Thursday, 28 September 2017

Helena Wayne 40th Anniversary: Wonder Woman #293 Review

Title: Wonder Woman #293
Story: Book Three: Countdown to Chaos
Characters: Wonder Woman (Diana Prince), Huntress (Helena Wayne), Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Starfire (Princess Koriand'r), Raven
Creators: Paul Levitz (writer), Roy Thomas (writer), Gene Colan (artist)
Publication Date: 30 June 1982
Available In: Digital

Summary: Following the attacks of Famine, Plague, and War on Earths 1, 2, and X, Death is the last of the four Horsemen left to appear. On Earth-1, Raven is met with an inexplicable intense pain and it is up to Starfire and Wonder Girl to help her. On Paradise Island, Donna's mother, Queen Hippolyta, and Paul Von Gunther of Science Island attempt to heal her using the purple healing ray, but trace the source of her pain to an alternate Earth--a world of immortals known as Earth-I. The Amazonian Queen realises she must send her daughter and Starfire to that alternate Earth to combat the problem there. On arrival, Starfire and Wonder Girl are met with the final Horseman--Death--whom they successfully fight and defeat.

Following the defeat of Death on Earth-I, the Adjudicator develops a weird fascination with the heroines who successfully defeated his apocalyptic creations. He decides to capture each of the heroines as specimens for further study. Trapped in the Adjudicator's spaceship, it is up to all of the heroines to work together and learn as much about their new enemy as possible to plan their own escape. If they don't get out on time, the Adjudicator could make them history along with their respective Earths!

Review: We reach the final chapter of the Wonder Woman multiversal crossover, and I'd argue this is the strongest chapter yet. Starting with the first half of this final instalment, the sequence with Wonder Girl and Starfire is one of the strongest sequences of this chapter. Two of the problematic tropes that were previously seen in the first two chapters (the white saviour and ridiculing the openly feminist women specifically) were not repeated here as they were seen defending an immortal race of people on an alternate Earth and were actually working like teammates.

At no point in this chapter is either Starfire or Wonder Girl seen humiliating each other during their time together, and are depicted as showing a genuine respect for each other. When they work together to single-handedly combat Death on their own (the people of Earth-I were pretty helpless against him as they've never known death), they very much had each other's back.

I would say my favourite character here is Starfire because in many ways she parallels Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman in terms of self confidence due to growing up in an alien society. Though she was at some point enslaved prior to her arrival on Earth and came from a planet that also saw its fair share of wars, Kori's Tamaranean culture also embraces love, which is a huge part of her character. It is not unlike the Amazons' view of love as a source of strength, which equally factors into Kori's ability to enter a fight fearless. She's not held back by things like patriarchy and sexism, which makes her an ideal partner for Wonder Girl. So in terms of a team-up, they were very well paired.

Unfortunately, in the second half of this chapter, not many of these women have much agency as the focus shifts back to Wonder Woman for the conclusion of the story. This is, for me, the only drawback of this chapter as it would've been fun to see all of these women combine their strengths in a more meaningful way to escape the Adjudicator. Unfortunately, most don't really speak much with Wonder Woman assuming the leadership role once again and being the only character with agency for the remainder of this sequence.

We do, however, learn more about the Adjudicator in this sequence, and it turns out he's nothing more than a mischievous prankster of sorts. Some people would find this reveal underwhelming, but I actually feel it works for the character. Or rather it fits him given the role he was given in the story. He wasn't particularly dangerous in a violent way and was mostly depicted as a curious observer. He also played into the fears of human beings by creating a group of monsters known only to them--the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

What did make the Adjudicator dangerous, however, is that he was particularly interested in destroying worlds with sentient life and advanced civilisations, even though he was instructed to only go after "unimportant" planets by his superiors. Since his superiors were never specific in their definition of "unimportant," he pretty much went after any planet he was curious about. Exactly why he needed to be "kept out of trouble" is never elaborated upon and his superiors are even more mysterious. How the heck did they allow him to do what he did for so long unnoticed? From the looks of it...they aren't very vigilant superiors.

Taken as a whole, this was a pretty enjoyable story. It was flawed namely in its portrayal of characters like Power Girl and Lois Lane (the Super ladies) who are very openly feminist, but it was fun to see various DC heroines take centre stage in what would've been a normal JSA/JLA crossover event. They held their own in their respective fights against the story's villains and were depicted as intelligent and cooperative with each other, and were given fully fleshed out personalities. The story fell a bit short in allowing these women to strategise and fight together in a more meaningful way in the story's finale, but were at least given an interesting villain to fight against, even if in the end he turned out to be a prankster.

★★★★☆

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