Wonder Woman #4 (1987): Gods and Mortals (part 4 of 7)
Last time: Diana and Hermes brought Steve Trevor back home, only for him to face attempted murder and to be framed for one himself, while Deimos fomented war between the East and West. Meanwhile, Diana met new friends and was about to face off against a new menace.
The comic opens with an explosive splash page as Diana scoops up Prof. Kapatelis and her daughter Vanessa from their home, while Decay uses her powers to turn the house into rubble. They’re saying Decay is the daughter of Medusa and… Okay, so another name for Medusa was Gorgo, and she was one of the Gorgons. Huh, I had no idea there was more than one snake-haired woman who could turn men into stone. And in the last issue, Phobos drew Decay from the Medusa’s heart. Diana uses Hermes levels of speed to spirit the pair out of the collapsing house. Outside, the neighbors poke their head out to take note of the rubble and the fact that the tree in the front yard is all decayed. Before Julia has to explain to the neighbors that it’s not termites, the culprit shows herself.
Ooh, she’s got Diana’s tiara. It’s on now! I guess that would mean more if there was an actual story behind the tiara, like maybe it had been a gift from her mother or it was symbol of the state or something, or the heirloom of a dead mentor. Diana promises a cure for Vanessa. Um, better not make promises you can’t keep there, princess. Then again, she’s got Hermes on speed dial, so…
Julia gets a neighbor to drive her and Vanessa to the hospital, where she sidesteps questions as to why her daughter looks more like her grandmother right now. Meanwhile, Diana flies through the skies of Boston, but she’s lost sight of Decay. As she traverses the skies over Beantown, she wonders if Hermes has forsaken her. The dude left you alone just a few hours ago and you’ve already lost faith, Diana? You’re lucky you actually get to directly interact with your god. Speaking of Hermes, back in Olympus…
…the god squad looks on with concern. Athena’s got her doubts, but Hermes—who so far has been the only god to have interacted with Diana directly—seems to have taken her measure and thinks she’s made a sterner stuff. Artemis wants to know if they can lend a hand, but Athena explains it’s been “decreed” that a mortal has to take Team Ares down. Decreed by who? Zeus? Or another player we haven’t seen? Or is it some sort of prophecy? Aphrodite feels terrible because it’s her and Ares’ kids who are responsible for this. Oh, and Medusa’s kid. You know, the woman you cursed just because she got raped by Poseiden in your temple? Geez, Greek mythology is pretty messed up. Demeter shows up and tells the gang, “The ark awaits in Hades to speed them to oblivion.” Demeter’s a serious downer.
Back on Earth at Hascom Air Force Base, we find a skulking skulker. It’s Lt. Etta Candy, up to some espionage. She’s poking through some presumably top secret files and finds one on Steve Trevor. And typed on his manila envelope is a reference to something called the “Ares Project”. The bad guys have a super-secret conspiracy and they didn’t think to call it something completely unrelated, like Project Red Legos or Black Licorice? And the details of the super-secret plot are in an unlocked file cabinet? Etta pulls out a classic tiny spy camera and takes pictures, figuring if she’s not sure what it all means then Steve can figure it out. She tries to stroll out unseen, but oh noes, a sergeant spots her! But instead of trying to arrest her, he draws her attention to the TV.
I wish I could say that this is just Ares fueled prejudice, but after the ’83 US embassy and Marines barracks bombings in Beirut, the US Embassy bombing in Kuwait, the ’84 hijacking of Kuwait Airways Flight 221, the ’85 hijackings of TWA Flight 847 and the cruise ship Achille Lauro, the ’86 bombings of Rome and Vienna’s airports as well as West Berlin’s La Belle Discotheque, not to mention numerous kidnappings of Americans throughout the Middle East… maybe the sergeant’s frustration with various Arab nations regarding their inability to curb terrorism is a bit justified? Anyway, the sergeant and Candy watch a news report where the trees on Boston Common have begun to rot, and a newly opened parking garage has collapsed. A traffic chopper spots a mysterious glowing object flying through the skies and where it goes, the decay follows. And in other news, the hunt is on for “accused killer” Steve Trevor. With that, Etta stalks out, with the sergeant assuring her he doesn’t believe Trevor’s a killer, either. Yeah, let’s see what the sergeant says when General Tolliver wanders by.
In Boston, the citizenry stare up at the sky at the monster flying above them, vomiting out rot and decay.
I’m guessing most are wondering if this thing is lost and was looking for New York City or Metropolis or something. I’m sure there are people living in Boston who used to live in Metropolis or Gotham and moved to get away from crap like this. Decay destroys the base of the monument erected to the memory of the Boston Massacre, per the caption “transforming the ornate memorial into a reaper’s scythe” as it falls towards some unwary passersby. Damn, Len Wein, that’s some awesome wordsmithing there. But wait! Diana shows up, catching the statue just in time.
Sadly, it’s going to take more than brute force to stop Decay, who can turn any projectile against her to dust. Man, having Diana’s first opponent as someone she can’t simply punch into submission is a bold move; it seems she’s going to have to actually think of a solution to this problem.
