This issue features a tale from the Amazons’ history told by Wonder Woman to Black Canary.
This issue features a tale from the Amazons’ history told by Wonder Woman to Black Canary.
On board the Justice League Satellite Wonder Woman and Black Canary are playing a game of Handball in the zero gravity environment. The Amazon throws the ball past Canary’s reach and the heroine cries foul, saying that her concentration had been broken listening to Diana.
In turn, Wonder Woman replies that Canary may as well just admit that she is not as good a player. Black Canary defiantly responds “That’ll be the day!” and says that once she has had a breather, they will see who is best! Wonder Woman sarcastically asks if Canary will be able to keep her mind on the game the next time? Canary replies that she will, as long as Diana stops dropping bombshells on her like the fact that she intends to reveal her secret identity to Steve Trevor! Does she honestly think that is a wise thing to do? All people need their secrets surely? Diana agrees but adds that Canary and the Green Arrow share their secrets with each other. Canary replies that Steve Trevor is not a “hero” but Diana responds that of course he is. Not to be trusted then? “If that’s the case” she continues, “then how can she say she loves him?” Even though she is known as “Wonder Woman”, it is a wonder that she ever finds the time to be a woman! The Amazon then begins to relate a story to her friend…
Thousands of years ago before the Amazons settled on Paradise Island, they lived on a small isle in the Aegean called Themiscyra. It was there that her mother, Hippolyta, became their Queen and it was also where her mother’s best friend, Artemis, was chosen by the Goddesses Athena and Aphrodite. They gave her special powers and the gift of a magic lasso and tiara, sending her off into Man’s World where she would be known as “Wonder Woman”!
Back then, there were only loose confederations of tribal bands in Man’s World who cared little for government but studied hard in the ways of war. One day, a particular tribe was sailing through the ocean in their warships and one of the men on board, named Cleon, was told by his aide that he feared they may already be done for, because their enemies seemed to have an ally – Poseidon, Lord of the Seas! As if in response, a great swell suddenly materialised from nowhere and heaved Cleon and his crew high above the other ships before crashing down and ramming a neighbouring vessel. Tangled in the rigging, Cleon expected all was lost as the ships sunk but suddenly he saw a woman flying towards him. Unknown to him at the time, it was Artemis, who produced her glowing lasso and twirled it above her head before looping it around the stranded seamen. She held them above water long enough for the other vessels to rescue their comrades but during this time, Cleon was dragged beneath the waves by the heavy rigging.
Artemis swiftly dived into the ocean and the watching men waited to see what happened. They saw no signs of stirring below and assumed both Cleon and his rescuer had drowned. But suddenly Artemis burst from the water carrying Cleon in her arms. She laid him gently on the deck of one of the ships and then turned to leave. As she flew away Cleon cried out after her, thanking her and saying that he owed her his life. She replied that he should thank the Goddesses who had sent her to his world in the first place. As he watched her disappear into the distance, he thought to himself how beautiful this woman was. But before he could call out to her again one of his men warned him not to do so. Cleon was told that the woman was an Amazon and she could only be won by strength in combat. Merely professing his admiration would seem a show of weakness in her eyes. Cleon replied that he had thought the Amazons a myth but perhaps his comrade was right. Either way, he vowed to make her his. His aide smiled and thought to himself that Cleon would make her his – but not on his terms, for the aide was actually Ares, the God of War in human form.
Ignorant of the War God’s trickery, Cleon and his fleet limped back to port unaware that the object of his affections was herself observing him from afar. As Artemis sat on the cliff top overlooking the harbour she suddenly heard a voice behind her and turned to find herself face to face with Ares. She drew her sword but the War God easily knocked it from her grasp. He then told her he was not the terrible ogre that she thought and was the victim of Aphrodite’s and Athena’s lies. He was actually a friend of the Amazons. He continued that her sisters had become weak under Hippolyta’s peace loving reign while Artemis knew the rightness of the path of Conquest and War. She was strong and took what she wanted. And what she really wanted was to rule with the man named Cleon by her side – and this the War God would give her!
Artemis asked why he would possibly want to help her when he hated the Amazons and the Goddesses who guided them? Ares replied that she was different from the others. A true daughter of Ares in spirit, if not in blood. She could become the greatest leader the Amazons had ever known! She responded that indeed she could – but she would not betray Hippolyta. The War God agreed that of course she would never do such a thing and that he would never dream of asking her to…
Later on as night fell, Artemis rode the air currents down towards the city street where Cleon was walking. His heavy heart leaped when he saw her again but he remembered Ares’ duplicitous warning that she must be won in combat and so drew his sword. He told her that if she wished to do battle he was ready for her! For her part, Artemis thought to herself that this was just as Ares had told her it would be – that no man could accept a superior woman!
