Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 15


Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 15

General Info

Issue No:
15 (344)
On Sale Date:
December 1987
Cover Date:
April 1988
Era:
Dark Age
Story Title:
Swan Song

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
George Perez
Writer:
George Perez, Len Wein
Penciller:
George Perez
Inker:
Bruce Patterson
Letterer:
John Costanza
Colourist:
Carl Gafford
Editor:
Karen Berger

Characters

Main:
Wonder Woman (Princess Diana), Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, Vanessa Kapatelis
Heroes:
Superman
Villains:
Silver Swan (Valerie Beaudry), Henry Armbruster, Mister Choi
Olympians:
N/A
Amazons:
N/A
Other:
Myndi Mayer, Skeeter LaRue, Deni Hayes, Steve London, Solomon Buchman, Maxine Sterenbuch, Barry Locatelli
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Comments

This issue sees the first appearance of one of Wonder Woman’s pre-crisis foes – the Silver Swan – who made her appearance in issue 288. It also raises for the first time the possibility that Diana has feelings towards Superman.

Synopsis

Princess Diana sits astride her horse, looking out across the beautiful shoreline of Paradise Island. Suddenly, the peace is shattered by a bolt of lightning from the sky and the clouds begin to take the shape of a human face and a pair of outstretched hands. Diana leaps into the air and flies up towards the figure who reveals himself to be Superman! She stares in awe as he smiles down at her and stretches out a hand. She takes it in hers and they slowly pull each other closer. Their lips touch tenderly and…

Diana wakes up with a start in her bed at the Kapatelis Summer residence. She holds her forehead in her hand and muses that her dreams are becoming more and more vivid. Her heart races as she surmises that keeping up with the events of this world must be taking its toll on her. She sees his name and picture everywhere! Each time she feels almost as she did when she first beheld a god. She may have been blessed with great wisdom by Athena but she is nevertheless from a world of women and is therefore ill prepared to deal with these new sensations. In patriarch’s World, man and woman long for these feelings and cherish them, sometimes even dying for them. She wishes Julia was around to confide in but her surrogate mother is away visiting family in Greece.

Elsewhere in Boston’s city centre at the headquarters of Ogawa Electronics, a fully owned subsidiary of HCA International, the office is quiet and deserted apart from a security guard sprawled unconscious on the floor and a shadowy figure sitting before a computer screen. He types at the keyboard reading the display intently. He retrieves information relating to a file on Valerie Beaudry, using the access code “Silver Swan”. Meanwhile down the corridor another security guard is calling for his missing colleague. As the intruder prints off what he needs he hears the approaching guard typing the access code to enter the room. Gun drawn, the guard slowly steps through the doorway and is clouted unconscious by the stranger. He then proceeds to the open window and clambers down the rope he had used to scale the side of the building…

Across town in the brightly lit Art Department of Mayer Publicists Inc. Myndi and her team survey a massive billboard of Wonder Woman which covers the entire floor area. Myndi nods her approval to Skeeter LaRue, who is heading up the charity event that Wonder Woman will be attending. Almost as an after thought, Skeeter slimily acknowledges the input of Myndi’s creative team, Deni and Steve, who had “turned his ideas into art”. As Skeeter and Myndi depart to celebrate in a bar, Deni tells Steve that she cannot believe he lets Skeeter take credit for all of of his ideas. Steve replies there is little point as Myndi has not listened to a word he has said since the LaRue creep joined the firm. Deni says that she used to respect Ms. Mayer but lately she has not made any sense. Steve shrugs and tells Deni not to waste her energy worrying about it. Whatever spell LaRue has over her is bound to wear off eventually…

