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"Wonder Woman - Gods of Gotham" Review
That Was Then, This is Now (Background)
After writing Wonder Woman for five years, writer/artist George Perez left the title. During his time on the title, Perez managed to craft the quintessential version of Wonder Woman that has been acclaimed by critics and fans alike. With Perez's departure, many writers took on the title: William Messner-Loebs, John Byrne, Eric Luke, and so on. All of these writers made many changes with the book that left either major or minor ramifications on Wonder Woman's mythos.
Eventually, writer/artist Phil Jimenez took up on writing Wonder Woman starting with issue #164, remained on the title for almost three years and concluded his run with issue #188. His run, much like Perez's, was met with critical acclaim. Many fans felt Jimenez's run was the best run on the book since Perez was on board. It should be no surprise that Jimenez was heavily inspired by Perez's run both in artwork and story-telling and his stories seemingly continue upon the ideas and concepts from that era while still respecting the overall continuity in between.
So, what happened during that "in between"?
Well, lots and lots of big things happened for our favorite Amazonian princess. Diana, aka Wonder Woman, has met many of her now notable foes, such as Circe, Silver Swan, Cheetah, etc. during the early half of her time in Man's World. At one point, she even had to stop a war raging amongst all the gods of various cultures that was orchestrated by Circe in her first (and sadly forgotten) big crossover event comic War of the Gods.
Also during this time, Diana came across a woman who turned out to be her younger sister, Donna Troy. She had existed in her life years earlier, but as a result of Crisis on Infinite Earths rewriting Diana and the Amazons' history, Donna became something of a paradox. That was until her new history was revealed later on. It's revealed that she was an orphan raised by a group of beings known as the Titans of Myth. However, this origin got retconned to be Donna actually being a mirror duplicate of Diana created by the Amazons sorceress Magala. Donna Troy, going by the codename "Troia" sometime later, had been a long-time member of the superhero team called the Teen Titans and was formerly known as Wonder Girl. She also married a man named Terry Long and even had a son.
During the mid-part of Diana's time here, her mother and queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, had made some pretty big mistakes in her position as the queen. She had Diana's mantle as Wonder Woman taken away and given to another Amazon named Artemis from a group of Amazons called the Bana-Mighdall. The reason for this was because a prophecy told of an event that could possibly end Diana's life. This change of who got to be Wonder Woman backfired when Artemis was killed in battle by the super-villain known as the White Magician. As a result, Hippolyta was left deeply depressed and ashamed. So she gave the Amazons' general Philippus command over the island and went into a self-imposed exile.
The New God known as Darkseid briefly attacked the island of Themyscira soon after Hippolyta's departure. Directly afterwards, Diana discovered her mother's absence much to her surprise and frustration. Also, a new Wonder Girl had surfaced. Her name was Cassie Sandsmark, daughter of Prof. Helena Sandsmark whom Diana had become friends with during John Byrne's run on Wonder Woman.
During her exile, Hippolyta was informed of Diana being in dire trouble but was too late to help. Diana had become infected with a spell cast by the super-villain known as Neron which drained her of her strength and eventually killed her. In her daughter's absence, Hippolyta took up the mantle of Wonder Woman. While this was more or less a punishment for her betrayal in Artemis's death and the death of Diana, Hippolyta ended up enjoying her new position. What's more, Hippolyta ended up becoming the Wonder Woman of the 1940s as a result of traveling back in time to help the Justice Society of America.
Artemis, after her death, had been living in a form of hell during the Artemis Requiem miniseries. She eventually returned to the life after these events in Wonder Woman #123 in order to aid the Bana-Mighdall's uneasy living conditions and the animosities between them and the Amazons of Themyscira.
Diana herself became the Goddess of Truth. But she would eventually lose this position and return to life since the Olympians didn't approve of her interfering with Earthly affairs. Diana returned as Wonder Woman, but this led to conflict between her and Hippolyta over who got to be the true Wonder Woman.
