Wonder Woman – Volume 3 – 614


Wonder Woman – Volume 3 – 614

General Info

Issue No:
614
On Sale Date:
August 2011
Cover Date:
October 2011
Era:
Modern Age
Story Title:
The Odyssey: Part Fourteen - The Return

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
Josh Middleton
Alex Garner (Variant)
Writer:
J. Michael Straczynski (Plot), Phil Hester
Penciller:
Don Kramer, Lee Garbett
Inker:
Drew Geraci, Robin Riggs, Trevor Scott
Letterer:
Travis Lanham
Colourist:
Pete Pantazis
Editor:
Chris Conroy (Associate), Matt Idelson

Characters

Main:
Wonder Woman (Princess Diana)
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
Nemesis
Olympians:
N/A
Amazons:
Philippus, Artemis, Hippolyta
Other:
N/A
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Comments

And so, after fourteen long months Odyssey finally reaches its climax and after so much hype and having been promised so much from this epic story arc, the end result left most fans cold and this volume of Wonder Woman simply went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

The arc had already been severely undermined after the abrupt departure of Straczynski and although replacement writer Phil Hester did the best he could with Straczynski’s plot notes, after a promising start the arc drifted and lost focus as each issue came and went. The arc was then fatally compromised in June when DC announced their intended re-boot of the entire DC Universe, effectively rendering the events and indeed the final outcome of Odyssey all rather pointless and irrelevant.

What should have been a spectacular “last hurrah” for Diana in her 70th anniversary year ended up being one of the weakest issues of the entire run and an incredibly contrived one at that. We reach the final ‘climatic’ tussle with Nemesis during which Diana reveals she knows “who she is” again after her epic Odyssey – and renounces becoming the new Nemesis. Quite why Diana needed fourteen months of wandering around in utter confusion, losing her friends and loved ones in bloody fashion and being shot, stabbed or impaled every other issue in order to help her make this decision was beyond many fans.

In a flash suddenly everything turns back to normal and after some pleasantries with Philippus, Artemis and Hippolyta on a restored Themyscira, the reader is left with the feeling that the year long Odyssey arc had achieved absolutely nothing in moving this character forward as had been hyped – and had instead served as a completely unwanted and unnecessary “dead end” of a story – denying long term fans the chance to enjoy one final year of adventures featuring the current incarnation of the classic Wonder Woman, before the impending re-launch effectively wiped her from existence.

The only thing the arc did deliver fans was a new costume and it seems that the original intention on DC’s part (or should I say on Dan Didio’s part) was for the infamous pants to remain a permanent feature. This is based on some dialogue between Diana and Hippolyta, in which an attempt is made to “justify” Diana keeping the new costume – when logically she should have reverted back to the way she was when she had originally confronted the Morrigan and Nemesis – in other words, wearing her traditional attire. Remember, Diana’s new outfit had been created because of the nature of the story arc’s altered timeline and origin – as well as the fact that she had grown up in Man’s World as an urban street-fighter with modern day sensibilities. The Jim Lee costume was meant to portray this different upbringing and reflect an edgier Diana in order to be a more applicable attire for the temporary setting of this specific story arc. So why, when everything else had reverted back to the way it had been previously, didn’t the costume change back?

To try and acknowledge and justify this anomaly – and in a totally out of character statement – Hippolyta seems to completely over-look the fact that Wonder Woman’s classic costume is symbol of Amazon heritage that has deep significance and meaning to her people, representing both Diana’s responsibility as Hera’s champion and her mission in Man’s World. Instead the Amazon Queen treats it like the latest season’s fashion item by telling Diana “Changed you uniform again I see. Don’t worry, I like it. Themysciran themes but in a form mortals would find appealing.”

This truly clumsy piece of dialogue and reasoning implies that Diana’s costume changes almost every other week (as if sometimes it’s yellow with green stripes, sometimes she wears a hat with it, sometimes she wears long sleeves etc. etc.) when in fact the fundamental elements of the costume have remained virtually UNCHANGED throughout her ENTIRE history. She’s ALWAYS worn a golden tiara, silver bracelets, red bustier, star-spangled blue shorts/briefs and red boots. Hippolyta does not even mention the fact that this “new look” contains no white stars as a design element on her pants – even though this symbolic star motif is one of the most significant parts of the costume!

As can be seen on this web site’s welcome screen art work (and which now appears all over the web!), Wonder Woman’s costume has remained structurally consistent and intact throughout the years – aside from minor cosmetic tweaks or embellishments here and there. Diana has only once ever worn a completely different costume in standard continuity (Elseworlds stories aside), when she gave up her powers and wore the infamous and equally ill-judged white jump suit during the late 60’s/Early 70’s. Some fans may state that I am forgetting the William Messner Loebs run, in which she wore a biker jacket and shorts, but this was never her actual costume -she was no longer Wonder Woman during this arc and this was actually her chosen civilian look. In fact, the classic costume was still alive and well and was instead being worn by Artemis while acting as the new replacement Wonder Woman.

