This issue, together with the next two, form the basis of a three part event story to celebrate the Amazon’s 40th Anniversary. With a host of special female guest stars, the story is told over three ‘books’. Book One features a heroine known as Zatanna, who possesses magical powers. Once more, the Huntress back-up stories take a break for the next few issues, although she does make an appearance in this story line.
With regards to this ‘all star’ multi-part issue, cynics might argue that this was less about celebrating Wonder Woman’s past and more about securing her future. It might be seen as yet another attempt by DC to bring in new readers to the title by including some of the favourite heroines of the DC Universe at that time. By enticing fans of these other heroines to read a “Wonder Woman” title they might otherwise have ignored, the hope would have been that the fans enjoyed the action so much that they would remain faithful to the book and stick with it. This is further supported by the fact that Diana hardly even appears in Book Two and yet this is supposed to be her Anniversary!!
In a case of history repeating itself, 2001 marked Diana’s 60th Anniversary and the writer at that time, Phil Jimenez, produced a similar story in issues 174 and 175 (Volume Two) whereby Wonder Woman summons an army of super heroines to combat a common evil. He said at the time it was written as a tribute to the “Judgement in Infinity” story line, but also acknowledged that having guest stars in the book was a good way to entice more readers to ”come on board’ too!
Chapter One – Comes The Adjudicator
Etta and Diana are chatting in their Pentagon Office about the missing Helen Alexandros. Diana tells her roommate that although it is just a hunch, she feels Helen has skipped out on them. Of course, she knows the real reason why but cannot let on for fear of revealing her secret identity. As Etta reaches for another chocolate, Diana gives her a firm slap on the wrist, reminding her that she had asked Diana to keep her from eating more than five chocolates in a given day. Etta grumbles that it was only her sixth and who is counting anyway! She continues that they will now have to find a new roommate and Diana replies that perhaps she can get some extra money somehow to help cover their increased rent. Etta is skeptical and wonders how a lowly captain will find money like that.
Suddenly though, the sirens blare and General Darnell emerges from his private office. He tells them he has no time to talk and for Diana to see if Steve Trevor has returned to work yet as there is an emergency. She replies that the hospital had said he should rest some more but he tells her that Steve had promised to be back to work today. A fuming Diana opens Steve’s office, annoyed that the General is pushing Steve so hard. However, when she steps inside the door she is relieved to see it dark and empty – perhaps Steve’s recent brush with death has shown him he’s no more immortal than the rest of Mankind. He is brave and she loves him dearly but that does not mean she does not also think him too macho at times. In the privacy of the office, she uses her lasso to change into Wonder Woman…
Meanwhile outside, onlookers stare in awe at an enormous being which has appeared in the skies over Washington. The figure holds a gigantic shining orb and says nothing, leaving people to wonder whether they are seeing some kind of special effect publicity stunt for a new Star Wars movie! But it is soon determined that this is no stunt as they watch him stare into the multifaceted orb so that it suddenly flares forth, sending rays of polychromatic light in all directions. One of the watching police officers loses his nerve and opens fire, sending panic amongst the crowds
As bedlam breaks out, Wonder Woman arrives and immediately takes in the situation. In all her time in the Justice League, she has never seen an alien being that radiated so much sheer power and confidence. But the coloured beams he is emitting do not seem to be harming anyone and she wonders whether she can perhaps communicate with him. Just then she hears a scream behind her and turns to see a car careering out of control towards a school bus. She swiftly uses her lasso to ensnare the vehicle and pull it to a halt just short of the bus.
A few yards away soldiers have arrived and prepare their weapons to fire a warning shot over the head of the silent being . Wonder Woman overhears their intentions and realises the danger of an accidental confrontation. A GI opens fire with a shoulder launched bazooka and as she feared, the shot heads towards the alien instead of over him. She quickly leaps up and uses her bracelets to deflect the mortar shell. It hurts her, as she has never deflected something quite so big with just her bracelets before, but she is at least thankful that the alien has not been harmed. Unfortunately, as the deflected shell falls harmlessly to the ground and detonates, Wonder Woman’s actions have been so fast that the soldiers think they are in fact under fire from the alien. They fire again and this time they hit their target but with no effect, save for a tear in the being’s robe.
