Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 4 (DC)
Written by Denny O’Neil, Samuel R. Delany, Bob Haney & Robert Kanigher, drawn by Don Heck, Dick Giordano, Jim Aparo & Don Heck
Collects Wonder Woman #199-204, Brave And The Bold #105
If you’ve already read my reviews of the first, second and third volumes of the Diana Prince: Wonder Woman you already know the basic idea behind this quartet of collections: Wonder Woman decided to stay in this reality when the Greek gods decided to go on a sojourn. Now on her own, the powerless Diana Prince still did her best to right wrongs while also learning martial arts from a man named I Ching, wearing a lot of white and opening up a boutique.
Before writing this review I went back and read the previous three, partially because it’s taken me five years to read four trades, but also because I needed a little refresher on my thoughts. All three reviews share two elements of this run that I got a kick out of: Mike Sekowsky’s writing and art are fantastic and the issues run the gamut of genres much like the films Roger Corman produced around the same time. This volume, unfortunately lacks Sekowsky’s involvement, but does continue the genre mash-up goodness that I so enjoy.
Much like she did in the first volume, Diana finds herself palling around with a private detective, this one Jonny Double (the same guy Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso rejuvenated in the 1998 miniseries). He’s a fun character because he’s your traditional down-on-his-luck guy, but also peppers his speech with some beatnik-ness which goes well with the overall vibe of this book. Diana and Jonny get paid to protect a guy. What sounds like a simple bodyguard job turns into all kinds of wonderful wackiness involving cultists, exploding dogs (not a typo) and jousters on motorized unicycles (also not a typo). The next story is even crazier, borrowing elements and characters from Fafhrd And The Gray Mouser, a concept I know nothing about but still involved swords, sorcery, mystical gems and Catwoman (she and the Gray Mouser both chase a mouse!).
The book ends a bit wobbly thanks to an issue of Brave And The Bold that doesn’t feature nearly enough mod Diana drawn by Jim Aparo. This one didn’t do much for me, but I do appreciate it in the book. Then you’ve got the penultimate issue which is fantastic. This one has Diana getting in on the Women’s Lib movement and helping bring down a man setting up a crummy department store to put women in danger while making money off of ladies wanting to get in on at least the fashion of women’s lib. There’s a lot of great stuff in this one from O’Neil who’s no slouch in the writing department.
Let’s call this SPOILER TOWN (for a decades-old book). This last issue feels like an editor coming in with a broom and just sweeping everything that I love away. I Ching gets killed by a sniper on page 4, Diana goes after him but winds up hitting her head and losing her memory on page 7, by 13 she’s back on Paradise Island and we’re treated to another retelling of her origins. Oddly, we’re also introduced to Nubia the Wonder Woman from another Amazon place called the Floating Island. Has this ever been brought up again? My Wonder Woman knowledge is just about zero between this time and the next time Diana lost her powers in The Contest, so it very well may have and I missed it. It seems like an interesting idea and while they don’t completely dump on everything that came before it or tell you that it never happened, it certainly feels like an unceremonious end to a series I really enjoyed. Even with a bit of a weak ending, I’m still a huge fan of this line of books and will proudly display them on my bookshelves…when I eventually get shelves big enough to support my whole collection.
Much like with New 52, DC had different levels of failure and success when they pulled their One Year Later jump towards the end of the universe-altering Infinite Crisis. I’m still a huge fan of what Judd Winick did in Green Arrow and Outsiders and also Up, Up And Away which reintroduced us to Superman. But others didn’t go over so well. Remember Nightwing? Nah, don’t, it’s not worth it, I promise. Wonder Woman fell somewhere in between, but everyone was really excited about it. Allan Heinberg moved from TV to comics with Young Avengers which was pretty great and also joined Geoff Johns for a JLA arc that was heavily tied to Infinite Crisis. Teaming him up with Terry and Rachel Dodson seemed like a killer match. But, the book was super late. MyComicShop tells me that the first three issues came out consecutively, but there’s a four month gap between #3 and #4 with the annual hitting nine months after that. Much like they did with the first Geoff Johns/Richard Donner arc of Action Comics, DC switched gears with the ongoing to get the issues coming out more regularly and finished this story in an annual. None of this matters to you if you’re just reading this book, of course.
The intent of this book was to set up a new status quo for Wonder Woman. This comes after the lead up to Infinite Crisis which found Diana killing Maxwell Lord who had the power to control minds and did exactly that with Superman. Wonder Woman dropped off the face of the map for a year — just like Superman and Batman — but is now back…as Diana Prince, an agent of the Department of Metahuman Affairs partnered with Nemesis. While she’s working at being a secret agent, Donna Troy has stepped in as Wonder Woman and Cassie Wonder Girl is pissed off at the whole thing. But, Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery — Cheetah, Giganta, Dr. Psycho and a small fleet of others — wants her to return so they go after Donna and Cassie. The real baddie then gets revealed and Diana winds up with a new status quo: when she turns from Wonder Woman back into Diana, she loses her powers.
It’s not a bad set-up and if this was a simple four issue lead-in to whatever happened next, it’d be great. But, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Issues #4-13 feature issues by Will Pfeifer, novelist Jodi Piccoult and J. Torres, but my memories of those issues aren’t very good. This was also around the time that Amazon’s Attack happened which also doesn’t have a good reputation in my brain. With #14, Gail Simone hops on board and creates one of the best Wonder Woman runs in recent memory (I’ve got to read Rucka’s stuff). I don’t remember her stuff taking muck or anything from this arc, so it winds up feeling a little pointless upon further reflection.