The Contest

These issues (plus #93) are available collected as a trade paperback.

Issue #90, Sept. '94: William Messner-Loebs—writer; Mike Deodato, Jr.—artist; Paul Kupperberg—editor. "Homeward Gazings."

Issue #0 (it was a special cross-line "Zero Hour" event), Oct. '94: William Messner-Loebs—writer; Mike Deodato, Jr.—artist; Kupperberg—editor. "The Blind Eyes of Time."

Issue #91, Nov. '94: William Messner-Loebs—writer; Mike Deodato, Jr.—artist; Paul Kupperberg—editor. "The Last, Great Game."

Issue #92, Dec. '94: William Messner-Loebs—writer; Mike Deodato, Jr.—artist; Kupperberg—editor. "The Contest Lost!"

cover to issue #0: Diana performs Bullets and Braceletscover to issue 91

The T&A era begins for Wondie. I could barely stand to get the books, the art sickened me so. I'm told that this was Deodato's attempt at replicating a Jim Lee style. (Looks more like Rob Liefield to me.) I'm not a fan of Jim Lee (or Liefield), either.

I've never liked the Banas. To me, they were a grave mistake to the mythos. The Amazons, being citizens of a utopia who form the basis for our Wonderful Woman lead, need to be kept away from any spotlight or focus so that they do not have to become dramatic and thus non-utopian.

Being Bizarro Amazons, the Bana had a reverse kind of focusing effect on the Themyscirans. Add to that the drama of the Themies treating the Banas so badly (one didn't mind the reverse, as it was expected), and you came up with even less utopian Themies than how you began.

As a Bana, Artemis was clearly created to be Bizarro Wonder Woman. Her too-long orange ponytail just added to her general irritation. At least she died well. But we're getting ahead of our story... Our mostly out-of-continuity story. Those parts will be noted in blue type, as I've done before.

Let's get down to it. (Keep your barf bags at the ready.)

Diana lands on Paradise Island only to find someone is shooting an arrow at her. When she looks to find the assassin, she finds a group of Amazons running towards her, welcoming her back. One of them is Mala. She, like the other Themysciran Amazons, come off as being rather flighty if not downright stupid.

Mala informs Diana that the Queen has gained [convenient] new powers as the Amazons have been involved in a war with demons. Hippolyta now has dreams like a seeress. You recall she already had demonstrated a kind of mind control touch back in issue 76. But the Amazons now are involved in repairing the damage from this war with demons.

Diana goes to uncharacteristically greet her mother in a very formal manner, but her mother responds to her in a manner that can only be called frigid. Hippolyta explains that the evil Bana joined forces with Circe in a bargain that would gain them immortality. Circe teleported them all to Paradise Island one night, when they could fall on the sleeping Amazons and slaughter them. “The battle lasted without stop for two days.” You're kidding me, right? These are Amazons, who are far stronger than ordinary mortals (see issue #1), and mortals are exactly what the Bana are.

“There was hardly one Amazon on either side without a wound.” Hippolyta says that the two sides were evenly matched. How could that happen? As for Circe, “she had never intended to play fair, even with her allies. She meant there to be not one Amazon left alive after that date.”

Her goal not accomplished, Circe weaves a spell that transports the entire island into a demon dimension, and then appears in the skies to gloat. The queen narrates: “Former enemies now fought together, bound by common blood and human fear.” Hippolyta claims that it was the Bana's will to guard the outer, now highly-walled perimeter of Themyscira against the demons. They were an early warning system, and in reward for their valor were granted a quarter of Paradise Island to live on. Hope they'd gotten the monsters under control by then.

For the Amazons, it had been ten years of hellish war. For Diana, it has been a few months.

Without commenting about the fact that they're now back on Earth, Hippolyta moves on to her next subject: she asks how Diana has fared in these past 10 years. Have women been freed from their oppression by men? Are children safe from various perils they face? Has violence in the world been considerably minimized?

Diana informs the Queen what she's been up to. The Queen is unimpressed that Diana has freed the slaves from entire section of the galaxy. Instead, in the case in the recent case of Vanessa, the needs of the few have outweighed the needs of the many. Hippy would have let Nessie die.

