Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 44


Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 44

General Info

Issue No:
44 (373)
On Sale Date:
May 1990
Cover Date:
July 1990
Era:
Dark Age
Story Title:
Caged

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
George Perez, Chris Marrinan
Writer:
George Perez, Mindy Newell
Penciller:
Chris Marrinan
Inker:
Romeo Tanghal
Letterer:
John Costanza
Colourist:
Carl Gafford
Editor:
Karen Berger

Characters

Main:
Wonder Woman (Princess Diana), Etta Candy
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
Henry Armbruster, Silver Swan (Valerie Beaudry), Mister Choi
Olympians:
N/A
Amazons:
Epione
Other:
Ben Buchman, Maxine Sterenbuch, Solomon Buchman
Share us

Comments

In my opinion this issue seems badly constructed because events do not seamlessly flow between each other. For instance, we do not see how Wonder Woman, Maxine and Etta end up trapped in Armbruster’s complex after the climatic ending of issue 43. Are we expected to just assume that Diana gave her self up to Armbruster’s men and once taken to the complex, simply handed her tiara and lasso over willingly before obligingly stepping into her cage?

Synopsis

Wonder Woman finds herself trapped in an high voltage electrified cage surrounded by monitors, her tiara and lasso having been removed. She demands to know what Choi has done with Maxine and Etta and he tells her through a speaker that she is in no position to ask questions. She asks him what makes him think she is not going to simply break free and he admits that her pain tolerance and physical durability is probably beyond their ability to incapacitate her; however her friends are another matter. He warns Wonder Woman that if she attempts to break free the resultant surge of electricity will overload their own cage, frazzling them instantly!

He then tells her that he does not fear her but her lasso is something else entirely. He still remembers the way it forced him to speak the truth during the Myndi Mayer fiasco. It is an experience he intends to block from Henry Armbruster for Choi’s own good!

As he surveys the bank of monitors in front of him showing Wonder Woman in her cage and the other two women imprisoned in theirs, he hears Maxine demanding to know what he has done with Valerie. He warns her not to threaten him and snidely adds that he does not expect a woman to understand the politics of power. He smiles and continues that the Silver Swan is with her benefactor and lover, where she should be.

With that he switches on the monitors around their cages so that they can see the image of Valerie hugging Armbruster preparations are made in a laboratory located elsewhere in the complex. Maxine calls out to her friend but gets no response and Etta explains that the transmission must only be one way. Etta adds that she is not sure Valerie would respond even if she could, as she seems more charmed by her svengali than ever!

Meanwhile in the laboratory Valerie hugs Armbruster tighter and repeats over and over how sorry she is. He strokes her hair and assures her that everything is OK and not to cry over spilt milk. She looks up at him with guilt but he tells her he still loves her, although is getting tired of trying to prove it to her. If she keeps acting like this she is going to blow their relationship. No man can take it forever – even him. She looks shocked by his words and he assures her he is not leaving her just yet. But he warns Valerie that she is naive and weak minded because she believes anything as long as it is said with a smile. Maxine and Wonder Woman know that and have used it against her – pretending that they do not care how a person looks. Especially the Amazon. Would anybody listen to Wonder Woman if she did not run around in that sexy star spangled costume of hers?

As he continues to poison Valerie’s mind with his words, Wonder Woman watches the events on her own monitor screens. She feels sorry for Valerie as Armbruster rants how Wonder Woman was not there for her when Valerie had been sick and deformed and would not give her the time of day now. In fact, he adds, the Amazon Princess is jealous of Valerie and sees her as a threat.

From their cage, Maxine screams in frustration at the monitors, pleading with her friend not to believe the lies. Etta tries to calm her, saying that it will do no good as Valerie cannot hear her and that there is no point screaming at Choi either. He is a poker player if ever Etta saw one. Maxine asks what she means by this and Etta replies that he never betrays his emotions with his expression. “You have to handle guys like Choi by respecting that fact and playing by their rules – at least for a while at any rate. Then you change them when they least expect it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not”. She then tells Maxine to follow her lead and perhaps they will all get out of here – Valerie too – if she wants to of course.

Etta then addresses Choi, saying that she had noticed a difference in the Silver Swan’s last two bio-readouts. The later-dated file was marked “Reversion Experiment”. But reversion from what? Wonder Woman interjects, mentioning that perhaps it is reversion from the Silver Swan back to the real Valerie Beaudry. When they had battled in Wakefield something had happened to Valerie, like a mask was being removed. Underneath was something distorted, full of hurt and shame. Choi remains silent on hearing this.

