Simone’s obvious affection for the sword and sorcery genre was clear from this unusual Wonder Woman story and as already stated the writer would later get the opportunity to helm the adventures of the iconic sword and sorcery heroine Red Sonja for Dynamite Entertainment Comics. During the press release in which she announced her excitement at writing Red Sonja, she referred to her love of the genre and that it had been a motivator for her to write this Wonder Woman arc.
The issue starts with Diana experiencing a waking dream in which she is Queen over Man’s World. Her throne room is aligned with the heads of her slain enemies and the likes of Batman and Superman kneel at her feet in servitude. Her own mother, Hippolyta, acts as a courtier as Diana sits in her throne relishing her dominion over all. As Artemis reports news of a successful strike against rebels and Diana instructs her to show mercy to those that survive and teach them to love and respect her, Hippolyta suddenly launches herself at her daughter’s feet, crying out. Diana asks why her mother weeps and is told that Hippolyta fears Diana is losing herself and everything that is Diana. She then warns her daughter to not trust the red eyed man.
Suddenly Stalker himself appears in the dream and agrees, saying that Diana really knows nothing about him or his true motives. Diana ponders his words, remembering how she is out of time and place and losing herself after touching Stalker with her lasso to see into his soul. She had found to her cost that he had lost his soul eons ago – no being in the Universe has ever been so without touchstone as he. The Heart of the Rock of Eternity that he wears around his neck has unimaginable power. She could possess it. His soullessness has infected her to such an extent that she is losing recognition of everything familiar to her heart. She even finds that compassion is a bitter taste. Even love. As she muses, Stalker tells her that he has everything she wants. To teach her lessons even to those too stubborn to hear. To right ancient wrongs and free captives of antiquity. He adds that he cannot love her for that was denied him when D’Grth took his soul long ago, but he promises that he will never leave her…
As Diana awakens from her daydream Stalker is standing next to her. He tells her that this is how it begins. The waking dreams. He suggests she cherishes even her nightmares for soon she will not even have them for companionship. He offers her some wine but she declines and says that they should get going again. She then asks him that she keeps hearing the phrase “Black Horizon” and asks what it is. He replies that if he tells her she will lack the courage to continue their quest.
As they walk back towards where Beowulf and Claw await, Stalker continues to explain that he was raised by nobody and given no name. He lived in poverty and suffered. Even before he lost his soul he is not certain he ever really existed, so empty was his identity. That is what Diana had touched when she had wrapped her lasso around him. She had consumed a part of him.
As they approach Claw scowls at the Amazon Princess, still smarting from his defeat at her hands. He warns her not to cross him and she threatens to knock him senseless again.But Beowulf intervenes and and reminds them of their quest. They must press on to find the Oracle. Diana agrees and holds her red, clawed hand up to show that she and Claw are nw bound together by a common curse.
They set off towards the city of Ichar where the Oracle plies her trade. Diana says to Stalker that she thought the Oracle he spoke off existed on his world? He replies that as far as knows there is an Oracle like her on every world. Diana nods knowingly.
She then tells Stalker that as a Princess she has the power to anoint her subjects and that from now on he will be named “Elpis”, which in her language means “Hope”. At first Stalker complains that she does not have the right to “name” him but quickly begins to warm to his new name. “Elpis” he repeats wistfully…
Back in the present world, Tom tresser has burst into Diana’s Washington DC apartment to be confronted by five gorillas. They take a protective stance, only wishing to protect their mistresses “nest” but Tom takes their moves as aggressive and opens fire. All hell breaks lose as Tom avoids the now rampaging apes, determined to locate Diana and free her…
In the “other” world. The travelers arrive at Ichar and enter the Oracle’s tent. She bids them welcome as they ask her to reveal what they must do next. She replies that she knows everything….that they will all die alone in pauper’s graves and that the Gods search for Diana in a flying ship of Green and Gold. She cryptically adds “Take her away they will, if they should find her”. She then adds that their quarry, D’Grth knows their plans and waits them at the stone table, on a world they have yet to encounter. Will they dare go and face him?
