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Readers of the post crisis version of the Amazing Amazon will no doubt remember a story line from the Messner Loebs run, where Diana was forced to take part in a new contest to see who was fit to carry the mantle of "Wonder Woman". Due to circumstances I won't go into here, she lost and was replaced by the victor, a red haired Amazon named Artemis, who returns to Man's World wearing the red, blue and gold costume to continue the mission to bring peace and love to all. Diana also returned to take up a civilian role while monitoring the adventures of this new "Wonder Woman".
What readers may not be aware of is the fact that this story line was very similar to this pre crisis plot. Diana returns to Paradise Island to take part in a new tournament after a challenge is issued and is beaten by a red haired Amazon, this time named Orana! Orana returns to Man's World as Wonder Woman and is followed by Diana who monitors her exploits accordingly.
Princess Diana enters the throne room on Paradise Island and is greeted by her mother who has summoned her back from Man's World. Diana asks the queen what the matter is as she has come right away because it sounded urgent. Before Hippolyta can answer, a red haired Amazon named Orana steps forward and tells the princess that Diana is finished as Wonder Woman!
The queen orders Orana to remain silent and rebukes her for speaking before her queen. Orana dutifully apologises. A confused Diana asks her mother what Orana means and she is informed that she has been challenged by Orana to the ancient rite of trial by combat.
Diana asks Orana why, considering that she has established herself as Wonder Woman without a doubt and the red headed Amazon replies that it is time for a change.
She goes on to say that Diana became the Amazons' representative by winning the great tournament and that now the time has come for others to challenge her. Diana begins to protest to her mother but the queen replies that Orana has every right to call for a new tournament as per the laws laid down by the Gods themselves.
Word spreads fast around the island and potential challengers relish the chance to put their years of training to the test at last!
Meanwhile, Diana is asking her mother how she has failed in her mission? Her mother reassures her daughter that she has not failed and that she has always been proud of Diana. But the law clearly dictates that if another Amazon feels she is more qualified to handle Diana's mission, she can challenge in any form acceptable to the Gods.
With that, Diana decides to hand her tiara and magic lasso over to her mother and says that she should not use them to her advantage in the tournament as that would not be fair. Her mother takes them from her and tells her daughter that she is as wise as Athena and will always be a 'Wonder Woman'.
"Yes", replies Diana, "At least until tomorrow."
And as Hippolyta watches her daughter sadly leave the room, she wonders what words of comfort she can give. Diana has just started to make a new life for herself in Man's World as Diana Prince and now she could lose everything. But Hippolyta also knows that will have regained a daughter...
The next day the tournament begins in the great stadium. Hippolyta addresses the contestants assembled below and tells them that the trial is based on the ancient elements - earth, water, air and fire. The first day will be 'earth' and they will use the battleground to fight each other until the sun sets. Whoever remains standing at the end of the day will continue on to day two.
So the tournament begins and the Amazons enter into hand to hand combat. As the skirmishes continue, Diana notices that Orana seems to be avoiding direct contact with her for the time being. The Princess thinks to herself that although the red haired Amazon fights well, she has little skill and relies instead on brute force. She acknowledges that Orana's technique may be effective but believes she could still best Orana in a direct confrontation. As opponents fall by the wayside, Diana and Orana edge ever close towards each other but Diana thinks to herself that the time is not yet right and that she wants to wait and see Orana through the entire four day tournament.
The hours pass by until finally the sun sets and Hippolyta orders the fighting to cease. Only six Amazons remain standing and the queen informs them that they will go through to tomorrow's round - the contest of water. And so the Amazons return to their individual dwellings, either to tend to their wounds or plan for the following day's trial. Hippolyta helps her daughter to her room and Diana takes the opportunity to tell her mother that she wants to stay being Wonder Woman and that she has come to love the outside world. She asks her mother whether she should continue with the tournament - or whether Hippolyta wants her to remain here on Paradise Island for all time?
Hippolyta does not answer and as Diana soothes her aching limbs in a bath of hot water, asks her mother again. Although she desperately wants her daughter to stay, she knows she cannot deny her own daughter and with a heavy heart tells Diana that she should continue.
No further words are spoken between mother and daughter and as Diana prepares to get into bed, she reflects on the situation. She knows that her mother wants her to stay and has never really forgiven Diana for entering the original tournament many years ago. The queen had ordered her not to take part but the princess had disobeyed her. Hippolyta has now subsequently let this new tournament happen just to prevent her from continuing as Wonder Woman. And yet she does not forbid her daughter to take part. Either her pride is making her do it...or her love.
Elsewhere on the island, Orana and her friends are celebrating the day's victory. One of the Amazons says to Orana that perhaps she should be resting for the next day's event. But Orana tells her friend that she worries needlessly and that Diana is no true warrior. She is confident that the Princess will not last the test of water.
The next day the remaining contestants are assembled on the shore and Hippolyta summons Neptune from the depths of the ocean. The huge sea god rises out of the water and the Amazon Queen explains that the great tournament of the elements is being held and that she seeks battle for her Amazon sisters. Neptune duly obliges and orders the Amazons to dive into the sea and see if they can survive a day against the "might of the ocean!".
