Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Strickly some Regency books reviewed

I was in the middle of reading Helen Keller's first autobiography when I stalled out. It's a really good book, but I'd just hit a depressing section. Y'see, at the age of 11 (or perhaps 12), Helen was hauled before a court of inquiry at her school on the charge of plagiarism  For a story she'd written (not for school) when she was 8. Eight years old. At that point she'd only recently been beginning to learn words and how the English language was structured.

And yes, she ultimately discovered that a friend had read her a story about a year before, but she'd been so concentrated on learning the words and phrases of it that she didn't consciously recall the actual story. (She was a KID!) That is, until she was inspired to write a story as a personal gift to an adult friend about the changing seasons. He had it published (it never says if it was with or without her permission) and sure enough, people wrote in to say it was a close copy of another story.

The trial traumatized Helen. She swore it hadn't been done with any intention of plagiarism, and then confessed from her adult point of view that she often had problems sorting out original ideas from ones she had read, because (justifiably) she was in her own head so deeply and so much.

So I decided to take a break and searched for lighter fare. Jackpot! I came up with two fabulous summer reads that I hope you'll enjoy as well. They're not only Regencies by the same author, but make up a 2-volume series though both are stand-alones. There's one character they have in common, and he's dead when both begin. He's the guy bequeathing the castles.

When I was a kid I made the mistake of reading three of my favorite books, those in the "Witch World" series by Andre Norton (the only ones that had come out to that point), in one weekend. After that I have had a difficult if not impossible time of making it through any other Norton book. Ecch!

Once I read a slew of Leigh Greenwood books and discovered that he wrote all his sex scenes the same way, down to the same dialogue. (A lot of romance writers do this, I've found. Guess it saves time?) They were good books, and if you didn't read them in a row you'd never notice. Still, I stopped buying his stuff.

But now and then I still read several books by the same author in a row.

book cover for Romancing the Duke
Here we have Romancing the Duke, vol. 1 of "Castles Ever After," (2014) by Tessa Dare.

Izzy Goodnight is an almost penniless orphan who has had a castle bequeathed to her by someone who only recently became her godfather. She arrives fainting from hunger to the crumbling estate, to be dragged out of the rain by the castle's owner, the recently-blinded and overly proud Ransom Vane, Duke of Rothbury. Both obviously have different ideas about to whom the castle legally belongs. We soon discover that someone in the duke's employ has been embezzling—but who?

The story is complicated by a very funny use of cosplayers. You see, Izzy's dad had written an extremely popular series of medieval melodrama. Izzy gets tons of letters from fans wondering how things had turned out after the cliffhanger that was never finished because of Izzy's father's sudden demise. (And of course, dear ol' dad had never changed his will to provide her with support after he died.) Some of the fans dress up as the characters and travel to fan fairs to join others in reenacting the stories.

A lot of snarky fun ensues. And yet there's plenty of heart-tugging emotions to be explored as well.

After finishing that I decided to put caution to the wind and ordered the next book: Say Yes to the Marquess (2014), whose cover shows our heroine in dishabille for some ungodly reason.

This time our heroine, Clio Whitmore, has some money of her own, but a lot more is tied up with her dowry. She's been engaged to Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, but as soon as he popped the ring on her finger he told her they had to wait to get married until he finished some foreign business.

That was eight years ago. Since then Clio has become the laughingstock of society, as "Miss Wait-More." It doesn't help that when she finally decides to legally end the betrothal, she has to do so through Piers' power-of-attorney brother, the once-champion fighter Rafe Brandon, who has been in love with her forever.

There's a host of crazy characters, including a sister and brother-in-law you'll want to throttle, and a cute but old doggie. The plot takes twists and turns as we dig deeper into our h/h's psyches and both discover that they're stronger than they thought they were.

