This issue sees the resolution of the long running Cheetah/Bana-Mighdall story line.
This issue sees the resolution of the long running Cheetah/Bana-Mighdall story line.
For centuries the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall have lived safely within the impenetrable dome of tornadic sand. All their murderous, plunderous raids…all their mercenary butchery had gone unpunished for all those years…until today! As the clouds break above their city they see several military jets swoop and unleash their deadly cargo of bombs. Simultaneously the planes open fire with their weapons, cutting down the fleeing Amazons. As explosions begin to rip through their city, the Amazons begin to organise themselves and return fire with their own artillery.
The cacophony of battle can be heard over General Masat’s radio back at the camp and a horrified Julia pleads with him to stop the insanity before they kill Wonder Woman and Hermes. The General warns her not to interfere, saying that it is war now! He instructs the squadron leader to continue the attack but he never gets an acknowledgement back as the plane is blasted from the skies. The other planes though push forward their attack and clouds of smoke from burning buildings fill the air.
Somewhere down below in the depths of the city the crazed Faruka calls out to her “queen”. For Faruka, the future of her city lies not in the hands of the pilots above but the pile of rubble and stone beneath her feet, as she hears the sounds of the continuing struggle between Wonder Woman and Shim’Tar. She calls out, saying that the city is being destroyed and that the Amazons need Shim’Tar’s power to save them. Suddenly there is an explosion of rubble and dust and Wonder Woman and Shim’Tar burst forth, engaged in a brutal slugging match. Faruka sees the pummeled face of Wonder Woman and senses victory is but moments away. Diana however has other ideas!
The Amazon Princess uses every ounce of her strength to clout Shim’Tar, sending her opponent reeling. Every muscle in Wonder Woman’s body cries with pain but Shim’Tar appears as strong as ever. Where is her immense power coming from? Suddenly Wonder Woman hears the roar of jets above and realises the city is under attack. She races upwards towards the planes, intent on stopping the madness before pilots and Amazons alike slaughter themselves. Faruka though orders Shim’Tar to stop Wonder Woman before she can “aid our attackers!”. Immediately Shim’Tar regains her senses and raises her weapons, firing at Wonder Woman and hitting her squarely in the back. Diana cries out in agony as her foe follows up her attack with powerful blows which Wonder Woman can barely defend herself from.
One of the pilots spots the two women as they battle in mid air and radios back that one of them looks like Wonder Woman. On hearing this, Osman demands that Masat cease fire at once and Steve Trevor reminds the General that Princess Diana is an ambassador and there would be grave consequences for Egypt if they killed her. But the General orders them to shut up and tells his men to restrain the civilians.
Back above the burning city of Bana-Mighdall Shim’Tar tells an ever weakening Wonder Woman that although she has fought well it is now time to end this fight for good. She fires her weapon again and Wonder Woman falls to the ground with a sickening thud. Shim’Tar swoops down to where the Amazon Princess lies dazed and tells Wonder Woman that she has just been shot with a variation of the Cobra Dart. As Shim’Tar stands over Wonder Woman triumphantly, weapon poised, she announces to the watching Amazons they are about to witness the death of the “Ariadna”.
The semi paralysed Wonder Woman realises that she has no hope of defending herself from being shot and rests her hopes on one chance. She uses the little knowledge of the Bana-Mighdall language she has picked up to address her foe, in order that the other Amazons can understand her. She tells Shim’Tar that she had been trying to stop the planes and could have saved everyone. But now that Shim’Tar has prevented her from doing so she has doomed her own city!
Beneath the roar of the turmoil around her, Wonder Woman hears the murmur of the surrounding Amazons…grumblings of confusion, doubt and anger. Sensing this, Faruka steps forward and defiantly yells that Wonder Woman is lying and that an “Ariadna” knows nothing but the ways of deceit. But their new queen, Shim’Tar, will see to it that Wonder Woman will deceive them no more! She then orders Wonder Woman to be killed and Shim’Tar raises her weapon to blast the helpless Amazon Princess at point blank range.
Suddenly though the Amazons’ ears are drawn to a strange hollow thunder above them. They look up and see an energy field enveloping the city and preventing the planes from continuing their attack. They see that the force field has been conjured up by Hermes holding his Caduceus aloft. How can this be? The man from the outworld…the Ariadna’s ally…is saving Bana-Mighdall! They turn back to where Faruka stands and cry that Wonder Woman had been telling the truth and that she had been trying to stop the planes.
