Ares Rising

Issue #82, Jan. '94: Bill Messner-Loebs—writer; Shawn Atkinson—guest penciller; Ande Parks—inker (Aaron McClellan and Mike Manley—inking assists); Bryan Augustyn—legend in his own mind. "The Path of War."

Issue #83, Feb. '94: William Messner-Loebs—writer; Lee Moder—penciller; Ande Parks and Aaron McClellan—inkers; Bryan Augustyn—editor. "The Human Maze."

Issue #84, Mar. '94: Loebs—writer; Massengil—penciller; Parks, McClellan, Garzon—inkers; Augustyn—editor. "Amazon Songs."

cover to issue 83cover to issue 84

We begin with Aristotle "Ares" Buchanan giving his autobiography. As a child he was the victim of bullies, one of whom included Moot, and then later as they all grew up, her beloved robot companion, Geof. Buchanan says that he learned 2 lessons from all this: fighting your own battle is a mug's game, and that women exist only to be hated. Even the cops were bad guys, and since Buchanan could not afford to buy their protection, “he was nothing.”

After a particularly bad beating, Ares lay dying in an alley when the god Ares appeared to him. This was during a period in which Zeus ordained that all gods must leave the earth sphere or, but Ares wanted to remain. He proposes a solution to Buchanan: “I will scoop out most of you like a baked potato… to be filled later with chili and cheese. And I will be the cheese!” Ares had a sense of humor.

The next morning, feeling a little better, Buchanan took a shower, only to be interrupted by Moot and Geof. They note that he is beefier than before, but he has been talking to the DA and must be punished. Though he didn't know what to do, he lashed back. Suddenly things were very clear to him. He beat up his two tormentors, and even got Moot to confess that she got Geof from a tech at STAR Labs.

Ares B. then recruited that employee, a man with a gambling problem, to start funneling equipment that didn't quite meet STAR's quality standards. Soon Ares controlled all of Boston's guns. Ares found that he was not concerned with profit, but rather with armed conflict for its own sake. Boston needed to be at war and that war needed to spread.

Ares had only 2 opponents: Wonder Woman and the White Magician. With a hefty bribe, the Magician became one of Ares' most trusted agents. The two conspired to shoot Diana into space, which you will remember was the Space Pyrates saga. When she returned, she “had a real talent for turning enemies into allies.” Thus she became Ares' number-one opponent.

He had hired Mayfly, who not only had failed but left a clue as to his identity. But he also had Donna Milton, “who was infinitely guileful, and who could kiss or kill with equal ease.” She had been working for a corrupt DA, but Ares dug up a list of payoffs and rigged trials concerning the DA. Donna then switched sides, saying “Looks like you're God in the city for now, Mr. Buchanan… but even God needs a lawyer.”

He liked her style.

It was Donna who suggested working behind enemy lines to become Wonder Woman's confidant and friend, trading on her weakness and naiveté. She guided Wonder Woman to Ares' office. We now see that Diana is the one to whom he tells his story. She sits bound and gagged on a chair in his office.

Letters: Joanna Sandsmark, Nancy Champion, Ben Herman, Bryan Ott, Kate Murray.

Now it is Donna Milton's turn to recount her story of how she "made it my business to go everywhere [Diana] went, even taking some risks to win her approval.” Though Diana praised her, “I could see through her so it didn't affect me.” Donna's pregnancy advanced, and we see her sitting in with Etta and Diana as one of the girls.

Just when Diana and Ed Indelicato began connecting high-tech weaponry to one Ari Buchanan, and Micah Rains found the link between Buchanan and Warmaster, Donna led her to him.

Donna watches Ares gloat over Diana, and exults that she will stand by him, a man with such great power. “He and I are exactly the same! We go after what we want and God help anyone who gets in our way!”

Ares has another rocket-propelled and armor-piercing explosive bullet like the one that created the singularity from a few issues before. He loads it into a special gun and points it at Diana's head. (And we get an unnerving cover image.) But he pauses. He says Diana needs to be broken as an example to his enemies. Diana counters that Ari is merely the real Ares' puppet.

In the meantime Donna reflects on how she was helping Diana relearn how to fly and the good times they had doing it. Then there had been a moment concerning a letter Donna had received. It was from a woman whose daughter Donna had saved while she was accompanying Diana. The letter calls Donna an inspiring hero. This is followed by a party at Etta's hanger, in which all of Diana's female friends gather to “welcome the heroine” with hugs and party hats and punch. Diana hugs Donna and calls her a true Amazon, her sister.

