Wonder Woman Special – 1


Wonder Woman Special – 1

General Info

Issue No:
1
On Sale Date:
March 1992
Cover Date:
1992
Era:
Dark Age
Story Title:
Operation Cheetah - Part One

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
Jill Thompson, Jerry Ordway
Writer:
William Messner-Loebs
Penciller:
Jill Thompson
Inker:
Jay Geldhof
Letterer:
Albert de Guzman
Colourist:
Matt Hollingsworth
Editor:
Dan Thorsland

Characters

Main:
Wonder Woman (Princess Prince), Cheetah (Barbara Minerva), Vanessa Kapatelis, Julia Kapatelis, Inspector Ed Indelicato
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
Baron Von Nastraed, Drax
Olympians:
Proteus
Amazons:
N/A
Other:
Deathstroke (Slade Wilson)
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Comments

After the final issue of the George Perez run (“Wonder Woman” #62), there was a four month pause in the monthly title, presumably to allow time for the new creative team to establish themselves and plan their run, so in the meantime we got a one off, extra sized “Wonder Woman Special”, which kicks off new writer William Messner-Loebs’ interpretation of the Amazon Princess, effectively acting as a taster for the marked change in direction from the Perez era. No Amazons. No Gods. Just Diana.

Messner-Loebs would bring Diana more into the DC Universe fold and make her interact much more with her fellow super heroes, while taking on more down to earth challenges than she had previously, such as the Gang Lords of Boston! This Wonder Woman had finally grown up and she was no longer quite the naive “stranger in a foreign land” that Perez had created. This Diana has a tougher edge to her and her “mission to promote the message of peace” all but disappeared during this period, as she effectively become just another female crime fighter amongst many already inhabiting the DC Universe. Part Two of this story continues in issue 63.

In this issue though we still see that although Diana has a little more edge than previously, she is still the same kind, compassionate and caring person she was during the Perez run as she risks her own life to save that of the Cheetah, her sworn enemy and who had previously tried to kill the Amazon Princess a number of times.
This issue also sees the introduction of a new title logo design for the book.

Synopsis

The issue opens with Cheetah in the snowy forests of Palgravia, a Balkan country aware that she may have walked into a trap in the pursuit of treasures – as if the mean whom she was intending to take them from had used them as bait to lure her here. She can hear his men in the woods but her acute senses give her the advantage and they will not be able to take her by surprise – or so she thinks. Suddenly they swarm upon her, using magic to hide their approach and she is quickly overwhelmed as they club the spitting wild cat unconscious. As she blacks out her last thoughts are of his men, him..and the man with horns…

Meanwhile in an equally snowy and cold Boston, Princess Diana is rescuing a cat from a tree, much to the delight of Julia and Vanessa. As they step back inside the Kapatelis residence, Julia comments that her mother used to say this sort of day attracted bad news and the devil. Just then Inspector Indelicato arrives and informs then that he brings them the good news that the Cheetah has finally been captured in the Balkans at somewhere called Palgravia or something. Julia enquires “Pan Balgravia by any chance?”.

Ed nods, adding that it used to be called the People’s Republic of Balgrave until they kicked the Communist party out last year. The President is a former freedom fighter for the past twenty years but there have been some recent bad rumours about the current government – anti semitism, torture and even devil worship. Julia smiles that it looks like Cheetah has really put her foot in it this time! Vanessa agrees, adding that she was a bad lady who deserves what she gets. Indelicato says that as the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Palgravia the Cheetah is indeed effectively toast! Julia nods, adding “She can hardly complain. She’s a thief and a murderer herself and deserves what she get, right Diana?”

But Diana is already walking out of the room and when Julia asks where she is going she simply replies “To rescue the Cheetah of course.”