Ms. Dare writes in a similar style to one of my favorite writers, Julia Quinn. Who doesn't love Julia? I don't want to give anything away plot-wise, so I'll leave this review at that. Both books are quite reasonably priced in their e-forms. I just wish the Avon formatters would provide more of an indent at the beginning of their paragraphs! If you have a vacation you have yet to take this year (or even if you don't), be sure to take one or both books along.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Still a Sensational review

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #11-13 (digital). March 2015
Cover: Paul Davey, Editor: Kristy Quinn

“Not Included”
Writer: Adam P. Knave, Art: Matthew Dow Smith

Big Barda co-stars as she and Diana return from ?? after helping some Apokolips "Lowies," (should be "Lowlies") who sound like refugees. Barda thinks Diana was too soft on them, and that the Lowies/Lowlies don't understand compassion.

It's confusing as to which version of WW this is. She wears a mis-colored nuDC costume. She also queues up to eat a hot dog, which the WML era firmly established as a food Diana despises.

The two hear an explosion or something ("THRA-BOOM," though it's not in that large of letters) and race to investigate far across the city at the Museum of Alternative Energy. There they encounter a group of robot gorillas, which Barda takes great pleasure in battling. She keeps calling them "monkeys" instead of "gorillas," and this is used as a running gag.

"I always think your world will bore me!" Barda says as she uses her energy rod to blast the robots. "But this! Monkeys to punch!"

What exactly is she trying to do in the upper panel?
Diana determines this to be a distraction and eventually finds the Brain (a brain inside a robot casing) and M. Mallah, an intelligent, well, gorilla. (These two are from the Doom Patrol series. Are that many readers familiar with them? Didn't they deserve a better intro?) While Barda and Mallah punch and trade quips, Diana punches Brain's casing and a few chips fly off. (Yawn.) "Eat vortex grenade!" Brain yells.

Pretty much ignoring the resulting blast, Diana begins to reason with the Brain. Turns out he needs a new energy source or his brain will die. Diana proposes to give him such, but he will go to jail. She has to lasso Barda to get her to stop fighting.

As the two villains are carted off to jail, Barda returns to the museum to procure one of the gorilla robots to use for sparring practice.

A modest story, hampered by artwork that... well, it just wasn't there. The style shows promise, but action was not portrayed in any lively sense at all, and the inks were blobby. Combined with the wishy-washy story that had only the one joke and Barda's exuberance to support it... (A real shame that Diana came across as such a wet blanket. Is her being a peacenik so difficult for all these writers to script well?) I'd like to have seen an editor step in and guide the creators more. I think they're capable of a much better job than this.

Writer: Michael Jelenic, Pencils: Drew Johnson, Inks: Ray Snyder

A beautifully drawn (and inked) story shows us an Amazon origin story performed by Amazons under Phillipus' direction on the occasion of Hippolyta's birthday. Apparently they know little about their origins, because this story has Hippy existing well before the other Amazons. She sculpted clay bodies for the rest of her people, into which goddesses placed spirits from the Well of Souls.

Indiana Jones was the one who was involved with the Well of Souls. Post-Crisis Amazons came from the Cavern of Souls, aka the Womb of Gaea. Oh well, as long as they're making up so many other things...

Anyway, the story really plays up Phillipus' slavish worship of her "beautiful queen." The queen doesn't seem to return the feelings much, but rather is cooly polite about it all. It's quite an uncomfortable relationship between the two, imho.

Meanwhile, Diana has been tracking a phoenix for a long time. Finally it dies spectacularly, and the new phoenix that arises takes the ashes of the old one and forms a beautiful decorative egg out of it. Suddenly the Cheetah arrives. She throws a spear through Diana's shoulder. Even so, Diana fights her off.

Cheetah says that phoenix eggs can imbue immortality. She says Diana's looking a bit old (!), so she can understand her wanting one, too.

Then of course (for Sensation) we get a "what Hippolyta taught Diana as a child" scene, in which Diana gets some funny dialogue as she tries unsuccessfully to get her mother to say that violence is a good way to respond to a threat. (Hippy says, "As warriors, we must first be dedicated to peace," which makes zero sense.) (See "peacenik" comment, above. And below.)

