The celebrate the first year of the New 52 universe DC published a number of “zero” issues across its line, in which more facts about these newly re-booted characters were revealed. Most of these issues were rather poor but the Wonder Woman zero issue was one of the rare exceptions. It not only was a good story in its own right but it also fitted very well into the ongoing story line.
When young amazon Princess Diana turned twelve years old, she was required to find a prize to show Queen Hippolyta, or else the passing of her year would go unacknowledged. She decided to try to steal a harpy’s egg from its nest. When she climbed the rocky outcropping to the nest, and took an egg in her hands, the mother harpy appeared, and threatened to claw Diana’s eyes out if she didn’t put it back. To escape, Diana dove into the ocean and swam into an underground cavern leading back to her home on Themyscira. Surfacing in the cavern’s depths, she was surprised to find Hippolyta and the other Amazons waiting there for her. When Diana presented the queen with the intact harpy’s egg, the Amazons raised her up in their arms and carried her away happily. From nearby, the god Ares watched, and considered Diana’s potential.
The celebration of Diana’s birth included games of martial skill, in which Diana herself was too young to participate. Even so, her young rival Aleka, who was also too young to participate, petitioned the queen to demonstrate what she and Diana had learned in their training exercises for her. The queen allowed it, with the provision that they use wooden swords, however Aleka clearly intended to assert her superiority.
The girls began and Diana was soon aware of how hard Aleka was fighting. Hoping to end the conflict rather than hurt her friend, Diana disarmed Aleka and begged her to yield. Instead, the girl defiantly throws mud in Diana’s face and warns that the princess will never be a true Amazon warrior, using the derogatory epithet “Clay”, referring to the legend of Diana’s creation from clay. At this, Diana became so angry that she viciously attacked Aleka, until she had to be called off. In horror at her act of impulsive aggression, Diana ran away, crying apologies.
Alone, Diana cried at the edge of a silent stream, bemoaning the fact that she had no real parents because she was formed from clay. It would only be later that she would learn this was not the case. As she wept, Diana heard a stranger’s voice behind her, suggesting it might be a gift that she is different, and not a burden. The man introduced himself as the god of war, and, having seen her potential, offered to teach her a warrior’s ways. She agreed, and every month under the full moon, they would train together.
Diana’s skills improved each time, and she would go on to best many of the Amazons in both competition and battle, though she never allowed War’s training to overtake her traditional Amazon studies. All of her successes made her mother sure that Diana would become a fine Amazon Queen one day.
After one year of training, Diana expressed her desire to train with a real blade. Cautiously, War warned that to fight with a real sword is to accept the consequences of real battle. A real weapon must be used for what it was made to do. Still, at her insistence, he agreed. However, her first outing with a real weapon would therefore be a battle to the death. Unsure of how to handle such a duel, she tried to disarm him. However, even without a weapon, he bested her, warning that when disarmed, one must use his enemies weapons against them. Diana accepted death by his hand, but seeing this, he relented, warning that a true warrior would never accept, and always fight death.
On the day of Diana’s thirteenth birthday War sent her to find a special tribute for her mother, as she had the previous year. He directed her to a cave opening surrounded by two monoliths.
Soon, Diana realised that she had entered an ancient underground labyrinth, and used her magic lasso to find her way back through it. This labyrinth was littered with the bones of those who had failed to escape it alive. Deep inside it, she discovered how many of them met their fates: the Minotaur. She realises War has taken her to Crete to fight the legendary creature.
The powerful creature chased her down, causing her to drop her lamp on the ground. The flames only served to anger it further. She remembered, then, War’s lesson that she should use her enemy’s weapons against him. As the Minotaur charged at her, she dodged him at the last second, sending him careening into a wall. This dazed him, allowing her to beat him into unconsciousness with a rock.
Finally, War appeared, and passed her a sword, demanding that she kill the Minotaur and bring its head back to Hippolyta as her birth day tribute. As she raised the blade over her head, Diana saw the anger in the Minotaur’s eyes change to helplessness. At this, she relented, to War’s disappointment. He warned that a true warrior would not show mercy. She reminded that he had shown her mercy in their duel, and turned her sword on him instead. Glaring coldly at her tearful face, he swatted the sword from her hands and declared that he would help her no further.
Left alone in the labyrinth with the Minotaur, Diana sensed that she had gained the creature’s respect, and was allowed to leave the labyrinth alive. Without the Minotaur’s head as a trophy, Diana wondered if her mercy would be tribute enough.
Upon leaving the cave, she once again sees her home Themyscira. She questions whether she was really in Crete, or if this is one of War’s tricks.