When Dr. Psycho was... well, Psycho
Dr. Psycho was introduced in the Golden Age, and quickly became one of Wonder Woman's main foes. When George Perez revamped WW following Crisis of Infinite Earths, it was natural that he'd bring back, and revamp, Dr. Psycho, as he'd done with the Cheetah, Ares, the Silver Swan, and Circe.
Perez didn't rush into it, though. Dr. Psycho was re-introduced towards the end of Perez's run. But, as this was, really, a five year epic story, Dr. Psycho entered the stage when it was time for him to play his role.
And, that role would be nightmarish. Literally. This would establish him as one of the most twisted and evil of DC's villains. But, what's truly important is how Diana responds, how she deals with this threat. It's often said that heroes are, in part, defined by their villains. The villain represents what the hero must overcome in their struggles, what makes them heroes. Also, Diana, as she often does during Perez's run, demonstrates that she has other ways of dealing with evil than simply beating it up.
But first, some needed backstory. Everything in this run is intertwined, so I direct you to bluefall's fantastic series of posts. Be sure you've read all of these...
We start with something from earlier in the run. When Julia first met Diana, she had an interesting experience touching Harmonia's talisman. Her mind was flooded with a lot of images, including some long lost memories of someone pulling her from water, and giving her a kiss. As we later learned, Julia has a fear of drowning, because she almost did as a child. It was when she and Nessie first visited Themyscira that she learned what all that was about, and how there were still Amazons out in the world, including male ones. And yes, that's Curt Swan who drew this sequence.
And now we jump ahead quite a bit. Diana's being plagued by strange dreams. She's dreaming of her first battle with Circe's beastiamorphs in Greece, as well as the Teen Titans' encounter with them in their book, from Donna's point of view. Donna's having the same nightmares. They try to contact each other, but are unable to.
Nessie, meanwhile, is having trouble coping with Lucy's suicide (See, told ya you needed the backstory), and it's affecting her at school. Here, we meet her school guidance councelor Helen Anderson.
Diana, while investigating the New York sewers where the Titans had their incident, is attacked by the beastiamorphs. She's also hearing a voice in her head.
She recognizes the voice as Circe. She returns home... and learns why she hasn't been able to contact Donna.
She finds Donna, they fight Circe's minions.
The Amazons make their visit to Patriarch's wolrd, and begin a goodwill tour. Hermes has been rooming with Steve. Earlier, after an attack left Boston nearly destroyed, Hermes used much of his own energy to heal the city. Much of his power is still there, leaving him much weakened. His Roman counterpart, Mercury, takes advantage and attacks him. Diana intervenes, but after, Hermes feels humiliated, and asks Diana to leave.
Eileen arranges a surprise party for Nessie, and specifically asks Diana not to attend. Julia tells Diana to show, anyway, but because of the fight with Mercury, she's running late. Nessie fears the worst, and it gets ugly.
Nessie's also having nightmares.
She goes to talk to Steve... But being drawn into Diana's adventures has been putting major strain on his relationship with Etta, so he needs to work that out, though he promises it'll soon be like old times, again. Donna's off on a mission. So, she goes to see her mother.
She returns to Themyscira, as she has nowhere else to go, feeling suddenly very alone in the world.
Meanwhile, there's a series of brutal attacks on museums around the country. Guards are left decapitated, and items stolen are sacred to various gods of war and death, each attack happening in a city Amazons are visiting. Diana's friend on the Boston police force, Inspector Ed Indelicato is investigating, and getting mad at his partner for accusing the Amazons of doing it.
Diana continues to have nightmares, this time one where she's speaking with Harmonia, though Harmonia think's she's having the nightmare. Diana asks for answers, but Harmonia points out that if Diana is dreaming, any answers will be either what she wants to hear, or doesn't want to hear, but it won't be the truth. Harmonia wonders if they're in the Afterlife.
As those familiar with a certain earlier series Perez worked on know, when that guy shows up, it's bad news...
She wakes, surprised to learn she was sleeping in her armor. She decides to take the battle to Circe, though her sisters attempt to stop her, since she's sounding a bit crazed. Diana accidentally kills one of them...
Then she wakes, again, though this time how she usually sleeps, nude. Much calmer, she decides she has to return to America. She's chastizing herself about letting these dreams bother her...
Nessie, with Dr. Stanton, has made a miraculous recovery. She's even getting straight 'A's for the first time. Her teachers are thrilled. Helen is troubled, though. Seems a little too miraculous. She thinks she needs to have a talk with Dr. Stanton.
Diana returns to Boston to find Hermes.
Diana is seeing Hermes about to destroy Boston, while Hermes is seeing Diana trying to goad him to destroy Boston. They begin fighting. The Bana, who've been attacking the museums, now attack the hotel in Gotham that an Amazon delegation is. Beastiamorphs and mercenaries attack the New York location.