Back in the present, Diana pulls the spear out of her own shoulder and of course (nuDC) blood is everywhere. As the battle progresses, Diana doesn't do much to protect herself (why?) and gets severely bashed as she tries to grab the egg. Then Cheetah demonstrates Rucka-era super-speed, running around so quickly she pulls the oxygen out of the air (wouldn't she merely be lowering air pressure? But I digress) even though fires (which require air/oxygen) continue to blaze all around.

Diana falls. She recalls her mother telling her that great battles fought "for something bigger than themselves" are done by the warriors who endure and who don't die too early. (Really?) Diana hauls herself up and then proceeds to beat the Cheetah to a pulp. (So we learn violence is ALWAYS the solution. We aren't supposed to notice that if Diana had just used her lasso to wrap up Cheetah when she first arrived, no violence would have been needed to subdue her. But then, that might have made for a shorter story.)

Let me digress for a moment. There is a classic "Hero's Journey" that many stories follow. A few years ago, I learned that there's also a "Heroine's Journey," which is a bit different along most major points, but especially the end. [And frankly, I've seen heroines follow the Hero's Journey and heroes, the Heroine's.] The classic Hero all too often gives his all—his very life—to achieve his goal. The classic Heroine lives so that she can continue to protect the group involved in her goal. In a comic like that of WW's, since she is an icon of women and feminism (and humanism, don't forget that), it might be nice for Hippy to have pointed this out. But she's too busy singing, "Onward Christian soldiers" to mention that, I guess. Back to the story...

Hippolyta arrives, wearing a version of her own (gag) WW outfit and flying a propeller-driven Invisible Plane.* She has seen Diana's plight in her magic mirror, and has come to rescue her. Hippy asks her what the heck's going on. Diana presents her with the egg and says, "Happy birthday."

Turns out phoenix eggs are special to Hippy because a phoenix died on Paradise years ago, and the queen took the experience as a sign that her prayers for a child would be answered.

From within her Magic Lasso binding, the Cheetah asks, "Is this 'egg' nothing more than the emotional equivalent of a 'World's Best Mom' mug?" Yes, it is. It has no power to grant immortality.

The Amazon mother and daughter embrace as the new phoenix flies off.

We've seen some slippery continuity problems, and the Phillie-Hippy relationship became much too syrupy/cringe-inducing on Phil's part, plus the art tries to get too fancy in places ("Just look what I can draw!") and loses the story—but it's only a few places. On the whole, this is a satisfying and beautiful (and often funny) tale.

Why do writers have so many problems showing Wondie as an INTERESTING non-warrior? All this means is that instead of tearing/beating up things and people, she fixes. She BUILDS. She LEADS (by example). That's pretty active. Exciting, even.

We had a hint of this in the first story, when Barda and Diana were returning from ?? after Diana taught the Lowlies a better way of living. Why couldn't we have seen that? Diana's primary theme is that of positive empowerment. Why not build stories around that?

I know all too many Wonder fans who think WW writers follow her around, recording her adventures and so they can't be altered. Sorry, folks. Stories are crafted. If you have a character whose primary theme is that of positive empowerment, you STRUCTURE your story to show off precisely that. You don't keep handing WW stories that make her seem like any other superhero out there (pow! bam! React to that danger after it's already started! Work as a solo act only! Don't involve civilians!). You don't keep doing flashbacks to her childhood (even though these are usually sweet; once in a LONG while is good, but once an issue is not). You don't have her stop action so she (or her mother) can preach for a few panels.

Insert Marge Simpson mutter here.

What did you think of this issue?
* Wonder Woman is NOT a legacy hero! No! Never! Not!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yet another Sensational review!

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #8, 9, 10 (I’m going to quit citing print versions because I’m confused.) Jan. 2015 Cover: Adam Hughes, Editor: Kristy Quinn

“Ghosts and Gods”
Writer: Neil Kleid, Art: Dean Haspiel

Haspiel gives us a very cartoony but consistent Wonder version here, employing much more body language and true anatomy than such efforts usually give us. Nice!

Though the story then has a Golden Age feel, especially since Etta Candy is in WWII-hairdo, we find Ra’s al Ghul has stolen a Purple Ray device. He wants his army as well as himself to be immortal.