As the Amazon Princess packs her things ready for the trip to Palgravia she thinks to herself that the others will not understand that Barbara Minerva is a woman…a sister to her. Whether she is a good sister or a bad sister is insignificant. And Diana knows the magnitude of what she is up against too. a modern State, with modern surveillance and modern terror. Her armour will not be enough, nor her lasso. As she kneels in prayer she knows she does have other resources to call upon, though dangerous. For although she knows the Gods have withdrawn from this World, in the true sense they never stepped upon the planet. She knows that even the lowliest God must be approached with caution and respect and as she sinks into a meditative trance she finds herself before Proteus, God of 300 Changes.

He angrily demands to know who she is that dares to speak with the Gods. She tells him she is Diana, daughter of Hippolyta of Themyscira, a Princess and an envoy. She continues that she is hear to beg a favour from him. She knows that he is the creator of the disguises that enabled the Gods to walk among men so that they could be comprehended. He warns her that she seems to knows a little too much and sweat trickles down the small of her back as she knows he could crush her in an instant if he so chose to. She replies she only wants to share a little of his great wisdom and when he responds that Zeus has forbidden him to deal with mortals, she asks if he is afraid of father Zeus?

Affronted by the accusation, he lays a giant finger on her forehead and says “You shall have your information…if you can hold it!” Diana’s eyes open wide in shock as her mind is flooded with his power and the accompanying pain. As she returns to the world she holds her head, trying to compose herself and remembers the mantra of the Gods…as long as she can recall it, hold it in a mortal brain not meant for such words, she will have the power! Triumphant and weak with relief, she laughs. Contact with the Gods does not always end so well!

A short while later she comes down the stairs in her Wonder Woman armour and sees the other waiting for her, concerned. Indelicato warns her she has no idea how dismal these sort of places can be. Julia adds that this is not a matter of strength. these people have secret police, and phone taps. Diana is not equipped to deal with their kind of subtle domination. Wonder Woman holds up a piece of paper and using some of the power granted by Proteus, waves her hand in front of it. Instantly it changes into a passport as she says that she knows she will need to enter Palgravia secretly and with a new identity. She then shows them the passport which has a picture of her in civilian clothes and states her name is Diana Prince.

As they step outside Julia hugs Wonder Woman, who assures her she will be careful. If Julia does not hear from Diana in two weeks she asks for her mother to be contacted. Julia replies “Of course sweetie. So she can help?” But as Wonder Woman launches into the sky she simply responds “No. So she can find my bones.” As Indelicato watches her fly away he resolves to himself that in that case he is going with her.

As the Amazon Princess flies across the still snow filled Boston skies, she ponders how they are right of course and that she cannot do this all by herself. She needs someone with knowledge of the region. Someone she will not have to protect. And there is only one person she can think of…unfortunately.

A short while later she enters a room filled with dead bodies and sees feared Assassin and Bounty Hunter Deathstroke standing over their corpses, smoking guns in hands. He says he is surprised to see her hear as she disapproves of his methods – adding sarcastically that she swoons at the sight of death, right? She replies firmly that she has seen death and knew exactly who she was here looking for. He says again sarcastically that he takes that as a compliment and asks if she if offering him a commission? She nods, saying that she has an acquaintance who is being held captive in Pan Balgravia and she needs someone to go in with her to rescue them. He snarls that he is not “back up” and that he makes the rules round here. “Don’t strut for me, this is too important” she snaps back. Suddenly it dawns upon him. “Wait, did you say Pan Balgravia?”

Within a few hours they were booked on a plane bound for the Balkans. Diana knew he had agreed all too easily but there was no time to quibble. As Slade Wilson, now dressed in a disguise, waits impatiently at the departure gate for Diana as the attendant says that they have no choice but to close the gate. As he is about to give up on the “weak minded Amazon Princess” he hears a commotion and stunned sees Diana, also in disguise as a rich socialite, come charging down the corridor with a porter lugging a number of suitcases behind her. She giggles, apologising for being late and adding that her maid could not get her dressed this morning.

Soon they have boarded the plane and as Diana makes herself comfortable she muses that this charade is fun and that Myndi Mayer made perfect inspiration for her. But as she sits down next to a man she is shocked to see that it is in fact Ed Indelicato. She asks what he is doing hear and he replies that she needs help on this mission and it is not like she can produce a one man army to accompany her. Just then Slade Wilson walks up and asks “Who is this idiot?”. Ed replies “Does your mother know you have a mouth like that?” The bickering continues for most of the flight duration!