Donna Troy was going through a lot as well. She encountered a villainess named Dark Angel, who tortured her with visions of her life ending in various ways throughout different timelines and destroying her memories in the process. However, Hippolyta and the Flash managed to save her and restore her memories as best as they could. She also went through a divorce with Terry Long and he took custody of their son. They eventually died in a car accident in the pages of Wonder Woman.
And now, after all of this, the children of Ares (the god of War), Phobos, Deimos and Eris have arisen again, but this time, they take on their plans in a whole new direction in a dark and sketchy city known as Gotham...
Hell Raiser! (Plot Synopsis)
The story opens with narration from Eris as she takes over the body of Batman villainess Poison Ivy. She picks a golden apple from a nearby tree which begins to sprout snakes. She hears the prayers from followers of her and the rest of Ares' children. Phobos and Deimos take over the bodies of Scarecrow and the Joker respectively. They're in a church lead by the Greek zealot named Maxie Zeus. The children of Ares also have Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn as their hostage. They have possession of one half of the Talisman, aka the Amulet of Harmonia, that was introduced in the Gods and Mortals storyline and last used in the War of the Gods crossover, which they claim they'll use the reclaim the Earth in their father's name and destroy their adversary…Wonder Woman.
On Themyscira, Diana and Artemis return home, where Hippolyta welcomes them. Diana is surprised to see her mother still dressed in her version of the Wonder Woman costume as opposed to her royal garbs. She claims to have recently returned home from a mission with the JSA and that her duties as the queen of the island are still her top priority. Diana is given word of an urgent message from the island's oracle, Penelope (the original oracle, Menalippe, was killed by Circe a long while back). Penelope tells Diana of Phobos, Deimos and Eris's presence in Gotham. Diana assures her that she'll manage to fend the children of Ares off.
In Gotham, Barbara Gordon, aka Oracle (and formerly Batgirl), informs Batman and the vigilante Huntress of the situation at hand. They witness Maxie Zeus introducing The Eris-possessed Poison Ivy, who has the apple grown in masses to feed Maxie's followers. The apples cause the consumers to go into a psychotic rage and violently attack one another. Batman and Huntress attack Eris/Poison Ivy and Maxie, but Eris/Poison Ivy repels Batman quite swiftly. Meanwhile, the inside of the church has been restructured to look similar the form of Hell Deimos once placed Diana in along with her friends. Harley tries to reason with Deimos/Joker, but to no avail. Phobos/Scarecrow then hears Batman trying to get in.
Back on Themyscira, Diana contacts Oracle, who tells her of what's currently going on in Gotham. Before they leave, Diana explains to Artemis that she is to back up Huntress while she goes into the church itself. She then reveals to have possession of the second half the Amulet since the events of War of the Gods. After pressing the Amulet to a window, both Diana and Artemis are teleported to their designated positions.
Inside the church, Diana encounters Eris and Phobos. Before she can stop them, they unleash the Chimera. Artemis, elsewhere, meets up with Huntress, and it's not a pleasant meet up since Huntress doesn't really trust Artemis, given that she was an assassin. They're bickering is stopped when Maxie shows up. Diana manages to subdue the Chimera with her Lasso. She says to Eris/Poison Ivy and Phobos/Scarecrow that she'll not continue feeding their hunger for death. Batman then arrives and tries to stop them, but both he and Diana end up entangled in Deimos/Joker's hair of snakes. Deimos then condemns Diana for giving up her former position as a goddess in favor of protecting humanity. A hooded figure enters and Deimos sends the figure off the find Donna Troy.
In a photography red room in Midtown Manhattan, Donna receives a shock sense in regards to her older sister in peril. She calls out to a fellow photographer named Carl to fill in her position while she's gone, but discovers that he's been turned into stone by the hooded figure, who reveals herself to be Stheno, the final Gorgon. Donna shields her eyes from her to avoid being turned into stone herself. Suddenly, Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing (and formerly Robin) arrives in a nearby elevator. He saves Donna by decapitating Stheno. He's initial stunned that he killed her, but Donna convinces him that it was the only way. Nightwing says that he was on his way to see if Donna was okay, given the situation in Gotham relating to the Greek gods. After placing Stheno's head in a bag and after Donna suits up, both she and Nightwing use the Amulet to teleport to Gotham.
