Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 45


Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 45

General Info

Issue No:
45 (374)
On Sale Date:
June 1990
Cover Date:
August 1990
Era:
Dark Age
Story Title:
Legacy

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
George Perez
Writer:
George Perez, Mindy Newell
Penciller:
Jill Thompson, Cynthia Martin, Colleen Doran
Inker:
Romeo Tanghal
Letterer:
John Costanza
Colourist:
Carl Gafford
Editor:
Karen Berger

Characters

Main:
Wonder Woman (Princess Diana)
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
N/A
Olympians:
Harmonia, Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hestia, Aphrodite, Hermes, Demeter
Amazons:
Epione
Other:
Ananke, Clotho The Spinner, Lachesis The Tailor, Atropos The Shearer, Prometheus, Pandora, Epimetheus
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Comments

This unusual issue barely features Wonder Woman at all but instead recounts the tale of Pandora who, like Wonder Woman, was formed from clay and brought to life by the Gods. Ares’ daughter, Harmonia, is having visions depicting a woman who she initially thinks is Pandora, reverting back to clay but unlike the acknowledged version of the tale, the woman does not do so willingly but screams in agony as she reverts back to clay against her will! By the end of the issue Harmonia has realised that she is not seeing Pandora but the death of Wonder Woman!
Unknown to readers at the time, the vision in fact hints at events that will occur during the still some way off cross over event penned by George Perez, entitled “War of the Gods”. In this four part series, which also ran through the “Wonder Woman” book itself, Diana is “killed” by Circe the Witch who uses a magic spell to turn the helpless Amazon Princess back into raw clay.
This recounting of Pandora’s creation in this issue also also highlights William Moulton Marston’s obvious inspiration for Wonder Woman’s own origin – two beautiful women created from clay and gifted with special abilities by the Olympians.
The issue is also noteworthy because all of the pencillers are women.

Synopsis

Ananke, the mother of the Trinity of Destiny known as Clotho The Spinner, Lachesis The Tailor and Atropos The Shearer – collectively known as The Fates, announces to her children that they have a visitor. Harmonia, daughter of Ares, appears before them and requests the benefit of their wisdom. They tell her that they already know why she is here. Harmonia has felt a great imbalance in the Natural Order and has been experiencing dreams centering around the Talisman she wears round her neck. They assure her that everything that happens has a reason.

They then reveal an event from Harmonia’s recent past showing the Goddess standing with Wonder Woman. Harmonia asks why they show here this moment and they reply that The Fates never reveal the future before its time. They then show Ares, her father, absorbing the Demon Plague directed by Wonder Woman using Harmonia’s Talisman. He triumphantly cries out how “clay-made flesh” had long ago freed the first of the Demons from Pandora’s Box and that now, new “clay-made-flesh” frees their final number to inhabit the body of Ares! Only Diana’s pure soul had shielded her so that she could complete the task given to her by the Gods and channel the Demon Plague into the War God. (see issue 13).

Harmonia tells The Fates that her father’s words have echoed in her dreams as well as the names of Pandora and Princess Diana. But she does not understand why. Both are women born not of blood and flesh but shaped from the clay of Gaea. Diana is a child of promise, a warrior of virtue and a woman of love, whereas the name of Pandora has become one to be both vilified and pitied. Surely The Fates cannot be suggesting that they share a greater legacy than their common heritage?

Atropos replies that Fate spins endlessly on a wheel. Fate is a weaver bound to a loom whose tapestry is never ending and whose pattern can never be determined until the whole is finished. The two women’s legacy is but a knot of the strands of time that bind the universe into the chaotic majesty that humbles them all. But the past is woven of events that have already taken place and like Theseus in the labyrinth of the Minotaur, the future may be revealed by following its fragile string.

The Fates then recount the tale of Pandora in order to help Harmonia understand…

It is a time when Titan has been displaced by Olympian and Gaea is left war weary, ravaged, sick in spirit and barren of body. Mankind struggle to live a cold, miserable life, praying to stone totems for the warmth of fire which never comes. One man has other ideas however. He refuses to pray or beg. He is Prometheus and he will take for himself what Olympus refuses to share.

Prometheus climbs up Mount Olympus and finds the Parthenon of the Gods guarded by great and noble Gryphons whom he only just manages to escape from. Though he is overwhelmed by sights no mere human was meant to see, Prometheus has come too far and dared too much to be stopped now. Not even the spectacle of great Zeus himself, asleep on his throne, can stop him!

He finds his goal – the crackling warmth of fire – and using the discarded Aegis of the still slumbering Zeus as a cauldron, Prometheus takes the fire and begins his long journey back home. Through him, Mankind reclaims his future and humanity is freed from the tyranny of the Gods.

