This issue sets the trend for the next half dozen or so issues whereby the cover features a generic depiction of Wonder Woman, having no relation to the story inside. This particular issue also features the only cover (to my knowledge) that has used an actual photo as the basis of the artwork. A shot of the Manhattan skyline is used as a tint behind an inked depiction of Wonder Woman. we also see one of Diana’s major arch villains make a brief appearance in the form of Circe, who in the Golden Age was depicted as an Alien sorceress from another world but is returned to her more authentic roots here as a sorceress from Greek legend.
In a cave that runs deep beneath Paradise Island Wonder Woman stands chained and alone. Her shackles are forged of a metal unknown to the world of men and they disappear into a hole in the ground. The unseen weight on the other end that holds her down is immeasurable. But rather than bow to the torment, she perseveres and rather than despair, she trusts in her own limbs and spirit. She vows not to give in. As she strains against her bonds she remembers how, just before she lost consciousness, her mother had referred to the skeletal warrior as “Wonder Woman”. She now recalls a story she heard as a child about a woman called Artemis, who was Hippolyta’s closest friend when the Amazons still lived on the Greek island of Themiscyre. When the old Amazon Queen was killed in battle, a tournament was held to determine her successor. The contest came down to the two friends and her mother eventually won, becoming the new Queen. But the Goddesses Athena and Aphrodite had an important task for Artemis as well. They commanded that she must venture to the outside world where her wisdom and compassion was needed.
And so, with sword and shield in hand, Artemis embarked on her new career and the poets of Man’s World called her Wonder Woman! But instead of bringing Amazon values to the other city states, she was corrupted by their influence. Diana thinks to herself that this is why her mother so feared for her when she too became Wonder Woman to return to man’s World. Artemis hastened her own end by daring to defy Athena’s will but somehow, after all these millennia, her living bones have returned! She acted as through she blamed Hippolyta for her death and it looks like she means to pay her back in kind. After knocking Diana out she had then chained the Amazon Princess here in this cave and Wonder Woman knows she must free herself as the safety of her home and her mother’s life depends on it. Suddenly she feels the chains being pulled down into the hole again and she chastises herself for letting her mind wander. Her unseen keepers are trying to drag her to her knees and she does not know if she can stop them…
Meanwhile up above on the surface, the skeletal warrior known as Artemis battles her way through Amazon guards towards where Hippolyta stands. She asks the queen whether she had thought of Artemis lying in her cold dark tomb while she sought to rule the Amazons immortally here on Paradise Island? She then explains that after being freed from her place of rest (in issue 298) she had been revived and told where to find the queen. Hippolyta asks why her foe had swam across an ocean just to kill her and she is told “for revenge”. The queen reminds her that they had been friends once but Artemis replies that when Hippolyta had gained the crown she herself so coveted they became friends no more. Now she simply wants retribution!
Back down in the cave, Wonder Woman has managed to at last gain her footing again and thinks that Artemis must have though it fitting that the Amazon Princess be entombed in the same way as she had been. But how did Artemis know about this place when she had never been to Paradise Island before? The cave once descended all the way to Hades before Hippolyta had it blocked off. It was King Hades himself who had devised the diabolical torture chamber she now finds herself in, where a pair of tireless Orges at the other end of the chain below man a catchwheel, playing their prisoners endlessly in and out like a fish on a line. But using the trap as a device of torment weakens its effectiveness as a prison.
Heaving at the chains once more, Wonder Woman finds the Orges are matching her tug for tug, putting even grater tension on the chains. With enough counterforce from below, she reasons she should be able to twist her shackles endlessly until they eventually…snap! And with a final immense effort the Amazing Amazon frees herself from her bonds! The force of her sudden release sends her tumbling to the ground though and she lays there for a few moments to catch her breath. Suddenly she feels some small stones landing on her and looks up to see that her efforts have weakened the walls and ceiling, starting a massive cave in! Tons of earth and rock come down with a deafening roar as Wonder Woman dives for safety.
Back up above, the battle continues as Artemis gets ever closer to the queen, fighting off the other Amazons with ease…
In the cave, Wonder Woman finds that her situation no better. The cave in has blocked her exit with tons of rubble and she is virtually exhausted after her tug of war with the Orges. What’s more, a drip of water seeping through the cave wall reminds her that the ocean which is only a few feet away on the other side could come crashing through at any moment! However, she tells herself that instead of dwelling on all the things that could go wrong, she needs to focus on getting herself out before they do! She will have to punch her way out but her fists are by no means indestructible. She therefore uses her lasso to wrap around her fists as protection before pummeling the rubble with blow after powerful blow, sending earth and bits of rock flying in all directions. Her onslaught against the forbidding barrier is as unrelenting as it is futile however. She knows that if she had more time she could do it as she has already loosened much of the rock pile. But her air will be gone before she is halfway through thereby suffocating her, unless the Atlantic bursts in and drowns her first.
But the valiant Amazon refuses to give up hope and focusing on the problem, she has an idea. Removing her tiara, she uses it to widen the seeping crack in the wall. She knows it is a gamble but she has no other options open to her. As the seawall begins to give under the pressure, she prepares herself for what comes next. All at once the wall gives completely and as the sea begins to thunder into the cave she braces herself against the deluge of water. The raging torrent engulfs the small prison and smashes the stone blockade already unsettled by Wonder Woman’s earlier pounding. As the water level rises, Wonder Woman holds her breath and is taken with the upward tide, careful not to be dashed on the jagged cave walls. At last she emerges on the surface gasping for air, though feeling considerably battered and bruised. But she knows that her aches and pains will have to wait as her mother and her fellow Amazons need her.
Elsewhere on Paradise Island the queen orders her guards to no longer restrain Artemis. She tells her former friend that she never wanted to oppose her but she has left Hippolyta with no choice now. It seems that they must battle each other once more as they had done long ago in the tournament. But just then she hears a shout of “No!” and sees her daughter running towards them. Diana says that it is she who has been granted the powers of “Wonder Woman” and it therefore makes it her fight. Artemis raises her sword in answer and Wonder Woman has to use her bracelets to deflect the powerful strike! The Amazon Princess tumbles to the ground and it seems that her foe is too powerful for her.
But Wonder Woman has a plan. By letting Artemis knock her down she uses the opportunity to get into position, unhooking her lasso and looping it around the sword. She yanks it out of the hand of Artemis hurling it far out of her reach. In panic, the skeletal warrior turns to race after it, only to see it land expertly on the wing tip of Wonder Woman’s waiting invisible plane high up in the sky. Artemis lets out a wail and crumbles into dust, carried away on the sea breeze. Wonder Woman had deduced that after the last time they had fought when Artemis seemed very keen to retrieve the weapon, it must serve as the focus of whatever power brought her back to life. Without it, Artemis was finished.
As mother and daughter look down on the tiara and shield laying in the sand at their feet, a remorseful Diana tells Hippolyta that she had not intended to kill Artemis, but simply de-power her. The queen tells her that she is not at fault as Artemis was in truth long since dead. Her mistress – the one who revived her – bears all the blame for her second demise. But who, asks Diana was that mistress?
At that same moment in an unknown place, a cloaked woman views the two Amazons in her crystal ball. She thinks to herself that Wonder Woman will find out in good time but not yet. Artemis was but a pawn and though she failed, she has enabled the stranger to learn a great deal about Wonder Woman and her powers. The day will come when the stranger will put all she has learned to use and on that day…Wonder Woman beware!