Wonder Woman #190
story and pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Dick Giordano
Synopsis: Diana and another Amazon named Leda are fighting some horrible creatures in complete darkness. As they do, we flash back to see how they got here: Diana was moaning about being bored so I-Ching basically said "Hey, why don't you go visit your mother instead of kvetching in my ear all damn day long?" So she somehow contacted Paradise Island and they sent Leda with the mystical taxi to bring her back. Unfortunately, something went wrong and they got shanghaied into another dimension - a dimension filled with weird monsters.
Luckily, those monsters run away as soon as the recap is finished. But they are replaced by some a-holes in a flying boat. Diana tels Leda to teleport away and get help, which she does, then the boat people land and try to take Diana as their slave. She pulls out a sword (because... uh...l well, she has a sword?) and starts completely ravaging her attackers. But finally her sword breaks and they chain her up.
They then take her to the capital where they present her to an evil queen who is gathering people for her arena games. She doesn't think much of Diana - until Diana flips out and starts creaming everybody in the room. The other captive, a big bearded barbarian joins in and soon it's a full-scale riot. Diana jumps up on the throne and starts... well, gosh, it looks as though she's about to strangle the queen with her chains... when Diana gets knocked out from behind.
She wakes up in a cell alongside the barbarian, who is named Ranagor. He's like, "we're screwed," but Diana uses one of her spy gadgets to free them both. They then try to escape, only to end up stumbling right out into the arena. Whoops! The queen gloats and releases a giant monster, but Diana and Ranagor defeat it. They then leap up into the crowd and start pummeling everyone, including the queen, who Diana again gives a facewash.
But reinforcements arrive and Diana and Ranagor have to flee. They end up finally being trapped on top of the highest tower. Diana sees an approaching army - it's Ranagor's! Turns out Ranagor is the prince of a rebellious nation trying to overthrow the evil queen. If they can get to the army, they might be safe. So Diana shoves Ranagor off the tower into the moat, then dives after him. They get away! For now...
TO BE CONTINUED!!!
My Notes: It's finally becoming clear what Sekwosky is really going for with this series, which isn't just a modern spy story but rather modern spy stuff interspersed with epic fantasy. It's a crazy balance to attempt and I think he's being hamstrung by the bi-monthly format; even though I can read them all at once, it's hard ot ignore the fact that there are large two-month gaps between issues. How can you get a real flow going with a series when one spy storyline takes up six months and then you have a fantasy story that takes up the next six months? I think it ends up feeling a bit scattershot.
Which is too bad, because I really like this stuff. It's instructive to note that this issue has a cover date of October, 1970. That happens to be the same cover date as Conan #1. It's crazy to think, but if you factor in the earlier Last Battle two-parter, Wonder Woman is in a way the only mainstream epic fantasy series coming out at the time (though Marvel was experimenting more and more with the format in weird places like Ka-Zar). In a way this new Wonder Woman series is similar to Marvel's Thor, which has one foot in the superhero world and the other in the world of fantasy. Which, by the way, is how I've always felt Wonder Woman should be done, rather than as a straight superhero book. Later writers in the Pre-Crisis world almost completely ignored the fantasy possibilities Wonder Woman presents and we see here again how cool it can be.
I don't think this story is as good as Final Battle, but it's pretty damn good. It's also even more of a straight swords-and-sorecery title, with Diana whipping out a sword and killing people Conan-style by the boat load. Literally. When they bring her before the queen, the ship's captain says: "This is no mere girl - as at least a dozen shadow men could tell you - if the dead could speak. Plus eight of my men." So... she just killed 12 yetis and eight humans? And then later she is clearly about to strangle the queen with her chains, Princess Leia style, before she's knocked out. In three issues we've gone from potential torture to shooting down planes with a machine gun to killing people with a sword, all without much of a second thought other than a few complaints form Patrick. Again, what a sharp contrast to other superheroes of the day. But I do have to wonder how this fits in with her mission of bringing peace to the wider world.
Also, it strikes me that having an ass-kicking, sword-wielding, ruthless action heroine - rather than hero - really is kind of groundbreaking. Of course, given the state of comics at the time, having a female superhero in her own title was also groundbreaking (still, nearly 30 years after the title started, which is sad commentary). This is still two or three years before the debut of Red Sonja.
Lastly, the cover is interesting. We get the jagged, blocky, sketchy Sekwosky here. Along with the stark use of negative space, is anyone else seeing echoes of Bill Sienkiewicz here? This almost looks like one of his Moon Knight covers from a dozen years later.
My Grade: A-. Another entertaining, interesting read. Diana continues to evolve as a character with every issue - into a "superhero" that seems much more dangerous than any of her contemporaries.