This issue sees the introduction of Artemis, who will subsequently become the new Wonder Woman. The story continues in issue 0 and then the conventional numbering resumes with the following issue after that. This was a nod to the “Zero Hour” crossover that was taking place at that time, where almost all titles carried a special “0” issue which marked minor changes or tweaks in character’s origins as a result of the events in “Zero Hour”, though nothing as radical as what would occur as a result of the Flashpoint event in later years that would lead to the introduction of DC Comics’ “New 52” continuity.
The issue sees an interesting perspective on Diana’s success in Man’s World to date, as Hippolyta berates her daughter on her lack of progress. In many aspects the accusations can be considered as valid ones, particularly when one considers Wonder Woman was sent to Man’s World to spread the Amazon’s message of love and peace and to make the world a better place. And yet, since her debut in the post crisis continuity, it can be argued that in fact she has had little impact on these macro matters – becoming instead just another super hero fighting crime. Loebs cleverly uses the issue to frame the discussion as to whether Wonder Woman’s mission has been successful or not and, aside from a few odd exceptions, it would not be until Greg Rucka’s run on the title years later, that a writer would really embrace Wonder Woman’s original mission again and return it to being the centre piece of the book once more.
This issue also sees the start of new artist Mike Deodato’s run on the title after his recent guest appearance. His Diana was an incredibly sexy version, as was every female he drew, depicting sensuous curves and often revealing amounts of exposed flesh, leaving fans polarised. Some found his style overly salacious. The phrase “wonder thong” even began to be quoted, referring to Wonder Woman’s extremely small star spangled briefs! Of course, other fans found Deodato’s renderings a refreshing change from the patchy and poor quality art work of previous issues, adding that Diana is supposed to be the most gorgeous woman on the planet, gifted with the beauty of Aphrodite and that by definition, she would also have the Goddess’ womanly curves and be…well..sexy.
But whatever side of the argument fans sat on, most could not deny the visual impact of Deodato’s style – which felt particularly appropriate for the story arc that was to come.
Wonder Woman stands on the beach of her beloved homeland, surveying the ocean and deep in thought. There was not a soul to be seen. She thinks to herself that normally there should be swimmers and water bearers here at this time of day. Something does not feel right. Suddenly her keen eyes spy a flash of light from the nearby undergrowth – the glint of metal – and she reacts just in time to deflect an arrow with her bracelet.
Violence! On Themyscira? Had the island been invaded? She looks at the arrow and sees that it has been crafted by an Amazon’s hand. Clearly someone had been standing there only moments before…a woman…who had wanted her dead!
Just then she hears the sound of footsteps approaching. She turns to see Mala, Helen and a dozen other of her Amazon sisters running down the beach to joyfully welcome her home. Diana smiles and greets them as they thank the Gods she has returned and has saved them. Wonder Woman asks what has been happening and Mala in turn asks whether she means before, or after, the war and the siege by the demons? The Amazon Princess is stunned to hear that there has been a war in her absence and Mala suggests that her mother is best placed to explain everyhting, as she had been the one who had sent them out to fetch Diana on the beach.
As they walk back towards the city Diana is puzzled how her mother would have known she was there, considering she had only realised herself a short while ago that Themyscira had been hidden here by Circe’s magic. She is told by Mala that Hippolyta had probably dreamed she had returned, as the Amazon Queen was increasingly experiencing dreams like a seeress nowadays. As they make their way through the damaged buildings of the city, Wonder Woman asks if this has all been as a result of the war and is told that the destruction had been wrought by the demons themselves. It will take the Amazons years to repair, though work is already underway.
They finally arrive at the royal palace which was one of the first buildings repaired and brought back to its former glory. Wonder Woman enters and heads to the throne room where her mother is sitting, waiting for her. Wonder Woman greets Hippolyta and quickly explains that Circe had created some sort of mystic barrier, but that she had managed to break through it. Although it still surrounds them they can all work together to break free.
