Phil Hester makes the best of the hand he has been dealt, but his efforts combined with the rest of the creative team cannot paper over the cracks of the disruption Straczynski’s abrupt departure had caused. Once again, this issue feels rushed, the sequences disjointed and the quality of the artwork variable from page to page. Although seemingly a general theme in this story arc, the level of violence and blood is particularly acute in this issue. Straczynski’s vision for the character still remained unclear, even though we were now half way through his “Odyssey” story line – and fans remained divided as to whether this was a skillfully woven epic and a groundbreaking revisionist take on the Amazon Princess – or just a rather average Elseworlds story featuring a lead character that more resembled Donna Troy than she did Wonder Woman. After all the drastic changes in her origin and the discarding of the iconic costume as if it were an afterthought – where exactly was all this heading and in the end -would it really have been worth the journey?
To further stoke fans ire, the elation on hearing the news that NBC had picked up David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman TV pilot soon turned to dismay and despair as an alleged leaked draft of the script revealed the show to have little to do with the ‘Wonder Woman’ character known and loved by her fans and the wider general public alike. Instead it featured a largely unrecognisable portrayal of Diana in a show crossed between Hannah Montana and Sex in the City! And of course, it was almost inevitable that the iconic costume would also be absent.
Although nobody knew for sure if this was a legitimate draft from the Kelley pilot, to many fans this seemed all to plausible, as they remembered the disastrous Cathy Lee Crosby debacle from the early 70’s – where misguided TV execs also tried to supposedly “modernise” the character and make her more “relevant” to the times, giving the world a TV movie that bombed spectacularly as viewers were unable to relate to – or even understand who – this character was supposed to be -even though the words “Wonder” and “Woman” appeared in the title! A few years later however Douglas Cramer tried again with significant more success, by going back to the original source material – keeping faithful to the character’s look and her origins – and brought the now legendary Lynda Carter to our TV screens. The rest, as they say, became history.
Both George Perez and in particular Greg Rucka demonstrated during their runs on the title just how simple it actually is to write a real world Diana who is both a relevant and believable character for our modern times. And without the need for jacket and pants makeovers either.
Truly, in what should have been a celebratory year marking Diana’s 70th Anniversary – the current situation she found herself in as a character and a concept was – in many fans eyes – including mine – a sorry state of affairs. What would William Moulton Marston have thought…
Cernunnos stands over the wounded Amazon Princess, gloating over her naivety but as he moves in for the kill Philippus leaps down from above and blacks his path. Amused by her street style get up, he sees her as no threat as she wields a dagger. But when she suddenly reveals she is carrying a hand grenade which she swiftly lobs at the surprised Huntsman he shouts a warning to his men too late as the grenade explodes – and he himself only just manages to avoid being caught in the blast.
Using the mayhem as a distraction, Philippus manages to carry the woozy Diana up onto a nearby rooftop to tend to her wound. As she snaps of the spear’s point she tells Diana to prepare herself as she will now need to remove the shaft. As Philippus positions herself for leverage, she snaps off the choker around Diana’s neck as it is in the way before yanking the spear from Diana’s body – who for her part cries out in pain.
As she wraps some rags around the bloody wound she advises the Amazon Princess to keep her arm to her side until they can get her back to refuge and treat the wound properly. She adds that they do not have much time as the Huntsman Deity has keen tracking senses and will soon find them.
Unfortunately for the two Amazons her fears are all too soon confirmed as Cernunnos launches himself up the side of the building and leaps onto the roof top, spear ready. Philippus instructs the still weakened Diana to make a run for it as the Amazon captain readies herself to confront their attacker. Diana murmurs that she will not leave Philippus alone with this monster but the confident Captain says she was born for this and drawing her dagger, invites Cernunnos to make his move.
As she hurls spears at her in rapid succession she skillfully uses the dagger to knock them aside, again telling Diana to make for the safe house as she has no intention of being killed by this “clumsy beast”.
With that, she launches herself at the Huntsman and uses her dagger to slice at him, managing to cut off one of his antlers. But he roars “Enjoy your trophy” and uses his hind legs to smash her in the face, sending her flying backwards onto the floor. As blood pours from her shattered jaw and she desperately tries to regain her senses he charges at her and before she can react he picks her up and holding her aloft, he savagely impales her on his remaining antler sending a fountain of blood exploding from her chest as he kills the valiant Philippus.
