"Wonder Woman #20 - Who Killed Myndi Mayer?" Review
Who Was Myndi Mayer? (Background)
In the pages of Wonder Woman, Myndi Mayer was a controversial publicist who resided in Boston. She was responsible for helping Princess Diana, aka Wonder Woman, gain notoriety in the US and helped found the Wonder Woman Foundation.
In the epilogue to Challenge of the Gods, Mayer was briefly seen making acquaintances with a man named Skeeter La Rue. Skeeter became involved with Mayer's publicity of Wonder Woman and helped develop the first Wonder Woman Fair. However, it was interrupted by the attack of a villainess named Silver Swan, who tried to hold a ransom at the fair and eventually destroyed half of it during her battle with Diana. This fiasco destroyed any hope for any future Wonder Woman Fairs.
Skeeter's involvement with the publicity didn't sit well with most of Mayer's employers. Some felt he was plagiarizing their ideas and getting away with it and others just didn't like Skeeter's attitude. Mayer didn't really seem to care much, though, as she was finding herself attracted to him.
Mayer, at one point, managed to help Diana gain contact with Superman, since Diana was beginning to feel more and more eager to meet him (it was established early on that Diana had a crush on Superman). Mayer felt that the idea of Superman and Wonder Woman being in love could make headline news. However, after they both teamed up to challenge the super-villain/New God, Darkseid, and save Mt. Olympus from his control, Superman and Wonder Woman felt that they should remain as good friends, and nothing more.
During this time, Mayer's behavior was becoming more and more volatile. Her secretary, Christine Fenton, didn't approve of her decision to publish the idea of Superman and Wonder Woman being a couple, feeling it was an complete lie, but Mayer went through with it anyway. Mayer was beginning to drink a lot more, which was making her employers more unsettled in her presence.
Then, in issue #19 of Wonder Woman, Vanessa Kapatelis came across of newspaper saying that Myndi Mayer was dead.
I'll get into more detail about this in the plot synopsis, but this story basically deals with issues such as drug addition and how it could lead one's own demise. The comic also shows the effects of one getting involved with the wrong crowd. This is not the first time George Perez tackled subjects like this. He and writer Marv Wolfman wrote a non-canon issue of The New Teen Titans that dealt with the effects of recreational drug abuse on teenagers.
So what did Perez bring to the table with these controversial subjects in a Wonder Woman story?
Who Killed Myndi Mayer? (Plot Synopsis)
The story opens in the Chinatown of Boston at night, where two Chinese gang members are fleeing from a figure that's following them. All of them get stopped and one gets captured in the Lasso of Truth. The figure is revealed to be Diana, who's looking for answers.
Inspector Edward Indelicato begins writing a case file regarding the death of Myndi Mayer. At the time her body was found, Mayer was dead for a few hours. Her attacker shot her in the face. The investigators come across an envelope opener with blood on it. They believe that Mayer tried to defend herself with it and she managed to get one shot at her attacker. The charwoman describes seeing a bearded man before Mayer's murder. The investigators then go to Christine Fenton, and when she's told of Mayer's murder, she doesn't seem to be surprised by this. She's shown a sketch of the bearded man, and Fenton is shocked to realize that the sketch looks like the ex-art director, Steve London.
The investigators find London and his wife at the hospital where he's being treated for a knife wound. When interrogated, London admits that he doesn't own a gun, nor does he remember much of what happened the night before since he was drunk. He says that he needed to talk to Mayer about him being fired. London goes on to describe how he got fired. Days earlier, he was in a meeting with Mayer and the rest of the employees discussing about current problems in regards to 153 lawsuits filed against them, ranging from "attempt to defraud" to "reckless endangerment". The lawsuit letters had the names of several employees in them, and Mayer proceeded to fire said employees, London and his assistant Deni Hayes included. Sometime later, both of them went to a bar and tried to drink there troubles away. But London doesn't remember the rest.
The story shifts back to Diana in Chinatown, where she tries to speak to the boss of To-Choi Industries, Mr. Choi. She says that she's looking for Skeeter, who works for the industry. Choi denies this and tries to have Diana leave, but Diana wraps Choi in the Lasso and manages to get the location of Skeeter, who is currently at a warehouse in Bedford.
The investigators then interrogate Deni Hayes. Hayes says that when she was at the bar with London, she said to him that she had discovered something about Skeeter when looking through the transaction records; that Skeeter is a drug dealer who peddles cocaine. Skeeter had apparently been using Mayer's publicity company as a way to supply the cocaine to big-named people, including Mayer herself. She also notes of how Mayer's supposed affair with Skeeter was clouding her judgment of the whole situation even further. Hayes came to Mayer with this knowledge, but Mayer told her if the word got out about the situation, losing her job would be the least of her worries. With this knowledge, London stormed out the bar. Hayes admits she was too drunk to go after him. Hayes realizes that she may have gotten London in some serious hot water over this.
Sometime later, some more details about Skeeter pop up. His real name is Michael Boyd and he has had a bad track record with the law for many years.
As Indelicato and his partner, Lt. Shands, continue to look into Boyd's history, Indelicato is told that someone has just arrived to give him some more detail about the case. He surprised to find that the visitor is Wonder Woman herself. Julia Kapatelis and Fenton have also come along.