Once the trio has landed in Pan Balgravia Ed acts as their chauffeur to the hotel as Slade again asks why “this bozo” is with them? She replies that Ed is a good friend and besides they need all the help they can get. As the two men continue to snipe at each other she asks them to play nice as they will all have enough fighting before this is over.

At the hotel Diana comments that she can see the fear on peoples faces in the streets. But this new president is supposed to be better than the former communists? Slade replies that he knew the freedom fighter before he took power. Von Nastraed may have hated the communists but he always had an agenda…

Meanwhile in a castle dungeon somewhere in the mountains outside of the city, Baron Von Nastraed and his aide, Mr. Drax look down upon at the bound and beaten Cheetah sitting on the cell floor. Von Nastraed comments how remarkable it is that she remains conscious after everything they have done to her. Even though her body is racked with pain and her arm may even be dislocated, she snarls back defiantly that she will not reveal the location of the dagger she has hidden and they will just have to kill her. Von Nastraed smiles and tells a stunned Cheetah that it is not the dagger he is after as he already has it. She had told them its location about an hour after first being brought here. Drax adds gleefully that there are certain techniques that make the mind as transparent as glass. Cheetah is horrified at this news. How long had she actually been here then? Six days? Twenty? The beatings…the whip…the spiked glove…what did they want with her?

Suddenly Drax picks her up by her chains like a rag doll. He says that she is too weak to withstand the rigors of the ceremony.”A pity Mr Drax. Do with her as you wish then.” Drax’s hands are like hot ice upon her as she screams but this time there is no sound. She feels the power of the Cheetah leave her body…

Later that night Wonder Woman, Ed and Slade who is changing into his Deathstroke outfit drive towards the location of the President’s fortress. Slade assures the Amazon Princess that his sources confirm Minerva is being held here and that they can be trusted. She reiterates her caution that they are moving things along too fast. When she asks who his sources are he refuses to tell her and she reminds him that they are supposed to be partners. He ignores her and hands her a white ski outfit, saying that it is modified Kevlar, flexible and non-reflective so she will not stand out like a beacon in the night.

As she puts on the outfit over her costume she remarks that it was clever of him to bring this. He snaps back “I am not an amateur Princess.” She leans forward and tells Ed that she wants him to stay and guard the car. As he starts to protest she states that they do not know what they are getting into and she wants to ensure the car is safe in case they need to make a speedy getaway. As they park up in the forest and get out of the car, Wonder Woman tells Ed to wait an hour “If something happens..” but Deathstroke finishes her sentence with a sarcastic “what is he going to do? Write them a ticket?”.

As they set off through the forest Wonder Woman tells Deathstroke that his comment was unnecessary. He replies that he is not here to baby sit but she responds that they need every member of their team. He silences her with a gesture though as they approach the grounds and together they quietly take down a couple of guards. Diana deftly knocks her one out but Deathstroke chooses to simply stab his opponent. The Amazon Princess tells herself that now is not the time to argue about his methods but promises that that time will come. They reach a secret entrance just as Deathstroke’s informants told him would be there – an old escape route left over from the previous ruling family. Opening the hatch they climb down a ladder into the room below. As they descend she muses that the whole plan is working as envisaged – but why does she feel a sense of panic rising in her – as though this were a trap?

As they reach the bottom she realises why as they find themselves confronted by a number of guards waiting for them. As she and Deathstroke launch into action, Diana using her hand to hand combat prowess and Deathstroke relying on his weaponry, Wonder Woman finds that these men seem unnaturally strong with an odd glassy look in their eyes – but they still drop before her blows. Quickly the fight is over and as Wonder Woman kneels down by a wounded soldier she tells Deathstroke that it is not necessary to kill them all. He snaps back that they are scum and the more they kill now the fewer they have to worry about later.