Helen reaches the Stanton residence, surprised to see no security lights, or Stanton's dog. Hermes decides to end the fight with Diana by killing himself, feeling that if she wants him to destroy all these lives, he's failed her.
Say what you will about Jill Thompson's art, but she does great stuff with eyes, here. Diana's are very expressive, always indicating what's going on with her. I especially liked the tear as she thought she'd have to kill Hermes. And Dr. Psycho's eyes... Really, the close ups should have become the character's signature, absolutely creepy, telling you exactly who you're dealing with.
Oh, the dream attacks on Diana and Donna were in issue 47, and we're now at the end of issue 54. When Perez builds a story, he builds it.
Diana and Hermes compare notes, and remember the gnomish face they both saw, the person who's been attacking them all this time. Dr. Psycho, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how he lost his hold on them. And here's where things get really nasty...
The terms Dr. Psycho uses... This is great art and great sex combined, for him.
Diana and Hermes realize that this is all linked to Vanessa, that their foe is likely responsible for her nightmares, that Nessie is where he started. Diana doesn't want to disturb Nessie further, which angers Hermes... But Diana reminds him that his anger is still a reaction to what was done to them, that their foe is still playing them against each other. Diana blames herself, of course, for what Nessie has gone through, but Hermes points out to her that she isn't responsible for everything that goes on in the world, that she's still reacting to the self doubts their foe planted. Diana agrees to ask Nessie for help, but won't force the situation.
Dr. Psycho makes Julia see Diana attacking Nessie. Nessie explains that she's not being attacked, that someone has been making them see things, and she's agreed to help Diana by having her use the lasso, which, as we know, brings Truth. When the lasso touches Nessie, Dr. Psycho feels, in his words, "someone trying to break into my gallery!" He declares he won't let these "vandals" and "desecraters" "defile the masterworks of Dr. Psycho!" He lashes back, again making Julia and Hermes see and hear things from one another that they're not saying or doing. Diana reminds them that she loves and trusts them, and that she has never lied to them. They need to conquor this together, "otherwise, the demon has won."
"Like HELL he has!" Hermes responds, and adds to the magical shield against Dr. Psycho.
Again, I love the eyes, here.
Diana travels through Vanessa's mind in a very nice sequence, her memories, her recent nightmares... Diana feels like an intruder. One little touch is a memory of her parents, but not being able to remember her father's eyes. They face the nightmares together, and find things neither of them were on hand to see, like "Stanton's" conversation with Julia. They've linked to the mind behind the attacks. "The game is over, Dr. Psycho..."
She was wearing the lasso under her armor, so his illusions now didn't work on her.
Diana rushes Helen to a hospital, only to find a bunch of police pointing guns at her. In Gotham, the Bana attacked, and the Cheetah escaped Arkham (I knew it was a bad idea to lock her up there), so the death toll is bad even by Gotham standards. Their hosptials are now like Grand Central Station. Like Bats doesn't have enough trouble with his own villains... He's, as you might expect, very cranky about this. The authorities, naturally, are blaming it on the Amazons. Diana wants to help Helen, but the cops are looking for an excuse to shoot her.
One thing that always irritates me is when people dismiss Diana as just "a female Superman." Sure, there may be some surface similarities in costumes and powers, but there's so much more to Diana than that.
"The glory of Gaea be with you, child, and into this world go forth." We come full circle.
From here, it's on to War of the Gods, and the woman who contracted Dr. Psycho: Circe. With Pariah's appearance, the entire Universe is at stake.
There are a lot of dark, grim, and gritty stories in comics, due to writers and editors trying to match the success of some of the best. The problem is they so often miss the point. In stories like this, or The Killing Joke, it's about how the hero faces down the Darkness, about how to face the darkness in our own lives, resisting the madness. The Dark Knight was a great film example of this. Yes, it was very dark and grim. But, it can all be summed up in one line: "What were you trying to prove? That, deep down, everyone is as ugly as you? You're alone." The Joker isn't beaten, really, by Batman beating him up. He's beaten because the people on the boats prove him wrong about what Humanity is, what it is capable of being, what we are capable of being.
Superhero stories are modern Myth, and Myth is all about teaching and inspiring. Sure, we don't have the powers of Wonder Woman or Superman, or the abilities or gadgets of Batman, but we can still be heroes, still make the world a better place, in whatever way we can. That is the entire point of superhero stories.
If only more writers and editors realized that.
Scans from Wonder Woman Vol. 2, issues 47, 52-56, and Annual #1. The Annual had enough pages left that bluefall hadn't used to fit into the guidelines.