When Wondy was Awesome, part 4 (Patriarch's World)
From as far back as Marston, Wonder Woman's defining short phrase, her version of "Caped Crusader" or "Man of Steel" or "Scarlet Speedster," has been "Amazon Princess." Which is fair, because that's what she is in the most literal sense - the daughter of the amazon queen (well at least until they dissolved the monarchy, but at this point I think I'm going to have to admit I've lost that one) - but for most of her pre-Crisis history, was nevertheless a relatively empty phrase. Diana was a princess because girls like princesses, as any Disney exec can tell you, and that was it. Occasionally the authority was useful, but basically it was a purely meta thing that was merely convenient shorthand for her specialness.
Part of Perez' genius was to actually consider what being a princess means for Diana, especially from the mythical perspective of this very mythical character. Mythic royalty isn't about tiaras and castles, after all. It's about stewardship, struggle, king sacrifice; about servitude and symbiosis and taking your people's burdens for your own. Diana, as Athena's champion and essentially a demigod, is an avatar of the Olympians, yes - but as heir to the throne, she's also the avatar of the amazons, and that responsibility is as integral to her character as her duty to her gods. She bleeds when her people bleed, they win when she wins, their story is hers and hers theirs. And Perez' run was saturated with that understanding, in a constant intertwining of Diana's mission and the activities of the Amazon Nation as a whole. She's not just one of them, she's not even just the best of them; she is them, full stop. That concept underpins the particular awesomeness I've got on offer today - this is the story of Themyscira and how the Amazon Nation reconnected with Man's World. Because Diana did, and so that Diana could. And because it's a damn good story.
Also, Diana v. Lois action. You know you want to see that.
Sliding back down from my literary masturbation to the more practical matter of plot...
As you may recall from our first installment, Diana's mission is to bring Themysciran peace and ideals to the outside world. Naturally, this raises some interesting questions with the amazons - like, "is one person, who has other obligations as well, really enough to carry our message" and "this didn't work last time, has anything really changed" and "does Man's World have anything to offer us" and "can people really believe paradise is possible if they've never seen it."
So the amazons start bandying about the idea of letting foreigners set foot on Themyscira's shores. This being an issue that impacts all of them, they put it to a vote.
The vote passes. But not unanimously.
This is how you can tell Diana's a good leader. She won, the vote went in her favor, and there's really no reason for her to worry about pacifying Hellene at this point. But all the same, her first instinct is to try to make the dissenters comfortable with the decision, to understand all veiwpoints, and ensure that there are no hard feelings or lasting enmities from the disagreement.
So with the approval of the amazons, Diana brings first Julia and Vanessa to the island with her, and then later, Steve and Etta.
A fine time is had by all, and the amazons warm a bit to the idea of cultural exchange. But Hellene is still not entirely satisfied.
Iphthime makes some very good points here, particularly when you view them through a feminist lens. Heracles and Steve were both genuinely repentant and genuinely good people when the amazons forgave them, and taken on a case-by-case basis it was a perfectly reasonable decision each time. But as a general trend, there's something disturbing about it, the way men get to continually hurt them and they get to continually accept and forgive that abuse. Which is usually the case with social issues of that kind.
Also, it's pretty cool that the amazons are not a hive mind, and that people can disagree intelligently with our hero and still be considered good guys and her friends. Hell, forget comic books, that's hard to come by in real life, and this page right here is where Themyscira lives up to the hype, for me.
Anyway, Diana's friends are so well received that the amazons opt for a wider outreach, and agree to bring a larger, more international group to the island. And Diana finally comes up with a halfway decent counterargument for Hellene's concerns.
Back in Man's World, preparations proceed apace. Diana picks a group of twelve from the outside world to visit the island, and seems to base her choices on exposing her sisters to as much new stuff as possible, basically - religious leaders, activists, disabled people and a Tiananmen Square survivor - but they're also a decent ambassadorial group to bring as observers, being mostly speakers and thinkers from multiple cultures who will be able to ask lots of questions and intelligently and respectfully tell the world about their visit.
She only asks one actual reporter, though, who she originally intended to be Clark...
... but he sticks her with his girlfriend instead. Lois gets all the good superhero scoops.
So off to the island they go! Diana uses the lasso and some Hermes chicanery to carry them safely through the mystical storm, and Lois begins her Pulitzer-winning report on Paradise Island.
Tragically, every Eden has its snake.
It's a little hard to tell here, but Menalippe just had a nightmare, flipped out really hard, and knocked Penelope (the amazons' oracle) across the room and into a wall with glowy pink mojo. And is now being totally sanguine about quite possibly having just killed her lover. (Another thing I love about Perez - it's clear from the first time we meet Penelope and Menalippe that they are, in fact, lovers. And at no point are they ever portrayed even the tiniest bit differently than, say, a male minister and his wife would be in a different comic. ♥ Perez.)
Menalippe then proceeds to spike the punch, as it were.
Students of mythology will recognize the golden apples there as a bad sign. (Apparently that doesn't include the amazons, but I suppose we must accept some things for the sake of the plot.)
