‘Groovy’ is the buzz word used to describe this callback to Wonder Woman’s days as globetrotting adventurer Diana Prince. After reading the issue, that’s not the first term that springs to mind.
As the Sixties ended, plunging sales led to a radical revamp for Wonder Woman. Bereft of her powers, she used martial arts and sex appeal as the DC Universe’s own Emma Peel, taking on spies, dragon ladies, barbarians and butch biddies in wacky, fast-moving adventures. The best were written and drawn by Mike Sekowsky.
Others were written by Denny O’Neil.
And it’s O’Neil who returns to Di Prince as part of DC’s Retroactive project, in which original creators bid to recapture the glories of earlier years. Well, whatever O’Neil’s caught here, I hope it’s not too infectious. For this story is a mess.
For one thing, it’s not even set during the Di Prince years, but some unspecified time afterwards. That’s likely because Paradise Island was off in another dimension at the time, but it’s a big part of this story. We join Diana as she’s parachuting over her homeland, which is being dragged beneath the sea. Diving down, she comes across a mysteeeeeeeerious base where a mysteeeeeeeerious head in a shapeshifting green object – now it’s a cube, now it’s a pyramid – tells her she’s failed, sinned etc. She must undertake three tasks in order to save Paradise Island from a gigantic swinging blade.
Diana reluctantly agrees and the head says that first she must be as she was when she sinned. Her costume changes into one of Di Prince’s trademark white outfits, and her powers drain away (not that they were very impressive earlier, given that she could barely swim underwater).
So off she pops through various scenarios, meeting and defeating Joan of Arc and Goliath, while a butterfly hangs around. It turns out the insect is mechanical and when smashed, Paradise Island is restored to the surface and Queen Hippolyta appears to point out that Diana never faced a third ordeal, but maybe a bit of a swim counted as one. We never learn what Diana’s alleged sin was and the head isn’t seen again, but a hyper-chatty Amazon Wise Woman speculates that the whole experience was caused by some ancient random technology, er … it’s hard to spell it out, as it makes no sense even to the characters. The final two panels are simply baffling.
And that’s it. The story just stops. No ‘the end’ (or in proper Groovy style, ‘NEVER the end’), no ‘to be continued’ – just a very worried-looking Wonder Woman, then a reprint of her tussle with a terribly cute Catwoman from WW (first series) #201, courtesy of O’Neil and Dick Giordano. It’s not bad, but even that just stops – it was the first of a two-parter involving barbarians Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, but the next issue blurb has been pulled. If whoever put this book together – hello editors Kwanza Johnson and Chynna Clugston Flores – were on the ball they’d direct readers to the four Diana Prince trades that came out in the last couple of years. But they don’t, so no sales there (I’ll do it myself then – see below!) just a chance to enjoy some utterly sumptuous Dick Giordano artwork.
The main story is drawn by the talented J Bone, who does a nice job in the Di Prince sequences, but Lord, his Wonder Woman is grisly, a heavy-eyed crone in crumpled, star-spangled granny pants. Any kids who see this woman will run off screaming. Hippolyta is drawn as a brunette rather than the blonde of the period, which is typical of this comic’s sloppiness. Another anachronism is O’Neil’s use of narrative captions rather than thought balloons – I don’t care what the kids today do, either we’re going for a Seventies vibe or we aren’t.
It’s not all awful. I liked Diana’s humorous, no-nonsense tone, and Bone’s martial arts sequences are great. The cover’s rather pretty, even if the presence of two Di Princes to one Wonder Woman has me scratching my head.
But it’s mainly awful. The story, with its quest set-up, reads as if O’Neil thought he was writing a Sixties Retroactive comic and came up with a Robert Kanigher plot, then realised it was meant to be the Seventies and tweaked the story. Denny O’Neil likely knows what the story is about – given his interest in Eastern mysticism it’s perhaps a metaphor for Diana on a drugs trip – but he’s not given the reader much to go on. It’s amazing to think that a man who’s won awards and taught the skills of comic writing can produce a story so unsatisfying, so badly structured. Maybe the final page just dropped off the printer?
Whatever the case, don’t buy this. If you want to see Wonder Woman as she was then, get the trades or check them out of the library. But don’t reward DC for putting out this shoddy product.