Wonder Woman Trade Post: The Contest & The Challenge Of Artemis

Written by William Messner-Loebs, drawn by Mike Deodato Jr.
Collects Wonder Woman Vol. II #0, 90-93
With all the talk about JMS changing Wonder Woman’s costume and status quo I figured it would be a good time to go back and check out another time Princess Diana’s world got shaken up pretty bad, questioned her origins and changed her costume. It was 1994 and change had been sweeping across the DCU for a while. Superman died a few years before, Batman’s back got snapped by Bane and Hal Jordan had gone insane, murdering most of the Green Lantern Corps. It was a bad time to be one of DC’s biggest heroes and Wonder Woman was no exception as she would go on to lose her mantle in these issues.

Here’s how it went down. Wonder Woman visits Paradise Island only to discover that her mother Hippolyta wants to have another contest to see if Diana is still fit to be Wonder Woman and show man’s world the error of its war-filled ways. As it turns out, a new tribe of Amazons have returned to the Island and the participate as well, which results in Diana losing the title to Artemis. But, as you might expect, something fishy seems to be going on during the contest with all kinds of monsters and other unforeseen pitfalls facing the contestants. Oh, Diana also starts questioning if Hercules is her father. Meanwhile, back in Boston–Wonder Woman’s base of operations at the time–a mob war involving high tech hitmen and magicians and demons continues to rage on just waiting for the new Wonder Woman and Diana–now decked out in bike shorts, a bra and a jacket–to come clean it up.

Written by William Messner-Loebs, drawn by Mike Deodato Jr.
Collects Wonder Woman Vol. II #94-100
Because these two trades collect consecutive issues, it’s actually easier to talk about them together. In The Challenge Of Artemis, Diana tries to continue on with her work, going up against the aforementioned mob people while Artemis takes on a lot of steroid-ridden dudes with big guns that seem VERY 90s. But, again, fishiness ensues. The book still mainly focuses on Diana even though Artemis is technically the new WW.

I remember buying these issues as they came out. It was new and different and I was very curious about the whole thing, but I always wondered why Artemis didn’t get more pagetime. Hell, Diana had been around for years and was even starring in Justice League of America at the time, so I always wondered why the actual Wonder Woman didn’t get more coverage.

Well, what I didn’t realize is that it wasn’t meant to be. I guess these are SPOILERS, but I’m guessing you don’t care because these are 16 year old comics that no one but me seems to care about anymore. It turns out that Hippolyta had a vision that Wonder Woman was going to die, so she rigged the contest so that someone else would get the mantle, one of the newly returned Amazons who happened to be loyal to her sister. Meanwhile, Circe has been screwing with Diana for a while now and was so deep undercover that she didn’t even remember that she was masquerading as Diana’s friend Donna. It’s all kind of jumbled, but in the 100th issue (with a holofoil cover of course) we find out that Donna was Circe, but she helps Diana by sending her to help Artemis who’s facing these giant demons. Artemis died and Diana barely makes it out alive and that’s that.

Though the story holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first Wonder Woman I ever read, it doesn’t really hold up very well. I’m not a big fan of stories where it turns out that everything you’ve been reading has been a set-up and that happens to be the case not only with Artemis who’s being played but also Diana who got played by her mom. It’s a big much. Plus, even though the big over-the-top guys that Artemis faces turn out to be magically imbued actors for the most part, they’re still a bit on the ridiculous side, though Deodato draws them well. He’s great all around. Well, back then he was, I think he looks muddy now.

All in all, it’s a generally forgettable part of Wonder Woman’s history, but I like it. I love how DC was doing such crazy shit back then and I really like Artemis as a character. I haven’t read the Requiem mini where she fights her way out of hell, but I might keep my eyes peeled for it at my next con. I would go on to read all of John Byrne’s run even though I don’t remember liking it too much. For some reason it never crossed my mind that I could stop buying a comic. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. In fact, it was the first book that I eventually dropped much later after Byrne left the book.

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