This issue sees the start of a lengthy story line in which Diana is marooned in space on a hostile alien planet, bereft of her traditional Wonder Woman costume and leading a slave rebellion against her captors. It would subsequently transpire that a villain known as the White Magician had purposely tried to remove the Amazon Princess from the picture so that he could scheme unchallenged.
With this, the commencement of William Messner-Loebs first major arc, it was almost as if the writer was going out of his way to emphasise that his take on Wonder Woman would be very different to that of Perez – clearly flagging his intent to take her out of the mythological comfort zone in which she been portrayed over the previous five years. Marooning the Amazon Princess in space is a story line that would not have been conceivable under Perez.
Messner-Loebs also appears to be playing subtle homage to some of the more fantastical stories from the Golden Age, in which Wonder Woman often found herself in space, as at one point he has Diana riding a rocket using her lasso to steer!
Brian Bolland again provides another striking cover while new regular interior artist Paris Cullins’ rather stylistic approach was somewhat of an acquired taste for some fans.
The issue opens with a flashback to eighteen months previously when a Russian space craft successfully launches into orbit above the earth piloted by a female cosmonaut. We jump to just a week ago when there is a malfunction on board.
We then find ourselves in the present day in Boston, where Diana is having her hair done in a salon. A young girl called May is washing the Amazon’s hair as she compliments Diana on the fact that her hair has lots of body. Diana thanks her and adds that as a child she hated her long hair as it used to get in the way of training and she always had to tie it back. May asks how she could have been a soldier and yet she fights for peace? Diana replies that it was her mother’s dream to fight for a world without violence. But there is no greater pleasure than righteous battle. A puzzled May asks what it the Amazons were fighting a battle they could not win. What would they do then? Diana smiles back. “We would laugh!”.
Just then a well dressed woman enters and introduces herself to Diana as Mercedes Foster, social secretary to one Thomas Asquith Randolph who request to see the Amazon Princess immediately. Diana seems to vaguely recall the name Asquith but a stunned May says that Asquith has been a hero in Boston for many years. Mercedes nods, adding that although he has been in semi-retirement for a while now he is still remembered for all he has achieved. An excited May dries Diana’s hair and tells her that her grandmother used to tell her of his exploits as Mr. Magic in the 40’s and the White Sorcerer in the 60’s, then joined a super hero team called the Echoes of Justice in the 70’s. Now he does super secret jobs for the government.
A shot while later at the grand residence of Asquith he is telling Diana, now wearing her Wonder Woman costume, that while he is good at what he does he is no miracle worker. His powers are mystical and give him great insight – but they do not extend to outer space. She continues to listen as she explains about the trapped russian cosmonaut who has been trapped in orbit for over six days after her ship experienced an electrical failure. Asquith estimates she has at most twelve hours of oxygen left. The cosmonaut’s name is Natasha Teranova and had been engaged in a joint Russian-Israeli mission. Neither country is eager to publicise such a total failure.
As Wonder Woman looks at a photograph of Natasha she asks what she can do considering she is unable to fly up into space or breathe in a vacuum. Asquith shows her a monitor screen on which the image of a strange, one man craft is displayed. He tells Wonder Woman she will not have to as they had captured this rocket sled during one of Darkseid’s forays against Earth. His team have deciphered it’s controls but not it’s alien technology. It was constructed to be flown by one of Darkseid’s genetically engineered drones and any ordinary human attempting to fly it would be crushed by the incredible pressures it exerts. She, however, may well be able to withstand it.
She is still unsure why he is asking her, responding that there are more powerful meta-humans – even space faring ones – that he could call upon for this rescue mission. He replies that unfortunately not in such short notice. Superman, the Teen Titans and most of the JLA are on a mission elsewhere. She is his last hope. Smiling back she replies “Then, there’s really no choice is there?”
A few hours later at the launch facility Diana has changed into a space suit which has even been customised with her =W= logo, raising some suspicion in the Amazon Princess that Asquith seemed to have been almost too sure she would agree to go. As she climbs onboard the sled a technician tells her that they have completed their testing and as far as they can tell the sled will not kill her. “Thank you. That is most gratifying.” she replies sarcastically. “Let’s do it.” With that the engines roar into life and she shoots up into the night sky.
Up on the stricken russian meanwhile Natasha attempts to wile away the hours of solitude, dictating messages into a recorder for her daughter. She hopes that someday they will be able to listen to these messages together as she explains that she is working on a new magic trick. She says “Perhaps I can teach you if..no, when…” and chastises herself for losing hope. She will not resign herself to her fate. The universe is a magical place and anything can happen.
