Shadows and Eclipses

Wonder Woman Annual #3, 1992: William Messner-Loebs—writer; John Dennis (pp 1-31) and David Johnson (pp 32-54)—pencillers; Ande Parks—inker; Quesada & Nowlan—cover; Frank Pittarese—editor; Dan Thorsland—editor emeritus

cover for the annual shows Diana turned into an Eclipsed version of herself. She is varying shades of purple with red glowing eyes.In 1992 DC published a company-wide crossover "event" called "Eclipso: the Darkness Within." You can read a very little about it here on Wiki, where you'll discover that the entire point of the story was... uh... let me try to recall the great import of a storyline powerful enough to warrant a company-wide event... well, to sell more comics, I guess. At any rate, the 1992 WW Annual, arriving just a month+ after the oversized WW Special, got caught up with it. In the process we got a very interesting new villain facing our Amazon Princess.

Cassie Arnold, an egotistical remote reporter for WTBN Eyewitness News of Boston, and her trusty camerawoman, "Whipper" (toward the end of the story through DC's top-notch editing this would become "Whizzer") Wypijewski film a crisis: Roger Oakley, a man made mad by the recent acquisition (in another company-wide event) of an inactive metagene, has secured a generator that negates the friction of air molecules. It's an interesting concept, but... Six blocks of downtown Boston are experiencing 500 mph winds (though small trees are still standing and windows are still intact). Arnold reports a massive water spout, though we see no evidence of this other than wet streets, which could be a result of a rainstorm.

Take two aspirins and get back to the story, because Arnold spends the entire first four pages telling us about it. As she films, she says that it can be assumed that Wonder Woman, who vanished into the maelstrom an hour ago, is dead. Instead we see her climbing up the side of a skyscraper, since the lack of friction prevents her from flying. (As if her flying ability obeyed scientific principles! Have the aspirins kicked in yet?)

Oakley's merely a metagene carrier. He's a member of a group called "Altered Strain," which wants the government somehow to activate their metagenes. Now Oakley has been fired from his job, killed the personnel director, taken the weird generator and put it to use, and absconded with some uber-guns. Oh, and he's also taken the assistant marketing director, Mrs. Cholimsky, and her young daughter hostage and is holding them on the roof of the building. And no, I don't know why everything on the roof isn't blowing off. Eye of the hurricane?

As Diana reaches the roof of the building, a man appears before Arnold in a crackle of green energy. He introduces himself [for the cameras, as it turns out] as Asquith Randolph, aka the White Magician. Arnold quickly recognizes him [see below] as being known in the 1940s as Mr. Magik. Randolph says an emergency like this has brought him out of retirement. The only way to stop this terrorist is to have him taste fear.

Randolph says "I can tap into the mystic energies that flow through all things." He then begins a spell, which progresses into a Dr. Strange-type evocation ("I invoke the seventh ring of PROTECTION! The Seventh SPHERE of POWER!"). Then he goes Hunter S. Thompson and calls out "all the forces of FEAR and LOATHING!" Etc.

Up on the roof Oakley doesn't recognize Wonder Woman and she has to introduce herself. She says she is no metahuman. Right. Then she makes the case that even metahumans and aliens are human "in every way that matters."

Oakley fires a rocket-shell-firing machine gun at her. Though she deflects the bullets, she claims the assault has broken her wrist. (Later she claims the site was merely bruised.) Diana keeps urging Oakley to peace and gets Oakley to drop the gun and surrender—just as Randolph's spell kicks in. Everyone on the roof is affected and assaulted by their own fears. Diana's are that she is unworthy and ignoble and has failed her mother and the gods.

The little girl, frightened of the spiders she imagines coming after her, falls off the side of the building. It is all Diana can do to grab her foot. When Randolph releases hordes of mini-dragons (or eel-bats, as Diana calls them) at the rooftop (uh, isn't there a "no fly zone" in the area?), Diana is bitten a thousand times and struggles to hold on to the girl. Mrs. Cholimsky manages to grab Diana's boot, and everyone returns to the top of the building safely. There they find that Oakley has died, probably from his fears.

Before the TV camera Diana later credits Cholimsky as being the hero of the day and mentions that the criminal had surrendered before Randolph's spell killed him. To make it up to her, Randolph invites her to dinner at his "legendary" mansion.

Randolph tries to provoke Diana by serving ribs, which are not-PC. (Hm. I must tell that to my friends here in NC). Diana assures him that "nothing tastes better than the charred flesh you've chewed off the bones of your OWN KILL," and tells him of hunting wild boar with a spear. This panel is often brought up in discussions about whether or not Diana is a vegetarian. It changes from era to era.

Randolph says he prefers to have others do his killing for him. We'd see that M.O. many times in the future. He also stresses the importance of appearance, and how some people, like Diana (and presumably himself) are naturally superior to the masses. He claims that the Randolphs founded America and that Thomas Jefferson was himself a Randolph. (Go Wiki it.) He believes in breeding being the proper measure of a person's importance, and that in these sorry present times, the unwashed mob rules. "There is a NEED for an AVENGING SPIRIT to make things RIGHT!" he claims. Diana tells him that revenge is a trap.