When he grabs Etta and then disarms Diana (he propositions her to be his bride, which of course she refuses), Boston (Deadman) Brand, the ghost who can temporarily possess humans, enters and takes over Etta. We get a running joke of Diana not believing this, and thinking that Etta has gone a little more wacko than normal. Diana needs to get the Purple Ray if not for anything else than to cure Etta.

Boston gets in some great lines, as when he refers to Rama Kushna as “Hindu goddess of pain-in-my-keister.” He refers to Ra’s as “Dracula of Arabia.” Eventually he gets Diana to believe him, and fills in the reader on his origin story: he was a circus aerialist (the DCU is full of ‘em!) who was shot. Rama Kushna grabbed his soul and “charged me to stay on Earth and bring my murderer to justice… [and] solve crimes and maintain balance in the universe.”

Boston accuses Diana of not believing in ghosts, and she tells him that she does indeed, but ghosts stay tucked away in the underworld. She doesn’t bring up such Greek myth/legendary figures as Patroclus, whose ghost haunted his beloved comrade, Achilles, to beg for funeral rites (book XXIII of The Illiad). Both heroes reportedly wandered the island of Leuke post-mortem, sometimes accompanied by other famous ghosts.

Boston starts naming the many ghosts of the DCU, including the Hawks, whom I thought in most of their versions were reincarnations and not ghosts. Oh well, I’m not a Hawks expert. (And note that many ancient Greeks like Pythagoras were firm believers in reincarnation or transmigration of souls. The Orphic religion, which is supposed to have influenced Christianity, is based upon the cycles of transmigration.)

Maybe Diana is speaking of the Amazons' beliefs, and not those of ancient Hellenes.

Anywayz. They come upon Ra’s in his lab, and Ra’s throws his stolen Magic Lasso over Diana. “We have an understanding, my lasso and I,” she says. I have no idea what that means, but since Ra’s never gave her an order, I can see how she operates so easily under her own will while still tied in it.

Boston can’t take over Ra’s because “His soul’s corrupted… He’s come back too many times!”

Ra’s touches Diana’s shoulder and she cries out in pain. ?? But she recovers and chases after him as he and his thugs escape. He locks Diana and Etta/Boston in the self-destructing lab, but the good guys escape hale and hearty from (I guess) the way they came.

Diana apologizes to Boston as she aims the Purple Ray at Etta, because she needs her back at 100 percent. The ray forces Boston out of Etta’s body.

“If I want to be an ambasador to the world, I must be open-minded to the world’s diverse beliefs,” Diana says, and Boston heads off to a “date with a giant head.”

A nice, action-filled story with people from various corners and eras of the DCU. A bit preachy—WW stories are that all too often, which I think is a big reason why some people can’t get into her—but funny as well.

“Morning Coffee”
Writer: Ollie Masters Artist: Amy Mebberson

Another cartoony story, this one in a very different, more modern style. (And it’s darling!) (Except for that star over Wondie’s belly button, that is. :-D )

Catwoman arrives at the British Museum in London to release a smoke bomb for diversion and then duck to underground vaults, where she deliberately sets off an alarm before pilfering something she stuffs in her duffle.

The police call Wonder Woman, who is yawning from lack of sleep. (She was up all night dealing with Cheetah.) Diana lassos Catwoman (this is the last we’ll see of the lasso in this story), and Selena mutters that everything’s going to plan.

The police aren’t equipped to handle Catwoman (she doesn’t have super powers, so ??), so Diana takes her into custody. They stop off at a coffee shop and Diana orders a hazelnut latte with five extra shots of espresso. !!!

“You drink away, DOUBLE DOUBYA,” the handcuffed Catwoman tells her as she glances at the sky. “Don’t mind me.”

Diana opens the duffle, only to discover the Golden Fleece in there. My gosh, did the British abscond with EVERY antiquity they came across? But from up and behind comes the Colchian dragon, guardian of the Golden Fleece and breathing flame. He is ANGRY.