In Boston’s China Town district, Maxine Sterenbuch waits by a phone booth. She re-reads the note she had received from her best friend Valerie Beaudry, asking to meet Maxine here at this late hour in the middle of China Town. Maxine is beginning to get a bad feeling about the whole thing when suddenly she hears the squeal of tyres and a car heads for her at high speed. She just manages to dive out of the way before the car slams into the phone booth, wrecking it! Terrified, she runs down a nearby alley as the car reverses and gives chase. As she realises it is a dead end she turns in fear as the car bears down on her. Without warning though a bullet strikes one of the front tyres sending the car careering out of control to slam into the wall as Maxine throws herself to one side. Before she can even regain her senses to get back on her feet the driver gets out of the wrecked vehicle which is now ablaze and pulls out a gun. She pleads with him not to kill her but he raises the weapon, ready to pull the trigger. Suddenly a voice in chinese distracts the gunmen and he turns and fires into the smoke and haze. But he is gunned down himself and the intruder from the office building emerges through the smoke, smoking gun in hand. As Maxine thanks the man for saving her life though he too raises a weapon and point it at her. He pulls the trigger and everything goes black for the horrified woman…

Beside the lake behind the summer home of Julia and Vanessa Kapatelis in Wakefield, Massachusetts, Diana stands naked in the moonlight. The cool air chills her flesh as she prays to her gods. She asks whether this stirring she feels for the hero called Superman is a call from them or merely a confused infatuation. With both Julia and her own mother so far away, she needs someone to advise her. Are her feelings for Superman the same as her mother harbours for Heracles? She pleads for the gods to give her a sign.

Just then she hears a voice and turns to see Vanessa standing there. Diana apologises for waking the young girl and Vanessa replies that the Amazon Princess sure likes to pray a lot. She presumes Diana is nervous about appearing at the charity fair the following day and as her mother is currently away, Vanessa offers herself as Diana’s official moral support! The Amazon thanks her and asks whether her boyfriend Barry will be accompanying Vanessa tomorrow. She replies that they go everywhere together. He is the best!

Elsewhere in Massachusetts in a secluded cottage later that same evening, Maxine Sterenbuch comes to, clutching her aching head. For a moment she thinks she has dreamt recent events but when she finds her other hand is handcuffed to the bed frame she realises it has been all too real. The man who had shot her with a tranquilizer dart introduces himself as Solomon Buchman and apologises for its headache effects. He tells her they have never met before and before this evening he had never heard of her. he hands her an envelope and as she opens it he explains that the man in the car was not after her by chance – he was hired to kill her! She removes a piece of paper which has her photograph together with the words “Terminate” written on it. she asks why anyone would want to kill her and Solomon replies that it is not just anyone – it is the murdering creature called the Silver Swan, otherwise known to Maxine as Valerie Beaudry!

She tells him he is crazy and her friend would never do such a thing. Armbruster must have put Solomon up to this to keep her away from her friend. He assures her that if that was true he could very easily have killed her by now. Besides, he is well aware that Maxine and the Silver Swan had not even met until a few short months ago. Maxine demands he stops calling her friend the “Silver Swan” and that she and Valerie are true, dear friends.

Maxine goes on to recount how when she was fifteen she thought it would be fun to have a pen pal. One day an advert in one of her Teen magazines caught her eye. It was posted by another fifteen year old girl called Valerie Beaudry and she shared all the same interests as Maxine. The pair exchanged letters and from then on they were sharing every event and every feeling. Valerie was warm and giving, never asking for anything more than to be her friend. When Maxine turned sixteen she sent her picture to Valerie so she would know the face behind the heart. But Valerie never sent one back in return. Still, her friend was always with Maxine in spirit; at her senior Prom, through every break up with every new boyfriend; Valerie grew up with her and the poems she wrote Maxine were more comforting than a mother’s kiss. Valerie said that their friendship – their love – was of the purest, spiritual nature but at eighteen Maxine wanted more. She told Valerie she had to meet her in person and she flew to North Dakota. But Valerie was not at the airport to meet her and so Maxine loitered at the local post office but again Valerie never appeared. Finally she learned that she had closed her post box and moved, leaving no forwarding address. Valerie was such a private person that nobody in town even seemed to know of her. Maxine felt so guilty because her own selfishness had caused her to lose contact with the only sister she had ever known.