Meanwhile in Washington Tom has run up the stairs and locked himself in the bathroom, calling for back up. As the apes try and break down the door he finds some unopened perfume and as the door burst open he changes into a gorilla disguise. Momentarily confused, the lead ape Rhanda wonders where Tom has gone but as he uses his nose to sniff he picks up a human’s scent and realises he has been tricked. Tom throws the perfume into Rhanda’s eyes and then slams the shower door into his face. As he steps out of the bathroom he unleashes a couple of concussion grenades which send the other apes tumbling back down the stairs. As he prepares to hurl another couple he suddenly finds himself face to face with a bemused Donna Troy who asks “Could someone please tell me what the hell is going on here?”
In another dimension the travellers arrive in D’Grth’s world and Diana, now sporting a red gauntlet over her claw hand, comes face to face at last with the Black Horizon. As they make their way across the barren landscape Diana remembers the oracle’s words about the fact that one of the group would betray them all.
Diana suddenly takes a tumble as she begins to feel feverish. As Beowulf helps her to her feet she cannot believe such a noble warrior as he would be capable of betrayal. As he suggests they should rest Claw coldly replies that they should leave her behind as she clearly is not capable of fighting. Diana thinks to herself that he on the other hand is hardly a heroic figure – perhaps he is the betrayer? As she tells Beowulf that she is fine to go on her thoughts turn to Stalker, who holds the shard that controls form and time and could be the one the Oracle referred to. But then a darker thought occurs to her. What if it Diana herself who will betray them all?
As they walk towards the horizon Stalker explains that this world is not spherical but flat. The horizon literally marks the end of the world. Suddenly the demon Grendel leaps out in front of them and greets them with a welcoming “You have found the grave where you belong”. They draw their swords as the fiery form of D’Grth himself emerges from the waters, looming over them and beckoning them to their death. As a skeletal demon creature swoops down and grabs Beowulf’s cloak, threatening to carry him aloft, Diana throws her sword and destroys the creature. As other creatures swoop down to attack them Diana calls for Stalker to join the fight. He duly draws his sword and hurls it – at Diana!
Beowulf sees his treachery and throws himself into the weapon’s path. It pierces his chest and he falls to the ground, badly wounded. Stalker reveals that he has made a pact with D’Grth – to deliver the three of them in exchange for regaining his soul. A pleased D’Grth gently touches Stalker, giving him a tiny portion of his soul so that for the first time in eons he can feel emotions again. An enraged Diana throws herself at him, pinning him to the ground by the scruff of the neck and pounding him with punches until his nose bleeds. All the while he grins, relishing the pain and the feeling of finally being alive in the truest sense of the word again.
D’Grth booms “Well, Stalker, it looks like I may get to keep your soul after all. Well played Princess”. Diana gets up and instructs Claw to protect and tend to the wounded Beowulf, while Stalker wipes away the blood and tells his master that she had not really hurt him.
But Diana calmly informs him that she had not being trying to hurt him. She holds out her hand and shows him the heart of the Rock of Eternity she had taken from him. Smiling she then adds, “And by the way, ‘Elpis’ is a girl’s name.”. She then leaps up and attacks D’Grth, using the shard and the gauntlet to protect herself from the demon’s unholy flame. The two of them topple over the edge and plunge into a seeming abyss as Diana realises that the shard she holds in her hands will take her to where she might find salvation. All debts shall either be wiped clean or she will die in the attempt. She almost looks forward to it.
Diana and D’Grth hit water and as the now enraged demon rises from the waters he surveys the place where Diana has brought him in order to wipe away her debts and seek redemption for her – and her people…the site of a wrong unleashed by them on Man’s World…the site where the Amazons attacked! They find themselves standing in the reflecting pool at the National Mall in none other than Washington DC itself!
The Amazon Princess, now attired in her traditional Wonder Woman costume but still wearing the red gauntlet, her eyes a fiery red just like Stalker’s, tells her foe “I have the home field advantage now creature. And now for Beowulf, for myself. Even for Stalker. This ends here. And you shall never see another dawn!”