Hippolyta joins forces with the insane of DC by calling Diana's recent war against the Boston mob "selfish rage.” Though this doesn't make a lick of sense with what we are to discover after this arc is over, Hippolyta proposes that Diana return to the outer world with a council of five Amazons, who will vote on each important decision that Diana makes there. Diana refuses, confused by her mother's attitude.

Diana walks around Paradise to find herself bored stiff considering her sister Jocasta's newest pottery glaze. Mala tells her it is because the Amazons are all immortal, and Diana is not. (This is one of the few times this issue is addressed. Too bad it occurs in a story so blatantly out of continuity that we cannot even consider it.) I think what she means to say is that it is because the Amazons are all 3000 years old and Diana is very young. We also see Amazons carrying water in bags, as if they do not have an ounce of technology to their name.

Again an arrow whizzes barely past Diana, and she discovers a group of three Banas, one of whom is the newly-introduced Artemis. Apparently these people don't guard to see if there are any possible bystanders when they're practicing their archery. Or else, as evidenced by their evil expressions and dialogue, they're aiming to hit bystanders.

The Banas are derisive of Diana and during the course of their conversation, we discover that Diana has no powers on Paradise Island. This is an enchantment Hippolyta arranged, “so [Diana] might grow up as a normal child.”

The Bana reveal that they hate Hippolyta because she forced her sister, Antiope, off the island, depriving them of a “birthright” of immortality. The piece of land the queen has given them is the most desolate quarter of the island. (Though Paradise has never been shown to have any desolation, perhaps this is a result of the demon war.)

Since these women can't have a pissing contest, they have an archery contest instead. We discover that Artemis is just as good an archer as is Diana. Their game is interrupted by news:

The queen and her council have decided to stage a new Contest to decide who the new Wonder Woman will be.

Letters: Joanna Sandsmark, Kevin Turner, Ben Herman.

Oh! The cover to issue #0 is mind-blowing! If it's not the BEST WW COVER EVER, it's certainly in the top five. Too bad the art inside is such crap.

Diana confronts her mother, who says that they must have proof that Diana is still worthy to be Wonder Woman. Now we start getting the phrase “loving submission” flung in our faces every other panel, as if we were back in the early days of the Golden Age. Diana must show loving submission to her mother, and the people of the world must show loving submission to those who know what's best for them.

For some reason Diana has problems fastening a very simple outfit as she and Mala discuss the state of things. Mala reassures her that a new Contest will turn out for the best. It is an exciting time for the Amazons. Mala tells Diana that she probably wouldn't like "being trapped into being Wonder Woman without a chance of ever having another life.” Other offices around the world are periodically re-examined; why not that of Wonder Woman?

Mala recalls the original Contest. It is reiterated that the Champion would lose her immortality by leaving the island. (For some odd reason, Artemis is shown as having participated in this contest.)

We get some new origin pages for Diana, only this time the reason the gods granted the creation of Diana to the Queen was because the queen was so desolated by the loss of her sister.

Though Diana had been barred from the original Contest, she had taken the Mask of Proteus from the Great Library (which here is shown in the artwork to be a tree) and disguised herself as a blonde stranger Amazon. She then went on to win the Contest, which culminated in the trial of Bulles & Bracelets, only now Hippy shoots the gun. Hippolyta is shocked to find that the winner is Diana.

Of course this doesn't match up to the contest we saw in issue #1.

Artemis arrives on the present-day scene to inform Diana that the Bana have been barred from entering the Contest. We see the Themies still have deep-seated distrust of the supposedly-forgiven Bana: “Well, they did attack us without cause!”

Diana walks with Artemis, who reiterates that the Bana were thrown off of Paradise Island during ancient times. “We have lived apart, in exile, on the harshest edge of the world.” Funny, but before that had been their choice.

In the Bana village, we see young Bana children. Fur seems to be the Bana's favorite material, though outside of the village they wear the same clinging, almost transparently-thin cloth that the Themies wear. One of the Bana shouts that she is not “sister” to Diana or any of "Hippolyta's brood.”

