce that because of her triumph over Ares, the Princess Diana has earned a special gift...one which he alone is able to bestow. He invites Diana to visit Mount Olympus and stand in the presence of her master. She leaps forward, saying "As you command almighty one" as Euboea warns her she does not know Zeus' intentions. As Diana launches into the air she calls back that it is the will of the Gods that has made her all she is. How can she defy their wishes? She asks Euboea not to worry as all will be well and before her friend can respond Diana finds herself face to face with Zeus, floating in the air before her.
He greets her and says she has been chosen to partake in Godhood. She shall be the first of her kind to experience the ultimate sharing of flesh with spirit! He invites her to confront her true destiny and worship him! Down below, the watching Amazons cannot believe their ears. Hippolyta says she has heard such beguiling words before from the sneering mouth of his treacherous son Heracles! She orders her steed to be fetched for she fears the fate that awaits her daughter.
Up in the sky meanwhile, Diana tells Zeus she does not understand? Does she not already worship him? He replies that yes, in spirit, she does, but he now seeks communion of the flesh! The Amazon Princess tells him that during her time in Man's World she learned that such decisions must be mutual. She cannot surrender her virginity, which is hers alone to give, without a true feeling of desire and commitment. She asks him to understand but he bellows that she has dared to defy him and must therefore be properly punished! Summoning a bolt of lightning, he directs it at Diana who convulses in the tendrils of energy enveloping her body! He tells her that before he is through with her she will beg to give herself freely to him! Agonised, Diana begs him not to force himself upon her. Though she lives to serve him she is not his toy!
As Zeus prepares to prove otherwise though he is suddenly interrupted by Hippolyta, who has arrived on her horse. The Amazon Queen yells up at him to release her daughter immediately! If he wants to deal with anyone this day, deal with her! He thunders for her not to interfere as her own time will come soon enough! He will show her the respect only a God can show. But Hippolyta spits that his cruel son showed her such "respect" centuries ago. He stole her virginity and she will not now allow his father to do the same to her daughter. An enraged Zeus turns his attention to Hippolyta, bellowing that the Amazon Queen forgets her place! He raises his hand to unleash a thunder bolt but Diana calls to her mother, pleading for her to run for her life. But as Zeus prepares to strike he is suddenly hauled unwillingly skywards, as Hera summons her husband back to Mount Olympus. As he disappears he roars that his wife shall pay for this!
The storm clouds clear and Diana falls to the ground, dazed from her ordeal. As Euboea checks on her condition Hippolyta rides over to where her daughter lays. Euboea reassures the Queen that her daughter is merely shaken and adds that she cannot believe how Hippolyta had spoken to Zeus. Hippolyta replies that a mother does what a mother must, She gently holds Diana's face in her hands as her daughter assures her that Zeus had not hurt her. In fact, she believes in his heart the almighty one truly thought he was rewarding her. To Zeus, the Amazons are merely pets and by daring to resist his wishes, Diana feels she may have doomed them all!
Later that afternoon in the Temple of the Oracle, Queen Hippolyta asks Menalippe if there is any sign? The Oracle tells her there is nothing which, at this point, is probably a good sign. Diana says to her mother that she is so confused as after all, the Gods had made her. perhaps it is her destiny to be with them and for her to give herself to them. "Never" replies Hippolyta. Diana was hers before the Gods breathed life into that clay. The Goddesses promised the Amazons greatness and what Diana experienced today goes against everything the Amazons have been taught.
Suddenly the Oracle's cauldron boils, indicating the Gods are making ready to reply. Diana says that she can hear them in her head and indeed, it is she that they want...and she must go to them. In that way alone will the Amazons true purpose at last become clear. Although Hippolyta protests, Diana readies herself as a shaft of light claims the Princess and takes her up into the heavens. Hippolyta cannot understand and it makes her want to scream as her daughter is taken from her again.
Diana instantly arrives on Mount Olympus and finds the whole host of Gods and Goddesses gathered, waiting for her arrival. Zeus thunders that she has been summoned to hear the pronouncement of the Gods! Hera, however, chides Zeus for being so melodramatic and tells him there is no need to shout as everything will be resolved in its own good time. Diana turns to Hera, who tells her that the other Goddesses have spoken truly of Diana, who is a unique creation. It is easy to see why her husband's eye did roam...again. Zeus interrupts and reminds them that Diana is here to be judged. She had spat upon them with her pride and such arrogance cannot be tolerated if the Gods are to once more rule supreme. Artemis in turn reminds Zeus that he had agreed to allow the Amazons to prove their worth. They are not as ordinary mortals. He icily replies that immortality does not make them gods!
Diana states that she had meant no disrespect and the other Goddesses tell her she has nothing to fear. She is merely being called upon once more to prove their faith in her is justified. If she succeeds she will at last know who she truly is and what the nature of her destiny is. If she fails however, Hades waits her at the shores of the River Styx.