Back at the camp, General Masat hears from the pilots how their weapons are being deflected back at them and that if they continue with the attack they will blow themselves out of the sky! A frustrated Masat orders them to cease firing for now but to continue circling the city. The General tells the confused Julia and Steve that it appears from this point on the fate of Wonder Woman lies in the hands of her Gods.
Within the now protected city an enraged Faruka raises her weapon and tells her Amazon sisters that they are fools and have lost their minds. The Ariadnas fight only so that they can control the city and that she has plotted for power too long to share the throne with outworlders. With that she opens fire on Hermes. The God screams and falls to the ground in pain. Shim’Tar is momentarily distracted by this however, allowing Wonder Woman to kick the weapon from her grasp. At the same time Faruka cries out in pain as she is struck by bullets from Batiri, who tells her fellow Amazon sisters that Faruka is the only traitor here. Her mania has destroyed them all and their law decrees that there is only one punishment fitting for such a crime. Batiri’s words are swiftly followed up by a barrage of gunfire as the other Amazons execute Faruka where she stands!
Seeing her mistress fall, Shim’Tar barges Wonder Woman out of the way and races to confront the other Amazons. She spits that they are unworthy slime who have murdered the very soul of the “New Order”. Through Faruka’s guile and Shim’Tar’s power, Bana-Mighdall would have risen from the ashes to be a city feared throughout the world. Now it will be their tomb! With that she smashes into them, berserk with rage. As Wonder Woman desperately thinks how she can possibly stop the slaughter she hears a weak voice and turns to where the weakened Hermes lays. He tells her to use her lasso to snare Shim’Tar as it is the only way to stop her. Wonder Woman’s eyes fill with doubt but he stresses that there is no time to explain and that she must simply do it!
Wonder Woman obeys and without a second thought, despite her misgivings, prepares to loop the golden rope around the unsuspecting Shim’Tar. This mad metal clad Amazon has been unstoppable! An incessant, unfeeling killing machine. She had even bested a God! How can Diana stop her with just the golden lasso? As she wraps the fiery coils around Shim’Tar, she prays for a miracle and her prayers are answered! The bound Shim’Tar screams in utter agony and struggles to break free as unbridled energy begins to surround them all. Wonder Woman feels the raw power coursing through Hestia’s lariat and through her own body. Hermes tells her not to release her hold on the rope, however unbearable the pain becomes. He holds aloft his own Caduceus and instructs her to grab hold of it with her other hand. The agonised Amazon Princess obeys and the cosmic tempest roars wilder than ever.
The watching Amazons see the build up of energy and realise that they are witnessing the death throes of their city. Futilely they scurry away to find shelter, leaving a single Amazon who steps forward towards where Wonder Woman and Hermes stand. The Messenger God recognises it is Batiri and she holds an unconscious Barbara Minerva in her arms. Above the din of the energy vortex, Batiri tells them that it had been the Cheetah who had initiated the down fall of the Bana-Mighdalls. If Batiri’s race is about to die then let it not be with this Ariadna’s cursed spirit taunting them for all eternity. She hands Barbara over to Hermes and the Messenger God tells her she has no need to fear as he will save her from this final conflagration. But she replies that she knows what awaits her in the outside world – they will kill her for her people’s crimes. She asks that he grants her mercy and let her die among her own kind.
Back at the camp Steve Trevor peers across the desert through binoculars at the sandstorm, which begins to grow in size and ferocity. He tells everyone to get to cover as the maelstrom reaches criticality and detonates like a nuclear bomb, bathing the desert in a searing furnace of light!
Night is already falling by the time General Masat’s men arrive at the blast site. The helicopter pilot spots something amongst the shifting sand dunes and trains his searchlight down on the area. Osman translates for the benefit of Steve and Julia, saying that there appears to be nothing left of the city apart from three bodies lying in the desert. The pilot believes one of them to be Wonder Woman! A horrified Julia grabs a pair of binoculars to see for herself. She peers down to where Diana, Hermes and what appears to be Dr. Barbara Minerva lay lifelessly framed in the glare of the searchlight. Steve asks Julia is they are alive and the Professor strains to to see any hint of movement. Suddenly she sees Wonder Woman blink and an elated Julia, Steve and Osman hug each other.
