When Wondy was Awesome, part 7 (Tacos and Traitors)
Whatever else he may have gotten weird or wrong, I give WML this: he did truly understand at least two fundamental things about Diana. One, that for all that she's a princess, she doesn't have a haughty or judgemental bone in her body, and two, that she has a real talent for turning her enemies into allies and even friends (I especially like what he did with the Cheetah, making her a bit of a combo Magneto/Two-Face in her relationship to Diana - but not how he got there, so that one's definitely not in this series).
We see both of these character traits during the middle bulk of WML's tenure, a time I like to call "Wondy flips burgers." Admittedly she's actually working at a taco joint, but you can't tell me that makes a practical difference to the connotations.
It all starts when Diana gets back from outer space to discover that Julia Kapatelis has rented out her room to some random college dyke named Quinn. (We never actually see Quinn date anyone, but given she's a walking stereotype I think it's fair to call a spade a spade.)
Leaving aside such insignificant and minor details as that Julia wasn't renting the room before she met Diana, and wasn't renting the room to Diana, and is a tenured professor who owns her own home and has no need of the money, and isn't the kind of person who'd want a total stranger sleeping ten feet away from her teenage daughter at this point in their story, and loves the hell out of Diana and would always, always put her up for free and has plenty of space in her house to do so with, even if Diana weren't perfectly comfortable sleeping on the back lawn, and therefore this entire thing is really forced.... what this comes down to is that Diana needs a new place to live, which means she needs money.
Cue stupid hijinks where she tries to find work and somehow, in defiance of all reason and sanity, isn't qualified for anything (like, I dunno, translator/negotiator, or self-defense instructor, or frigging WayneCorp CEO), and eventually ends up at a Taco Whiz.
Now, the reasons why Wonder Woman should not be flipping burgers are legion. It's dumb on a story level, it's dumb on a meta level, it's dumb on a mythic level, it's dumb on whole new unnamed levels that sprang into existence at the first publishing of this story solely as nature's desperate attempt to accommodate the overwhelming magnitude of inanity here. But here's what I *like* about this plot:
Diana takes it seriously.
She doesn't find it demeaning, she doesn't think she's above it, and she believes that anything you take the time to do, you should do well. And when she gets sidetracked by a (not time-sensitive) hero thing and misses work, even her boss is more forgiving of her than she herself is. This is total idiocy, but WML does use it to say something that's totally insightful.
(Naturally she doesn't get fired here, and Hoppy gives her standing orders to shove off when the world needs her and make up the time on weekends.)
Meanwhile, as Diana is working at Taco Whiz and running around helping Etta buy wedding dresses and getting shot at by hemophiliac speedster assassins, we get an introduction to Donna Milton.
The guy she's talking to here is Ares Buchanan, who's a mortal who's let Ares possess him. Which is kind of annoying. At least when Byrne made Heracles revert to a bad guy again he attempted to justify the guy's sudden change in attitude. Anyway, Ares is trying to take Boston apart just for the hell of it, which involves getting rid of Diana. Donna is part of his master plan to do so.
A little background on Donna: she's not a nice person.
She becomes a corrupt DA, then ends up working for Ares after a failed shakedown. Her current assignment is to worm her way into Diana's life. She gets a room in the same complex where Diana is staying, and shows up at the hospital when Diana gets out (Diana got shot in the mastoid process while fighting the hemophiliac speedster assassin, so her balance is all thrown off and she can't fly).
Sometimes I love this art - it's clean and a cartoony and full of expressive, varied faces. And sometimes Etta stares down Diana and the look on Diana's face makes me wonder what in God's name I was thinking and who the hell hired this Moder clown in the first place.
I love this page in an MST3K way, just for its sheer absurdity. Donna lays it on so thick here and Diana just completely eats it up. This is, remember, the woman who took all of two seconds to figure out that Menalippe was acting strange under Eris' influence, and she's somehow buying a story so excessive a twelve-year-old wouldn't fall for it.
So Donna and Diana make friends, and Diana explains how she has no money because the JLA isn't paying her because she's still officially dead (all that time in space, y'see). Then they finally get to Taco Whiz.
Diana promises to track down Hoppy's hubby and Donna goes with her. They discover that he's a leg-breaker for the Sazia crime family, and so they go pay Sazia a visit, in what is probably the best scene WML ever wrote; Diana can't make the mook pay, not even legally with Sazia protecting him, but she can hang around Sazia's office until he does...
Sazia folds, and pays a massive child support check, including back pay, out of his own pocket.
Donna, apparently inspired by her little adventure with the mob, then proves herself awesome by shaking down Max.
Time passes and Donna plays her part to the hilt, worming her way ever deeper into Diana's confidence.
I'm a big fan of the colorist error here that makes it look like Diana has holes in her panties. Nice, guys. Nice.
... "enjoyable," Donna?
Eventually Donna is able to lure Diana into a trap, and Ares Buchanan chains her up (WondyBondage!) and gloats at her like any good megalomaniacal villain. And Donna discovers that she's not quite as indifferent as she thought she was.