Eventually Maxine moved to Boston and started working in a Boutique. Then, a few months ago the phone rang and an unfamiliar voice called her name! Maxine could not believe her ears that after almost seven years Valerie had contacted her! She and her boyfriend were in town on business and she wanted to see Maxine. The address she provided was quite ritzy and Maxine was very nervous when she rang the bell. But when the door opened there she was! Valerie was absolutely beautiful! Her hair was all silver and her skin so silky smooth. Maxine had thought to herself that this was the girl who would not send her picture? The two woman had embraced and held each other tightly for an eternity it seemed. Here at last was the woman who shared Maxine’s soul and yet something was not quite right. It did not take Maxine long to find out what the problem was – it was Valerie’s boyfriend, millionaire Henry Cobb Armbruster. He was obviously not happy to see Maxine and in a less than subtle manner asked her to leave! Valerie looked incredibly nervous as Maxine exited the house and a few moments later Maxine heard Armbruster screaming at her friend and hitting her!

Though it took a lot of effort, the two woman continued to meet in secret but something had obviously changed in Valerie. Her self esteem had been completely stripped away. Maxine tried to tell her friend that she was too good for Armbruster but the beautiful blond woman always avoided the topic and said she wished she was as gorgeous as the Wonder Woman. Valerie’s dark glasses could not hide the new bruises that had appeared every time Maxine met her. She wondered what sort of hold Armbruster had over her poor friend. It had been this morning that she had received another letter from Valerie, who wrote that she was leaving him and asking to meet Maxine in Chinatown.

Solomon tells he that the letter had been sent to set Maxine up to be killed so that she would not learn the truth. He then proceeds to hold up another photograph and Maxine’s eyes widen in revulsion and shock. The picture shows an ugly grotesque, deformed woman and Maxine asks who she is. Solomon calmly replies that the picture is of Valerie Beaudry! Maxine cannot believe her ears and snatches the photo from his hands, looking at it incredulously. Solomon goes on to explain that her parents had both been exposed to early nuclear tests and had died. The photo had been taken five years ago when she was the subject of an experiment code named “Silver Swan”. According to records he had stolen earlier that evening, Beaudry developed mutant sonic disruption abilities which Armbruster International intended to develop for its own use. He then picks up a remote control and switches on the TV and video recorder. He then proceeds to play back a tape he had spliced together from scraps that survived the explosion of HCA Labs’ Alaskan Branch. The soundtrack has been inexplicably erased.

Maxine watches as the image of a terrified old man appears on screen standing inside a laboratory filled with explosions. Solomon tells her that the man is his father, Professor Benjamin Buchman. He has watched these images a hundred times as his father desperately tries to escape his pursuer – the thing he created. She stalks him through the ruined lab, her feet never touching the floor until she finally corners the Professor. Her silver blue eyes are filled with a cold, calculating madness as she unleashes a scream that cannot be heard but whose effects where all to dramatic as his father is reduced to a puddle just before the tape goes blank. Maxine’s precious friend is Armbruster’s frankenstein otherwise known as the Silver Swan – a monster he has vowed to destroy!

As dawn breaks over Boston, Henry Armbruster is already awake and speaking on the telephone. He is informed that his hit man has been found murdered and Maxine Sterenbuch is still on the run. He instructs the caller to keep looking and then turns to one of his aides, mister Choi. He tells Choi that Sterenbuch has an accomplice which must mean she knows something about the Silver Swan and their special plans for this afternoon’s charity fair. Choi looks at a poster depicting Wonder Woman surrounded by smiling children and replies that with Sterenbuch running for her life and the massive crowds expected at the event, it will be virtually impossible for Maxine to reach contact their “secret weapon”. He then asks if Valerie will be able to deal with this so called “Wonder Woman”. Armbruster replies that he has made certain that Valerie positively despises the unwitting Amazon and they both know what happens when his “sweet little baby” gets angry! He is quite confident that Valerie will do precisely what he tells her to and they will have the chips by night fall…

Later that morning at Hanscom Air Force base, Steve congratulates Etta on losing 35 pounds to date. Pleased, she steps of the scales and replies that she only has 20 more to go. Steve tells her he admires her dedication and is even more impressed with all the excercise she is doing. He jokingly adds that she is turing into a real Wonder Woman. She looks at a leaflet lying on the table advertising the charity fair which shows Wonder Woman flying gracefully through the sky. She thinks to herself that all she has been hearing about recently is the Amazon Princess. With the charity fair, her face, as well as her figure are everywhere! Even Steve is intending to go along to see her. How is Etta supposed to compete against someone like Diana?