So to somehow pretend that Diana’s wardrobe choices are a never ending revolving door of outfits is simply ludicrous and amounts to nothing more than poor writing and/or editorial oversight – pure and simple.

Once again, the art work is patchy and sub standard throughout much of the issue – a problem that plagued the arc throughout the majority of issues once Straczynski had jumped ship and caused chaos in the publishing schedules. It was as if the creative team was never quite able to catch up without fill in artists having to step in – so as to get the title out in time in order to coincide with the end of the “Flashpoint” crossover event.

Speaking of which, in an attempt to try and bridge the abrupt and awkward ending of this arc to the forthcoming re-launch post “Flashpoint”, Diana tells her mother in this issue that she feels change is coming once more. And she is certainly correct in that respect.

As far as preparation for the launch of the “New DC Universe” was concerned, DC continued their tactics of cat and mouse with fans as interior preview art released at Comic Con clearly depicted Diana without the infamous Jim Lee pants. This caused further internet controversy, as fans of the new look accused DC of selling out to “whiny fan boys”, while disgruntled and fed up long term fans of the classic costume, although pleased to some extent to see that Diana was at least recognisable as “Wonder Woman” again instead of some wannabe “Super Woman”, were perplexed by DC’s continued blatant efforts to cause controversy and stir the forums – making the company look at times like a bunch of indecisive clowns.

And even though the pants appeared to have gone (at least for now), Diana still sported a silly choker around her neck and bizarrely, had now apparently received a pair of dark blue boots instead of her famous iconic red ones, making her overall look unbalanced and unnatural. Interestingly, Adrianne Palicki’s first costume for the ill-fated TV pilot, which sported blue boots and pants, received wide spread vilification from fans and, more tellingly, from the wider general public and media at large. When shooting began a few weeks later she had magically had a make-over and wore the more traditional red boots and in later scenes in the pilot, wore the iconic version of the costume too – although the production company stated that this had been their intention all along. Some wondered if DC were taking a similar approach by releasing provocative misleading preview materials that did not actually reflect the final costume design.

Based on DC’s track record to date – nobody really knew quite what to expect when the book finally hit stores (perhaps she really would end up wearing yellow and a new hat?). Although it now appeared we had a Wonder Woman wearing a new costume that had not strayed too far away from her iconic look (blue boots aside)- the far bigger question remained as to what sort of character she would be in this brave new world of DC’s? Had the company learned from their editorial mistakes of the past that had brought fans such travesties as “Trinity” and “Amazons Attack!”?

Did they finally get what this character is supposed to be – or would new writer Brian Azzarello try and emulate the misguided approach taken by David E. Kelley for his ill-fated TV show pilot, who tried to bring us a darker, brooding, vengeful and even murderous Amazon Princess in the name of so called “modernisation and relevance” and in the process showed just how little Kelley knew, cared or understood about this character and her unique appeal? And far more worryingly…had DC endorsed this totally out of character and ill-judged TV version of Wonder Woman because it somehow actually fitted in with their own vision and plans for the character?

In interviews leading up to the re-launch the new creative team seemed to indicate they would be taking Diana in a very new and somewhat different direction. They acknowledged her status as an iconic character but believed she had become more recognised than she was known by people and that this re-launch would be an opportunity to try and address this.

I agree to some extent with this assessment because every fan has his or her own particular view on what the perfect interpretation of this character is meant to be. Personally however, I believe a lot of the blame for this situation lay with DC and their own poor editorial record, whereby they had allowed too many previous creative teams to stray from canon and established historical characterisation. This had meant that multiple interpretations of this character had attracted different types of fans over the years, so that in the end there was no longer a clear collective view of what made this character actually tick – simply because the original “template” had become so diluted over time and had turned into a mongrel of many things.

Would this brand new incarnation of Diana be true to the Marston legacy and be the peaceful, loving, virtuous, caring and forgiving spirit that her creator had always envisioned? Would she feature in stories that brought us adventure, fun, drama, action and suspense but without the misogyny and ultra violence of the past?

We would soon see…

Synopsis

Nemesis attacks Diana once more with her sword and the Amazon Princess uses her bracelets to defend herself, telling her foe that she had only been defeated by nemesis last time because she had been confused and battered by the Morrigan. As she uses her lasso to ensnare the sword and yanks it from her opponent’s grasp, she continues to explain that she is now whole again and that the trials that she has endured that were meant to weaken her have in fact only made her stronger.