Zeus then waves his hand to reveal a vision and shows Diana the nature of her challenge. Diana looks on in horror as the gateway to the Demon lair beneath Paradise Island is revealed. She knows that many of her Amazon sisters have perished over the centuries guarding that cursed portal. Hera tells Zeus that such a test will prove Diana's courage. If the Amazon Princess can overcome the monsters that lurk within then truly she is worthy to be considered equal to the Gods. Pan moans that it seems a waste of good warm flesh and he is duly rebuked by his father, Hermes.
Zeus informs Diana that the challenge that awaits her will reveal itself as she goes. When - and if - she survives each labour, another God shall add a new challenge until all Olympus shall have proof of her worth. At the end of the task his greatest treasure awaits her and she must retrieve it. If it is lost, so to will be all the Amazons. If she succeeds though, her beloved Themyscira will know freedom and prosperity and she will at last know what the prophecies intend for her.
Diana accepts the challenge gladly. She will risk any fate, including death, to understand her past and her future. And so, with a flash, Zeus returns her to Paradise Island to prepare for what lies ahead.
Later in the Royal Chambers, Hippolyta tells the other Amazons that this is so unfair and that if there is a challenge to be met, it should be she that meets it! The Amazons had retreated to this island because she had once allowed a brutish demigod to treat her like a dog. Must they now suffer for refusing to allow it to happen again? Diana begs her mother that it is more than just a challenge, but an opportunity for her to learn her true destiny. Only by answering this challenge will she feel truly whole. Hippolyta asks her why, in order to complete her spiritual birth she must risk probable death once more - without question? Diana replies it is the will of the Gods but the Amazon Queen asks her how they can truly be free when the Goddesses who bore them surrender to Zeus' every whim? Sometimes she believes they are all merely pawns in some incomprehensible celestial game - and frankly she has begun to tire of it. With that Hippolyta leaves the chamber and the other Amazons reassure Diana that her mother's bitterness will pass.
As midnight strikes Diana, Philippus and Euboea ride out from the city and head into the woods before finally arriving at the benighted cavern at the Island's edge. They dismount and Philippus tells Diana that she does not think the Princesses' armour is sufficient. Is she sure she will not take her horse? Diana replies she will put no other innocent life at risk. In Man's World they had called her "Wonder Woman" and claimed she was unique among mortals. She prays they were right! She wishes her mother had decided to accompany her here. She prays their last parting will not be their final memory of each other. She thanks her two Amazon sisters for being her escorts but adds that from here on in she must journey alone.
She steps forward towards the massive metal door that seals the cavern. As there is no mechanism to open the gate she has to use brute force but it will not be easy. The seal has not been violated since the tragic death of the woman whose name she bears. She realises that even that is just part of the intricate tapestry woven by her Gods. Finally the gate budges and a blast of cold wind erupts from the small opening. She knows she must enter swiftly before the evil that dwells within can escape. She wedges the gate open with her dagger long enough to grab her weapons and descend into Pandora's Box. As soon as the Princess is inside the dagger snaps and the portal slams shut behind her.
Inside, a faint light seems to emanate from somewhere as Diana walks down the seemingly endless flight of chalk white steps leading down into the gloom. She can hear a faint but constant thumping sound too. As she makes her way down warily she spies something glinting on the step below. She bends down and picks up a cartridge shell which she recognises after seeing others in Man's World. How did it get here?
Suddenly, ebony hands stretch from beneath the steps and grab her ankle. As multiple hands grab her from every direction, a withering voice hisses that it is Cottus, last of the Hecatoncheires. She has dared to place her feet on his supple spine and for that crass indignity her life is forfeit! Diana is pulled off the step and into a seething mass of hands. She struggles helplessly as she slowly sinks into the black mass. Cottus tells her how he will pluck the very flesh from her bones and consume her. In a few more seconds she is gone and Cottus plots to make an escape through the portal door which has been weakened by Diana's forced entry. But with a scream Diana bursts out and up from its hands. Cottus cannot believe any mortal can be so strong but Diana tells him she is not merely a mortal but an Amazon! She will not allow anything to thwart her quest and nor will she allow anything to escape back into the light.
As Cottus spits that she must die Diana throws her spear towards where the thumping sound emanates, having deduced that this must where the creature's heart is located. Her throw is deadly accurate and it pierces the creature's organ. Cottus roars that she will pay for this but she lifts her axe above her head and brings it slamming down onto the steps. With its spine shattered, the rest of the creature swiftly follows suit, plunging the Amazon Princess into the all oppressive blackness.
When she at last regains her feet she surveys where he spear still protrudes from the dead Cottus and hopes it will serve as a memorial for all her sisters slain by the creature. Diana moves on into the cavern following the stench of brimstone but she does not get very far as she comes across a sea of molten rock that stretches out before her. Although impossible to walk over she confidently lifts into the air, knowing she can easily fly over the obstacle. But suddenly a blast of fire streaks up at her which she only barely manages to avoid. She has heard of this demon before her and even in Man's World its name is known. Her dear friend Julia thought it was only a legend but she was wrong. The Seven Headed Hydra is horribly real and is even now preparing to attack her again...