Second Genesis

Issue #101, Sept. '95: John Byrne—writer-artist (lettercol mentions that he's also doing the lettering); Paul Kupperberg—editor

Issue #102, Oct. '95: John Byrne—writer-artist; Paul Kupperberg—editor

Issue #103, Nov. '95: John Byrne—writer-artist; Paul Kupperberg—editor

Issue #104, Dec. '95: John Byrne—writer-artist; Paul Kupperberg—editor

cover to issue 1010: Wondie running toward readercover to issue 103: Bloodied wonderwoman scowls amid a pile of downed parademons

John Byrne takes over and, while allowing a slight bridge of a mention to acknowledge the WML era, immediately starts to radically redefine Diana and her mythos, while paying huge homage to Jack Kirby's DC kreations.

Amid a plethora of purple prose, Diana arrives in Gateway City, a doppelganger of San Francisco. She is just in time to play Bullets and Bracelets with an armored gang calling themselves "Anarchy, Inc.," and who have a tank from which to battle heavily-armored police. One officer, who looks like the skinny cousin of the Kirbyverse's Terrible Turpin, informs Diana that in the past two weeks there've been a lot of strange hardware floating around Gateway. (Gee, didn't we see this happen in Boston? There it was attributed to STAR Labs' throwaways.) Diana gives one of the prisoners some private Lasso of Truth interrogation but doesn't bother to inform the police of her findings.

Next we see the same police officer, whom we'll come to know as Mike Schorr (Diana doesn't ask him his name and he doesn't supply it until issue #103), going undercover and asking too many questions in a seedy dockside bar straight out of a 40's movie. In the middle of the fight that results, Diana appears on the scene dressed in civvies. Even so, everyone recognizes her and the bar quickly empties. Diana then reaches behind the bar to trigger a remote control, but the barkeep points a shotgun at her. Before she can react (uh huh), Schorr shoots the man. The two of them let the injured man lie unconscious or dead without summoning help.

Diana says, "I'm not sure my bracelets would be effective against a shotgun. The field of fire is too large." Really? We've seen her going up against multiple machinegun fire (see page 5 of this very book). Let's not even mention the (ugh) Aegis Effect. Besides, the gun was at point-blank range.

Anyway, the remote has triggered a giant armored vault-type door. Diana strips down to her uniform and makes mincemeat of the metal. Mike is bowled over by the feat and asks Diana just how strong she is. "I don't really know. It is difficult to find an upper limit against which to test myself." Right. In the DC Universe, with her being on the job for years, she's never discovered an upper limit. You'll notice that Diana's mid-level abilities that she had in the WML era are now rendered kaput by shiny new definition.

A huge armored monster now faces Diana, and after a fight, he manages to pummel her "fully six inches into the broken pavement." Upper limit enough, Di? Two armored guys grab Mike, but Mike is a Spunky Guy and jabbers away until he's pistol-whipped into silence.

The final page has Darkseid and Desaad standing over the unconscious Diana. "Everything is proceeding exactly as I planned," Darkseid chuckles as he twirls his mustache.

Letters: Kupperberg bids Brian Bolland's covers adieu. Nancy Champion, Joey Marchese, Jim D. Headrick, Kate Murray.

Exhaustive narration tells us how we cannot begin to imagine the amount of pain Diana is being tortured with. She is at level 13 of Desaad's machine, which he says kills mortals at level 3. Mike shouts that he knows as much information as does Diana, so they should torture him instead and leave her be. Darkseid laughs at his "misplaced courage," and says that Mike amuses him and so shouldn't be hurt by his guards any more, at least for the present.

They take Diana up to level 16 on the pain-o-meter. She couldn't answer even if they broke her, because they haven't yet asked her a question. Huh? Does that make sense to anyone? Now Darkseid lets the guards load Mike into the machine, but Diana rises up and beats them up while Darksie just stands there. "I am trained to accept pain as a natural consequence of battle," she blithely declares as she battles everyone in the joint except Darksie and Desaad. She later admits of the torture, "I would be hard pressed to recall a time when I have experienced anything worse." How very Vulcan of her.