But the War God had also promised her that she would have her heart’s desire and thus he sent the Love God, Eros, to strike down Cleon’s pride. Eros fired his arrow at Cleon and although there was no visible wound, the burning desire in him was real enough! He instantly dropped his sword and walked towards her with open arms. Neither of them spoke but the laughter of the Love God echoed everywhere around them and the air seemed charged with Eros’ magic!
And so the passion that they shared became legendary. Their’s was a tale not merely of romance, but of high adventure. They became conquerors together and they lead a fearsome, warring band of marauding plunderers who gave no quarter to the helpless victims in their path. They amassed power and fortune – enough to build the foundations of their own small Empire!
But as it always is in the world of Man, those with power crave more and more and so one day Cleon suggested that they were now in a perfect position to attack the Amazons of Themiscyra. But Artemis firmly replied that they would never attack her fellow Amazons.
Wonder Woman then explains to Black Canary, who has been listening intently to her friend’s story, that only an Amazon knew how to penetrate the mystic haze that protected the Amazon home Isle and that Artemis was still loyal to her sisters – if not their ideals. But that was soon to change…
One day as Artemis and Cleon nestled together in a secluded spot, his aide arrived to tell them that the Queen of the Amazons had reportedly been killed in battle. Artemis was shocked by the news and immediately rushed off to return to Themiscyra. Cleon tried to call her back but to no avail and his aide advised that he should let her go as they had things to attend to.
Aboard her tiny boat, Artemis sailed into the Aegean and into the shroud of mist that could swallow forever even the most experienced mariner. Soon she arrived at the Isle and was greeted by her fellow Amazons, one of which was Hippolyta herself!. The smiling queen told Artemis she had been away too long but Artemis could only reply “Merciful Minerva! You’re alive!”. The bemused Amazon Queen asked if there was any reason why she should not be alive? But before Artemis could explain an Amazon guard cried out and pointed out to sea. Before the first of Cleon’s ships had cleared the fog, two more could be made out. There was no doubt among the watching Amazons that this was an Invasion Fleet!
Hippolyta turned to a horrified Artemis and accused her of betrayal by guiding a hostile armada to their shores. Artemis tried to explain that she was innocent but in her mind she heard the voice of Ares telling her that she could be the greatest Amazon leader of them all. She then told the Queen that she did not knowingly betray the Amazons but fate had called Hippolyta’s weak willed rule to account. She then warned Hippolyta to defend herself and drawing swords, the two women faced each other in combat.
Meanwhile the fleet began their assault and fired flaming projectiles at the shoreline. These set trees and grass ablaze, putting the Amazons on the defensive before Cleon’s first wave of warriors had even set foot on Themiscyra. Those Amazons who could be spared from putting out the fires rushed to defend their Queen and their Homeland.
But though they were the bravest of combatants, they were far outnumbered by those laying siege. Still, the Amazons had their own special talents, amongst which were their Equestrian skills. They made a cavalry charge astride great, broad shouldered horses, the likes of which none had ever seen in the world of Men. The stunned sailors in their tiny landing craft were no match for the sea-skipping steeds and as the tide of battle began to turn, Hippolyta told her foe that her traitorous campaign was at an end. Must she kill Artemis before her friend realised the fact?
Nearby, hidden behind a rock, Cleon and his aide watched the two combatants and knew they could still win if Hippolyta could be killed. Cleon cried out to his lover, telling her to slay the Amazon Queen so that they could rule Themiscyra together. In response, Artemis forced Hippolyta back until the queen stumbled and the battle seemed all but over. But Hippolyta suddenly sensed something was not right and threw her sword at Cleon’s aide. The weapon bounced harmlessly off his chest as the aide revealed himself to be Ares!
Artemis was horrified to see that she had been duped all along and that Cleon had been a part of it. He tried to plead his innocence, explaining that he had not known Ares true identity either. Artemis though was enraged and raised her sword to strike him down. But at the last instant she stopped – and slowly lowered it again.
Weeping, she told Hippolyta that she could not bring herself to kill Cleon and asked herself what the world of men had turned her into? She then flew away on the air currents as Hippolyta called after her, trying to tell her friend that she now understood what had happened and for Artemis to stay with her fellow sisters.
But Artemis never returned to the Amazon homeland. Instead she continued down the path of corruption in Man’s World until she finally fell when she dared to challenge Athena herself.
With her story finished, Wonder Woman and her colleague make their way to the control room. Black Canary says to Diana that while the story she had just told was a sad one, it did not make the case for telling Steve her secret identity. If anything, the moral seemed to be not to share your secrets with outsiders. Wonder Woman replies that her mother had always interpreted it that way too, but that she herself sees it somewhat differently. It is true that Artemis was duped into revealing Themiscyra’s location, but there was another secret she did not tell. The secret that she loved Cleon from the start as he had loved her. If she had told him that fact, then Ares could never have led them into lies and betrayal and she could have been happy with the man she loved…