Diana and Decay face off, and the latter is pleased as all heck that they’ve got a suitable crowd for their throwdown. Decay brags that she’s wrecked the town and “stopped America’s much vaunted military machine dead in its tracks.” Is she claiming she’s stopped all of America’s military, or just the National Guard? Just how far does her power extend? She’s also destroyed local bridges, preventing people from leaving that part of Boston. Well, every prima donna wishes for a captive audience.
Diana falls for the goading and rushes in; she attacks Decay, who takes our Amazon by the neck and gives her the aging treatment. Diana notes how her skin’s wrinkling, I’m not sure if that’s because of our villain or Boston smog, but our heroine realizes she let Decay get to her and she might lose this one. Decay prepares her Godzilla-like breath attack and tells Diana she’ll be one with the earth and dust again… and how does she know Diana’s origin? Or is she just getting all biblical? But that raises even more questions. Regardless, Decay’s trash-talking gives Diana the answer: the magic lasso was made from Gaea’s girdle, and through the goddess the Earth, it’s always regenerating. She lassos Decay around the neck, and it’s just like Smeagol from Lord of the Rings as the villainess screams in pain. She tries to bolt—
—and if this was Silver Age Wonder Woman who couldn’t fly, this might have been a decent strategy. But Diana is resolved to not let her get away, and Decay… well… decays, bursting into a red cloud of dust which I’m sure will give cancer to hundreds of people when they inhale her. And… that’s it? That was the whole fight? How many more pages are left in this comic? Nine? It’s going to be interesting seeing how the gang fills them.
Diana approaches the area where what’s left of Decay landed to retrieve her tiara, and is assaulted by a different sort of opponent entirely: paparazzi! Flash bulbs explode in her face, and after her exposure to the pistol on Paradise Island and all the light and thunder it produced, I’m wondering just how close all those poor bastards came to dying just now. The reporters and camerapeople crowd around Diana, throwing countless questions at her, but she doesn’t understand a word and flies away.
Elsewhere, Phobos has to face the music when Deimos gets home from his world tour and finds out his brother’s been trying to actually think. Deimos points out how utterly stupid Phobos’ plan to sic Decay on a child of Gaea was, but as much as he’d like to kick Phobos’ ass, that’s Daddy Ares’s job. He drops Phobos into a pit of… bile. Ew. Just… ew.
Back on Earth, at the offices of the Boston Globe, city editor Carole Bennett’s been given a bombshell of a story. Her people crowd around the table with pictures of Decay and Diana as well as journalistic notes, and each one there knows they’ve got themselves a situation not unlike when Superman himself made the Daily Planet the biggest newspaper in the world. Problem is, what to call this newcomer? Super Woman? Lame! That symbol on her chest is bird-like, but there’s already a Hawk Woman. The symbol also looks like two Ws… and Carole gets an idea.
North of Boston, in the cold and snowy woodlands, Etta enters a cabin where Steve is hiding out, dressed in flannels, jeans, and tennis shoes. And he’s watching “Wonder Woman” on TV. And he’s freaking out just a little bit because it turns out he wasn’t hallucinating. Etta’s a little jealous, but Steve is completely oblivious, saying to his loyal aide that he’s got to find that woman. Outside, a man watches the two leave the tent, and it’s Colonel Michaelis.
Back in town at Mercy General Hospital, Julia Kapatelis finds the doctors have no clue how to treat her daughter. While the aging process is in remission, they don’t know what caused it, so they can’t even begin to figure out how to cure it. Julia’s neighbors offer to run interference for Julia where reporters are concerned, and it makes sense that sooner or later someone figured out the insanity started at her house. A despondent Julia sinks into a bench, wondering what to do next, when she hears a sound from the stairwell: it’s Diana! I’m not sure how she knew where Julia was, so I guess we’ll chalk it up to magic… or the power of Artemis allowing Diana to find whatever she’s looking for, maybe? I dunno.
Diana shows Julia the amulet, and Julia makes a massive leap of what I generously call logic and there’s now a “psychic bond” between the two of them. I would have much preferred Artemis’ hunting sense. Julia might not be able to help her daughter Vanessa, but at least she can help Diana decipher the mystery of the amulet.
Later at the Kapatelis’ winter home—and wow, I guess being a Harvard professor pays really well—Julia outfits Diana with some warm clothing while she hits the books. Ah, the ancient times before search engines and Wikipedia, where you had to actually look through books to find what you needed. While Julia slowly deciphers the symbols of the amulet, Diana spots someone outside. She stealths her way behind him, and before the intruder can aim his pistol, she’s lassoed it out of his hands. And who’s the mysterious intruder?
It’s Steve! He tries to speak to Diana, who’s just now starting to get a grasp on the English language. Trevor attempts to appeal to Diana’s better nature, which is when Julia shows up to exercise her second amendment rights.
Steve calms down and explains that a monster tried destroying his aircraft, and Julia has to admit that with what she saw, that now sounds pretty damn plausible. Diana is skeptical considering Steve did almost wipe out her home, but before Steve can explain why our newly christened Wonder Woman can and should help him, there’s a cry from the woods: it’s Etta! Steve dashes towards the voice and Diana is hot on his heels. They burst through the trees to find…
Next time: Deimos and Phobos take a direct hand in the proceedings. Can “Wonder Woman” handle the major leagues?