Everyone in the Bana village stares at Diana, including a one-eyed, ancient crone named Mala. I don't know why she would have the same name as someone else in the Wonder Woman mythos, but perhaps this is just a wink toward the mythos having so many duplicated names. (Many of which WML created.) This new Mala takes Diana to a hut which holds a bust supposedly of Antiope. It looks exactly like Diana.

As soon as Diana touches the statue she disappears, to reappear in a scene from the distant past. (You'd think this would cause concern or at least comment when she returns, but it does not.) She is now Antiope, a brunette as opposed to the blonde she was in issue #1 and elsewhere. She finds that Hippolyta is silly head-over-heels in love with Herakles (as it is spelled here), whose army has been staying with the Amazons for a few weeks. Antiope tells her sister that Themyscira is supposed to be "a refuge for women… to keep it free from the violence and tyranny of men.”

Hippolyta says that they will merge Themyscira and Herakles' kingdom of Argos (?? Herakles was never king of Argos) to "bring all the civilized lands under loving submission to our rule!"

Antiope thinks that Herakles wants to find the secret of the Amazons immortality–even though they are not immortal at this point. But the chattering, ditsy Hippolyta has already revealed it to him. Hippolyta tells Antiope that all Amazons will marry Herakles' men.

Antiope enjoys her wedding night to Hylas, but wakes to find his his lance–and I mean his real lance, you pervs–at her neck. She successfully fights him off even though she's wearing some sort of Parisian négligée complete with lace and see-through properties, and runs to warn her sister. Hippolyta reassures her that everything is taken care of and leads her to… Hippolyta in chains. It turns out that Herakles had used Proteus' Mask to disguise himself as Hippolyta in order to fool the wise Antiope.

Letters: Andrew Capraro, Robert J. Tolleson, E.J.S., Arpana Patel, Paul Girard, Melissa Page.

We spend part of this story in Boston, where a string bikini-wearing Mrs. Sazia is being interviewed by a man from the Boston mobs. He offers her the post of "Queen of Boston"–theoretically. Things get a bit confusing probably because Mr. Loebs likes to change names on us but if I'm reading this correctly, the man says that Paulie Longo was elected head man fair and square by the mobs. (The text calls him Benny Longo.)

Paulie is increasingly erratic, and this man wants Sazia to take him out without actually supporting her claim to the mob chiefdom. There is also a worry about Wonder Woman returning. Sazia says that she will handle her, assuming she is in charge. "Of course," her visitor tells her. Life is good for Julianna Sazia (who gets a new version of her name this issue. Someone must have pointed out that there are a number of other "Julia's" in the book).

Back on Paradise Island Diana calls for a vote for letting the Banas enter the Contest. The people overrule the queen. If I may, I wonder why the queen doesn't want the Bana to participate, in light of what we will learn a few issues from now: that she wants someone else to die in Diana's place. Wouldn't the logical step be to appoint one of the despised Bana to that position? Why stage things so one of her beloved sisters would be sacrificed? I think we can put this down as either more Circe mind control (that would explain SO MUCH!) or just being out of continuity.

The Contest begins with Mala and Diana competing side by side. These are all physical contests, no tests of thinking or ethics or strategy or charisma or religion involved. To me such has never made any sense. The Contest should be an all-round event, but action sequences make better comics.

Later that night, the Bana sit around a fire, comparing injuries. We discover that Artemis was only 14 when the Bana decided to join forces with Circe, so she is 24 now. She alone argued against the terrible alliance. One of the group says, “the [Bana] queen and most of the council are dead and we are Hippolyta's despised pets!” Artemis says that is so, but if one of them can win the contest, all that will change.

Meanwhile, Diana has another attack of mental unbalance and again switches to being Antiope in the past. Antiope attacks Herakles but he throws her around around and starts to strangle her. As she calls for help from her sister (a keen trick, seeing as she's being strangled), Hippolyta (who is suddenly and without explanation quite unchained) says, “I can't can't... I love him…”

So Hippolyta, the noble and brave queen of the Amazons, the one who taught Diana her ethics and courage, is shown to be a cowardly traitor who won't lift a finger to help her beloved sister live.

Diana wakes up in the present, thinking that everything she has believed is a lie.