Zeus is outraged, swearing revenge on Mankind and its saviour Prometheus. But the Pantheon speaks out on behalf of Prometheus. Though the theft of fire has affixed their fates to a dim and surreal uncertainty, the thief is admired for this heroism and loyalty to his race. Even Queen Hera sides against her husband and perhaps this is why Zeus agrees to honour Prometheus and not punish him.

Zeus orders Hephaestus to fashion a body out of clay and to give it life force and a human voice, to mold it into the likeness of a shy maiden whose dazzling beauty will equal that of the immortal Goddesses. All the Pantheon bless this God made creature with their individual and special gifts: Athena grants the gift of industrious artistry; Hestia bestows a domestic nature; Aphrodite endows her with grace and beauty; Hermes grants the sparkle of wit; Demeter ensures the life is blessed with the joy of children. They name the woman Pandora, meaning “The Gift of All”.

The Olympians look down upon their creation and see that Pandora is beautiful and good. She is surely worthy of the brave Prometheus. Zeus then grants her a keepsake – an ornate, gilded box which must be presented to her worthy mate with the clear understanding that it may never be opened. It is the price Prometheus must pay for the hand of Pandora – the living embodiment of all that is Woman.

Hermes then escorts Pandora to the home of Prometheus and his elder brother Epimetheus. But the skeptical hero will not accept his reward from the gods. He tells Hermes “I do not trust your Lord Zeus. Why would he compensate a thief?”. Hermes explains that Zeus whishes to show respect to the mortal who dared do what no other had ever dared before. But Prometheus calls Pandora a “trick whore, dressed up as a virgin!”. As they begin to argue, Epimetheus interrupts and says that he will accept the woman on his brother’s behalf. Hermes agrees, as better it be one brother than none at all. But Zeus is not so easily pleased.

Prometheus pays for his pride in his humanity. Atop Mount Caucasus, an eagle red with bloody talons feeds upon his liver and as much as the winged monster devours during the day, that much grows back again in the night! Yet Prometheus persists, standing strong against the unjust power of a God until the bones of thirty generations are underneath his feet. It is then that he will be released and a secret he will have carried through the millennium will pass from his lips to the ears of Zeus. Thus is the full destiny of Prometheus – the first and greatest rebel!

Epimetheus fares better than his brother, though he too is punished by the wrath of Zeus. For a time he and Pandora are happy in their domestic bliss – young and in love. Epimetheus thinks his brother is a fool as Pandora is like no woman on Earth. She too is happy and satisfied because her lover is a good husband. He has never refused her anything – never. Zeus has however gifted Pandora with a burgeoning curiosity and she longs to know what is inside the gilded box. She finally begs her husband to share in her sin of guilty pleasure seductively, promising him sexual ecstasy if he agrees to open it with her. When he declines she petulantly withholds herself from his desires and stubbornly refuses to relent until he eventually gives in. They open the box and the world is changed forever!

The Demon Plague is unleashed upon the Earth and all the sorrows that ever were and ever will be infect Mankind. Fear and hatred, jealousy and doubt, mania and depression. All take root in the hearts and souls of human flesh. There is pestilence and disease, old age without dignity and children born who should never have been conceived. There is scourge and famine, banes and plagues and the final irony is that the fire for which Prometheus sacrificed so much to attain is now used to burn the ever mounting piles of dead.

Long ago left by Epimetheus, who shares all the burden but none of the blame, Pandora lives a nomadic existence, expelled from human company, living on weeds and the occasional kindness of a stranger. She has nothing left but hope to sustain her and that remains to this day – the sole comfort of a world made mad with misfortune. Now all that is left of Pandora is the Amulet around Harmonia’s neck -a talisman that once gilded the very box which Zeus gifted her.

Harmonia looks down at her Amulet and sighs how the Cosmos might have been so different if not for Pandora’s weak will. She reminds The Fates how Wonder Woman had used the Amulet on her first quest, undoing all that Pandora had done and returning the Demon Plague to its original resting place. Yet still the world is restless and unhappy.

She then asks Atropos if Pandora is truly dead or does she still wander, bringing pain and turbulence to all? Is that why she haunts Harmonia’s dreams and how Diana came to so resemble Pandora? Was it some prank the Goddesses played upon Zeus as payment for his arrogance towards Womankind? That might explain the heightened betrayal Zeus had felt when Diana refused his sexual advances.