Wonder Woman then asks him why Silver Swan hates her so much. He replies that whether she likes it or not, the Amazon Princess has been portrayed by the media as a female paragon. Virtuous, beautiful, smart and powerful. Diana is every woman’s dream…and every man’s desire. These qualities mark her as the perfect target for Valerie’s insecurities, just as Wonder Woman’s resistance to physical harm serves to test her destructive capabilities. Very soon she will swoop into Wonder Woman’s cell like a bird of prey and destroy her!

Just then Maxine shouts at the monitors as she sees Valerie being lead into a chamber, preparing to be experimented on again. In the laboratory, Armbruster is informed by his technicians that all is ready as Valerie, wrapped in bandages, floats inside the tank. He casually yells up at her that he loves her before ordering the power to be amped up to 100%. Wonder Woman watches, powerless to intervene.

Suddenly Etta tells her that this is Diana’s chance to prove she has the speed of Hermes and the strength of Hercules. Choi had told them they were dead anyway so they may as well go for it. With that she grabs the electrified cage as Maxine tries to hold her back. As thousands of volts pour through the two women, Choi watches in shock at the apparent suicide. Wonder Woman instinctively smashes out of her own cage and clambers free, staggering from the effects of her own electrocution.

As the monitors blow from the surge, Choi shuts down the power as Armbruster demands to know what is happening. Choi explains that Wonder Woman has broken free and a confused Armbruster says that by doing that, she must have killed her own friends surely? Choi replies that they had obviously misunderstood Wonder Woman’s noble ideals. The lab technicians then tell Armbruster that they have to shut down their own equipment and check for damage caused by the surge. Armbruster questions why, seeing that the device still seems to be functioning OK. He is told that while that may be the case, they have to be sure and at the very least re calibrate.

Armbruster reluctantly agrees and asks his security guards if they have located Wonder Woman yet. They report back from the shattered cage, saying there is no sign of her and that perhaps she has been fried to a crisp. Armbruster is not convinced and then asks whether the Silver Swan has been fried too. The technicians respond that it is hard to tell. Professor Buchman never went this far in actual experimentation. It is all theory now. He never calculated the additional joules of energy that were released as a result of the power surge either. Valerie may be irreparably brain damaged or worse. Armbruster orders them to continue anyway, saying that if it kills her then tough. In the chamber, Valerie hears his words and feels firstly confusion at his remark, then anger!

Meanwhile in Choi’s office he requests an update from the search teams. Suddenly he hears a voice behind him and turns to see the Amazon Princess in the doorway! Before he can draw his gun she rushes him and knocks it from his hand, before lifting him off the ground with one hand and grabbing her lasso and tiara with the other. She demands to know where Etta and Maxine are located.

A few moments later she has the location and is ripping through the cage, amazed to see both her friends still alive. A groggy Etta explains that she had been wearing a rubber waist trimmer and unknown to Choi, the women had stood on it for insulation. A thankful Wonder Woman frees them and carries them to where Mr. Choi stands bound in the golden lasso. Maxine grabs him and enraged, demands to know where Valerie is.

Elsewhere the power levels in the chamber have suddenly gone crazy and as Armbruster demands to know what his technicians are playing at, they inform him that it is down to the Silver Swan herself. He turns to the chamber and tells her to relax or else she will screw everything up. Suddenly there is a massive explosion which rocks the entire complex. The ceiling collapses above where Wonder Woman, Choi, Maxine and Etta stand and the Amazon moves to protect everyone from the debris.

As the dust settles in the ruins of the laboratory a disheveled Armbruster runs for his life as he hears the flapping sound of the Silver Swans wings behind him. She tells him to run for his life as he desperately tries to find a hiding place. Nearby, Wonder Woman hefts the last chunk of concrete off and checks to make sure every one else is OK. As Armbruster makes a grab for a discarded weapon in order to protect himself from the unseen Valerie, Wonder Woman ensnares him in her lasso. Surprised, he panics, saying that the Silver Swan will kill them all. As he speaks, they hear the flapping of her wings as she sarcastically invites her “lover” to show himself.

As Valerie uses her sonic scream to scour the corridors she is suddenly confronted by Wonder Woman who asks her to stop. A stern faced Silver Swan warns her to get out of the way, unless she wants to be the first to die. Wonder Woman stands her ground and Silver Swan gives a count down from three to get out of the way. Just as she reaches “one” Maxine suddenly steps between them and tells her friend that it is all over. Nobody else will hurt Valerie know – she will not let them. A snarling Silver Swan says that Maxine is no friend of hers and that she just loves the “Silver Swan”, not the real Valerie Beaudry. Nobody does.