Shifting back to Bedford at night, we see that Boyd has become intensely paranoid to the point of schizophrenia. He believes that someone's at the warehouse trying to capture him. Some men sent by Choi to protect Boyd reassure him that everything will be fine. Boyd, however, orders them to search the area just in case. As he lights a cigarette, he hears one of the men jokingly singing "Frosty the Snowman" when he's suddenly cut off. Gunfire begins to heard and Boyd tries to make a run for it. All throughout this, he hears the men get taken out one by one. Boyd finds himself cornered when Diana comes in through a nearby window. She tells him that if he cooperates, he won't get hurt. She then tells Boyd she wants the truth.
Indelicato explains to Diana what he and the P. D. currently know about the murder. Indelicato notes how Diana's reaction to this is the first sign of genuine sadness over Mayer's death he has seen so far. Fenton, on the other hand, has a much more angered reaction. She says that, despite past things Mayer may have done, the idea of her being a drug smuggler is absurd. She also doubts that London killed her. They suggest that Diana should use he Lasso on London to see if he really did the deed. The P. D. don't take too kindly to this, since they say it could lead to the D. A. assuming that this was just a ruse to get London out of the situation and lend credibility to these "newly acquired 'recollections'". But Diana's tenacity pays off and she gives London the choice of having the Lasso on him or not. He initially agrees, but his wife and the P. D. make him think otherwise, much to Diana's dismay.
As Indelicato types out the case file, he gets a phone call saying that Boyd was just found dead at the warehouse in Bedford.
Boyd's body is found atop an electric fence surrounding the perimeter of the warehouse. Indelicato and Shands find Diana back at the warehouse where she explains that she had tracked down Boyd the previous night after gathering the information from the files Hayes had found. When she got Boyd in the Lasso, he confessed that he had killed Mayer. He had met her earlier on and Mayer had called him out on his plan of using the publicity company as a front for his drug peddling. She nearly fought him before he left her office. Choi no longer trusted Mayer as a result this and had Boyd sent back to kill her. He had brought a double-barrel shotgun with him and before he fired, he noticed how Mayer just sat there at her desk staring back at him. Panicking, Boyd tore apart the office to make it look like a robbery. Then London stormed in and Boyd attacked him with the envelope knife. He decided to frame London and make it look like he attack Mayer. He got rid of finger-prints, placed the knife in Mayer's hand, and threw out the shotgun.
Indelicato asks Diana if she had killed Boyd by throwing him on the electric fence. She says that wasn't the case at all. After getting the truth out of Boyd, the men came back at tried shooting at Diana again. Boyd made a run for it as this went on. Diana ended the fight quickly and pursued Boyd. However, she ended up hearing Boyd getting electrocuted and was dead when she finally caught up to him.
Diana feels that if Mayer had lived, she could've gotten out of her drug addiction. Indelicato sadly says otherwise. Both he and Shands reveal that an autopsy of Mayer's body confirmed that Boyd didn't actually kill Mayer, but it was Mayer herself. She had overdosed on a combination of alcohol and cocaine, causing a massive cerebral hemorrhage. So when Boyd shot her, Mayer was already dead.
The story ends with Indelicato noting that the idea of suicide, even accidental, was something really hard for Diana to take in. And he admits that as he saw Diana fly back home, he couldn't help but hope that they'd meet again. "Someplace where there was no need for guns and badges", he writes.
The subjects brought up in this story, such as drug addiction, are not easy subjects to tackle in any form of fiction. Sometimes writers feature elements of these subjects in their stories, but they sometimes miss the mark on how they portray it. If done horribly, the story will come off as either preachy or just down right insulting to the reader. But if handled with the amount of respect and understanding that it deserves, you'll get stories like this that genuinely resonate with the reader and blows them away.
The set up of the story being a murder mystery would seem par for the course in a Batman comic, but when placed in a Wonder Woman comic, it feels both atypical and unique. What works even more is that the story is told in a non-linear fashion. If there's something I've learn from Quentin Tarantino movies like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, it's that when you tell a story out of order, it actually makes the pacing of a story better. Had this story been told in order, it probably would've been a two-parter; the first part focusing on the initial investigation of Mayer's murder and the second part focusing on Diana tracking down Boyd. But with both stories being within the same issue and told out of order, it makes the plotting feel tight and complex.
The mystery itself is a cleverly set up. All the suspects have good reason to be suspected, the evidence is just vague enough to have you guessing who did it without feeling forced or convoluted, and the revelation of who actually killed Mayer is a genuinely surprising plot twist.
The dialogue is feels both sharp and natural, since gives you a sense of the atmosphere in each situation without feel unnecessary or contrived.
And I must admit, the set up of Indelicato's narration being told through his writings in the case file is a pretty clever and interesting way to have a character tell the story. Plus, I personally think it's pretty cool to have a Wonder Woman story told from the perspective of someone like Indelicato.
My only real complaint about the issue is in regard to brief moments in the artwork not matching certain descriptions from a character's narration. For example, in the scene in which Boyd describes what Mayer's eyes looked like before he shot her, he says they were red and blood-shot, yet the artwork contradicts that, since her eyes looked fairly normal.
Overall, this was a brilliantly-written issue from George Perez's run. Not only did he write a story that tackled the subject of drug addiction in a resonate, impactful and tasteful manner, but he also proved that one can write a Wonder Woman story that doesn't have to include epic battles with mythological monsters or super villains, but can be about real world issues and how one can handle such things.
This issue is available in two formats; the first would be the trade paperback Wonder Woman - Destiny Calling. And the second would be in the compilation trade paperback Wonder Woman - The Greatest Stories Ever Told.
The final score?
5/5 - Highly Recommended!!