The next morning the contestants are divided into teams to wage war on each other. This would be their most difficult task, because now their waists seem about 9 inches around, and it is very difficult to breathe when you have anatomy like that. Artemis taunts the Themies and Diana tries to break up the bad feelings. This chapter ends with yet another arrow flying in Diana's general direction. (yawn)

Letters: Cesar Cuadra, Robert Baytan.

Diana's torso is twisted almost completely aroundOkay everyone: Let's all assume the same position as Diana here. You can do it! Come on! That's 3/4 chest visible, and almost the entire butt, all seen from the same vantage point.

Diana misses grabbing the arrow but Artemis does not. Whoever loosed it had poor aim, because they were aiming at Diana. It didn't look so in the story.

Meanwhile: In Boston some of the over-steroidal thugs that we had seen in recent stories come at night to threaten a scantily-clad Mrs. Sazia in her giant bed. They ask her if she has any final words, and she says yes: they have one minute to surrender. Moot and Geoff, with Geoff now spelling his name differently, are even more gigantic constructs with built-in armory. They look quite different than they did before, but they are Mrs. Sazia's bodyguards now. Her assailants quickly surrender.

Back to our story: The Queen announces the finalists in the Contest, some of whom are Banas. The defeated Themies cheer them all, and Artemis cannot understand why. After all, she humiliated them and took away their own chances for the Contest.

“It must be part of a dark and sinister conspiracy, Artemis!” Diana tells her. “They're happy for us! They may even like you! Accept it!”

That night, Artemis lays into Patrice for trying to kill Diana with the aforementioned arrow. Diana overhears Artemis again stating that if the Banas make a good showing, the others will begin to respect them. At the same time, a very undressed Phillipus meets with the queen, who tells her that she has used the “queen's touch” to bring ancient areas of mystic power on the island to life.

“You could be sending them to their deaths!” Phillipus objects, and the queen tells her that she oversteps herself. This story shows us an overbearing and evil queen, whose subjects never question her. These are not the same people whom we have been following for years.

The next day the final section of the Contest begins. Phillipus warns the contestants to be extra careful, that the dangers are even worse this time. The group goes up against a whirlpool, in which Artemis saves Mala's life. But in fighting for her own life, Diana again reverts to the scenes from the past.

Herakles is throttling Antiope, with Hippolyta mewling behind him. Antiope begs her sister for help, and Hippy finally clobbers Herk. She couldn't let him kill Antiope, though he had promised that everything would turn out right.

Antiope takes Herk's Mask of Proteus and disguises herself as him. She calls down his men, we assume that the war is over and everything's hunky-dory (a panel showing this would have been nice), and Antiope gives the mask to Hippy. "Our people must believe in you! You are creating a civilization here, and we both know I could never do that," Antiope, the savior of her people, says to the traitor of her people before she leaves.

Back at the Contest in the present day, Diana finds that somehow she has escaped the whirlpool. She is far behind the others, and is ambushed by harpies. The Bana who'd tried to murder her now saves her, and Diana gets back in the race. After a bout with a snake-like being Diana calls "Medusa," Diana runs for the finish line, passing all in front of her except Artemis. Just when she catches sight of her mother, Diana falls.

Artemis wins the Contest and becomes Wonder Woman.

Letters: Nicholas Baxter, Glenn Grothaus, Jr., Michelle J. Siedlecki, Cliff Turner, Olin B. Jenkins, Bruce Williamson, John A. Leach.

Notes:

not in continuityHippy is certainly out of character here, both in present day and in flashback form. The origins look almost nothing like the origins we got in issue #1, and the changes do nothing to improve the legend. In fact, they do everything to make it a thousand times worse.

Nevertheless, we're left with a situation: Artemis is the new Wonder Woman. Therefore, SOMETHING happened to make it that way. We can take our guesses, make up our own stories as to what actually happened. Perhaps Circe screwed up everyone's mind to make them act out of character, see altered history, etc. That would fit with the previous Circe trap in which Hippy touched the golden statue of Diana that Circe had made, and all hell broke loose.

The art grows worse. One panel even gleefully shows Artemis' nipple. Yep, Paul K, I'm just having a knee-jerk reaction to something that doesn't exist. Right.

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