The garment instantly repairs itself and the being turns his eyes to the soldiers below. In an instant, rays of coloured light wash over them and as the beams strike, they become motionless. As Wonder Woman and the others watch in horror, the soldiers begin to dissolve into polychromatic, multifaceted prisms gleaming like crystals. The Amazon Princess acts swiftly and loops her lasso around them. She orders them to hold together and fight back with all their wills against the forces dissolving them. But to no avail. They finally disintegrate into nothing.
She turns to the alien and angrily addresses him directly, saying that he knew full well that the soldiers could not harm him and yet he still wiped them out of existence. She adds that she is not prepared to stand by and watch him kill more people and uses her lasso to loop around one of his feet. As she hauls on her golden rope she feels the being’s immense power, as he begins to slowly drag her along the ground, even though she has dug her heels into solid concrete. However, she in turn manages to pull him down a few yards too and he finally notices the insignificant creature below him. As light beams emit from his eyes once more, they first hit the lasso which inexplicably uncurls from around his foot and secondly hit the Amazing Amazon, who is thrown back by the blast. She is hurled backwards into the base of the Washington Monument with a sickening thud.
With Wonder Woman lying dazed on the ground, the creature turns his attention elsewhere. As the Amazon struggles back to full consciousness, she begins to see fantastic images whirling around in her head, as if she were inside the alien’s head seeing all that he has seen. She sees him holding the strange orb aloft as he visits many planets, firstly during the glory of each civilisation’s zenith, then returning eons later after their societies have collapsed due to war and famine. He returns, observes, appraises. Then, acting as judge and executioner, he finds those worlds wanting and decadent and then destroys those planets whose flaws and frailties have not caused them to destroy themselves already. And in the entire universe, no world has ever stood against him!
Earth apparently puzzles him though. No sentient race has ever met his standard of perfection and most have doomed themselves by their own foolhardy actions. He has merely hastened their end with powers beyond all reckoning. Yet Earth is the first world he has ever found that seems to be surviving despite being unworthy. He muses whether it does so due to the various alternate Earths which also exist and are perhaps more deserving.
Just then the being realises his thoughts are being read by her and again he is puzzled. She addresses him, saying that they should discuss the matter peacefully. But he simply vanishes into thin air and she assumes he considers her a mere mortal not worth bothering with! But she has read enough of his thoughts to know that he intends to put four of the alternate Earths through tests of their worthiness. She also now knows his name too – The Adjudicator!
A little while later on the JLA satellite high in Earth’s orbit, Wonder Woman is speaking to the rest of the League. Because of the alien’s sheer might, she knows she needs all the help she can muster and has also called Supergirl to the meeting. The young Kryptonian tells Diana that they need to figure out exactly which Earth will be judged first. The Amazon has considered this and although there are an infinite number of alternate Earths, only a few have destinies which have become especially bound with their own Earth. Black Canary continues Diana’s train of thought, saying that he is probably headed for Earth Two. Having agreed on this, the JLA wish Black Canary well as she enters the Teleporter to transport to Earth Two in order to warn her colleagues in the Justice Society. The JLA then take up positions to monitor the globe for any signs of the Adjudicator reappearing.
As the various heroes depart the satellite, Wonder Woman remains behind, remembering how the alien had been thinking of four tests and hoping that they have covered all the bases.
Chapter Two – Horsemen Four
Just then she feels a hand on her shoulder and turns to see Zatanna. The magician tells her that she may know where the Adjudicator’s first test will take place. Diana is all ears as Zatanna explains that she felt a mystic twinge when she heard about the four tests and it reminded her of an old legend. As Wonder Woman inquires what legend she is referring to, the magician magics them away from the satellite and down to a simple thatched hut somewhere in India. On the floor is a sleeping mat and in the corner of the room is a spinning wheel. Zatanna tells a puzzled Amazon that they are in the general vicinity they want to be in order to find the Adjudicator…
Meanwhile in a trans-dimensional limbo, the Adjudicator himself stands amid rivulets of fire which do not harm him, while staring into the Orb. He gazes upon the infinite Earths and uncannily senses instinctively that some of them are of vastly more importance than others to his purpose. One such world is that of Earth Two. He sees a colourfully clad group of super heroes being addressed by a blond haired woman dressed in dark garb. Although he does not know it, he is seeing the Black Canary speaking with her fellows in the Justice Society.
