Wonder Woman #5 (1987): Gods and Mortals (part 5 of 7)
Last time: Diana defeated Decay and the media crowned her with a new name: Wonder Woman. Steve tracked her down for help, but before he could explain, Etta was apparently ambushed by Trevor’s friend, Colonel Michaelis.
On Paradise Island, things are starting to look a bit grim. Ares’ influence spreads across the planet, with its effects being felt in little things like the flowers dying. Worse, the oracle Menalippe is trying to get the gods on the phone and they aren’t picking up, and even the demons imprisoned in the “bowels” of the island are starting to get restless. And why, exactly, is it that the gods aren’t answering?
Because the gods are going on a little trip. Apollo has decided to sleep his way through this little journey, and considering how Charon the ferryman is their captain, I’m guessing this is going to be a one-way trip. Why the gods are taking this trip isn’t clear. At all. The gods went from zero to exile-to-the-underworld in a super-short time. Ares taking over the Earth messes up Earth, but how does it affect Olympus? Are the gods weak because so many people are worshipping Ares? I get the feeling maybe something happened between Greg Potter leaving the title and Len Wein coming on board, that maybe there was a change in direction, or maybe even Karen Berger the editor suddenly realized with Diana being able to call on the gods for aid, that might make things less dramatic. Personally, I think maybe there could have been a better way to handle this, like Ares himself creating some means to cut Olympus off from the mortal plane or something. Among the gods, Artemis and Athena aren’t giving up, and the latter tells Charon to wait. When they head out, I hope they remember not to pay him until they get to the other side.
Y’know, in retrospect, I’m shocked I didn’t use that joke when I recapped issue #1. On Earth, news is not good. Talks break down between the US and USSR, and fighting and terrorism are on the rise worldwide. Steve Trevor is still at large, and in a bit of good news, Wonder Woman gets some positive press. There’s a sizable reward offered for her whereabouts, but whether that’s being put up by the law or Hugh Hefner wanting her to do a pictorial in Playboy, I’m not sure. Inside the house, we find that Etta isn’t dead. Neither is Colonel Michaelis.
It turns out that he spooked Etta and she fell back against the car. Michaelis accepts full responsibility for the mishap and apologizes for tracking Etta out there, but he wants to help Steve. Hmm. I’m still not sure if Michaelis is a good guy or a bad guy, which honestly is how it should be. Diana explains that she and Steve need each other but she says it in Greek, and while Steve and Etta don’t understand, Michaelis happens to be fluent. Well, that’s convenient. It’s cards on the table time, and Prof. Kapatelis shows off Diana’s talisman while Etta pulls out… the file detailing the Ares Project.
Cut to a splash page devoted to this issue’s title, “The Ares Assault”, and it’s a pretty sweet silhouette of Deimos and Phobos above and an army on the move below. I’m not sure if I would have devoted a whole page to this, but whatever. Deimos asks if Phobos can feel the “tingle of anticipation” and wants him to touch his talisman. Hey, I know Greek mythology is pretty freaky, but I think we don’t need to go there! Oh, it seems Deimos was talking about a talisman identical to the one Harmonia gave Diana. As Deimos monologues like a champ, we see that the armies of America (f%#k yeah!) and the USSR (boo! Hiss!) are preparing to clash, with their leaders unwitting pawns of father Ares. While Phobos listens, all he can do is think about his massive screw-up regarding Decay, and how he intends to do something about that black spot on his record.
Back as Casa de Kapatelis, the Professor has deciphered the talisman, but she’s not sure if it’s going to do them any good. It turns out the symbols form a strange geometric pattern along with the picture of a vulture, but that’s as far as she’s gotten. She’s pushed herself to her limit and it’s nap time. Diana takes the diagram Julia made and heads out to see the others to find out if they can parse this riddle, but they’re all whipped as well. Diana walks among them and ponders this strange world that Hermes has plopped her down in, and the equally strange people that have become her companions. Like Etta, who’s out of shape and twice as wide as her. Watch the fat shaming there, Diana. Up until now your career consisted of shooting a bow, riding a horse, and looking like a princess. Then she notes Michaelis, who speaks her language and wears a ring on his finger not unlike Julia’s, which causes her to speculate that it might signify some union. Or, you know, two people just happen to like wearing rings on the same finger. Then there’s Steve, and even back then I suspected these kids weren’t going to be hooking up like they had in the past. I know sometimes there are May/December romances in comics (e.g. Reed Richards and Sue Storm, or the lesser known MacDonald Hudson AKA Guardian and his wife Heather), but aging Steve up felt like a huge step just to cause a breach between the pair. Still, Diana wonders what her relationship to the man is, but tables that when she notices the work he and the others have been up to. And that’s when the bombshell hits.