As he prepares to stab the wounded soldier with his sword she blocks it and says again “There is no need.” Holding up her lasso she adds “Besides, this is obviously a trap and we need someone to question.” Deathstroke is momentarily annoyed at the integrity of his informers being questioned, but when they see a dozen more armed guard burst into the room he realises Diana is absolutely right. It is a trap!

As Wonder Woman tears off the ski suit and prepares for combat, she orders Deathstroke to take the wounded soldier back to the hotel while she holds the other off!

A little while later on the rooftop of the hotel, Deathstroke throws Ed a package and instructs him that the Princess will return soon and that he should in the meantime drop this package off outside the bread shop a few blocks down. Reluctantly Ed does as he is told leaving Deathstroke alone with the soldier, who is now hanging upside down over the side of the building. Deathstroke continues to question the guard but meets with stony silence. Just then Wonder Woman touches down, horrified at what he is doing. She quickly scoops up the prisoner and carries him safely back up onto the roof top.

She tells Deathstroke that she would like to at least keep the illusion that there is a shade of moral difference between them and those they fight. She then kneels down beside the soldier and wraps her lasso around him. Bound by the compulsion of the golden rope, he tells them that they had orders to protect a woman prisoner of great power. But she was moved to another location. To the hidden place.

Deathstroke asks where that is and is told that it is deep in the mountains and that the guard has never been there. But it is there that the Baron brings his special guests…and performs special ceremonies. He has set up several dummy prison sites around the country just like the one they had raided tonight. That way no one can find where the prisoners are located – or the mass graves.

Suddenly he begins to rant “Ahh..he’s come for me. The joyful one! The Man with horns!” Wonder Woman looks on in horror as his head begins to swell until it explodes in front of her eyes! What manner of monster is this Von Nastraed she wonders? Deathstroke relies that perhaps now she sees why they need his method of doing things. She stands up and snaps “Shut up! The last thing I need is your gloating…rationalising your stupid brutality.” He responds “Some of us don’t have a magic rope.”

As the argument escalates Ed arrives and seeing tensions are rising interjects, warning Deathstroke to back off. Wonder Woman holds her head in her hands, realising that they do not have time for this bickering. “We have to go to dinner.”

An hour or so later the three of them are sitting in an upscale restaurant in their civilian guises. Slade asks what their next move is and Diana replies that the Baron also loves this place and she hopes eh will be the one to make the move. Ed spots Von Nastraed enter and once he is seated at his table Diana calls over a waiter a asks him to send over a bottle of their best champagne to the Baron. They watch as the waiter hands the bottle over to Von Nastraed, explaining it has been sent over by Diana and intrigued, the Baron walks over to their table.

He thanks her for the excellent champagne and asks for her name, which she gives as “Diana Prince”. He kisses her hand and playing her socialite role, Diana giggles and says how she is such an admirer of him, so strong, so masculine and so respectful. ” I think you scare me a little” she smiles. He asks if she likes being scared and when she responds that she likes all unconventional emotions…and pleasures.

He then says that in that case she, and her friends, perhaps may wish to join him at a little Soiree he is holding tomorrow evening at his residence in the mountains. “My evening are most unconventional” he adds. “I can’t wait” she smiles back.

The following night as Von Nastraed sits by his fireplace, watching the flames dart as he ponders his encounter with Diana, he tells Drax that she may simply be the vapid socialite she appears…but still, a meta-human female did break into one of his compounds the other night. Drax reminds him that their “guests” will soon be here and asks if he should make preparations for the ‘transfer’? The Baron nods and asks Drax if he has been able to detect anything unusual about this Diana Prince? Drax shakes his head and adds that in order for her to hide her true self from him would require her to be cloaked by the Gods themselves. Even so, they must ensure the female is vigorous enough to withstand the rigours of the ceremony…

Not far away Diana, Slade and Ed, still acting as driver, make their way along the snowy road towards the Baron’s Castle in the mountains. Slade suddenly asks them to stop as he needs to get something out of the trunk. Leaving the two of them in the car for a minute or so allows Ed to tell Diana that he does not trust Slade and that he playing some kind of double game. Diana nods and replies that she had tried to tell herself it did not matter and that whatever he is up to will help them in the end. He tells her to wake up and smell the coffee and that they are both being used for a scam Slade is running. Diana reluctantly agrees and says that perhaps it is time she had a little chat with her “partner”.

