Wonder Woman Annual #7 (1998)
Wonder Woman was in a particularly bad mood as she used her bracelets to deflect a barrage of bullets from some thugs. Using her Lasso of Truth, she forced one of her would-be killers to see all at once the facts that added up to his life being worthless. Despite being entangled by an unbreakable rope and within feet of a woman with super-speed, he managed to shoot himself in the head before anyone could stop him. This same "heroine" perceives his blood floating through the air for six panels, and then spotted the ghost of her old friend Myndi Mayer begging "Save her... Save her..." before disappearing in a spectral haze. A page later, the dude's body was still falling with plasma on the breeze.
A figure of clay with life breathed into it by gods she knew personally, Princess Diana had difficulty understanding the compromise of faith that would lead a person to take their own life. Myndi Mayer had died from a drug overdose after serving Wonder Woman as an eager publicist and friend. Diana decided to fly back to her old stomping grounds in Boston to help Myndi's spirit find rest. Inspector Ed Indelicato was still there, mooning over the unattainable Wonder Woman that had captured his heart, five years without a date according to his partner, Lewis. Ed leapt at the chance to help Diana solve her mystery, but he had a case of his own needing her help. A new drug called Lethe was on the street that caused permanent amnesia, a respite many junkies longed for. One such user turned out to be Myndi's long lost little sister, Wendy.
Wendy Mayer was long on attitude and bleached hair, short on will to live. Ed called her garbage, and despite brutally humiliating suspects in order to locate Wendy, Diana took severe exception to that characterization. Wonder Woman dragged Indelicato off to scream a speech at him through gritted teeth about compassion, and then demonstrated an unhealthy lability by going on a crying jag one panel later. Ed questioned Wendy some more, and the pair found common ground. In fact, while driving to the den where Lethe was being produced, Wendy made a pass at Ed, who indelicately shut her down swiftly because of his hard-on for the Amazing Amazon.
Wonder Woman bullied her way into the den, only to find it defended by a pair of cyclopes in custom suits. A third brother had been killed long ago by Apollo, prompting Diana to threaten "Speak! I command it! Or there will only be one cyclops by the end of the day!" She also kicked one in the mouth so hard a pint of blood flew for feet across the page. Eventually, Diana and Ed found a big orb filled with green liquid and containing a sea creature denizen of the mythological river Lethe. After choking out one cyclops with her lasso, Diana bashed the other's head through the orb. Ed was so turned on that he finally propositioned Diana, who turned him down as blinded by her perfect external image without really knowing her.
The goddess Thalia then showed up, pissed that her plan to overcome the broad influence of her sister Meldomene's penchant for tragedy by eliminating painful memories was ruined by the Amazon. Wendy chose that exact moment to overdose on Lethe because a middle-aged cop with a cheesy mustache had snubbed her, which caused Ed to sob and curse Thalia for creating the type of tragedy she was supposed to be relieving. Thalia was all "Perhaps I must... rethink this" and split. Ed found new meaning and orifice inhabiting in life by taking custodianship over the amnesiac Wendy, victim of the world's most effective roofie, while a self-satisfied Wonder Woman flew off secure in the knowledge that it was a better fate for Wendy than herself.
"The Distance Gone" was by Eric Luke and Eric Battle with Ray McCarthy & Romeo Tanghal. I'd read Wonder Woman comics over the years, but only started buying monthly because I loved William Messner-Loebs' take on the character. Had I known what I was in for in following it after he left the title, that would have been the end for me as well. John Byrne's run was bland and filled with ill-considered alterations, but mostly harmless to anyone not named Donna Troy. His successor, Eric Luke, was where the irreversible rot set in. It had been so long since I reread any of his issues (I doubt I've cracked the cover of this annual in fourteen years,) that revisiting the book for this blog crossover was like the revelation of the specific carcinogen that took out your lungs.
Wonder Woman as a bitch on heels goes back to at least her confused take on the liberation movement when writers began ham-fistedly doling out personalities in Justice League of America. "Empowerment" somehow translated into slapping Superman over imagined slights and being catty/haughty in general. Eric Luke marked the point where that misogynistic interpretation finally contaminated the core Wonder Woman title, an off-putting affliction that continues to this day. In this story, Diana is an untouchable princess made of stone who uses her lasso with the same attitude as Ghost Rider whipping his chain, driving men to suicide and spilling blood with abandon.
For me, writing someone Wonder Woman like Xena on her menses is like well-heeled power hungry con men preaching a ministry of prosperity to people too stupid to pick up a bible and learn their Christ got crucified for opposing just that exact type of sleezeball. It's morally offensive, and even setting that aside, it's just lousy storytelling. Who would want to read this crap? The art doesn't help, as it somehow combines the worst excesses of Todd McFarlane and Dwayne Turner into a synthesis that is still utterly mediocre and absent identity. It's like the visual equivalent of a screenplay generator program, plugging in the names of influences and spitting out a carbon paper facsimile. Paul Kupperberg's editing this farce is just the cherry on top, as one of DC's all-time most numbing writers showed the same taste in compiling creative teams. As one final dig, this Wonder Woman Annual was printed on cheap flat paper, while the Martian Manhunter Annual got heavy gloss stock. At least they were both granted Bernie Wrightson covers (though J'Onn's was far better.)
- "Bough Breaks" @ Batman: Gotham Knights Online
- "Haunts" @ The Flash: Speed Force
- "Dead Calm" @ The Aquaman Shrine
- "The Distance Gone" @ Diana Prince is the New Wonder Woman
- "Ghosts' - The Corpse Corps!" @ Green Lantern: Corps Conjecture
- "The Death Sentence" @ Superman: Great Krypton!
- "Heart's Afire" @ Martian Manhunter: The Idol-Head of Diabolu
- "Life Itself" @ The Captain's JLA Homepage
- "Shrinking From The Past" @ Power of the Atom
- "Ragman - Ripped to Shreds!" @ DC's Tatterdemalion of Justice
- "Legend of Driq" @ Indigo Tribe
- “Zor!” @ The Spectre of Siegel & Shuster: Mythmakers
- "Shoe Shine.. Back from the Dead" @ Firestorm Fan
- "Role Model" @ The Vixen of Justice League Detroit
- "Seeing Ghosts" @ Boosterrific
- "Swamp Thing's Ghost Dance" @ The BLOG from the BOG
- "What Creeps Out The Creeper?" @ DC Bloodlines
- "Happy Halloween" @ I Am The Phantom Stranger