The two villains laugh (okay, just Darkseid laughs. He does that a lot in this story) and escape, leaving Diana to release Mike and then tear up the place, only to discover that they are on Apokolips. Stepping out into the firepits, Diana conveniently faints into Mike's manly arms, and a group of armored men surround them.

Diana has a dream: She battles Superman, "the one mortal whose power might be greater [than hers]." You see, this is what I have against the "Diana is second only to Superman in power" theory. Superman MUST be Number One because he's DC's number-one son. No one can EVER surpass him on a regular basis.

That leaves Wonder Woman, the symbol of womankind, in a perpetual secondary position to SuperMAN. He is her unbreakable glass ceiling. And that entire concept is just wrong, wrong, wrong. First of all, physical strength, a traditionally masculine attribute, is viewed as the ultimate be-all of comic book superheroes. Traditionally feminine attributes contain no worth. Second, Superman has huge amounts of people in his world vying to be equal to him in power. After a while, they all blend into the background. DC has only an on-off button that works in black and white: either one has no powers at all, or they have ABSOLUTE POWER and can be equal (at times) to the power of Superman, halleluiah!

There is no in-between.

I think Wondie should be absolute, unquestioned empress of the mid-levels, as she was during the WML era. She should have lots of peers in her relative range, but due not only to her strength, but her other powers, cunning, charisma, skill, experience, etc., she should be the BEST of those levels.

Anyway, Diana was having a dream: Darkseid laughs as she and Superman battle, but they turn on him, as it was a mock battle. Darkseid, Superman and Desaad, who was also there, fade away. Then Olympus, where they've been fighting, blows up. Diana wakes from the nightmare. This eats up four pages.

The group that had faced Mike is headed by Metron, the big know-it-all of the good-guy New Gods. "Everything you believe is based on lies," he tells Diana, and then proceeds to stomp on her mythos: Ages ago, the gods released Ragnarok on themselves. Out of that energy arose Apokolips, New Genesis... and the Greek pantheon. The Greek gods are much younger than the New Gods and Darkseid, you see. Not only that, but they actually are mere humans who happened to absorb the power that fell upon Earth after the Ragnarok event. Metron declares that the Greek gods contain "mere shadows of my power. Of the power of the least of New Genesis."

Now, I've read more than a few issues of the Kirbyverse at DC, and those gods were nothing more than lower-level superfolk. Yawn. Only Darkseid had any real power. Also, Wiki tells me that this Godwave is the reason there are so many superfolk on Earth; Wiki doesn't mention it being the origin of all the godly pantheons. Wiki is always right, you know. Wiki knows more than mere Metron. Thus, we'll just label Metron as mistaken, if not insane. Completely and utterly wrong.

To accept this story is to belittle the Wonder mythos. We don't do that on this website. DC shouldn't even THINK of doing it.

Even those these "mere" Greek gods have such pitiful power, Darkseid is mad to grab it, but the gods are hiding from him. He brought his tech to Gateway City in hopes of luring Diana (which he only did by accident. Good plan, Darksie) and getting the information (without asking her. Duh) of where they are from her. With his failure, he now nastily releases his shock troops against Themyscira. The final page is Diana standing on Paradise, seeing everything destroyed.

Letters: Olin B. Jenkins, Michael Sheridan, Ari Kampel, Jacob Gilbert, Bill Cherry.

Diana and Mike use a Boom tube to get to Themyscira. (I thought Diana was already there?) Everything is in ruins, the landscape is afire, and FINALLY Mike introduces himself, since Diana has never asked. (Such a people person!) Diana explains that "Here I was created," not "I was born here." The difference will become plain in a story or two. She says she's 22 years old. She cautions Mike that anything he sees here, he must keep secret. Yeah, as Byrne's rearranging things he's also forgetting that Paradise Island was opened to the outer world quite some time ago.

