Wonder Woman #281
Gerry Conway, Jose Delbo and Dave Hunt
backup story: Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell
Synopsis: Etrigan and Wonder Woman travel through a mystical dimension on their quest to save Etta Candy from the demon Baal-Satyr. Etrigan shows a vision of Etta, which shows her about to be killed, but he explains that this has not yet happened and can still be prevented. Just then, they are attacked by magical pterodactyls, which Etrigan drives off by killing one of them. Diana is conflicted about her new ally.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jason Blood's girlfriend and his assistant Randu Singh hold vigil. Randu, you see, maintains a mystical connection to Etrigan which is the Demon's lifeline back to Earth; without it, they will be lost. This fact is not lost on Klarion the Witch Boy, who plots while also taunting Oscar Pound, who is slowly turning into some kind of monster as a result of his bargain with Baal-Satyr. Unexpected consequences and all that. Klarion fires a big ball of magic energy right into Jason Blood's house, clobbering Singh and knocking him out.
Etrigan and Wonder Woman finally find Baal-Satyr's demonic fortress. The only way in is through the sewer, so up they go, getting covered in filth. Yuck. Back on Earth, Randu Singh awakens to find his link to Etrigan has been severed. He quickly has Blood's girlfriend get an evil book of spells from a cabinet and, drawing a pentagram, he begins some sort of desperate rite.
Meanwhile, Baal-Satyr is about to slay Etta when Etrigan and Wonder Woman show up. Baal-Satyr and Etrigan exchange insults, then have a knock-down, drag-out battle. Wonder Woman realizes baal-Satyr is immune to fire and is using fire to hurt Etrigan, so she douses him with water -- which has the unintended effect of completely disintegrating him. Etta is saved! Except just then, Etrigan realizes his link to Singh has been severed, meaning they are trapped in this demonic dimension forever! To be continued!
Backup story: The D.A. isn't quite dead, so Huntress is able to get him to the hospital before he dies. Huntress vows to find and stop the Joker. First, though, she has an interlude where three new interns begin working at her law firm, which is under some kind of legal attack. Whatever. Next thing, she goes to see the police commissioner to get info from him about Joker, but while she is talking, a dart shoots in and hits the commissioner, infecting him with smilex gas. Huntress gets him to the hospital too before he dies, then sets out to find the Joker. Which she does. The two of them battle and Joker gets away, making Huntress even more grimly determined to find him before anyone else dies. To be continued!
Notes: Now, this is what we're talking about right here. Cool action, creepy villains, weird mysticism. Klarion the Witch Boy. The Joker. This is good stuff.
One small note is how adult the subtext is. First there's the sewer sequence, where it's basically spelled out that Wonder Woman is crawling and swimming through piss and excrement. Then, at the beginning of the fight with Baal-Satyr, the beast suggests that Etrigan has had adult relations with Wonder Woman. This sends Etrigan into a rage and I'm not sure it would have gone over so well with any mindful parents that might have read through this issue. Then again, it's a fine line trying to create stories that are interesting to readers of all ages; this just seemed a little more mature than your usual issue of Wonder Woman.
I enjoyed the back-up story for once, it's amazing what the Joker can do sometimes. I'm not even a huge fan of the Joker, but given that this backup has been a bit plodding -- and given the Huntress' unique relationship with Joker -- this was really interesting. I will say, though, that on the cover she looks way too happy to be dealing with the Joker. That expression just seems wildly out of place given the events of the story; how about some grim determination rather than this "welcome to the Playboy Club!" hostess smile.
The editors in the lettercolumn make mention of how popular the Huntress backup has been. They also say they are thinking about doing a Power Girl solo back-up, but they don't want to irk the Huntress fans. I'm on the fence with this one. I like Power Girl as a character but find most of her pre-crisis appearances to be annoying, as she is portrayed as being so headstrong and militant all the time.
My Grade: A for both stories. Between the Etrigan team-up and the Joker in the backup story this might be the best issue so far.