Not only did Etta bring them a duplicate of the diagram by way of the Ares map, Diana’s figured out the plot. While Julia compares it against her map, which is a list of sites of the bloodiest battles in Greek antiquity, the modern one of the world at large shows various nuclear facilities and suspected enemy bases. And while the vulture on the Greek map denotes Mount Olympus, the modern one is somewhere in the upper Midwest, implying that’s the focal point of the Ares Project. Michaelis gets on the horn immediately with General Hillary, but before the general can get the skinny, he hears a devastating report: an American military base housing nuclear missiles has been overrun by rogue U.S. soldiers. Steve now realizes that General Tolliver has his finger on the button and there’s probably a Russian general doing the same thing overseas. Steve says they have to stop the man. The question is, how? Answer:
Time to soldier up! Diana says they need to find their amulet’s mirror twin, because when they’re joined it’ll lead them to Ares. Michaelis came with a trunk full of goodies, and neither Etta nor Julie is sitting this one out, not with the fate of the world at stake. Diana can’t help but be impressed by the courage on display. It’s time to head out and… oh wait, they’re not heading to the car. When Diana was talking about “mirror image”, she meant literally placing her talisman up against the mirror. That can’t possibly wo—
Oh. Never mind. The trick has brought them right into the heart of the bad guys’ lair, facing off against Deimos. Hmm, ever since issue #1, there’s been something nagging at me in the back of my mind, something about some of the scenes that reminded me of something. Scenes of Olympus with the gods appearing at different angles, as if gravity was not so much a physical law than a suggestion. I wasn’t until seeing this, with the good guys facing off against a bad guy, that I realized what it all reminded me of…
Namely, the the third act of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, starring David Bowie as the Goblin King, when Sarah confronts him in his palace. It was released in 1986, a year before this series. Well, if you’re going to “borrow”, you damn well should borrow from the best, right? But back to the story. Deimos acts like he was expecting Team Wonder Woman to drop in, so either he’s a master strategist who’s able to account for every possible variable when he plans a campaign (e.g. Grant Morrison’s Batman), or he’s just really good at bluffing. He holds up his own amulet and pretty much goads Diana into trying to take it from him. Julia asks Diana who the hell this joker is and he introduces himself, then sics his snakes on Diana.
Hmm, it seems the helmet had live snakes, almost like it was a… serpent crown? Now I’m wondering if I’ve been missing Marvel Comics Easter eggs all throughout this story. Diana’s hard-pressed to handle the snakes, but fortunately Colonel Trevor’s on the case, and he beheads one. Phobos watches from the shadows, and while he doesn’t think much of his bro, he finds mortals in his house a little annoying. He lives up to his moniker as the God of Terror and reaches into each of their minds to show them what they fear most. Etta is afraid of being buried alive. Okay, I can totally see that. Steve’s afraid of spiders. I knew that I saw something of myself in Steve there. Julia’s afraid of drowning. I can feel that. And Michaelis is afraid of… cats. Cats? Seriously? What, did he go see the musical and get molested backstage by Mister Mistoffelees like Team America’s Chris? God, and you call yourself an airman. Diana smashes the last snake and goes to the aid of the others, who… Oh, wow, I thought their fears were being manifested internally, but it turns out Phobos made them real.
But I still think being afraid of cats is lame. Matt (honestly, not sure if we heard Michaelis’ first name before this point) suggests to Steve they trade off nightmares; he’ll handle the giant spider while Steve saves one of the ladies. Okay, Matt just redeemed himself in my eyes, seeing as I probably would have wet my pants at this point having to face that thing. Wonder Woman scoops Julia out of the water while Steve attempts to save Etta, but Phobos is on hand. But no worries, because Matt’s on the case, and like an utter badass he’s running interference for Steve. Damn, and I was half-sure this guy was Tolliver’s plant. But before the three can get away, Deimos lightning bolts them unconscious. Deimos turns his attention to Diana and his beard of snakes grows super huge, engulfing Diana in their snaky grip. Man, first Team Wonder Woman got “inspired” by Labyrinth, and now it looks like they’re taking cues from hentai. Diana seems to be going down for the count; before when she fought Decay, she was going toe-to-toe with kind of her opposite number, a being crafted by the gods. But now she’s up against a bona fide divine being, so how can she beat him?
As a YouTuber I’m fond of watching likes to say, that was super easy, barely an inconvenience. I’m not kidding; Deimos went down faster than Decay. Diana lands next to Deimos’ body, and I’m expecting killing a god should give her some sick levels of experience points. Like any good adventurer, she loots the body, taking the amulet out of Deimos’ cold, dead fingers while Phobos runs away like a little girl. Steve is comforting Etta while Diana confers with Julia, and ultimately the gang is ready to follow Diana into hell if need be. Diana’s impressed with the bravery of this rag-tag bunch. She and Julia join the two amulets and the gang is teleported to…
…the missile base! It seems General Tolliver’s been expecting them, and he’s looking all smug. Tolliver is all set to put Steve and company up against the wall and shoot them all as traitors. Um… who just shot a whole bunch of loyal American soldiers and took over a missile base so he could start an unauthorized war? Unless he means Steve’s a traitor to him, implying that the jackass expects unquestioning obedience from his subordinates. Tolliver says before they get with the executin’, Steve and his friends (and I love how Tolliver’s focus is on Steve; to his mind, Trevor’s still his principle enemy) get to watch Armageddon. One of the missiles begins to transform into…
…Ares, God of War, and we’re entering his little endgame.
Next time: It’s Ares vs Wonder Woman, with the fate of planet Earth hanging in the balance!