But a passive Hippolyta replies that the barrier is of secondary importance right now. Diana needs to knows what happened to the Amazons here during the time they had been gone. She continues to explain that as Diana knows, Circe had ensnared the Amazons within a magicked pattern. But what she may not be aware of is that the sorceress had used other Amazons as her vanguard, leading the attack! Wonder Woman is stunned by this revelation and listens intently as the Queen continues to recount events…
As Diana knows, Hippolyta’s sister, Antiope, had lead her Amazon tribe out into Patriarch’s world and was consumed by its violence and hatreds. For too long they were separated from the Amazons of Themyscira, their differences growing year by year…their loneliness turing to resentment…their envy to rage! She will never know what Circe had offered them…Revenge? Territory? Whatever it had been it was certainly persuasive enough for them to use their own knowledge of Themyscira and its vulnerabilities to take the Amazons on the island completely by surprise – just like they had been by Hercules men all those centuries before. And so the slaughter began! The battle lasted for two days leaving hardly an Amazon on either side without a wound. The tribes were evenly matched -without a clear advantage over the other.
All forms of communication had been disrupted – no doubt by Circe – leaving no alternative but to conquer…or die! But that was only the first part of Circe’s plan. She had never intended to play fair, even with her new Amazon allies. She intended for not a single amazon to remain alive after that fateful day. She raised a terrible spell that tore through the fabric of time and space, sending the land of Themyscira spinning into another dimension. And almost too late the two tribes of Amazons realised they both faced a peril far greater than each other.
Circe had transported the island to a dimension of monsters. It was a terrible doom. Forcing the Amazons to die – not in clean battle -but by the poisoned claws of demons. Former enemies now fought side by side, bound by a common blood and base human fear. The creatures were mortal though and could be slain, so sleeping in shifts, the Amazons shared battle like sisters and gained a measure of trust in one another. The siege lasted for weeks but finally the monsters broke and ran! The Amazons had suffered terrible loses but in doing so had ensured that never again would their enemy be so bold.
Because the Bana-Mighdall Amazons worshipped combat they agreed to act as the perimeter guards. They formed a human shield and acted as a warning system. The other Amazons could be prepared for battle and not be taken by surprise by the wandering monsters of this dimension. Rewarding their valour, Hippolyta gave them a section of the island to call their own. Thus was the rebellion undone and the Amazon tribes reunited in harmony once more!
Taking a bite from an apple, Wonder Woman finds it hard to believe that so much has happened in the months they have been missing. Hippolyta replies that what she has experienced as months has actually been ten years for the Amazons!
The Amazon Princess is stunned by this revelation, the apple poised at her open mouth. The Queen adds that after so much time had passed she feared her daughter was surely dead. But she comforted herself that if Diana was still alive, then she had much time to reform Man’s World. Smiling, she asks her daughter how much has changed? Surely by now women across the world have been freed from oppression? Men and women enjoy equal respect and worth? Diana must by now have founded huge movements of women and men to stop violence? Children are safe from fear and poverty?
Wonder Woman responds hesitantly that she has not achieved all of that yet, but she has made a start. She has had adventures on other worlds and made many friends…
Several hours later after Wonder Woman has recounted all of the recent events of the past few months, she sees her mother is looking back at her with little emotion. Hippolyta states quite bluntly that in fact Diana has achieved nothing since her time in Man’s World. A surprised Diana protests, replying that her mother is being unfair and that she has spent months saving the city of Boston from two vile men who would have brought about the deaths of thousands. She has protected the innocent, fought the guilty and has kept faith with her mother while doing so.
But Hippolyta is unconvinced by her argument and responds that Diana has been acting like a child playing “hero”, glory seeking and glorying in the company of males – enjoying their approval and and forgetting her heritage. She adds that Diana is supposed to be teaching the ways of peace, not destroying half a city in a selfish rage just because one of her friends is in danger!
Diana snaps back that the world is a dangerous place and sometimes her only option is direct action. She could not let Vanessa be killed. But Hippolyta replies rather coldly that perhaps she should have let the girl die as it would have set a better example….showing the world that that she loves peace and harmony more than avenging a personal loss. It might have perhaps compensated for some of the time she has clearly wasted!
“Wasted?!” gasps an incredulous Diana, as her mother continues that she has mired herself in the small lives of those around her instead of keeping herself a symbol of right and goodness above the fray. When Diana could have been negotiating with statesmen to rid the world of war and free whole nations of captive women, she has instead involved herself in street brawls! “I am most disappointed in you Diana.” she states.