Di grabs a street sign and wallops the poor dragon with it. Catwoman uses the diversion as an excuse to grab the Fleece and take off. But she in turn is grabbed by Diana, dragged back to the coffee shop, and ordered to buy coffee. Ba-dum-dum!

Funny, lovely little tale! Ahh.

“Attack of the 500 Foot Wonder Woman”
Writer: Rob Williams Artist: Tom Lyle

The art in this story is okay, I guess, though it fluctuates in quality. The truly consistent part of it is the awful hair. Suggestion to the artist: study Nick Cardy. Please. Sound effects typography could use some work. ONCE AGAIN we get a sermon as the basis for a WW story. Everyone, please turn in your hymnals to...

Years ago young Diana had seen only strength and warriors when she looked at the statuary honoring gods and honored Amazons.

Present day: Gateway City, CA. The Atom sits on Diana’s shoulder talking about a “growth field,” which apparently has made her several stories tall.

“I think I stepped on an old Buick,” she groans as she tries to adjust to her new state.

“We can buy the owner a new Buick,” Atom replies.

Hawkman and Hawkwoman fly by to attack Byth, a shape-changing Thanagarian who is now in the form of a winged lizard the size of Godzilla. Byth tosses the Hawks into the ocean, and Atom takes off to rescue them so Wondie can act. The growth field will only work for a short time.

She and Byth battle hand-to-claw through the city, winding up in the bay. Diana grabs cabling that Byth has snapped from the Gateway Bridge, and it begins to glow gold in her hands. “I don’t need to be on Themyscira to feel the powers of my mothers,” Diana claims. “I carry my home with me wherever I travel. Wherever I choose!”

I guess this is the conceit of how she’s turned the cables into the Magic Lasso. ??? (And what is it with "mothers" plural?) She binds Byth in it, and gets him to tell her the truth of why he is there. He confesses that he just wants to have a solitary home where he could be at peace. He shrinks to normal size. (The cables don’t glow any more.)

This entire cable bit could have been tweaked so that the real Magic Lasso (which Diana does not carry in this story, but she should have) could have “powered it up.” Ah, backseat editor is rearing her head again.

After she has him clean up the mess he’s made, Diana takes Byth to an island off Themyscira. Along the way, she notes that when she was a child she saw only the statues of warriors on her island, but now she sees the statues of the wise and the scholars beside them. “THAT is what my home was built on.”

She says that he may live on this solitary island and be whatever he wants to be there. Though this story seems to be set long after men were allowed on Paradise Island—and besides, this isn’t PI anyway—Byth notes, “I thought only females could stand on Paradise Island.”

“Yes,” Diana replies. “…And I thought you were a changeling?”

The story had some good bits, nice guest stars, so-so art.

But all in all, a very good issue!

So… What did you think of it?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Another Sensational review!

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #7, 14, 15 (print #3)
Dec. 2014 Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Carrie Strachan, Editor: Kristy Quinn

Now we start getting fancy and mixing up these stories between print and digital versions. I see online reviews of the printed issue mentioning a Catwoman story. Turns out that that story (which is a really cute one!) appeared in digital issue #9. I'll get to it next time. Why are they doing this?

After last issue—after ANY issue—this is a real let-down.

“Bullets and Bracelets”
Writer: Sean E. Williams, Artist: Marguerite Sauvage

A hodgepodge of ideas (most of them preachy) thrown together with no cohesion. Here Diana is the leader of a rock band, “Bullets and Bracelets.” She has a rabid following and is playing in Athens while wearing an uber-short skirt that sometimes thinks it’s shorts. (No, it’s not a culotte or skort.)

Diana is worried and moping about “Steve,” though there’s no followup to this. As she exits the stadium, one pimply-faced fan shouts, “Slut! You’re corrupting our children!” Since when do kids of that age think about corruption of kids? A guy answers that “Some of us LIKE the way she dresses! She’s hot!”

Diana assures both that she dresses the way she wants to and “not to provoke or impress you.”

