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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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12/25/2007 Archived Entry: "Comic review: Wonder Woman: Love and Murder"

Wonder Woman: Love and Murder
Written by Jodi Picoult
Art by Terry Dodson, Drew Johnson and others
Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
Published by DC Comics, June 2007

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

I read this book with a bittersweet feeling of familiarity. On the one hand, I enjoyed seeing my old childhood idol again, even in a graphic novel (which is how they refer to comics for grownups), and how little she has changed. On the other hand, it hurts to see how much the world of mortals has changed and how little it appreciates her. She's still as strong as Hercules, as beautiful as Aphrodite, and as wise as Minerva. But her old-fashioned values have collided with the politically correct mores of our time, particularly the one which claims that all criminals are capable of redemption.

Wonder Woman's troubles began when she had to kill a bad guy. "So what?" you may say. "Isn't that her job? Don't heroes have to kill bad guys in order to save the world?" Unfortunately, this bad guy was a government agent. A rogue agent named Maxwell Lord, a/k/a the Black King, who had taken control of Superman's mind and was using him to beat up Batman and attack Wonder Woman. When she finally got her golden lasso on him and forced him to tell her how she could stop him, he said "Kill me." The arrogant SOB probably thought she was too much of a Goodie Two Shoes to do it. Or too much of a woman. But she wasn't either, so she did kill him. Which set Superman free, but put her on trial for murder.

What kills me is that "both the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight could not condone Wonder Woman's actions, believing that there could have been another way to stop Lord." (See intro page one) Excuse me, Supe, Caped Crusader, but are you both nuts? You were both threatened by a villain with mental powers who was trying to destroy you, and you're not even grateful to the woman who saved your latex-covered muscular butts? I'll bet the real reason is that you were both embarrassed at being saved by a woman.

After the trial and subsequent acquittal, Wonder Woman took a year off from her duties do some soul-searching and adopted the identity of Diana Prince, special agent for the Department of Metahuman affairs. She is partnered with Tom Tresser, aka Nemesis, a chameleon-like master of disguise, and they both report to Sarge Steel. She now divides her time between her government job and her real job of bringing peace to "Man's World" as Wonder Woman.

Then one day both her worlds collide, when she is ordered to bring in Wonder Woman for questioning about Max Lord. Before you can say "double jeopardy", the witch Circe appears and kidnaps her partner while disguised as Wonder Woman. Our heroine pursues her, beats her up and gets Nemesis back. Circe, being a typical villain, taunts her for caring so much about mortals when she isn't one and questions her reasons for protecting them, since she's the type who wouldn't recognize real goodness if it walked up and introduced itself. No sooner does Woman Woman rescue Nemesis than Sarge Storm shows up and takes her into custody. It seems he's received orders from higher up to keep her in custody until she spills some details about Amazon technology, a weapon called the Purple Death Ray in particular.

Meanwhile, Circe goes to Paradise Island and revives Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman's mother, who died a hero's death not too long ago. She shows her a vision of our heroine in prison, which enrages Hippolyta enough to declare war on mankind. If you haven't guessed by now that Circe is behind all of our heroine's troubles, you just haven't been paying attention.

The rest of the book is filled with colorful panels packed with plenty of action—hot pursuits, fistfights, Amazons on horseback, superheroes in flight. Batman and Black Canary put in an appearance to try to stop the attack of the Amazons (I'll bet Superman whimped out!), which culminates with Wonder Woman fighting her own resurrected mother, even after she's convinced it really is Hippolyta, not another of Circe's illusions. As for Circe, she slinks away after being mortally wounded during the battle, but don't make the mistake of believing that she's dead. As C.S. Lewis wrote about witches in "Prince Caspian", part two of his Narnian Chronicles, "Whoever heard of a witch that really died? You can always get them back." I'm sure that Circe will recover in time to make Wonder Woman's life miserable in a sequel.

The whole plot hangs upon the thread of Wonder Woman's responsibility toward the mortal world; namely, does it still deserve her protection even after treating her so unjustly? Okay, so she killed a bad guy. He deserved his fate. Granted, most superheroes prefer to bring the bad guy in alive for the courts to judge, but I've seen plenty of comics and cartoons where the villain suffered a well-deserved death, usually by his own stupidity or at the hands of his henchmen. Of course a decent hero tries to save the villain, but few of them shed any tears over their failure to do so. Neither does society, once they discover the extent of the villain's evil. So why can't they cut Wonder Woman some slack, after all she's done for us?

To me, the true measure of a hero is being able to behave heroically even after the ones you're sworn to protect have turned on you and show no gratitude for your past heroics. Spiderman has certainly been in that position once too often; one day a hero, the next day a criminal. But he still keeps on helping the helpless and stopping the bad guys, because he knows somebody has to do it, and he's the only one around qualified to do it. The cops do their best, but they're only human. Heroes are superhuman, and great power requires great responsibility. Wonder Woman knows this too. Like Spiderman, she knows she's been treated unfairly, judged harshly by a civilian populace that doesn't know what danger they're in half the time, as well as by her fellow heroes with their self-righteous ethics. But what can she do but keep on keeping on?

Like Mother Eve after she's tasted the apple of knowledge, she can't return to Paradise. She knows too much about humanity by now to feel comfortable about abandoning us to our fate, as much as we deserve it. If only she could make her mother and Circe understand this! But then, there would be no conflict and no story. And having even a confused and conflicted Wonder Woman in this world is better than having none at all. Or, as Nemesis tells her after a discouraging day, "You stop believing in heroes, the hero inside you dies." May there always be heroes to uphold the ideals of truth, justice, and the American Way, despite the politically correct pests who keep telling us the American Way isn't the only way, and refuse to acknowledge the bitter truth that sometimes you have to do wrong to do right.

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