That afternoon on Boston Common crowds flock to the Wonder Woman Fair and Steve muses to himself how Diana has become the hottest property since Whitney Houston! He hopes she still remembers her friends. He wonders what she wants to talk to him about after the show. She had said it was something personal and wishes Etta could be here with him. Just then Vanessa, Bobby and some of her other friends walk up. She says hello and he asks her how her mother is doing. Vanessa replies that Julia is in Greece visiting and stuff. The young girl then introduces Bobby who eagerly tells Steve that any friend of Princess Diana is a friend of his. He adds that Diana had told him how much she liked Steve and how he was like a father to her. The kids then race off, waving goodbye and one of Vanessa’s girlfriends tells her that she is so blind. Can she not see that Bobby only has eyes for Wonder Woman and has no interest in Vanessa. Vanessa spits back that the girl is only jealous because Barry loves Vanessa and not her.

Up on the podium meanwhile Skeeter LaRue tells Miss Cooney, the head of the charity, that the event is a resounding success with takings over twenty eight percent above their highest projections. Cooney replies that while they appreciate that fact, she is afraid their cause, the plight of needy children, is being overshadowed by the appearance of this “Wonder Woman” person. People are forgetting what the event is really about. He responds that the event is about making money which they are doing in droves. Just then another woman steps over and advises that Princess Diana is ready. She turns to the microphone and tells the expectant crowd that they are here today to welcome an extra special visitor to their fair city. In her short time among them, she has brought a new vitality to the city of Boston and a greater understanding of the relationship between men and women. So without further ado, she is proud to present Princess Diana, better known to the world as Wonder Woman!!

Among the watching crowd, Solomon and Maxine mingle inconspicuously as Wonder Woman swoops over the crowd, wearing her costume together with a billowing cape. She smiles down at the adoring throng and cannot believe that although she is almost a stranger in their midst, they accept her without hesitation. She wishes her mother could see her daughter now. As she flies over the heads of the people, she looks over at the giant billboard depicting her noble image. She thinks to herself that it is almost as they worship her and yet she still finds this exploitation somewhat embarrassing!

Just then she hears a low humming sound and the crowd begin to look around them. Solomon whispers that Silver Swan is here and Maxine asks how on earth Valerie knew that she friend would be here. He replies that she had mentioned how jealous Valerie was of Wonder Woman and now she will see what he has been talking about.

For an interminable instant all sound abruptly ceases before suddenly returning with a deafening vengeance. A sonic wave of destruction blows apart the massive billboard sending the crowds scattering. Wonder Woman looks on in shock as the Silver Swan swoops down from above. She introduces herself to the crowd below and adds that they should beware. She orders them to obey her commands without hesitation or her swan song will bring their death. Maxine cannot believe her eyes and tells him that those are not the words of her friend Valerie as Solomon slowly removes his weapon. But before he can even take aim he feels a revolver pressed against his temple by another man who has crept up on them both unseen.

Meanwhile up above Wonder Woman removes her lasso and approaches Silver Swan. The Amazon Princess asks the blonde woman to be reasonable and that they can talk about this. But Silver Swan warns her to stay back, adding that her beauty and smooth talk will not work on her. As Wonder Woman proceeds to move closer Silver Swan opens her mouth again and unleashes a frightening scream that sends out pounding sound waves. Wonder Woman clamps her hands to her ears in agony as the waves wash over her. She turns to see the destructive waves of sound strike the nearby Ferris Wheel dead centre and send to tottering over. As the families on board the rider scream in terror and Wonder Woman eyes widen in horror, Maxine eyes fill with tears and she simply whispers “Val…”