Diana ditches the rest of the band and discovers two young girl fans, whom she takes out to lunch. The one is too poor to order, so Diana orders for them, calling them “friends,” which makes them squee. (Why wouldn't a rich rocker automatically pay the tab for two young fans whom they've invited to lunch?)

The “she’s hot” guy from the concert steps out and reassures Diana that she’s really hot, then grabs her arm. Upset at her rebuff, he whips out a shotgun, which Diana then bends in half.

That’s it. Zzz.

The art is fabulous!!!! I'd love to see the artist handed a good Wondie story to work with. This one sounds like something later-era Kanigher would churn out on one of his worse days. Nothing like hitting the reader with a baseball bat "message," especially when NOTHING in the story requires the main character to be Wonder Woman. Zero. It could have been Jane Schmo or even Black Canary as the lead. Bleah.

So sorry for Ms. Sauvage that she had to draw this claptrap script.

Speaking of claptrap and Kanigher:

“No Chains Can Hold Her!”
Art & story: Gilbert Hernandez

Just let me puke a moment. Okay, I’m back. I don’t know what Hernandez is on for this, but he’s tripping through the very worst of Kanigher’s Silver Age. His he-man Wonder Woman is brainwashed and kidnapped by the alien Sayyar, who is in cahoots with Kanjar Ro. Ro needs an invincible warrior to help him conquer planets, and his brainwashing scheme will only work on the Earth-born.

A very young Supergirl whose presence has not yet been revealed to the public (or to WW) follows the space ship, which results in a fight between her and the hypnotized WW. Though Supergirl is the stronger, she says that WW’s magic weakens her so they are evenly matched. The two villains lustfully watch the fight.

The force of one collision breaks dimensional barriers, resulting in the arrival of Mary Marvel. She thinks the two heroines are Sivana’s robots, and battles them. At this point it seems that Wondie is no longer brainwashed. (“Supergirl’s extra-power heat vision blasted the hypno-poison out of me!” we learn later.) She is amused to be involved in page-wasting fist fighting.

Mary flies Supergirl to the local sun to cure her of kryptonite poisoning, while WW dispatches the villains, thinking that the girls are now dead. Everyone returns to the ship, hale and hearty, and the three capes pull off another shockwave to send Mary back home. Wondie and Sgirl part on good terms while Wonder Woman uses up a few more pages battling a goo-monster, hurting her shoulder, and then lustfully thinking about getting Superman to give her a shoulder super-massage.

Bleah. Bleah. Ptui! Spit! Ghastly!

Crap art. Crap story. Hey, why can’t you talk down even further to us, hm? Even colorist John Rauch seems to have been asleep at the wheel for this. Bleah!

So… What did you think of this issue?

PS: Congrats to Ceci C, who won the WW decals from last week! Stay tuned for more contests...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #4-6 review

First: A contest!

Etsy's "Good Mommy Ltd" has kindly donated a Wonder Woman decal set, suitable for your kitchen mixer. It's made for white mixers and has a metallic =w= with blue stars. This contest will run THROUGH July 4th. Just comment on this blog or on my Facebook page or Pro page to be entered to win! If you can't wait, just go to Good Mommy's site and order your own now! (They're available for different colors of mixers.) Put some WONDER into your cuisine!

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #4-6 (print #2)
Nov. 2014; cover by Gene Ha
“Brace Yourself” Writer: Jason Bischoff, artist: David Williams, Editor: Kristy Quinn

What a delightful difference from last issue this is! Captivating stories, lovely art, and a truly WONDERful atmosphere for both stories. Ahh. I Am Pleased.

That’s not to say my hackles didn’t rise because neither of these stories fit “my” version of WW, but I will graciously allow others to have their own. You're welcome.

We begin with an origin-ish story, in which Diana is already a young girl. Her mother, Hippolyta (blonde!), escorts her “cheeky lamb” to a mysterious chamber. There Diana learns the history of the Amazons—but even I stumbled at one sentence that made things unclear. Also, it paints all men as being bad, and says the Amazons have been in exile all these years and prevented from doing anything positive.