Artemis and Huntress try to fend off Maxie's rogue followers while Diana and Batman begin to get the upper hand against Phobos/Scarecrow and Deimos/Joker. Eris/Poison Ivy suddenly makes the greenery take the form of a giant that takes Harley Quinn away. Diana begins to question the motivation behind what Phobos, Deimos and Eris are up to; whether it's for the sake of Ares or for themselves. This causes all three of them to argue, which gives Diana the chance to cut herself free of Deimos/Joker's grip with her tiara. Batman also manages to free himself and they briefly fend off the children of Ares.
Outside, Artemis and Huntress reach the church's entrance, but they see the structure begin to shake and change form...
Diana, Batman, Donna and Nightwing manage to meet up within the church just as the shaking begins. The chimera has awakened and it briefly attacks again. Deimos/Joker reveals to the group that the shaking is the form of Hell, called Areopagus, is shifting it's form to eventually merge with Gotham. And he also reveals that Harley is to be sacrificed in order to bring Ares to Earth.
Diana and the group charge in to battle the three gods. Deimos/Joker, however, gets the upper hand when he summons the bag with Stheno's head and the group's half of the Amulet. He disposes of the bag when he realizes what's in it. As Deimos prepares to put the Amulet together, The Joker tries to free himself of Deimos's control of him, which gives Diana the idea to try and wrap the Lasso of Truth around the three gods in order to fully free Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and The Joker.
Outside, Artemis and Huntress see that more people are getting drawn to the situation at hand as the church continues to change shape. Maxie Zeus's followers surround them, but then Cassie Sandsmark, aka Wonder Girl, and Tim Drake, aka Robin, arrive to their aid, knock out Maxie and topple over the trees growing the golden apples. Wonder Girl and Robin say that they were sent by Oracle to help them out. As a result of the church's shifts in shape, Oracle finds that she can't get any detail of the group's current location.
In the church, Diana gets her Lasso around the three gods and both she and Batman try to speak with Scarecrow, Joker and Poison Ivy in order to free them of their possessors. Nightwing and Donna manage to fend off the Chimera and Nightwing tries to cut Harley Quinn free. But then the man made from greenery tries to stop him. Nightwing manages to kick him off the side of a cliff.
Maxie Zeus gets back up and tries to find the golden apple. One of his followers hands him the apple and he runs into the church. The group outside tries to follow after him, but Robin tells them it's a bad idea to just go in through the front entrance. So they instead go through the back.
It seems that the Lasso is working on the three gods until Maxie comes running in and attacks Diana with a blast from the golden apple. The three gods free themselves and take out the rest of the group. Maxie reaches Harley just the man made of greenery somehow comes back and kills him with a massive battle axe. This causes the Amulet to become one and opens the pathway for Ares to enter. The Chimera awakens once again, but is shot at by Artemis and Huntress's arrows. Phobos takes notice of Batman expressing a brief moment of fear and leaves Scarecrow's body to take over Batman's. Both groups watch in horror as Batman forms into the God of Fear himself.
As a result of this, the fears of various people begin to take upon either physical or psychological forms, with Donna Troy seeing Dark Angel coming back to haunt her, Robin facing fears of falling from a great hight and Huntress feeling like a failure in the eyes of Batman. Wonder Girl ends up inhaling the nectar of the apples as they explode around her, leaving her feeling volatile and paranoid.
With Ares now present, his children proclaim their success to him, with Phobos in particular saying he's no longer a failure in his father's eyes. Ares is presented with the golden apple, which is identified as the Golden Apple of Discord, by Eris. She and Phobos claim it'll give Ares the taste of all the havoc reeked upon Gotham. Deimos then whispers to Diana that the Apple has been tainted and it'll kill Ares. Diana cries out to Ares not to have the Apple and shoves him back into the portal. She tells him that his children are just trying to set him up like the they've done in the past. Ares doesn't believe this at first, but Diana soon convinces him.