And over on the Island of Healing, Penelope wakes up and immediately begins acting strange and creepy as well.
Meanwhile, the guests are attending passion plays, and learning about Amazon culture.
Best. Page. Ever.
I don't know if Polly dissolving the monarchy was ever part of Perez' plan for the book (I kind of seriously doubt it), but the fact that she eventually does gives a really cool weight to this scene. Also, Tibet's complaint there makes me think it's a good thing Diana didn't bring Babs instead.
But just when Lois and Diana are getting along, the real trouble starts.
Diana, clever woman that she is, realizes something is going on here and goes looking for Menalippe, on the theory that she was the first one to start acting weird. Her search leads her through Doom's Doorway, where she gets attacked by a tree.
For the mythologically uninitiated, Eris = Discord, daughter of Ares and the punkass jerk responsible for the Trojan War. The golden apples belong to her. Menalippe's line about being sisters to Eris references the realworld mythological portrayal of the amazons as servants and worshippers of Ares, and of Hippolyte as explicitly his daughter. (Which, when recast under the Wondy paradigm as greek propaganda against the deliberately-designed-to-oppose-Ares amazons, becomes kind of hilarious.)
Back at the feast, a fake Diana has shown up, and as soon as Lois catches her eyes, she knows something is up.
Then the rabbi declares the food is trafe and things rapidly implode.
Pod!Diana chases after Lois' party, and violence naturally ensues.
I hope that, even with the excitement, Lois is making careful note of this moment; hitting pod!Diana over the head with a rock is the most satisfaction she'll ever get in years and years of tabloid-fueled jealousy over Supes and Wondy's relationship.
Fortunately the real Diana, even though she's currently part of a tree, is sort of aware of all this, and manages, through sheer force of will, to melt the pod!Diana before it can kill Lois. Its victims decide the best course of action in response is to stand around the puddle and sniff.
Heh. Belligerent Lin Koo cracks me up.
So they go running off to save Diana. They are not altogether successful; basically they run blindly into the dark and fall off a cliff. Except for Rovo, who Lois sends for help after the rest of them land on Eris' tree.
Like all great villains, Eris loves to pontificate. And notice that the spell of the apple is broken as soon as Lin Koo knows who she's fighting. Cuz hate and strife are a product of ignorance, and so truth is the ultimate tool for peace, and all. And oh, hey, guess who's the living avatar of truth? Huh. Funny how that works out.
Speaking of Diana. With the assistance of Hermes, Diana manages to make contact with Rovo, and send him back into the fray.
Fortunately Rovo is too busy freaking out and trying to save everybody's lives to be insulted by the fact that Diana seems to think he's a puppy. "Good boy! Now fetch!"
Rovo makes it through the wrasslin' guests and amazons, all the way to the temple, when Menalippe sees him.
See what I was saying about Hellene? She's not just some stock designated antagonist. She's a fully realized character who can disagree with Diana and still be a heroic, nuanced good guy who helps save the day. The world needs more writers like Perez.
Again, the plot's not totally clear from the scans, but what happened is Rovo channeled Hermes for a minute (presumably something Hermes could only manage in the temple, the seat of his power), and told off the amazons. Anyway, between a direct order from their god to snap the hell out of it, and the natural Amazon inclination to not, y'know, kill children (Pfeifer), Eris' spell on the amazons breaks.
Diana manages to bust loose of the tree, and turns on Eris - but decides not to fight her.
Eris, in a rage, blasts away at her, but Diana just deflects it all and refuses to get angry. Then Polly and the other amazons show up with her lasso, and Diana fights hatred with truth.
... I should find this really hokey, but I just can't, dammit. Diana makes for such bloody moving, inspiring stories.
Anyway, after Eris' defeat, things wind down on Themyscira.
Note that Hippolyte promises to visit the United Nations soon. This is not an idle statement, as preparations soon begin for the amazons to walk on the shores of Man's World just as men have walked on their own.
I love this little Supes interlude, because not only is it sweet, it also shows how much Diana really doesn't quite get secret identities. Like, intellectually, she can understand why her friends use them, but she just can't internalize that kind of duplicity.
The actual ceremony happens on the waterfront, with everybody and their mother watching as Diana announces her people.
I love Diana's cape. I wish we saw it more often.
(Minor quibble: Dinah should be at the ceremony, not watching it on TV; about ten pages earlier we actually see her telling the JLI they're invited and wondering why the hell they aren't all there already. That's one of the saddest long-term failures of the Wondy title; we occasionally get told, but are never actually shown, that Diana is pretty tight with Canary.)
And that's how Themyscira re-entered the modern world.
Naturally, it all goes to hell in the next issue, when Circe manipulates the Bana into attacking museums and police all over the world and people jump to blame the amazons and the War of the Gods begins. BUT all the same, as far as Amazon-Patriarch relations go, it's a fairly auspicious beginning.
Scans from Wondy v2 #22-50, again uncollected.
Next time: Perez attempts to pre-empt strawfeminist portrayals of the Themyscirans with some strawfeminists of his own for Diana to oppose. And because he is Perez, they end up completely fascinating anyway.