Down below Wonder Woman and Hermes slowly get to their feet. The Amazon Princess asks the God what had happened. He replies that Bana-Mighdall is no more and the time of horror is at an end. Wonder Woman tells him that she still does not understand. The last thing she remembers was lassoing Shim’Tar and then hearing a voice, which she can still hear running through Hestia’s lasso like signals through a telephone wire from beneath her feet. As Wonder Woman tugs, the other end of the lasso frees itself from the sand revealing itself to be wrapped around Gaea’s Girdle! Hermes explains to the shocked Wonder Woman that this had been the source of Shim’Tar’s awesome power. It was also why Faruka had warned Shim’tar not to allow herself to be ensnared by the lasso – or else the corrupted vestige of Gaea would embrace and be liberated by its mate! Wonder Woman then asks who Shim’Tar was and how she could have harnessed such power. But before she can get an answer the helicopter touches down and Julia, Steve and Osman race over. They all hug with tears of joy while the unconscious Barbara Minerva is carried away on a stretcher. For now, just as Hermes said, the time of horror is indeed ended.
Several days later at Boston’s Logan airport an excited Vanessa rushes to the arrivals gate. She finds the gate heaving with reporters and tries to force her way through the crowd. She hears her name called and sees two men standing there. They introduce themselves to the puzzled girl as Inspector Ed Indelicato and Lt. Mike Shands and reassure her they are friends of her mother and Diana. Vanessa suddenly remembers her mother telling her about how the officers had helped during the Cheetah case. She asks them if they can help get her through the throng and they duly oblige, escorting her as if she were royalty! Vanessa loves it!
At last she sees a smiling Julia and Diana exiting through the gate. Vanessa had so much she wanted to say…so many words rehearsed over and over in her mind, preparing for this joyous moment. But words fail her and she simply rushes over and hugs both women. Ed and Mike greet the Amazon Princess and she thanks them for everything they had done on her behalf. She adds that nothing she can say or do will ever adequately express her gratitude and proceeds to kiss both men on the lips. A flustered Ed suggests that she and Julia must be tired after their journey and that they should head for home. Ed and Mike lead Diana, Julia and Vanessa through the crowds of eager reporters who bombard the Amazon Princess with questions but the officers wave them off. One reporter asks what the police officers’ involvement is with Wonder Woman and Ed simply replies that it is “classified police business”. As they make their way to the car, Mike whispers to his colleague that their boss, Captain Ablamsky, will probably “Classify our butts when he hears about this!”. But an unrepentant Ed replies that Mike should loosen up and take a long look at the happy, laughing Diana in front of them. “I ask ya. Don’t you think it was worth it?”.
Later that night in Massachusetts at the home of Steve Trevor, the retired colonel opens the door to greet a smiling Etta. She tells him she had received his message and had got here as soon as she could. She gives him a big hug and kisses him hard but sees he is distracted. He leads Etta to the bedroom where she sees Hermes fast asleep. Steve says that the Messenger God now “sort of …lives here”. They go back into the living room and Steve explains that at first he had assumed Hermes’ request to be a roommate had been just one of his impetuous acts to satisfy his curiosity about modern mankind. But lately the God has changed. Hermes is getting weaker…more mortal each passing day. In Egypt he actually looked frail as if the toll of being on Earth was sapping all the Godhood out of him. Steve is sure he had even seen fear in Hermes’ eyes.
Etta replies that what Steve is presumably trying to tell her is that he cannot abandon Hermes. So where does that leave her? Steve responds that he does not know. He is confused about the whole mess. He and Etta have talked about marriage but there seems so much at stake here. Etta tells Steve that she has known him a lot of years and loved him for most of them. She has gotten used to playing second fiddle to his sense of duty. Steve tries to apologise but she continues to say that with general Yedziniak giving her a hard time at work, she has to admit to being too busy to think about a personal life too right now. There have been so many changes lately. Maybe they both need time to sort them out. As she lets herself out she tells him she will give him a call…
The next day in a hospital in Cairo, Osman Saukin is advised by a Doctor that Barbara Minerva’s condition has stabilised for now, but that her body’s degeneration will recommence as more of the drug filters out of her system. There is nothing more that can be done for her except wait for her to die and perform a complete autopsy. She has a few months, maybe a year at most.