The Fates reply that Princess Diana is as she is because she was fated to be as she is. As for Pandora, her fate is still unfinished. The Fates then explain…

A long time ago before the Titans and the Olympians existed, when the first beginnings of Mankind roamed the world, Gaea was young and thrilled with the life she beared from her womb – lives of clay waiting to be molded. Gaea was torn by the dichotomy of her motherhood – to do as her heart desired and to keep her children close to her hearth and protect them from the cold outside and to betray their future, or to put them out into the raw unknown, pushing them away from innocence and by doing so betray her own heart’s desire! It was truly the choice that was no choice at all and as the Goddess accepted her responsibility, she changed, becoming a new manifestation of herself and of creation itself. Now she was The Pandora, the maiden mother…the Goddess who understands her children’s fears and needs.

Gently The Pandora reaches into the Great Jar she cradles to her breast and removes a pomegranate, which becomes an apple, which became’s a pear, which became’s a lemon. She tells her children she brings them flowering trees that bear fruit and grapevine that will sustain them. The words of The Pandora are a melodious song as she bestows her gifts of seeds and plants. She tells her children that hidden beneath Gaea’s surface they will find minerals, ore and clay. She then uses two pieces of flint to give them the gift of fire!

She finally holds the jar above her head and says that although it is now empty, it still has much to offer and so that they can understand these things of miracle, she gives them wonder and curiosity, memory and wisdom. She gives them justice tempered with mercy. She gives them courage, strength and endurance; loving kindness for all living things – the seeds of peace itself!

Spent, her spirit tired, the weary Goddess, having done all she can for her children, cries out for her own mother and Gaea answers, cradling her own child deep within the nurturing womb of the ground. Above her, humanity rejoices, explores and flourishes. The Ages pass and the time of the Titan’s passing arrives. The elder Gods, led by Cronus, wage terrible war on the upstart Olympians led by his son Zeus. Gaea is torn asunder by the battle – humiliated and raped – she cries ten thousand tears for ten thousand days and nights and humanity drowns in the great deluge of her sorrow.

All but two humans survive – Deukalion, a son of Prometheus and Pyrrha, a daughter of Pandora. They wait out the flood on the top of Mount Parnassus and when the waters finally recede they walk across the muddy plains, throwing stones torn from the earth – the bones of Gaea – still the mother of all.

Zeus claims Olympus for himself but grants his brother, Poseidon, dominion of the Seas and his other brother, Hades, the Kingdom of the Dead. The spoils of war are his to claim: the Talisman – a broken piece of the mystic jar; the secret of Fire; and lastly the precious clay, dug up from holy earth by attendants sworn to sacred silence. With these trophies, Zeus rides his chariot aloft to his new home on Mount Olympus.

And as a result of the daring Prometheus, the great Pandora is changed and diminished. No longer Earth-born, but the handiwork of Zeus, she is remade into a beautiful woman to turn brother against brother. She, who was the source becomes the sorceress. Turned out by Humanity, shunned by Olympus, she drifted – a lonely wanderer – a carrier of broken dreams and violated promises, bearing all the world’s remorse in her arms until she could bear it no more. She cried out to her mother of vestigial memory, to take her daughter back and to ease her pain – and to release her from this world of men.

Gaea heard and answered, whispering in Poseidon’s ear. The Sea King’s heart swelled in pity for Pandora, for he knew what it was like to be his brother’s plaything, until it broke into a tidal wave of tenderness, immersing Pandora in his ocean and hiding her from the world’s prying eyes until the day she was called to rise again. To once more answer the cries of one who was lost and empty in her soul; to fulfil their need for love. Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, thus used the clay from the shores of Themyscira to form a baby and named her Diana!

The Fates explain that for ages the Gods have tried to forget all that occurred before the great conflict between Titan and Olympian. Even the wisest of the wise could not see past their own prejudices towards The Pandora Goddess. And those who came after, born of woman flesh, also betrayed their mother and believed only evil of the daughter.

Harmonia ponders these words and replies that certainly in both tales, Pandora “dies” in some manner, but in neither version did she pass away as she does in Harmonia’s own visions. The stories seem to tell of Pandora returning to the Earth willingly, almost happily. This is not the case in her visions. Harmonia sees Pandora’s face screaming in agony. Suddenly, Harmonia realises in horror that the woman in her vision is not Pandora at all – it is Diana reverting to clay! What her dream is actually foretelling is the death of Wonder Woman and what is more, the end of Mother Earth itself!

Harmonia demands to know from The Fates what this means. Is it really the end of the world and a portent of doom for Diana of Themyscira? And why have they chosen Harmonia to be the veil through which the future can be seen? Is it the Talisman, the legacy of Pandora that she wears around her neck?

But The Fates remain silent. In frustration, Harmonia bids them farewell and prays that they show mercy. Alone again, The Fates continue to weave destiny itself.

And what of the fate of the world and the Wonder Woman? The answer is blowing in the wind…