Wonder Woman – Volume 1 – 201


Wonder Woman – Volume 1 – 201

General Info

Issue No:
201
On Sale Date:
May 1972
Cover Date:
July-August 1972
Era:
Bronze Age
Story Title:
The Fist of Flame

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
Jeff Jones
Writer:
Dennis O'Neil
Penciller:
Dick Giordano
Inker:
Dick Giordano
Letterer:
John Costanza
Colourist:
N/A
Editor:
Dennis O'Neil

Characters

Main:
Diana Prince, I Ching
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
N/A
Olympians:
N/A
Amazons:
N/A
Other:
Catwoman
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Comments

This issue features a rare team up between Diana and Catwoman and is one of those rare occasions during the Amazon’s “de-powered” era when a character actually acknowledges the fact that Diana was once the super powered heroine known to the world as Wonder Woman.

Synopsis

Diana Prince and I Ching are walking down the street on a glorious spring morning and the chinese mentor comments how impressed the Amazon seems with Jonny Double. She says that the private detective is sweet and that Ching will see for himself as they arrive at Jonny’s apartment and office.

As they climb up the stairs Diana notices that his door is ajar and as she peers inside she is shocked to see the office has been turned over. Drawers have been wrenched from the desk and papers lie strewn everywhere. Diana bends down and sees a smear of blood on the floor. As she fears the worst I Ching warns her that he can hear breathing and that they are not alone!

Sure enough two asian assassins burst from the closet armed with knives. As I Ching engages the first one Diana kicks the chair across the room knocking over the second. She administers a savage karate kick and the assassin staggers backwards before purposely throwing himself out through the window. Diana watches in surprise as he plummets to his death but I Ching tells her that they still have the other they can question. But when they turn to where the he lays the assassin has already buried his own blade in himself!

As he dies Diana asks him why they have both killed themselves and he whispers “F..Fist of…Flame..”. A frustrated Diana realises that they now have no way of identifying their attackers or discovering what has happened to Jonny, but I Ching says he can enlighten her. He says that he recognised the men’s dialect as a language peculiar to a remote Tibetan Sect – a group of mountain men devoted to worshipping a certain gem – a giant ruby said to drive men mad with greed – a cursed stone if you like – known as the “Fist of Flame”.

After giving statements to the police they walk back home and discuss the fact that they still have no clue as to Jonny’s whereabouts. I Ching says that it is Diana’s decision whether to investigate Jonny’s disappearance or leave it to the police.

That night Diana cannot sleep and stands on her balcony deep in thought. She is so weary…tired of danger, of battle and of wandering the Earth. She has no reason to involve herself in Jonny’s problems except that he is a brave, decent and honourable man and she cares for him. She just cannot decide what to do. Just then she hears her bedroom window being opened and closed and turns to see that someone has left a note on her pillow. She reads it…”If you want to keep Jonny Double alive you must get the Fist of Flame!!”.

It seems that her decision has been made for her! However, she cannot afford to chase across the globe for this ruby as she is broke. Which means there is only one thing left for her to do. Next morning she picks up the phone and places an advert, selling her Boutique. The following day a couple came to view the property and agree to purchase it, handing Diana a hefty cheque. With her funds secured, Diana and I Ching set off to find the “Fist of Flame”!

As they board a flight Diana notices a blonde female passenger and is sure she has seen the lovely woman somewhere before. And when they at last touch down and drive into the city to arrange transport the Amazon sees her again. The mysterious woman is also spotted when Diana and Ching finally arrive at a small Tibetan hamlet too! The Amazon Princess becomes increasingly frustrated as she tries to recall who the woman is but I Ching suggests she concentrates on the mission ahead of them.

They begin a trek up into the mountains and as they make their way up the narrow pathway I Ching explains that the village they travel to has remained hidden for many centuries. He adds that there are other more mysterious forces which keep civilisation away. As if to confirm this statement the light snow suddenly becomes a raging blizzard and the wind tears at their flesh. Snow blinded, Diana calls out to I Ching and he suggests they hurry to find shelter. At last they see a small cave and rush inside out of the raging storm.

As Diana attempts to light a lamp for some warmth and light she notices that the flame blows towards the cave entrance. I Ching says that there must be another opening at the rear of the cave and lamp in hand, Diana leads her Chinese mentor to investigate!

As they near the other entrance Diana can hear birdsong and can feel warm breezes caress her skin. When they step out onto a ledge they look down in amazement at a green valley nestled among the mountains! Diana points to a giant stone idol halfway up the mountain opposite them and I Ching tells her that it is the Green Buddha – and imbedded in its forehead is the fabled Fist of Flame!

A determined Diana decides there is not a minute to waste as Jonny’s life depends on them. Stealthily she and Ching make their way down to the village and head towards a guarded gate. They use their fighting skills to take down the two hooded guards before rushing inside the hamlet. The area seems deserted and Diana says that surely there must be other guards? I Ching suggests that perhaps centuries of security have made them careless.