An unusually flustered Wonder Woman knocks over the bowl of fruit by her side and as she kneels at her mother’s feet to pick up the contents, Hippolyta tells her that she can no longer be sure that Diana will follow Amazonian precepts. So she will send her daughter back to Man’s World with a council of five Amazons, who will guide and support Diana, voting on important decisions that she makes as the Amazons’ representative. Wonder Woman replies that it will never work because her life is dangerous and she has to make decisions instantly…decisions which are hers alone to take. “I won the right to go to Man’s World. I’m the one who knows the good and the bad of that world. You have to trust my judgment. I don’t know why you suddenly find that so difficult”…
With that she leaves the palace stern faced, deep in thought. She catches up with Mala and says she needs to talk. Mala asks for a moment of her time first as she shows Diana the beautiful pottery her Amazon sisters are in the process of making. After a few minutes Diana casually acknowledges the craftsmanship and then walks away with Mala, who says that it was nice of her to stay and watch, even though it was clear she was bored beyond measure. Diana is mortified that she had been so transparent and apologises. Mala replies that she understands how life on Themyscira must seem very slow and laid back, compared to what the Amazon Princess experiences every day out there in Man’s World.
As Mala and Diana reach a favorite spot in the woods, the Amazon tells Wonder Woman that she seems different. More confident. More impatient. “I hardly know you anymore.”
Suddenly Wonder Woman shoves Mala out of harm’s way as another arrow appears from nowhere and thuds into the tree they had just been standing in front off. A fuming Wonder Woman instructs Mala to stay where she is as she in turn rushes into the bushes intent on finding her attacker. As she bursts into another clearing she suddenly finds herself in the middle of a hail of arrows, which she barely manages to avoid.
She has run into the middle of an archery contest involving a group Amazons of the Bana-Mighdall tribe. One of them, Braka, says it is typical that Hippolyta’s tribe seem to think they can go anywhere they like and another, Lartys, tells her to get out of the way, calling her a “meadow cow”! The lead Amazon of the group, named Artemis, sarcastically chastises her sisters and reminds them that the poor dear had obviously wandered too far from her nice, safe city and had gotten lost.
Wonder Woman walks right up to Artemis holding the arrow that had been fired at her that morning. She sarcastically asks if there had also been an “archery contest” earlier on the beach too? Artemis smiles back that she sees Diana had found her arrow and mockingly adds that she hopes she had not “injured herself by stepping on it”. Diana icily states that she had managed to avoid it “Thank you”. As the tension mounts, Diana adds that she presumes they must be from the other tribe while they in turn surmise that she must be Hippolyta’s daughter.
One of them states that they have all heard about the great Diana and wonders why she had not simply flown into the clearing in order to make a dramatic entrance? Trying to be friendly, Diana smiles back that her flight powers – and indeed all of her god given powers – do not work on Themyscira due to an enhancement that her mother had made while Diana was growing up.
A scowling Artemis snaps back that she is sick and tired of hearing Hippolyta’s name mentioned and her supposed ‘goodness and mercy’. Wonder Woman confronts Artemis, asking how she can say that considering the Amazon Queen has shown them nothing but charity and forgiveness. Artemis growls that it was some charity to ship her own sister off the island and some forgiveness when they were forced to ally themselves with that evil witch Circe in order to get back their birthright of immortality. She continues to tell Diana that after they had lost two thirds of their tribe fighting the monsters to keep the soft, peace loving citizens of Themyscira secure, Hippolyta’s charity gave them in return the wildest, most desolate quarter of the island when by blood they deserved it all!
A furious Wonder Woman cannot believe her ears, demanding to know just how exactly they deserved it? By using treachery and violence? Artemis rages that they lost their birthright through self righteous despotism and got it back anyway they could.
The other Amazons can see a fight is about to start and to defuse the tension, suggest to Artemis that perhaps they should let the Princess demonstrate her shooting skills at archery. They hand Wonder Woman a flight of arrows but before they have even explained the rules of the competition she has already fired her arrow directly into the bulls eye at lightning speed. A second later Artemis’ arrow slices Diana’s arrow in half to also hit the target dead cente!
Artemis begrudgingly states that Diana’s shot was not bad shot – if speed was all that counted. As she suggests another round one, of the other Amazons asks her to pause for a moment and walks up to Wonder Woman, staring intently at her face. She examines the puzzled heroine’s features, saying that she had of course heard of Diana, but had always assumed she would resemble Hippolyta in appearance…
Suddenly Mala bursts out of the undergrowth at full pelt, yelling that Diana must return to the city immediately. Her mother and the council have called for a new contest.
“They want to choose a new Wonder Woman!”