Tuesday, April 18, 2017
When we looked at the Demon's Zero Hour crossover issue a couple weeks back, I was going to take a gander at another one from that crossover. Not this one, actually, but it still works: from 1994, Wonder Woman #0, "The Contest, part 2: The Blind Eyes of Time" Written by William Messner-Loebs, art by Mike Deodato Jr. With a Brian Bolland cover!
If I ever read this issue, it's probably been about twenty years; but the first page confirms my guess that this was building up to Artemis replacing Diana as Wonder Woman. Replacing heroes, either long-term or temporarily, had paid off big for DC so far with Superman, Batman, Green Lantern (I was going to count Flash, but Wally was well-established by this point) so why not Wonder Woman? Diana is not thrilled when her mom Hippolyta tells her there will be a new contest for the title of WW, in part because they felt Diana was getting too manlike, as in violent. Hippolyta acts as if Diana had been getting too big for her britches, and tells her she's not irreplaceable in the role. Later, Diana's friend Mala softens that blow a bit: this contest really isn't any different than an election, re-confirming her status; and maybe Diana might not want to be Wonder Woman forever? Diana has to at least admit that's a possibility.
There's a brief flashback to the first contest, in which Diana had been forbidden to compete, but had done so while masked and won. Here the mask is the fancier Mask of Proteus, with which she looks like a completely different Amazon; it may have been felt an ordinary mask wouldn't have fooled Hippolyta long enough for Diana to compete. While Diana is helping set up for the contest, and noting she currently only has her normal strength; Artemis shows up to tell her that won't be a problem, since Hippolyta has announced that any that have warred against her and not shown the proper "loving submission" couldn't compete, namely her. That's at least the second time "loving submission" has come up this issue (and it would again before the end) and it's a bit of a throwback to WW's oldest stories, I don't think it's seen much anymore.
To find out what's what, Diana accompanies Artemis to her village: I'm not sure about the politics at this point, but they were a splinter faction, "cast out" at some point in the past and living a rougher, more violent life than Hippolyta's Amazons. Still, the aged wise woman Mala (Diana notes she has a friend with that same name...) tells Diana of their "first mother," Hippolyta's sister Antiope: they still had a sculpture of her from three thousand years ago...and it looks exactly like Diana! She barely has time to ask what that was about before she disappears...
Diana seems to wake up moments later, about three thousand years ago, as Antiope. We see her sister, a much younger and flightier Hippolyta, giddy with joy, since Herakles had proposed to her. In Wonder Woman continuity, Herakles enslaved the Amazons for some time; and while Antiope doesn't trust "ol' cudgel-brains" Hippolyta has spilled all kinds of beans about the Amazons' immortality. Antiope has to marry Herakles' friend Hylas, who turns on her on their wedding night: she fights free to warn her sister, but is tricked by Herakles wearing the Mask of Proteus, and clubbed on the head--as is Diana in the present!
Best guess; I think this plotline was laying down that maybe Hippolyta wasn't always right in her decisions, which was going to make Diana consider if it was right for her to be Wonder Woman. Artemis would have the costume for a bit, but it may have been a briefer stretch than I had thought. Well, at least Artemis would get an action figure out of it years later! And Deodato's art is nice--probably the best art the book had since George Perez--it's very, um, male gaze-y, let's say. I don't know how that would be received today...