However, it matters not to him as his first test will take place in the Earth he has already encountered – Earth One!. In his eyes can be seen the images of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. They are but physical manifestations of his own will but mankind fears them as Famine, Plague, War and Death! As the horseman shimmer into existence, the one known as Famine veers off and heads towards Earth One.
Back on Earth One, Zatanna tells Wonder Woman that she fears she is right and that this is the site for the first test. She explains that this is the hungriest place on the globe, where the children of Bangladesh are starving and the villagers of Calcutta are crowded ten to a hut. What better quarry for the Four Horsemen! Wonder Woman begins to understand what Zatanna fears and realises that the four tests must be in the form of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If Famine is to be the way the Adjudicator feels the Earth should die then this is the perfect place.
Suddenly Famine appears from nowhere galloping across the land and bowls of gruel instantly turn to parched dust! He sweeps through the city turning rice into sand dust and water to bitterest gall. He moves so fast that the villagers cannot be sure they have even seen him he comes to an abrupt halt when his path is suddenly blocked by Wonder Woman and Zatanna. He orders them to stand aside so that the Adjudicator can learn how Earth’s Billions respond to hunger.
The fearless Amazon steps forward and tells him she has a better idea. She grabs the skeletal figure by the scruff of the neck and threatens to send him packing, but she is unprepared for his power and is grappled to the ground. A deathly light flickers in his eyeless sockets as if to draw the very last breath from the stunned Amazon Princess. However, Zatanna responds swiftly and turns his life draining energy into flower petals. He tells Wonder Woman that the petals’ life is as brief as her own must be, but she replies that she will go down fighting for Earth’s right to perish in its own way and not some alien’s. As she moves towards him again though she is floored by a kick from his horse.
As he gallops away he uses his powers on the two heroines and they instantly feel like they are starving, having had no food for weeks. They become gaunt, skeletal and weak. In the sky above, the Adjudicator himself appears and Wonder Woman finds herself unable to get to him due to her frailty. She knows though that she must get to the horseman before he can wreak more havoc and asks Zatanna to do something. The magician however also finds herself too weak to think of anything, unable to focus because of the terrible hunger yearnings. Wonder Woman has an idea and manages to loop her lasso around the magician, using it to order Zatanna to perform a spell and she responds by transforming them back to normal.
The two heroines engage with Famine while the Adjudicator watches the proceedings with interest. They realise that a head on physical assault is futile until they soften their quarry up with some magic. Zatanna uses her powers to bring the horseman down while Wonder Woman wrestles him to the ground and wraps her lasso around him. She orders him to leave Earth and never return. But he tells her that she is a fool and that she will become one with her precious Earth after he reduces her to dust and scatters her across its parched surface! She realises that even though he seems real physically, her lasso cannot control him because he is only a manifestation of the Adjudicator’s will. Her only hope is to fight hand to hand and the mighty Amazon launches herself at him, grappling with the skeletal figure and trying to prevent him from using his power on them. Zatanna shouts a warning as she sees the Adjudicator stride towards her but too late the coloured beams flash from the being’s eyes. However, Wonder Woman and Zatanna are not the target, but instead it is Famine who looks up in surprise and then fades to nothing as he is struck by them.
Wonder Woman looks up at the Adjudicator and asks why, but she knows deep down that there are other Earths out there and there are still three more horsemen to perform the remaining tests! If just oneEarth fails a test then all the Earths will perish and as the silent being fades from view once more, Wonder Woman vows that wherever the Adjudicator strikes next, she will be waiting for him. Zatanna tells her comrade that she will be proud to fight alongside her.