Ancient Blood, Ancient Stone

Annual #4, 1995 ("Year One" theme happened across the entire line of annuals): Kate Worley—writer; Brent Anderson—penciller; Ken Branch—inker; Paul Kupperberg—editor.

Wonder Woman and Cheetah fighting

I'm not putting up the cover to this because it's awful. No wonder Diana's one-pointed tiara is depicted upside-down on it; she's giving the international sign of extreme distress. The interior art is also pretty awful (I've seen Brent A. do good work, but this is not one of those jobs), compounded with the dark 'n murky palette DC liked back in those days for some incomprehensible reason. Later, they'd blame it on the presses, but as someone who's been in production for a while knows, presses can be adjusted to correct problems.

As happens all too often with a special issue of Wondie, we get a sermon. You don't find this with other heroes, but with Wonder Woman, writers and/or editors feel they must preach, hard and in your face. In addition to all the preaching, there are a lot of talking heads and not much action at all.

Since this is "Year One," it supposedly happened the first year of Diana being Wonder Woman.

In Egypt's Valley of the Kings, artifact robbers find ancient pottery that has not been stolen and/or broken yet. One of them justifies their actions by saying that they're cleansing the land of its pagan past. As they turn to leave in the presence of a large statue of Bast, the cat goddess, they are attacked by... something.

Later, Barbara Minerva, aka Cheetah, admires the same piece of pottery, along with Sidney Asher, who pays the locals to steal artifacts for him. They now have so terrified the locals that they will no longer be able to get more loot, so they move on.

Meanwhile, Julia Kapatelis arrives in Boston from two weeks at a conference to be greeted by Nessie and Diana at the airport. Diana catches a smuggler, which triggers Julia to begin lecturing about how she'd learned about the vast illegal trade in artifacts taking place around the world. Of course, Diana can't believe that people would destroy their own history.

Now Julia has been invited to join a taskforce about the problem, to meet up in Mexico. She invites Diana to come along, and Nessie will join them for a few days after they are finished. They arrive in the Mexican state of Campeche, where local bigwig Col. Munoz tells them there is no serious crime. Their guide is Luis Ferrara, and the head of the dig is Gilbert Costanza. The ancient city of Tzichilan has recently been discovered, and seems to tie the Olmec civilization into that of the later Maya, for this city displays statues of a god who is half-human and half-jaguar, as opposed to the Maya's Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent.

That night, local conservationist Ermilio Quinero tells them that "the old gods do not look kindly on the desecration of their temples." Of all people, Julia—herself personally acquainted with gods—pish-toshes this as superstition. But meanwhile Asher (with Barbara and her aide, Chuma) has arrived and plots with Col. Munoz to arrange some "accidents" and blame them on Quinero.

Diana plans to guard the ruins at night even as Barbara M. (in the crutches stage of her development) hears that Wonder Woman is in the area, and vows to teach her a lesson. That night, Diana encounters a jaguar but talks to it and it goes away. She hears trouble, but is too late to save a scavenger whom Cheetah has attacked.

When she and Quinero's group bring the body to the colonel, he accuses Quinero of murder and the rest of his group as accomplices. He throws them in jail. Diana then goes to her inspections group, who have decided that their lives are now not worth much to the colonel. For safety they retreat deep into the jungle, letting Diana stay behind. Elsewhere, Barbara and Chuma remain while Asher leaves to avoid government hassle.

That night Diana stops more plundering, but Gilbert Costanza also shows up. Diana is slow to protect him, but her lasso forces information out of the colonel. Unfortunately, she is still conveniently slow and Cheetah mauls Gilbert RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER before she can do anything. (!) Gilbert dies in front of a statue of the jaguar god, saying that the god will avenge him.

As Diana and Cheetah fight, Cheetah manages to BREAK FREE OF THE LASSO (which Diana refers to as "the rope"), and Cheetah also uses a prehensile tail as a weapon. Did she have this before?

Now Diana uses her (gag) power of super-prayer: "Great Artemis, goddess of the hunt, help me in this battle!" Before you can say, "deus ex machina," here comes the goddess herself, who fires an arrow at Cheetah and misses because of Diana's request for leniency. Artemis's arrow instead awakens the jaguar god, Balum. Balum goes after Cheetah, who shrieks, "SHREIK!" She must be really panicked, to misspell it like that.

Diana shouts that she cannot permit this, and commands Artemis to stop Balum. This is not justice, but vengeance, Diana says. Funny; seems like justice enough to me. Diana tells Balum that his "justice" is that of 2000 years ago (shouldn't that be 1500?) but not of today. She also again ORDERS Artemis as "protector of women," that she must intervene.

For some reason Artemis agrees and Balum says he will not fight the goddess. THEN—get this—Artemis lets Cheetah go free. "Her suffering will avenge [Balum's] people... Let your mortal justice be served on other mortals, Amazon. She will not escape it forever."

Uh... Does any of that make sense? Nope? No, not a bit. Deus ex machina and illogic, a doubly-fatal combination to a plot.

Whatevs. Diana frees the prisoners and imprisons the colonel. Then she finds Asher leaving town (what, he's still there?) and uses her lasso to find out where all the artifacts have been stored. Then she lectures him, blah blah, but cannot find where Cheetah has gotten to.

Cheetah is listening to Chuma, who tells her that she may be stronger than Diana but not as strong as a god. Cheetah adds, "Not even a god dead for centuries." But Artemis is listening and says, "What mad hubris... We may absent ourselves... but the gods never die."

Nessie arrives to join Julia and Diana "some weeks later" and they find the restoration of the ancient city moving apace. (After just weeks?) The local museum will be named after Gilbert Costanza, who is responsible for saving the history of his people.

Notes: I hate being preached to! I dislike paying money for a comic that is not well-produced. If you're missing this issue, let me assure you that it is not necessary to anyone's enjoyment of our favorite Amazon. As it is, too many things in this story don't make sense AND aren't important enough to include in the character indices.

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