I prefer the mission to guard Doom’s Doorway. But…

A statue of Athena comes alive, and the goddess herself not only meets but teaches Diana. (How cool! It reminded me of WW (1st series) #147, in which Donna Troy received her official Amazon Test from Athena! That's one of my favorite Wonder stories!) Here and now, though, Diana makes a vow and pledges herself to hope, truth, peace, and justice. In return, Athena molds a silver bracelet around Diana’s right wrist.

But all the other Amazons have two bracelets. Hippolyta explains that the second must be earned in combat, and the only combat that will satisfy a princess’ requirements is a victory over her mother the queen.

From that day forth young Diana lays "crafty" traps and plans to best her mother, but she is always defeated. Diana grows to be the best of the Amazons, and one day appears with a red-headed (blond?) man bound by a lasso, a man who is no threat to the Amazons and someone who needs to be returned home.

The queen declares a contest to determine an emissary to the outside world who will accomplish this task and more. She commands that her daughter may not enter. But she recognizes her “warrior” (gosh, I wish the mythos wouldn't use that word) daughter as she defeats all others. (Unfortunately we get yet another fighting-only version of the Contest, which is something I do not believe in.) As a final challenger, the Queen names herself, and unmasks her daughter.

The battle is fierce. With great pride, the queen finally yields to the greater contestant, and her bracelet clones itself to become Diana’s left bracelet. The story ends with Hippolyta blessing Diana as she departs (in a boat, for those of us who take note of such minutiae):

“Go, if you must. Discover new worlds and dangers that will refuse you reprieve. But no matter how far you run, or what evils befall you—I am with you. I love you, daughter. My Diana. Weapon. Worry. Wonder.”

Ahh. Lovely! Lovely! This is a fabulous fairy tale to inspire children anew. Gorgeous art. Fabulous words.

“Taketh Away”
Writer: Ivan Cohen, Artist: Marcus To

For this story, Diana is an ambassador and is visiting Washington, where imho she should be located. The beginning of this story shows us why: the Wonder Woman mythos is a GREAT place from which to make pithy comments about the US government and politics/culture in general. But no, this story is from the Rucka era, so Diana’s home is NYC.

Circe has turned a number of Congresspeople into pigs. After Diana saves the day, the Speaker of the House calls Diana a “radical pagan with a Maxist agenda.” (Yes! This is the kind of thing that shows up in that novel that I’ll get published if DC will EVER make a deal with Kindle Worlds.)

Diana recounts this to a TV news show interviewer (the show is called Let's Be Frank, so perhaps his name is Frank? I don't see it noted, though the guy is a major player in the story), who is polite until he tries to goad her into confessing that she’s here to force her religious beliefs on people. “Do you deny that the gods literally made you who you are? Turning you from a clay statue into a super-powered spokesmodel?”

Stand back, Di— Let me hit him! "Spokesmodel." Rrr!

Diana argues, “I want people to pay attention to my WORDS, not my RELIGION.” At this point the interviewer becomes all sweetness and even asks her out afterward, which she declines. She can see that he is angry at this.

At the embassy, which is unstaffed for some convenient reason, Diana muses that “I just told the world my gods don’t NEED their worship.” Well actually, that’s not what she said at all. But let’s just pretend that for some reason she did, because the story relies on that.

What happens if the gods were watching?

Next morning, Diana flies across town concerning a report of a gunman at a hospital. Her head begins to buzz, making it difficult to concentrate. She’s arrived at the wrong location, but corrects herself and consults with a policewoman.

“Tell your snipers to stand down and pull the rest of your men back,” Diana tells her. “My negotiations often involve RICOCHETS.” Oh yeah!

Diana confronts the gunman and he fires. She pulls a Bullets & Bracelets on him… but one bullet gets through. It hits her shoulder. The gunman begins to ridicule her for having an inflated rep, and that she can’t be as good as Super-MAN or Bat-MAN, “because THEY have something you don’t! You know what that is?”

“Is it a code against KILLING?” Diana asks him just before she tosses him out into the street hard enough to divest him of his armored vest. The cops collect his sorry butt.