They are joined by the British Ambassador for Egypt as the doctor continues that the government has refused to allow Dr. Minerva to remain in the country. Apparently, they feel it is a British problem. Osman asks what he should tell Julia and Diana. The ambassador replies that he should tell them that Barbara is in the best of hands and he gives his word that justice will be served. However, once Osman leaves, the Ambassador remarks that she may never live long enough to get to trial and they do not even have proof of the murders she has committed. He wonders whether there is someplace they could put her until she passes away, thus saving everyone the time, trouble and embarrassment of a trial. The doctor asks if the Ambassador has ever heard of Arkham Asylum…
Later at the Kapatelis home, Julia gets a call from Osman who explains how the British Embassy has pledged to take care of Barbara. She thanks Osman for all his help and says that what he has done is the act of a true friend. She bids him farewell and climbs up the stairs to Diana’s room, passing on what Osman had said. She sees that Diana has already packed and is wearing her costume. Wonder Woman tells her that she has not seen her homeland for so long and her mother is probably wondering if her daughter will return in time for the Feast of the Five. Julia kisses her on the cheek and wishes her a safe journey, adding that if anyone deserves a party it is Diana. Wonder Woman smiles and replies that she cannot wait to see the expression on Hippolyta’s face when she realises just how truly special this year’s celebration will be.
As they climb down stairs Wonder Woman adds that she wishes Julia and Vanessa could accompany her, to make up for all the anxiety she has put them both through. Julia replies that they are just grateful she is alive and well and that both she and Vanessa have final exams to deal with anyway. Wonder Woman comments that Education is something that never ends. After her ordeals in Bana-Mighdall she realises there is still so much she has to learn. She then hugs her mentor and waving goodbye, lifts off into the morning air.
Meanwhile at school, Vanessa is unable to concentrate on her lesson. Suddenly she hears a tap on the window and turns to see Wonder Woman hovering outside, smiling and waving goodbye to her. Vanessa crosses her arms in the traditional Amazon salute and yells that she loves Diana and wishes the Glory of Gaea be with her. Several other girls in the class perform the salute too as they watch Wonder Woman soar into the sky before disappearing from view.
A short while later on Themyscira, Hippolyta and the other Amazons watch the skies. The Queen asks Menalippe whether she is certain Diana will be coming, as she knows the Oracle has recently been under severe trauma. Menalippe smiles back that she is feeling much better now and that she is confident that Diana will be joining them for the Feast of the Five, just as she is sure that her arrival augurs some magnificent changes for Themyscira. Suddenly they spot a figure appear in the sky and joyfully watch as Wonder Woman descends from the clouds. The Amazon Princess gracefully touches down and kneels, immediately beginning to address them.
“Forevermore, you shall find strength in these gifts. They are your most sacred birthright – they are your power.”
A puzzled Hippolyta tells her daughter to get to her feet but Diana continues…
“You, Hippolyta, shall be Queen over all my daughters. Antiope, you shall rule by your sister’s side.”
Hippolyta suddenly recognises the words as being those of Artemis, from the morning of the Amazons’ rebirth. Why is Diana reciting them now? Wonder Woman reaches into the bag she has been carrying as she continues with the proclamation…
“See to it that these gifts are never abused and wear you both these symbols of our trust…”
She triumphantly pulls out a glowing object and holds it aloft before the amazed Amazons, continuing “Gaea’s Girdle! never let it be removed…ever again!”.
It is a dream no Amazon dared dream. A dream no longer. They fall to their knees in reverence as Wonder Woman tells her mother to rise to her feet and claim that which is rightfully and eternally hers. Hippolyta weeps as Diana wraps the Girdle around her mother’s waist. Menalippe decrees that this day is a preface to a new dawn for the Amazons. As mother and daughter embrace before their cheering Amazon sisters, Hippolyta asks Diana how this has come to pass. But Wonder Woman tells her that can wait for another day.
The roar of the assembled crowd chimes like a symphony in queen Hippolyta’s ears and she remembers the rest of Artemis’ declaration from so many centuries ago…
“Now go, my daughters. Henceforth you shall form a sacred sisterhood. Henceforth you shall be Amazons. And none may resist your power.”