The groups try to reorganize themselves and get them free of their fears. Nightwing manages to retrieve the bag containing Stheno's head and uses it to turn Dark Angel into stone, giving Donna enough focus to smash her to bits. Donna then manages to snap Wonder Girl out of her volatile mindset before she could attack Robin. And Artemis manages to calm Huntress down as she reassures her to keep faith and use it to overcome her fear.
Ares and Diana then come back as Ares curses his children for trying to trick him. He takes the Apple and crushes it in his fist. Phobos tries to convince everyone not to listen to Ares, but Diana calls him out on it, calling him a liar and a coward. Phobos threatens her, but Diana is unfazed by this as she tells him that she was never frightened of him. She then tries to free Batman of Phobos's control by telling him he's more than just the Dark Knight; that he's still a man who believes in compassion, respect and camaraderie. And with that, Batman finally breaks free.
Ares proceeds to condemn his children to the very depths of Tartarus, which frees Poison Ivy and the Joker. Ares then says to everyone that in his children's absence a void must filled in the peoples' souls and he will fill it. Diana objects to this, saying that that void should be filled with love, self-respect and hope; something Ares can't do. Ares departs, destroying both Areopagus and the church in the process. Luckily, everyone manages to escape. When looking for any other survivors, Diana comes across Medea, Maxie Zeus's daughter and one of the followers. Diana manages to comfort the weeping girl.
The story concludes with Batman and Diana atop a building overlooking Gotham. Batman then admits to Diana that during the period in which she was dead, he found himself worried, since the one person who he felt could lead every hero to a future that could have no crime and inequality was gone. He says it's Diana's faith that makes her Wonder Woman. She gives him a peck on the cheek and flies away past the Bat-Signal, with Batman saying that he hopes for Diana's dreams to come true.
It's pretty clear going into this that Phil Jimenez gets what makes Wonder Woman, well, "Wonder Woman". He writes her as one with great compassion and kindness and cares about the well-being of others. It almost seems infectious in someway, especially in this story, since everyone in this story, ranging from Artemis to the Dark Knight himself, is given an hint of these feelings and beliefs and it helps them triumph over the children of Ares. Both Jimenez and co-writer J. M. DeMatteis write all of the characters brilliantly, since they make you root for the heroes and cheer them on as they defeat villains.
Jimenez's artwork is nothing short of beautiful. His love for George Perez's style is evident, but at the same time, he manages to craft his artwork into something fresh and new. In a way, I feel his art has a very nostalgic feel to it, since it strongly appeals to long-time fans of comics who loved the detailed yet comic book stylized art of the 80s. That said, it also feels modern and has even more detail than Perez's art. Jimenez certain earns a spot amongst the best modern day pencillers in the comic book industry like Jim Lee, Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver.
The story's premise is just awesome; the children of Ares come to Gotham, take control of some of Batman's greatest foes and try to overthrow it in order to reclaim Earth in their father's name, leading two of the best superheroes ever along with with members of their supporting casts to try and stop them. This mix of the gritty and dark world of Batman and the epic and mythological world of Wonder Woman is an example of what makes comics so fun in the first place; you can have all these crazy ideas and concepts come together and form an amazing story out them.
The story's pacing is also really good. Jimenez reestablishes the episodic nature of comics' pacing that was in Perez's run and gives the story a lot of weight and depth.
That said, it's not a perfect story. One thing new comers to Wonder Woman comics may be frustrated about will probably be the amount of continuity references sprinkled throughout not just in this story, but many others in Jimenez's run. To Jimenez's credit, he does stick to the continuity of the past stories in order for his own to make sense, but it will leave new comers confused. Though if you read stuff from the Perez era, most of the references will make sense, since they have strong ties to the Perez era Wonder Woman stories. Another thing that may throw the reader off is the large cast of characters. Again, to the credit of Jimenez and DeMatteis, the characters all have good reason to be involved with the story, they're written very well and no one feels wasted in it, but I bet new comers will either not recognize some of the supporting cast or will vaguely know some of them but will be confused by what position they currently hold. That said, the story is still well-written and it never gets convoluted in any way whatsoever.
Overall, Phil Jimenez delivers an extremely solid start to his run on Wonder Woman, and with each story, he gets better and better...
The final score?
3.5/5 - Definitely Worth A Read!