She then kicks Nemesis to the ground and orders her to yield. But her foe has other ideas and replies that this form of hers is not match for Diana as it is now – but that her power was never in her limbs but instead resides in the burning souls of the murdered who cry out for vengeance. “They give me strength. They fire my wrath! They give me the form to form that will sweep makers of murder from the world…and those who would defend them!” With that she swells into a grotesque giant and clouts Diana with her fist sending the Amazon sprawling. She lands near the sword and getting to her feet, lifts it up and warns Nemesis to stay back. But her opponent advances and she is left with no choice but to skewer Nemesis through her throat! As the villainess collapses to the ground, her life ebbing away, she triumphantly tells Diana that she has passed her final test.

She tells a confused Diana that the urge to punish ebbs away from her as she dies and seeks a new champion. The sword Diana still holds was forged to kill Gods but without its’ owner the “Flashing Blade” must still punish. As Nemesis speaks, a blackness crawls up Diana’s sword arm and begins to engulf her entire body. “If you will not be Vanguard you must take up my wrath” cries Nemesis. Diana desperately tries to fight of the possession taking hold of her but as her opponent finally expires she knows her words are true.

She can feel the pain of the unjustly killed lining up behind her – an army of broken souls – their mindless anger pushing her on. This is what Nemesis had felt for thousands of years. This is the burden she could lay down of her own will. It is not a sickness but a terrible strength. Because they are right to rage against the inequality of their deaths. They deserve justice. They deserve to be avenged.

But as the blackness continues to engulf her she sees her own reflection momentarily in the blade of the sword. It is not the face that little Harry had drawn of her. Her hands are not the same hands that helped the wounded bird all those years ago on Themyscira. Her hair is not the same hair that Hippolyta combed each night. “This is not a reality I will accept. And this is not the woman I choose to be.

She knows that the Gods themselves had demanded the endless cycle of punishment. They had decreed that the spirit of wrath must be personified, that it’s power might grow unchecked. It is not the first time the Gods have been wrong.

She lifts the sword high into the air and cries that she will take the place of Nemesis. She will be the new wielder of the flashing blade and the last! In one decisive move she snaps the blade in two over her knee. She is engulfed in a blinding light as reality collapses in upon itself as the spell is broken and suddenly Diana finds herself in a forest on Themyscira.

She is greeted by a bemused Phillipus and Artemis who are practicing their archery skills. An overjoyed Diana hugs her puzzled sisters who cannot understand why the Princess is reacting this way as if she has not seen them for ages. They ask what troubles her and she smiles “Nothing, now. Nothing at all.”

She then swiftly flies to the palace to embrace her mother and says “I’m home”. Hippolyta comments on the fact that Diana has changed her uniform once again but says she approves of it, before adding that Batman had been trying to contact her about Gorilla Grodd. For Diana, she realises that clearly everything is truly back to normal.

The Amazon Queen reads Diana’s expression though and asks if anything is troubling her? She hugs her mother and replies that she is fine but would like to stay here for a while on the island “With you.”

A short while later in Diana’s chambers, Hippolyta is combing her daughter’s hair. Diana tells her mother that this is not going to last. when Hippolyta asks what she means by that statement, Diana responds “This. I mean this will ensure. You, me the Amazons. I’ve lived through so many permutations of that lately that I know the core will somehow stay intact…But there’s something else on the horizon. There always is.”

Hippolyta replies that she does not understand and Diana tries to explain that she has recently been on an Odyssey which had turned all she knew about her, Hippolyta and everything they are as Amazons upside down. It had made her forget who she was. She had lost her mother and everything she held dear. The Amazon Queen replies however that even so here Diana was – standing in front her – the daughter she has always known. Diana explains that she had fought to reclaim herself and to undo what had been done. That glimpse into another possible world however had made her aware that existence is fragile, always trembling under unseen pressures and always ready to give way to new realities. “That’s how I know it is about to happen again. I feel it. Things are about to change again.”

Hippolyta hugs her daughter reassuringly and replies that whatever lies ahead, as Diana had said earlier, she will always be Diana’s mother and she in turn always be her daughter. “Whether we live or die, we remain Amazons. And you remain Wonder Woman. And Wonder Woman does not hide away from threats or changes. She meets them head on.”

With that, Hippolyta leaves Diana alone to her thoughts. The pensive Amazon Princess vows to let her mother’s words remain with her during whatever follows.

“She will always be my mother.
I will always be her daughter, Diana of Themyscira.
Live or die, we will remain Amazons…

…and I will always be Wonder Woman.”

The End (for now)