Then Diana goes mano a mano against Darkseid's troops as he watches, smiling from above. (He sure smiles and laughs a lot; such a jolly fellow!) Byrne tells us, "The soldiers of Darkseid are among the most fierce, the most relentless in all the universe... yet they shrink before Diana's fury as tender blossoms shrink before a hurricane." Then Byrne waxes poetic about the infinite fury in Diana's eyes as she takes her vengeance.

More purple prose has Mike tackling a soldier, who falls at Darkseid's feet. Darkseid calls Diana's attention to the fact that he's squeezing Mike's head. "I would be ingenuous if I denied that there is a certain pleasure to be taken... even from a meaningless death."

Of course Spunky Guy tells Diana to keep on doing what she's doing, which causes Darkseid to drop him, laughing. Ho ho ho!

We switch locations to see another Kirby Kreation, Morgan LeFey (with an "e" to differentiate her from Marvel's LeFay, though we aren't given her name within this story), in a mansion in Gateway City. Removing her mask, Morgan reveals herself to be an ancient crone. Her servant, Chuma, I mean Warly, helps place her in a mystic, rejuvenizing pyre. Her plans are to collect Wonder Woman for some element of a spell that will allow her to skip the painful process forevermore.

Back on Themyscira, Darkseid has stopped laughing but Mike is still a captive. Again, Darkseid threatens Mike's life until a spear strikes his back, thrown by Phillipus. What remains of the Amazon army stands there, given new hope by Diana's presence.

As Darkseid sets a new aerial attack upon Paradise, Diana assures him that the Amazons do not know where their gods have gone. Darkseid says blah blah, "Powerful you may be, and likely second only to Superman..." blah blah blah, and the aerial attack intensifies until Paradise is no more.

Letters: Tawna Nelson, C.H. Scott, Jacob Gilbert, Brian S. Kaneshiro, Melissa Page, Ben Herman.

The cover proclaims this "Battles End!" yet it would seem it was merely grammar's end. Where is the editor?

Though it did not seem that anything remained of the island at the end of the last issue, it is still there and in fact some buildings still stand enough to be recognizable. There are many casualties among the Amazons: "These were her sisters, her aunts, cousins, her many mothers." Cousins? Perhaps Byrne is labelling the Bana this way, if there are any in the crowd. Darkseid perversely declares the day won by her and the Amazons, just because they fought well.

None of Darkseid's troops have died, since he can reanimate them. (Wiki sez he can use his Omega Beam to do this, but we see no evidence of the Beam here.) Since he couldn't get the info he wanted (which really, he never asked for and had already discovered wasn't available), he departs with them. Diana is not quick enough to grab him in his Boom tube. She collapses in tears into Mike's manly arms.

Two days later the surviving Amazons light a pyre to send the 1716.5... wait, just 1716... fatalities on their way to the afterlife. There are 2000 Amazons left. Mike is allowed to witness. We learn that Queen Hippolyta is nowhere to be found, and the Amazons are mum about where she might be. (Why?)

Back in Gateway, we see that Morgan is youthful now, but weak. She has just enough strength left to transport her estate elsewhere in the world, safe from the rumors of Jason Blood (another Kirby Kreation), who has been seen in London, which seems far enough away, if you ask me.

Diana helps clean up the debris of Themyscira when the Amazons decide they should tell her what's become of Hippolyta. This is how many days that Diana has been back on the island? The queen had fallen into a deep depression, unable to rule, and Phillipus had goaded her to do something. The gods had originally appointed Hippolyta queen for as long as she lived, so the best she could do now was to appoint Phillie interim ruler until she should return. Then Hippy stole away with no one knowing where she was bound.