At that moment Mr. Choi steps forward and says that if she continues to feel sorry for herself she will never know the truth. Wonder Woman had saved his life a few minutes earlier and so in return, he will help to open Valerie’s eyes. He then instructs the bound Armbruster to tell her everything. The fearful Armbruster cannot believe Choi is making him do it, as surely he knows what the Swan will do to them. But a resigned Choi replies that he has no choice. Even without the golden lasso, the truth now is the only way out of this conundrum. Unable to resist the power of the golden rope, Armbruster begins to recount the events that lead to the Silver Swan’s creation…

Armbruster tells Valerie that she did not kill Benjamin Buchman. It had simply been an accident. The radiation that had originally made her ugly had also given her a gift. Buchman had explained that she could reshape things with her voice. Buchman wanted to help her, while Armbruster simply saw the potential for making money. Buchman believed he could re-arrange Valerie’s molecules to repair her mutated body. But from Armbruster’s perspective the new technology was a way to make big money and perhaps make his firm bigger than Lex Corps. Buchman believed that Valerie would never agree to the experimentation but Armbruster knew he could make her do anything for him. He kissed her and took advantage of her by seducing her.

Maxine then interrupts his story, asking him outright whether he loves Valerie and he replies “How could anyone?”. He hated kissing and touching her! A stunned Valerie listens to his words in horror as he continues to explain how he and Buchman had always been arguing about ethics. One day Buchman had found out about Armbruster’s foreign investors with millions riding on Valerie and the scientist did not want to risk her life for profit. He and Armbruster had fought, grappling with each other when suddenly there had been the explosion from the tank and the rest is history.

Silver Swan cries out in rage and guilt, sobbing that she had killed an innocent man. Maxine tries to tell her that she was not responsible, as Armbruster confirms that Valerie had indeed not killed anybody – but it had been in his interest for her to think so. He realised though that he needed to provoke her further and when Wonder Woman arrived on the scene, she became the perfect foil for the Silver Swan. But Maxine and her letters had almost destroyed his plans and he had also not counted on her hooking up with Solomon Buchman either.

The Swan had proved no match for Wonder Woman when they had first fought and he knew she needed more power to defeat the Amazon Princess. They therefore tried to put her though Buchman’s transmutation device again and it seemed to work. However, a month or so later Armbruster had heard a scream one night and when he had rushed to Valerie’s room he saw her sitting on the bed, having transformed back to her hideous former self. She had been the ugliest thing Armbruster had ever seen. He had played the dutiful lover though and calmed her down by getting her drunk.

Mr. Choi had then told him about some other mutant types – super heroes – whose powers had suddenly gone hay-wire. Wonder Woman nods on hearing this, saying that it had happened during the Alien Invasion. Some temporarily lost their powers and others had died.

Armbruster the says that Choi believed it was some kind of gene bomb that had warped the chromosome, causing Silver Swan to revert back to her former self. Choi believed they could fix the problem though and so Armbruster hired some top scientists and gave them all the money they needed. It worked and soon Valerie was back to being the beautiful Silver Swan again. Choi had warned however that she was different this time and her destructive powers weaker. He wanted to experiment some more and adjust for the bomb’s effects. But before they could commence, Maxine and Solomon had intervened in their plans, costing them time and money.

A furious Maxine spits that Valerie had been nothing more to Armbruster ands Choi than a financial statement. Had they told Valerie that the experiments could kill her? Choi replies that it was not his responsibility. The choice whether to tell her or not was down to his employer, Armbruster. If Armbruster had chosen to ask him to discuss the inherent dangers with Valerie, he would have done so gladly. But he did not.

Valerie glowers at Armbruster who cowers against the wall. He begs them to keep Silver Swan away from him as she walks towards him. Wonder Woman steps between them and tells Valerie that she is not the killer she had thought she was – so do not become one now. She adds that Maxine had told her how Valerie’s beauty transcends her flesh. Much love waits her so not to throw it all way in a petty act of vengeance. Maxine pleads with her friend to come home with her and the sobbing Valerie finally falls into Maxine’s loving arms.

A few days later on Themyscira’s Isle of Healing, the now fully recovered Solomon Buchman tells Wonder Woman that he owes her his life. He still cannot believe his father’s death had been an accident and that Armbruster is now in jail. Wonder Woman replies that Valerie wants to talk to him – to explain – but she is afraid. Solomon responds that he does not want to talk to her and Wonder Woman asks him if he is afraid too? He tells her that he feels nothing. His life as he has known it since his father had died is over now. He has no idea what lies ahead for him. Can Wonder Woman say the same?