They peer up the mountain face to where the Idol resides and Diana unpacks her climbing gear. She tells him to wait here as there is no need for both of them to go, before throwing the grappling hook high up onto the ledge above. He wishes her luck as she agilely climbs up the rock face to where the Idol rests. Once on the ledge she surveys the large gem as it sparkles in the forehead of the stone Buddha. She muses that it seems foolish for such a precious treasure to be left unattended.

Suddenly she hears the sound of footsteps running up behind her and turns to see a huge sword carrying guard bearing down on her. She barely avoids his blow by diving out of the way before getting to her feet and facing him. She decides that she will not be able to reason with the ogre of a man and uses her skills to grab his arm as he charges her again, before using his own momentum to hurl him into the rock face.

With her opponent out of action she turns her attention back to the gem and uses her climbing rope again to scale up the Buddha and grab the Fist of Flame from its socket. Clasping the glowing stone, Diana descends and pauses to gaze at her prize. It is beautiful. She can feel it in her very blood. In fact, she can think of nothing else as if it is casting a spell on her – sucking at her soul. As she struggles to resist its power she is taken by surprise as a masked woman swoops down and clouts her around the head with both feet!

As she slips into unconsciousness Diana sees that her assailant is Catwoman! The burglar reaches down to pick up the gem dropped by the fallen Amazon Princess and feels it pulsing hotly through her glove. Her eyes glaze over and her will sweeps away. She is mesmerised by the red-glowing gem and does not see a Saffron-Robed figure appear and strike her brutally over the head!

The priest and his men carry the two unconscious women through a doorway that opens up in the base of the statue. Some time later when Diana slowly blinks herself awake she stares down at the priest who tells her that her moment for atonement is nigh! She finds herself armed with a sword and hanging by a harness wrapped around her waist over a flaming pit, while facing Catwoman who hangs in a similar predicament. I Ching is bound to a nearby post and the priest and his men circle the flaming pit over which the two women are suspended.

The priest tells Diana and Catwoman that by putting their hands on the sacred gem they have committed a grave sin that only death can forgive. He explains that by cutting the ropes which suspend their opponent, the other will be saved. A system of weights and pulleys will pull the winner to safety above and have the honour of serving them.

Diana realises that she is being offered either death or slavery by either killing Catwoman or dying herself. Catwoman it seems has already made her choice though as she lunges for Diana with her own sword and the Amazon just manages to evade the attack. Catwoman tells her that she hopes the Amazon will not take this personally, but she would prefer to live and she can only do so that by killing Diana. She asks Diana why she does not just simply relax and except her fate – a few moments of pain and her suffering will be finished! Diana replies sarcastically that Catwoman is “awfully generous but pardon me if I refuse your kind offer!”. She adds that “If you don’t mind little Diana Prince will go on battling for a while and anyway, I wouldn’t want you to win too easily!”.

Recognising the name, Catwoman realises she is battling Wonder Woman. Taking advantage of Catwoman’s surprise, Diana uses her sword to lift off her opponent’s mask and recognises the woman she had kept seeing everywhere she and Ching had traveled. As their swords continue to clash Diana manages to disarm Catwoman and says that perhaps neither of them have to lose. Maybe they can both get out of here alive!

She then instructs Catwoman to lift her legs clear of the flames below and to get ready, as she is going to push herself off the wall and launch herself at the cat burglar. Catwoman assumes that the Amazon intends to deliver the fatal stroke with her blade but instead Diana cuts through her opponents wires and grabs the falling Catwoman by the wrist. Diana’s “victory” instantly causes the counter weights to pull them both up to safety. Catwoman thanks the Amazon but Diana warns her that they are not out of this yet!

The priest orders his men to attack the two women and they are forced to defend themselves against the mob. Diana notices how the men all seem confused, almost drugged and she suggests to Catwoman that it may be down to the gem. Suddenly the priest manages to use his sword to disarm the momentarily distracted Diana. Defenseless she takes him on bare handed and easily grabs his sword arm before relieving him of his weapon. She then uses a judo toss but he deliberately lets himself plummet into the flaming pit!

Catwoman says that they are dealing with a bunch of lunatics as the other men stare dumbfounded into the raging flames. It seems the loss of their leader has taken the fight out of them! Diana grabs Catwoman by the arm and leads her to where the Fist of Flame rests on a plinth. She instructs Catwoman to grab it and put it in her satchel but at no point to look into the gem. As she drops it into the bag Catwoman agrees to decide who ends up taking the prize later.

Diana then frees I Ching and they make their way down the passageway towards the exit. As they run the Amazon Princess suddenly realises they still do not know what had happened to Jonny and where he is now. Catwoman explains that she had hired Jonny to find the Fist of Flame and suspects that a rival gang learned of her plans – a gang lead by someone called Lu Shan. I Ching is shocked to hear the name of his daughter and Diana realises that Lu Shan has probably captured Jonny!

Suddenly, as she speaks, the walls around them dissolve and the very fabric of reality blurs and shimmers. They find themselves falling until they at last land softly on the ground and stare up at two laughing faces standing over them…