A horrified Diana screams out her name and rushes forward as Cernunnos draws his dagger to cut off the head of the Amazon Captain as his trophy…
Meanwhile in the apartment below Buddy tries to climb out of the window to go and help Diana but a desperate Brianne grabs him and says that they will be safe if they stay where they are. Suddenly the Minotaur bursts into the apartment and demands the boy. Brianne struggles and his knocked aside unconscious while the creature takes the struggling boy away as bait to lure Diana. As they exit the shadowy figure who had been observing the Amazons at the abandoned temple earlier climbs in through the window clutching the Wonder Woman doll they had picked up. Picking up one of Buddy’s crayons from the floor the figure draws the symbol of the Morrigan on the wall..
Back on the roof meanwhile, Cernunnos goads Diana that he owes her a share of this kill as it was her carelessness that lead directly to the demise of Philippus. Diana uses her bracelet though to block the dagger as he attempts to decapitate the Amazon Captain. He tries to swing at her but she again blocks the attack, shattering his blade in the process. He uses his other hand to punch her, sending her sailing across the roof and then hurls a spear at the Amazon Princess, who has already got back on her feet and is charging at him again. She effortlessly grabs the spear, using it to subsequently deflect other spears thrown at her, and grabbing a second with her other hand in the process.
A stunned Cernunnos cannot believe her speed as she in turn throws the two spears in his direction. Although he manages to jump over the two spears he realises too late that he was not the target as they smash through the base of the surrounding rooftop wall, destabilising the section he is standing upon and sending him tumbling down into the street below.
As he smashes into the road, blood trickling from his mouth, he begins to get to his feet, crowing that it will take more than that to kill him. But Diana is already rocketing down towards him from the roof top above and before he can react she smashes her knees into his back, instantly crippling him and crying out “For Philippus!”
The remaining shock troops raise their weapons hesitantly as she turns to face them, armed with a spear and seething with rage. “Yes, open fire. Who among you dies first?” she snarls. Terrified, the troops make a hasty retreat up the road knowing they stand zero chance against the lethal Amazon Princess. She then turns her attention back to Cernunnos who whimpers how she has broken his back. But Diana is in no mood for mercy tonight. “Not enough” she states as she snaps off his remaining antler. ” You die as she did.” she coldly declares as she stabs the antler into his back and through his heart, slaying the Huntsman with the same violence and blood he had dispatched Philippus.
In their lair, Bellona and Anann watch these events through a mystical pool of water. “So much for your toy” Bellona comments. Anann replies “A pawn sacrificed for the longer game sister”, adding that Diana is in the full bloom of vengeance now – her hatred for the enemy smothering the innocence at her core. With each new atrocity they heap upon her she inches one step closer to them. Soon she will either be one of their kind – or dead!
Just then one of their slaves, Ajax, enters to report to a subsequently annoyed Bellona that their Amazon prisoners are stirring…
Across town Diana races into the apartment to find the semi-conscious Brianne lying there who murmurs how Buddy had been taken. Just then Orithia and the other Amazons arrive and tell Diana that they must head back to the refuge immediately as it’s not safe here. Diana says that Brianne needs to be taken to a hospital and is told that Therestra will take care of it. Diana then asks about Philippus. She is told that the Amazon Captain’s body had been recovered and that they regretted not getting here sooner – but that they must leave now. Diana then states that she is not going anywhere until she has found the boy. Orithia states that it has almost certainly been done to lure her into a trap.
Just then Attia spots the symbol of the Morrigan crayoned on the wall and they recognise it as being similar to the one at the abandoned temple. Orithia theorizes that Buddy may have been taken back to the temple by the creature. “Show me” Diana orders a reluctant Orithia. as they make their way from the apartment Diana curiously studies one of the Wonder Woman dolls that they had recovered from the temple. “What is this supposed to be?” she asks and is told by her Amazon sisters that they are unsure – but that there were dozens at the site…
Back at the Morrigan’s Lair the two Goddesses of War look down into a large birthing chamber in which three pods reside. Bellona cries out that the three women lying in the pods had been cruelly left for dead on the battlefield of Themyscira by their so called Amazon sisters. She orders them to rise up now, their bodies having been “cleansed” by the five rivers of the underworld. In turn, Giganta, Cheetah and Artemis step forth from the birthing pool as Bellona addresses each in turn, stating their respective gifts and strengths. But before she gets to Artemis the Amazon snatches the sword from Bellona’s hand and snarls that she is Artemis the huntress and that her prey is the Amazons who had abandoned them – and their Princess.
A short while later at the abandoned temple Diana and the other Amazons are searching through the ruins for any sign of Buddy. Diana sees more of the Wonder Woman dolls lying on the floor and kneeling down, picks a couple of them up and wonders if they are meant to be her? Orithia had not considered that possibility before but replies that they might supposed be.
Suddenly Attia tells them that they have more pressing matters to attend to and that the skeletons they had found in the pit had not been sacrifices after all. As Diana and the other Amazons turn to face the pit the skeleton army rises up from their grave ready to attack!