Through all this Phillipus hadn't had the decency to inform Diana of the state of things, nor, apparently, had Diana asked around. Must not have been that important. Now Diana rushes in a seeming rage to confront Phillie and demand to know where her mother is. (Along the way Mike awkwardly notes that all Amazons are much stronger than humans, but only Diana possesses power from the gods.) Phillie tells Diana that they've searched and can find no sign of Hippy. She asks if it is Diana's intent to claim the throne. Now get this, get this:

Diana says, "All my life I have known I would eventually be called upon to wear the crown.... But I was not trained to be the kind of leader Themyscira needs now over all."

Say WHAT???!

Diana wimps out of the position she's been trained all her life to be, despite what she just said. Her nation—her sisters—are desperate, and she just brushes them off. The island lies in ruins. Half the population—her immediate family—is DEAD, and more injured. How will they survive on what is left? Whatevs, baby. Diana sez toodle-oo, good luck, and thanks for all the fish. Sheesh.

Diana reiterates to Phillie that Phil should rule, and then takes off with Mike to return to Gateway. Byrne introduces a goofy trick: Paradise Island actually appears in the bay, drops the two off, and then disappears. (Nope, the phenomenon creates no tidal wave or any other repercussion.) You know, if they could have done that, the history of the Amazons would have been a LOT different than what it's been presented as. This stretches the mythos beyond what it can comfortably hold. "[Paradise Island] exists in another plane," Diana tells Mike, "and when it touches on the world of man, it does so in whatever place my sisters choose for it." If it was on another plane from Earth, how did Steve Trevor ever land upon it?

Bleah.

And now Diana begins to use something I abhor, calling Mike "Michael," in the way that comic book writers often have pompous princesses address people, disregarding the way those people want to be addressed in favor of a goofier, I mean, more formal mode that they prefer. In effect, she's telling him that his personal identity, the way he sees himself in the world, doesn't matter; the only important thing is how she recognizes him.

Byrne is definitely prying Diana apart from the world of humanity which so far in this post-Crisis era, she has tried so much to be a part of. She is a god, she is a creation of magic, she is second to Superman, she is regal and pompous and far above the common person.

Bleah.

Letters: Eric Gerbershagen, Ray Lopez, Kati Lovegrove, Linda Jew, Helen Rojas.

Notes: Byrne's art is bombastic and powerful. He summons his characters up from old-time movie cliches and cocoons them with purple prose. It certainly looks impressive, but at its heart it undermines the mythos and the character. Kirby Kreations begin to take over the book and be glorified as infinitely more interesting than anything the Wonder mythos has to offer. The doppelgangers begin to drift in, starting with Gateway City itself, a stand-in for San Francisco, and Mike Schorr, who seems to be a younger version of Terrible Turpin as well as Ed Indelicato—suitable for casting as a romantic interest. Plot holes abound. Not an auspicious beginning for an era.

Byrne uses this story to lay down the new parameters of his era with clear statements:
1. Wonder Woman is second only to Superman.
2. She is 22 years old.
3. She is much more powerful than the other Amazons, but they are stronger than humans.
4. Paradise Island is a gigantic space/time construct, which likely means that the Amazons are no longer over 3000 years old.
5. Darkseid is the most powerful being EVER. Even more powerful than the great Superman, since his underlings easily trash Superman's nearest rival in strength.
6. The gods that have created the Amazons and Diana are weaklings to be dismissed. (Except that Darkseid wants their power.) These gods are massively inferior in power levels and glory to Darkseid and the New Gods, who arose long before them.
7. Wonder Woman is second in power only to Superman. Did we say that before? Now Darkseid says it, so it must be so.
8. There are only 2000 Amazons left. In his first story, Byrne gleefully destroys half the nation of women.
9. Diana is not interested in her people or in her duties to them, her family, which she has trained all her life for.
10. Jack Kirby's Kreations are the greatest things DC Comics and maybe the entire universe has ever come up with, and so must be gathered again to remind those who'd forgotten them, and shown off to their best. Never mind what title the book has; THE KING RULZ!!! KNEEL BEFORE KIRRRBYYY!!!!

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