This issue is a little disjointed artwork wise as a number of different artists provide the interiors. Straczynski had apparently been suffering from a bout of bronchitis around this time and with writing the “Superman” title too, may have struggled hitting his deadlines and thus additional artists were required to speed up the process of getting the title out of the door on time.
As Diana continues to lead the surviving Amazons through the desert she is told how they had hired Turkish guides and mercenaries to escort them here and how Alera had told them to wait for them at the halfway mark and stay out of sight. But as the group reach the top of a dune and look down upon what should have been the camp, they see instead burning vehicles and bloodied bodies littered everywhere.
As they walk around the area Diana determines that this attack has only happened recently and could not have been done by the men. Just then she hears a weak voice call out and sees that one of the Turks is still clinging to life. She stares in horror as she sees his very soul sucked from his body by a winged, demon like female. She becomes aware of other around her and the creatures too suddenly become aware that she can see them, although they remain invisible to the other Amazons.
One of creatures hisses and attacks the Amazon Princess, who just manages to leap out of the way. She grabs one of the guns lying abandoned on the floor and unleashes a round into the creatures but it has no effect! As the other creatures begin to circle her, smiling, the initial one snarls that diana is a child lost in the woods…who dies because she does not understand the language of trees. “Take her soul” she orders her fellow sisters, “For she does not deserve it”.
Finding herself surrounded, Diana leaps for her shield and sword and prepares to defend herself as the creatures attack. She slices one of them with her blade and hears the creature scream in agony. Diana looks at her sword in surprise, not expecting it to have any effect on her adversaries.
As the others press home their attack the other quizzical Amazons watch Diana wielding her shield and sword manically at thin air. But the oracle tells them that she is in fact battling creatures on a plane beyond any of them and that they should not interfere.
Diana fights magnificently totally surrounded by superior numbers but it is only a matter of time before one of the creatures manages to come up unseen behind her and plunges her talons into Diana’s chest. ripping her soul out. The Amazon Princess screams before crumpling to the floor and as she blacks out she hears her adversary sneer “Thus we deliver it…and you…to Tartarus. Thus you are now…damned..for all time.”
When next Diana opens her eyes she finds herself in the pits of Hell, wearing a simple tunic and surrounded by winged demons intent on feasting on her flesh! But as Diana prepares to stand her ground against impossible numbers there is a blinding flash and a voice bellows “Enough!” A hooded figure approaches and the others scatter in fear. But they warn the stranger that the master will not be gone forever and when he learns of this treachery there will be trouble.
Diana thanks the stranger who removes his hood to reveal a bearded old man. He tells her she should not be here. She replies that she does not even know where here is! He tells her he will show her and leads her to down a passageway, explaining as he goes that his name is Charon and that this is Tartarus, the underworld and home of the dead whose souls are trapped here forever. Almost two decades ago their master, Hades disappeared. Charon tells Diana that his task had been to ferry the newly dead across the river Styx to their fate but when Hades departed this place fell into chaos and madness. A darkness so terrible that he could not subject these souls to the fate that would await them..torn apart by his master’s servants. And so he refused to ferry any more across laving them stranded on this side of the Styx.
As he gestures to the scene in front of them Diana stares in horror at thousands of men and women swarming over each other as far as the eye can see. She then asks Charon how she can get out of here and he tells her that she cannot return the same way she came. There is only one way out through a passage guarded by the three headed Cerebus, whose only task is to prevent souls from escaping – and does so with terrible force. Only Hades himself can pass without harm. “Isn’t anything easy?” sighs Diana. She asks if there are any weapons she can take of if anyone will help her and is told no to both questions. He pints the way to the passage and as she sprints off he warns her to beware the Keres, the creatures who brought her here in the first place. “If they seize you before you pass Cerebus you will be torn to pieces and never leave here.”
After several minutes Diana reaches the entrance to the passageway but suddenly hears a familiar screeching sound and sees the Keres swooping down towards her. She is knocked down and slashed on the arm by one of them but getting to her feet quickly she grabs the next and tackling the creature to the floor tumbles over the ledge and lands with a thud on the floor below, still holding onto the struggling Keres tightly. Grabbing the creature around the throat she warns the others that if they do not let her pass she will snap this one’s throat on the count of three. As she starts counting the Keres suddenly transforms into a pretty young girl and says that Diana would surely not hurt her, for once they were beautiful like her, cursed to remain here for all time feeding on the souls who die in battle. But an undeterred Diana continues her count and a frustrated Keres orders her sisters to let the Amazon Princess pass. As Diana runs into the darkness of the passageway the Keres smile in the knowledge that the creature named Cerebus will never let her pass alive.
Diana suddenly hears an ominous growl and sees the huge three headed Cerebus advancing from the shadows, snarling ferociously. Wide eyed and unarmed, she nervously prepares to try and futilely defend herself against the monster but as the creature approaches slowly and sniffs her, it suddenly curls up like a puppy and goes to sleep. Amazed and equally bemused, she continues past the creature safely and heads towards the glowing white light at the exit of the passageway…
Moments later she slowly comes round to find herself lying on the desert floor surrounded by her worried Amazon sisters, who tell her she has been in a coma for four hours. Horrified, she leaps to her feet and says that they should have left her behind and carried on, because the men pursuing them may be here at any minute! The Amazons sheepishly gesture around them and reply meekly that their pursuers are already here. Diana sees to her dismay that they are completely surrounded by troops and armoured vehicles!
Just then one of the soldiers approaches, hands raised, and hands Diana a walkie talkie. The voice of the platton commander explains that he has been authorised to make a deal. The one he works for is willing to let all the other Amazons go in exchange for her. The men will give the others a truck and safe passage to the sea – as well as a radio so that they can confirm back to her that they are clear and on their way home. Diana asks why, and is told that his master wants to see her. He wants her to wait for him so he can come and meet her face to face – just the two of them. He also apparently has something for her…something that belonged to her mother. “Do we have a deal?” the commander asks. “Yeah, you’ve got a deal” replies Diana resolutely.
Soon the Amazons board a truck and Diana instructs them to radio only when they are safely at sea in case the men renege on the deal. They ask again why she won’t come with them and she replies that this is something she wants – and needs – to do…for all of them. “It’s time.” she states.
Diana watches the truck depart before picking up her shield and sword from the sand as the other soldiers also begin to depart, leaving her alone with her thoughts, waiting patiently for her nemesis. As the night closes in she suddenly hears a plane overhead which drops napalm, illuminating the desert around her in a blaze. Then, through the smoke and flame, a figure approaches.
The Leader tells Diana that it is fitting for them to meet in flame, as this is how her mother met her end and defied him. He then shows Diana his arm, around which the golden lasso is wrapped. He tells her that it responds to the heat…recognises the fire….and recognises Diana. It saw its mistress taken by fire. And now it will see the same happen to her daughter.
“One of us will leave this place alive. It will not be you.” he states.