Unaware of the fast approaching Amazon Princess, she continues to refine the trick as Diana finds herself enjoying piloting the phenomenal alien craft. She muses over the fact that Asquith was able to pull together a launch so fast and with so few technicians. “A private space force? Something I should look into when I’m back” she decides.
She pulls up alongside the Russian craft and space walks over to the air lock. As she enters the ship she is confronted by a surprised Natasha and Diana instinctively greets her, explaining that she is here to rescue her. But Natasha does not speak English and wary that this is some kind of attack, takes a defensive posture. Diana chastises herself for being so stupid and it not occurring to her that the Russian would not understand her. She instinctively curses in Greek “By the Fates. what a fool I am!” and is surprised when Natasha seems to react and asks her whether she speaks Greek? Grateful that the Russian has read up on her classic languages, Diana is then able to communicate with Natasha using Greek. A smiling Natasha explains that she had taught herself the language as a child, as she loved magic and considered the Greeks as the first true magicians.
Diana then explains that she is hear to rescue the cosmonaut and the two women quickly warm to each other, sharing stories. Natasha even gives Diana an impromptu magic show.
Sometime later the Amazon Princess attaches the last of the new oxygen tanks to the ship’s breathing system and says that now there is no longer any danger of running out of air she how has the time to fix the propulsion systems. Natasha thanks her but asks why she cannot simply fly back with Diana in her sled? She is told about how the pressure would crush her and that even Diana can barely withstand it!
With the work almost complete, the two women take a break and Natasha shows Diana a photograph of her eight year old daughter, Alexis. She wonders if Alexis will even remember what her mother looks like by the time Natasha gets home. The Amazon Princess reassures her that she will see her daughter soon once the systems are all functioning. She will nudge the Russian craft out of orbit with the sled and then follow Natasha down. The cosmonaut replies that Diana makes it all sound so simple as the Amazon continues to explain that they will soon be receiving the landing coordinates and that Natasha will need to get moving at just the right moment. “But I’ll be there to help” adds Diana. “..and after all, it’s not difficult. It’s fun!” Natasha relies that she has never met someone with so much confidence. Diana smiles back that in that case she has never met Hippolyta, her mother! “She’s not even afraid of the Gods!”
Back on Earth Randolph Asquith is sitting in his study with a laptop, looking at the mission data. He sees that Diana has successfully docked. Just then an indian assistant enters, wearing a turban, and states that their associates had called again. Asquith replies that he should inform them the matter has been…executed. With that he presses a button.
Suddenly up in space the sled explodes in a fireball, ripping through parts of the Russian craft and sending it hurtling off into outer space, throwing its occupants around like rag dolls. Badly dazed, the two women get to their feet and find all power has gone. As they make their way through the total darkness they reach a port hole and peering out, see a planet that it clearly not Earth. Natasha realises they must have been flung thousands of miles by the explosion and have no idea how far or in what direction! Her shoulders sag in defeat as she adds that in the void of space their bodies will never be found.
But Diana is thinking and murmurs “Maybe we aren’t drifting fast enough.” She dons her space suit and heads towards the air lock, as Natasha floats after her reminding her that if she is looking to fix the sled it has been blown to pieces. Diana calmly responds that she is not intending to fix it – but salvage it. One engine seems to be still whole and the first step is to assess what they have left to work with. “There’s time for despair later.” she adds.
The two women space walk and as Diana examines the engines she asks Natasha that if they can be rigged together can the cosmonaut find a way to fire them? Natasha says yes but how does she intend for them to steer the engines or bind them to her ship? And even if they can get moving again they do not know where they are or which direction to go in?
But the Amazon Princess is undeterred and with sheer conviction and determine she works with Natasha over the next two weeks to construct a sort of harness onto which the still working engines have been attached – connected to a remote firing device in the ship itself. The set up works but the connections are not strong enough to withstand the thrust and on their own the engines would tear the connections apart. So Diana remains outside using her incredible strength and golden lasso to hold them together – bracing her feet and twining the lasso around her to become the last unbreakable link!
As Natasha fires up the rockets she almost feels she is signing Diana’s death sentence and the sheer force of the velocity should have torn the Amazon Princess apart but somehow she endures the thrust and they move forwards – destination unknown. Diana is confident that there are space faring races out here who will be able to assist them and as long as they are moving they are more likely to be seen. As Natasha records another message to Alexis she says “Against all odds, I have hope”. She adds that she will see her daughter again but if she is indeed finally swallowed up into the void and lost forever then she wants Alexis to remember her and remember that she had never stopped trying to get home…and that before she had died her mother had seen wonders out here beyond belief.
She hopes that one day Alexis will get a chance to meet Diana… who is both so strange but so spirited.
And as they potentially race on into the maws of death and she listens to the com-link she even thinks at one point she hears Diana laughing with joy…