Luckily for Diana, her wound closes (why? how? She was a fast-healer back then, but that fast?) before she reaches the embassy. (And what happened to the bullet inside the wound?) (Shut up!) She wants to use the portal there to go home for counsel, but encounters “drakons,” or snake-like dragons. “Why did it have to be drakons?” Ha ha, I've seen Raiders too!

Ordinarily, such would be a hard battle for her, but now she has to give it her all. She finally makes her way across the chamber to the magic portal, only to have the portal implode on her, eliminating the drakons in the process. When she recovers, she looks into a mirror to discover that her “beauty of Aphrodite,” which she refers to “the most superficial of my gifts,” has left her, and she is ordinary-looking. Horreurs!

The next day Diana tries to clean up the mess, but doesn’t have the strength. “The Olympian abilities that were my birthright are truly gone.” She goes out into the city, unrecognized, to consider her options. “Even without my powers, I am an AMAZON. And Amazons do not ask for help… we GIVE it.” So when she hears a cry for help, she reacts.

Cheetah is in the zoo, killing animals and eating them. (A misplaced sound effect makes it seem like the dead animal is purring.) Cheetah implies that Diana’s gods have betrayed her. Their fight is one-sided, as Diana feels like she’s “moving through molasses.” Her lasso can’t contain Cheetah, and the villain tosses Diana into an aviary. Dazed, Diana lies with birds all around her before Cheetah rushes in.

Diana runs to open the door to a snow leopard’s cage. The rather human-looking beast attacks Cheetah, and that is that. (My logic circuits kick on again. Cheetah is not just a were-cheetah; she has suped-up powers. That's why she's suitable to be a Wonder villain. Couldn't she have kicked the larger beast's butt?) (Shut up!)

After all has been cleaned up, Diana returns to Washington (? might be NYC) and the Let’s Be Frank studio, where Frank awaits. She asks him if he still finds her attractive. He replies, “Not in the slightest, but I can work past it. And we’ve got the studio to ourselves, so we can keep the cameras rolling… if that’s what you’re into.”

Diana drinks from the goblet he hands her (why?), then hears Greek-accented (why “accented?”) voices call her foul names. They tell her that they’re taking away her life force and returning her to clay. She freezes into a crouch.

Frank asks if “it” is done, and from the seats, Dr. Psycho replies that it is. Wonder Woman might stay immobile for centuries, thinking she’s a statue.

Psycho plots Frank’s upcoming college tour with “so many NUBILE young fans,” and Frank says, “Please… I have a wife… a daughter…” Apparently Frank has, at some point, thought to be Psycho’s partner, but now he is his plaything. Psycho has manipulated Diana’s confidence, as well as the gunman and Cheetah.

When Psycho goes to Diana to gloat more, Diana grabs his wrist. Next time we see him, Psycho’s in restraints and splints as well as a neck brace (eat dirt, Psycho!), being hauled away by paramedics.

Diana excuses Frank by saying he was as much a victim as she. Well… okay, if you say so. At any rate, he's learned his lesson, which is the result she's always after. Y'see, Psycho forgot that Diana can talk with animals like birds. She had already been suspicious. “If [Diana's gods] wanted to punish me, they wouldn’t do it by a thousand cuts… they’d just cut off my HEAD.”

She concludes with, “It’s not my belief in THEM that’s important. It’s my belief in ME.”

Okay, good story! Sure, this is the “got her powers on a silver platter; didn’t have to work for ‘em” Wonder Woman whom I think took the wrong road, but if we put ourselves in her continuity, this plays very well. Plus it has that “confidence” thing at the end, always a plus. I don’t even mind— much— the use of that— gahh!— stupid “talking with animals” crap, or the bit about how WW can only be important if she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. Aren’t we beyond that now?

I thought Psycho could have looked a lot more, you know, psycho, but all the art here was handsome, the action clearly delineated. There were a lot of solid dialogue lines and situations.

Just a satisfying issue all around. Yeah!

So what did you think about this issue?