Donna stops Ares from slapping Diana again. She tells him that he isn't going to touch her again or she will heal have to go through her. She knows he won't do that because Ares needs an heir. He is mystified, and she reveals that she is carrying his child. Aries is confused. She had told him she was faking this pregnancy (fake? She's huge! They've been naked together while she's been huge) to win Diana's sympathy.

“And you believed me.” She tells him that they are full partners now.

“Interesting,” he says, and shoots her. Diana screams but the chains that bind her were made to restrain Superman if necessary. Ares then shows her a screen that reveals river tunnels beneath Boston, filled with enough weapons to start several wars. First Boston, then the country, then the world.

Diana's bonds creak as she struggles against them. But neither of the two has seen that Donna still lives. Donna has taken the singularity bullet that Ares had previously shown off to Diana, and releases it like a grenade.

Narration: “There is a great splintering sound as the earth leaps up to meet the air, itself made nearly solid by the terrible force of gravity. A great black rushing of both wind and light follows the newly-made gravity pit deep into the earth. Space and time itself distorts and tears. Screaming pain, horror and desolation fill everything. Then silence.”

Diana is half unconscious but she falls into the waters underneath Boston. Though her chains cannot break, the chair she's in can. She manages to reach the surface and finds Donna—floating in the water. The baby is coming.

Letters: Bryan English, Frank Smith, Anderson Lam, Nancy Champion, Jim Elliot.

The warehouses where Diana had been held are blazing and collapsed. No survivors are found. But in the darkness below the surface, Diana holds Donna so her head is above the water. Donna reminds Diana that she has betrayed her.

Diana tries to fly the two of them out, but fails. Donna says she's not strong enough to deliver the baby, but Diana reminds her about how she was just saying how wicked she she was, how selfish and how evil. To be all that must require a lot of strength, Diana urges Donna to focus on that.

In the water, Donna gives birth to her child. Diana dies down to retrieve it, bites through the cord, and brings the baby to the surface.

Across the city the White Magician appears to Antonio Sazia, who is in bed in a cheesy honeymoon suite with his brand-new wife, Julie. The magician informs Sazia that Ares Buchanan is dead because of Wonder Woman. He warns Sazia that Wonder Woman probably knows about the two of them and that they have to “act now.”

The magician assures Sazia that Ares's life essence is gone from the earth. Instead of renewing his partnership with the Magician, Sazia starts to threaten him, and reminds him of all the information he can use against the Magician. Still the Magician wants to team with Sazia so they can hold on to what they have accomplished already. Sazia dismisses his wife so that the two men can conduct business.

The White Magician offers Sazia “unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, unlimited wealth.” He explains that he knew Thomas Jefferson as a young man, and that their family made this country. “But it's been perverted. The people turned away from our leadership.” He blames it on immigrants and non-whites. Now the White Magician wants to control the city and remind its inhabitants of just who is their rightful master.

Though the Magician offers to turn Sazia's enforcers into demons, Sazia pulls a gun and shoots the Magician. The bullets do not harm him, but the Magician unleashes a spell and blasts Sazia into less than dust.

Julie Sazia emerges from the bathroom, wrapped ina towel and holding a gun. The magician reminds her of just how little effect guns have upon him. “The White Magician does not war on women!” the Magician says, using third person, and forgetting that he has warred on Wonder Woman. He disappears.

Back in the waters under Boston, Donna has given up hope of seeing daylight or her baby again, but Diana reassures her that she is not leaving and that someone will eventually find them. Their friends knew that they had come there. They will scrounge up a boat and find a way into the tunnels and search through the miles of the maze. Sure enough, that is exactly what happens, and here comes Etta, Hoppy, and lord knows who the other two people are. (Decent art would sure help during this era.) They are rescued.

Letters: A farewell from editor Brian Augustyn, who notes that WW has had more editors over the span of her career than any other character. He thanks the staffers and gets new editor Paul Kupperberg to hint at upcoming storylines.

Notes: Lots of origin tales and/or origin-related comments here as five of Diana's enemies crowd into this trilogy of issues. Yet nothing seems rushed. Each enemy has room to show off their own motivation, their own characterization. Diana begins in victim mode, but gets to show off her outrageous pluck and optimism. Donna Milton adds a few more layers of personality to herself.

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