This special “Annual” concludes the story from “Wonder Woman” #4. Finally we got to see where Heinberg’s much delayed and troubled launch story had been leading us all along. In truth, the effectiveness of this final instalment of Heinberg’s “Who is Wonder Woman?” tale had already been neutered by its spasmodic publishing schedule. In this final part we effectively have one giant fight scene between Diana and her now enhanced rogues gallery, before the final showdown between Circe and Hercules.
The “big pay off” comes in the epilogue of the tale and finally confirms what had been assumed by many fans all along – ever since the re-launch of Wonder Woman was announced. The Amazon Princess was indeed taken back to her pre-crisis roots, both comic book and TV versions, as she now loses her powers when in her Diana Prince guise. She becomes almost a hybrid of Batman and Superman – all too human and vulnerable when “Diana Prince”, relying on her skills instead of powers just as the Caped Crusader has to, but becoming a formidable super-powered being when transformed into Wonder Woman, just like Kal El.
It had often been argued by fans and comic book commentators alike that Diana had become too perfect and too infallible post crisis. DC Comics obviously felt that by weakening her and changing her into a human being, albeit only when she chooses to do so, this would make her a more approachable character for non-fans and perhaps allow more drama and suspense into storylines, as Wonder Woman became just that little less invincible…
Needless to say, many fans almost wanted to forget the whole launch debacle and were hoping that the talented Gail Simone would finally write Diana in a way they felt she should have always been portrayed. However, once again they were asked to wait just a little longer to find out because DC announced that instead of starting in issue 13, Simone would commence her tenure on the book with issue 14 and that J. Torres would in the meantime be given fill in duties again.
The back up story recounts agent Diana Prince and Nemesis on a mission to observe the newly returned Wonder Woman, and is used to summarise the back history of Diana, Tom Tresser (Nemesis), Sarge Steel, Donna Troy and Cassandra Sandsmark.
Wonder Woman finds herself confronted by almost her entire rogues gallery, who have all had their powers enhanced by the witch Circe. Diana finds herself under onslaught as the villains try to take her down.As the fith ensues, they try to persuade Wonder Woman to join them in their crusade to bring down the rulers of the world and make a new one. As the Amazon Princess asks why they think a bunch of super-powered villains will make a better job of running the planet they reply that the corporations, the politicians, the self-proclaimed religious right are far more dangerous then them. The villains see themselves as revolutionaries – not terrorists. And if Diana refuses to join them they will “Put her out of her misery”!
Wonder Woman uses all her powers and skills and gives her opponents a fight they will not forget but eventually sheer weight of numbers results in her being overwhelmed. Just as it seems they will succeed in killing her the rest of Earth’s superheroes arrive on the scene and take on the rogues! As Diana joins them in the battle she asks how her friends how managed to find her? She is told that the vegetation that had been found at the crime scene after Donna’s kidnap turned out to be Molly. As this was the same herb Hermes once gave Odysseus to protect him from Circe’s power they decided to go to the witch’s home island of Aeaea.
Nemesis tells the Amazon Princess she was missed and Donna reveals that she was never actually comfortable wearing the “Wonder Woman” uniform. As the villains are overcome Diana thanks her colleagues for saving her life but says that the final battle with Circe and Hercules is her’s alone to fight.
She flies to the temple where she sees the witch blasting Hercules with magical bolts of energy, raving at him that his fabled strength cannot save him now. He in turns slams his fists into the ground sending a shockwave across the floor that topples Circe. As he grabs the witch around the throat, Wonder Woman arrives and hurls him across the chamber. She punches him as he crows that she no longer has the stomach to kill again. As her punches rain down her manages to trip her and pins her down on the floor holding his sword to her throat. He offers her the chance to create a new Olympus and for her to rule at his side as it’s queen. “Never” she says and he responds that he will take her by force – just like he had taken her mother. As he leans forward and grins “Now, how about a kiss?” she bites his lip before head butting him off of her. “How does it feel Hercules, to finally be the one taken by force?”.
She now pins him down with his own sword and she tells him that he should not be so confident that she will not kill the monster who assaulted her mother and slaughtered her sisters. Just then Circe steps up and says that Diana will not kill him – she cannot – because that privilege belongs to her! With that she blasts Hercules with magic, wrapping him in chains stronger than those that bound Prometheus. She says that death is too good for the demi-god and that for all the suffering he has caused his punishment should be eternal.
Wonder Woman turns her sowrd on Circe and says that however righteous her intentions, the witch has caused every bit as much bloodshed and suffering as Hercules and for just as long. “What should your eternal punishment be?” she asks. Circe replies that Eternity is her punishment. She had sold her soul for immortality and lost every thing that made her want to stay alive in the first place. “Which makes having to live forever very punishing indeed.”
Lowering her sword, Diana repplies that in that case they have something in common – they both want to be human. Circe then reminds the Amazon Princess that she had already stripped her powers from her once before and yet she could not wait to get them back. Diana replies that it was the only way to stop her and Hercules.
“So if you had to choose, ” asks Circe, “you would be human?”. Wonder Woman replies that she is grateful for the blessings she has been given. But she is not even a real person. She is a golem – a clay statue brought to life. She has no idea who or what she is. All she knows is that she is alone. “Which is how most humans feel all the time” replies Circe.
As they watch the other super heroes approach Circe points to them and adds that Diana had never been less alone in her life. “Or more human..”. With that the witch vanishes but unbeknown to Wonder Woman she performs one final act of magic on the Amazon Princess…
A few days later at the Department of Meta Human Affairs Diana, in her Agent Prince guise and Tom Tresser are de-briefing Sarge Steel on the recent events. Afterwards Tom asks Diana to help him make an inventory of all the captured rogues’ weapons. As he hands her the Valkyrie’s sword she cuts her hands and it bleeds. She stares down in shock, unable to understand how this has happened. He tells her it is only a scratch but for Diana, it is something much more.
A short while later she meets up with Donna Troy and shows her cut hand. A concerned Donna asks what has happened to her powers and Diana tells her that they are gone – until she transforms into Wonder Woman that is. With that she spins on the spot and her hand instantly heals. Donna asks why Circe would do such a thing – is it to make Diana vulnerable to attack when human? The Amazon Princess replies that if the witch had wanted dead she would be dead already. Instead, Diana belives that Circe had given her a gift.
Just then Wonder Girl arrives and says that witches do not leave gifts. They are called curses. Bascially, it means that Circe has made it impossible for Diana to be Agent Prince ever again. A smiling Diana disagrees, and replies that she actually thinks that Circe is allowing her to be Diana Prince for the first time – to be part of the human race not just standing outside of it. That way, when she becomes Wonder Woman it is not because she has to – it is because she chooses to – because she wants to. Donna asks if that is in fact who Diana wants to be, as she herself would love to be Donna Troy once again. “Are you sure you two don’t mind?” Diana asks and they reply that she is the only reason they are here in the first place.
As they fly off to arrange the Press Conference announcing Wonder Woman’s return, Diana meets up with Batman on a nearby rooftop. She thanks him for all his help and he replies that everyone wanted to help her. “They love you Diana. They always have. Because that’s what you inspire in anyone who’s ever met you. That’s what makes you more powerful than any of us.”