I like the writing here, because the way Donna does this is very much appropriate to her characterization as a lawyer. She makes her decision in an instant and then immediately plows full speed ahead with a cogent, well-reasoned argument. I bet she does a killer cross.
... unfortunately for her, Ares has a *truly* killer rebuttal.
So Diana flips out at him and tries to kick his ass, and he goes on about how her chains were forged at STAR labs to hold Superman and she'll never break them, and he's going to flood Boston with drugs and weapons yadda yadda. But Donna's not quite done with him yet.
What she's holding there is a macguffin that creates a localized "black hole" which sucks everything in and then falls to the center of the earth. Ares used one to try to kill Diana a few issues back. So she pulls the trigger and chucks it at him, and he gets sucked in and dies, and Diana busts out of her chains, and the whole place comes down around them and they fall into the old smuggler caves under the building.
So Diana helps deliver the kid, and they get rescued by Etta and Hoppy, and Donna's like "I've killed people! I betrayed you! I'm a horrible person and I'm sorry!" and Diana's all "Dude, chill. You repented and saved my life. I am so not even mad." She even brings up Donna's selfishness and the fact that she duped Diana as reasons why she *can* stop whining and successfully deliver a baby underwater in the freezing cold and pitch black cave. Because Diana is not judgemental. (I'm not going to scan any of it, though, because the pacing is really slow and the art is hideous.)
Anyway, they're *actual* friends after that, and Diana swears she'll always protect the baby (which will become important when we get to Rucka's run), and you'd think that that would be the end of that. But no, Donna Milton's story isn't over quite yet.
I... I'm going to apologize, right now, for the scans I'm about to post. Because they're mid-90s Liefieldesque Deodato art, and while the particular pages I'm putting up are far from the worst of the lot, the obscene excess to which hips, boobs, butts, spines, muscles, articles of clothing, and women in general just don't work that way make me want to kill it with fire. Just sizing these scans it's all I can do not to burn them to a CD and chuck it in the microwave just for the ritualistic purging of the pain and blind white rage this stuff causes in my mind. And I regret inflicting that same pain on any of you.
Oh, and you know how I occasionally used to say that everything Diana's ever worn looks better than the bathing suit? That's because I apparently suppressed the memory of the Artemis!Wondy period so thoroughly that I'd completely forgotten the Bolland... thing. Seriously. Ew.
That said, they're still good story, so....
Diana has lost the mantle of Wonder Woman to Artemis, and Artemis has gone after Asquith aka the White Magician aka A Giant Demon Thing that's Going to Kill Her. Diana wants to help, but doesn't know how to find them, so she takes a moment to go visit Julia in the hospital. While she's there, Donna mentions that her scars from the Ares fight have almost faded, which causes Diana to make a weird face and start musing about Circe.
That's right, Donna is Circe. This is a total asspull and causes a bunch of plot holes but it's so BAD ASS that I don't even care.
So Diana has been teleported to where Artemis is getting her ass kicked by Asquith in his Giant Demon Thing that's Going to Kill Her form. Artemis and Diana duke it out with Asquith, but it doesn't go so well - they can't even deal with his feline minions (more on that in a different series). Diana's about to become kitty kibble to one of them, when suddenly her opponent gets blasted right off her by eldritch fire.
Thanks to Donna's help, the pressure is off a bit and Diana can worry about Asquith... and the dying Artemis.
Supercharged by the gauntlet, Diana lays the smackdown for several badly-drawn pages, and eventually takes him out, leaving only her replacement to deal with.
The next page is Artemis lying dead in Diana's arms, and it's very sad, but it's also a crime against all that is aesthetic and decent, so we'll end on that note as far as the immediate story goes. In terms of the wider arc of Circe, she herself isn't seen again in the Wondy title until nearly four years and forty issues later, when Bright and Priest bring her back to take revenge on Diana for the fact that she can't be Donna Milton *or* the original, blissfully-ignorant-of-true-friendship Circe again.
This is why I don't actually have any problem with the idea of Diana confiding in Circe during the recent Wondy annual (disregarding the content of the confession itself); WML made Circe and her relationship with Diana fantastically complex, and they do have a strange sort of mutual understanding. That's a big part of why I like Diana, I think - that when she doesn't vanquish her enemies, it's for reasons that make sense. Her recurring rogues are all that way because they're powerful enough that she has to reason or bargain (Ares, Circe, Darkseid) or because they're sort of *friends* and she wants to help them (Cheetah, Silver Swan). And therefore she's always on speaking terms with them, which leads to interactions far more interesting than straightforward white hat-black hat antagonism, and prevents the Joker Fallacy from sticking its head in.
Scans from v2 72-83 and 100, the very tail end of which is collected in Challenge of Artemis, which might be worth purchasing if you someday find yourself in a city that doesn't sell toilet paper.
Next time: Diana breaks atmosphere again to visit Thanagar and save the last Vuldarian in a Very 90s Crossover that somehow manages to be ridiculously fun regardless.