The contestants engage in battle with the monstrous hordes of the depths and are only allowed to break the surface once an hour. Without the aid of breathing gear it takes all their strength just to keep their lungs from bursting! As the first hour passes and the Amazons resurface to take in much needed air, Diana worries that some of the male gods show jealousy towards the power of the Amazons. Neptune might take the opportunity to really destroy them!
The hours tick by when suddenly she sees one of the other contestants in the grip of an electric eel which is trying to kill her. As the fifth hour concludes, Diana resurfaces with the injured Amazon whom she has saved. When the eleventh hour passes she saves yet another. Finally the day draws to a close and only four contestants are left. Diana muses to herself that while she had been avoiding the deadly sea creatures and rescuing others, Orana had been brutally killing the attacking creatures.
The next day arrives and having ascended the highest peak on the island, the contestants prepare for the test of air. The queen tells them that using the Amazon skill of riding on air currents, they must stay aloft for twelve hours, never touching the ground. With that, the four remaining Amazons throw themselves off the mountain and plummet towards the ground. At the last minute they pick of the air currents whipping around the base of the mountain and soar back up into the sky!
Diana realises that she is at a disadvantage here because she has come to rely so much on her invisible plane. Her thoughts are interrupted though by the approach of a huge bird which has become enraged by the invasion of its air space. It begins to attack Diana and two of the other Amazons and she instructs them to grab its feet and weigh it down so they can smash it against the rocks to knock it out.
But as she attempts to grab one of the massive talons it strikes her and sends her plummeting downwards. The other two Amazons succeed in grabbing its feet however and drag the bird down. They see that the stunned Diana will touch the ground any seconds and yell a warning to her. She comes to her senses just in time to avoid being disqualified. The two Amazons disable the huge bird and in doing so touch the ground themselves. But they are not disappointed as Diana had showed them how to defeat the bird and to them she will always be the Wonder Woman. They are simply glad that she remains in the contest.
As she climbs back into the sky, she thinks to herself that she did not want them to lose in that manner by saving her. As she pulls alongside Orana who has avoided all the trouble, the red haired Amazon tells her that it was very cunning of the princess to show how her opponents could eliminate themselves from the contest! Diana replies that it was not as she had planned but that one such as Orana would never believe the truth.
As the day ends, the queen greets the two Amazons and orders them to report to the airfield tomorrow so that they may journey to the next battlefield - space!
The following day they board an Amazon spacecraft and Hippolyta explains to them that they will be transported to the very rim of space itself for the test of fire. Clad in their protective suits, they will race each other by running across meteors, which themselves are racing towards earth. To fall behind means to be burned alive as the meteors are destroyed by the friction of Earth's atmosphere.
With that, the two Amazons leap out of the spacecraft and begin leaping from meteor to meteor. Orana kicks harder though and begins to pull away but Diana sees the consequences. The meteors are being kicked through the atmosphere so fast that they have no time to burn up. The rocks begin falling on cities and oceans below, endangering many lives.
No longer thinking of winning, Diana's first instinct is to save others. She concentrates on deflecting the stray meteors back out into space, knowing that it would be futile to try and reason with Orana to stop. The Amazon Princess's skill is superb and she deflects the rocks in spectacular fashion to the appreciation of the watching Amazons onboard the spacecraft.
When the test is ended, the two Amazons await the queen's decree. She tells the cheering crowd that Diana has shown courage, bravery and compassion as well as the power shown by Orana. As Queen of the Amazons, she declares the tournament ended and that Princess Diana is now and forevermore "Wonder Woman".
However, as the spacecraft touches down back on Paradise Island the skies become overcast and the Amazons sense something ominous. The Gods reveal themselves in the skies above and a booming voice informs Hippolyta that she must heed the word of the Gods. It is they who laid down the the rules for the tournament eons ago and even though she may be queen, she cannot defy their will.
She bows her head in reverence and asks them what they wish? They reply that they wish fairness and that according to the rules, Orana is the winner! It is she who should be "Wonder Woman". The queen tries to object but Diana places her hand on her mother's shoulder and gently tells her that she cannot displease the very Gods themselves. The rules are clear. With that, she turns to the watching Amazons and announces that she relinquishes the role of Wonder Woman.
A little later a solemn ritual takes place and the tiara and magic lasso are presented to Orana by Diana. She tells the victor that of all the nations in Man's World, she has found the United States to be the one with ideals most closely resembling those of the Amazons. Even though they often need to be reminded of these ideals, the official costume she will wear is patterned after their sacred banner.
With that, she hands over her Wonder Woman costume and explains to Orana that she will fly to Man's World using the invisible jet. Once there, she must teach the Amazon way and never falter in her mission as Wonder Woman.
Orana tells Diana that she will do the Amazons proud and as the jubilant crowd carries their new champion away, Hippolyta and Diana comfort each other.
The Princess thinks to herself that she could not allow her mother to risk the wrath of the Gods. Instead, it will be she who follows Orana to America, she who will leave Paradise Island illegally and she who will defy the very Gods themselves!