But as they get out of the car they see Slade is wearing his costume and weapons drawn, ready for action, he informs them that this is where they part. She can do what she wants but he is going in via the rear…in his way.

As she walks off towards the forest Diana, wearing an evening dress, runs after him asking if he out of his mind? If he starts something before she has time to locate Barbara all of this will have been for nothing! But as she lays a hand on his shoulder to turn him to face her he lashes out, sending her sailing backwards and slamming into a nearby tree trunk!

Angry, she gets to her feet and unhooks her lasso hidden underneath her dress, saying “That does it! I want to see the truth of what you are!” But as she loops the lasso over him he casually lifts it off her and states that the power of her golden rope is useless as he is immune and knows exactly who he is. Then, without warning he punches Diana hard in the face, the pain and the cold knifing through her. As she sails across the clearing again landing in a pile of snow, she considers that he may be even faster than she is!

Fury grips her and her adrenaline rushes through her as she launches herself into combat. But Deathstroke uses rage to his advantage and blasts the reckless Amazon Princess as she charges at him, sending he crumpling to the floor once again. “Get up so we can finish this” he casually mocks her.

She suddenly lashes out with both feet, taking him by surprise and kicking him in the face. They proceed to battle each other, each landing blows upon the other. She knows he is a lethal combatant and will have to use her wits. If she can push him to make mistakes she has a chance to finish this quickly. She could shake off his best blows and he hated being held. Good things to know. Increasingly annoyed, he rages “Time to sleep Princess” and attacks her once more. She could see he was starting to lose control and she could use that to her advantage. Several more blows are landed by the two combatants until finally Diana sees her opportunity and stating “Enough of this” she delivers a powerful punch directly into his midriff, flooring him.

She hefts his unconscious body over her shoulder and walks back to the car, her dress now in tatters. Ed smiles “You took him! He’s supposed to have the strength of twenty guys and you decked him!” She replies that she may have broken a couple of Slade’s ribs in the process too.

As she dumps Deathstroke in the trunk and shuts it, she rips the remainder of her dress off to reveal her Wonder Woman costume underneath. Suddenly they hear a commotion coming from the Castle and cursing, Diana realises that whatever Slade had planned had already been set in motion. No time to waste now. She tells Ed to stay with Slade and says she will either be back in an hour…or not at all.

A few minutes later Von Nastraed look down on the internal courtyard below, listening to the sounds of gunfire and screaming. Drax smiles “the Bride is here!”. Suddenly the door bursts open and Wonder Woman charges through having worked her way though the dozens of guards standing between her and her goal. As she does she thinks to herself that the men she had confronted felt week and that this feels like a trap. So be it.

Von Nastraed greets her and as she leaps up onto the balcony beside them she demands to know where they are holding The Cheetah. “And at this point I don’t care much what I have to do to you to get her.” He smiles back “Of course you don’t” at which point he snaps his fingers and as if from nowhere dozens of guards surround her – strong men filled with mystical power – and she cannot even struggle as they overwhelm her.

Held fast, she demands to know who these men are and who he really is? “A valid question” he replies. “Show her who we are Mr. Drax”. The hulking man steps forward and ripping apart his shirt transforms before a horrified Amazon Princess into a demon. before she can even react he blasts her with a below of satanic fire from his mouth and she crumples to the floor unconscious, her chest smouldering…

Meanwhile outside Ed is checking his watch and decides it’s time to go in after Wonder Woman. As he opens the trunk however, announcing to Slade that it is time for them both to saddle up and help the Amazon Princess, he is aghast to see it is empty! “Gone!” gasps Ed!

He hears Slade’s voice behind him say “Not quite” and turns to see Deathstroke standing there with four others, suited up in snow gear and armed to the teeth. Smiling Slade adds “I just had to go and get my friends.”