The scene prolongs itself with Randolph harping on how the superior beings deserve their comfort, even if it relies on the labor of slaves.

Then Guy Gardner bursts in and... Oh, wait. That's an ad. Nevermind. At least it woke me up.

Randolph continues with an unending tour (yaaaawn) of his house, which includes an extensive library that even holds tomes containing Euripides' plays, the ones that were lost when the Library at Alexandria burned. Then we look at the furniture, then the greenhouse... (Writers call this over-description "pretty house syndrome" and discourage its use.)

Then we discover Cassie Arnold in the home's pool. She has a key to the house, and proceeds to neck with Randolph in front of Diana. "At first she is EMBARRASSED... but then she realizes that in a sense they are BOTH showing off for her... Each in their own way displaying their POWER and CONNECTIONS." So she watches with a knowing smile.

Arnold claims that her relationship with Randolph doesn't compromise her journalism. She calls Diana "Di" and says that power is the greatest aphrodisiac. Diana says that it is justice that turns her on. (And Arnold rightly calls her on such a silly statement.) She defines justice in aphrodisiac form as "a man who is HONEST, SELF-SACRIFICING and protects the weak." Funny; I don't think that's how any dictionary defines "justice."

Alone with Randolph again, the White Magician gives Diana a gift, an armband containing a black diamond. She puts it on under the light of a full moon and Randolph spins an illusion:

Diana has taken Randolph to Themyscira. A week later, she checks in to find that Paradise Island has changed. Developers are moving in. Her mother wears a Western business suit and approves of the changes. The Amazons (Mala among them) are pretending to be weak so as to impress the men who are visiting. Randolph tells Diana that "lots of men will PAY to be catered to by an island full of Amazons," and is marketing cruises to the island for that purpose, etc. Diana sees her sister Amazons in chains, and Randolph confirms that the ones that are causing problems are to be sent to his friends for retraining. Then Diana sees her mother ("Mama") dissolved into dust.

Randolph says, "Women are weaklings and always weep when men are FORCED to dominate them. You'll thank me. Men are fire. Fire hardens mud." Then he slaps a now enraged Diana. She comes out of the fantasy to find them still just outside Randolph's house in the moonlight. Her rage activates the diamond, turning her into an Eclipso-type version of herself, her face now 3/4 blue and the stars on her outfit turned into eclipsed moons. She is trapped within the tendrils of a magical plant.

Wonder Woman as EclipsoRandolph says he will drain her enhanced Eclipso powers to feed his own fading powers "until I rule this mudball like a GOD!" The process should take about 48 hours. Once the power transfer is complete, he tells Arnold inside, Diana won't remember anything. He claims he'll "wipe out CRIME and WANT on this planet forever!" I'm sure Arnold is impressed by his lie.

But Diana is possessed by Eclipso's power and hatred. She gets out of the trap and smashes her way into the house. With pleasure she shows Arnold the power of her magic lasso, strangling her almost to death and turning away only when she realizes that Randolph is her true target. (Arnold later says it was as if the real Diana were still there, holding back the demon.)

The White Magician in a more formal version of his usual outfit.Diana rampages through the mansion. Randolph gets a gun that he keeps "to hunt DINOSAURS and METAHUMANS and other things that won't stay DEAD! I once killed a DAXAMITE with it." He shoots Diana and she doesn't bother with her bracelets. The bullets bounce off her chest.

"You CONFUSE me with the FLESH I wear, Magician. I AM ECLIPSO!" As Diana/Eclipso bears down on him, about to reach him, Randolph throws himself out of phase with the universe. Unable to touch him, Diana zooms through the mansion, leveling it in a great burst of light, and then flies off toward the moon.

Randolph returns, Arnold says that the mercy Diana showed her is more than she'd have done if the situation were reversed, and the reader is advised to read Adventures of Superman Annual #4 to follow the continuing story. Pass.

This story had a lot of good and even great ideas in it, chief of which was the White Magician, the ancient evil whom the public thought was a good guy. It's also good to see Diana "talking down" a criminal, even if that criminal doesn't recognize the renowned hero. With Diana's bruised arm we see more powering down, though I think this is going a bit too far. The bracelets should have some kind of impact-altering effect as part of their being unbreakable.

The art on this issue changed halfway through. The end was definitely better than the art at the beginning, but still wasn't anywhere near Perez standards. It was rather awful, actually, with Diana's hair taking a good brunt of abuse. And the story could have used some condensing in the middle.

And hey—is this Mala's first appearance in the Plastic Age? Guess we'll find that out once I go through the Perez era. Here she only gets one panel during the fantasy sequence, and it's quite a change from her Golden Age self.

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