Wonder Woman #600, standard Perez coverThe alternate Adam Hughes cover

The standard cover, by George Pérez, seeming like a redone issue #22, volume 2, though it may not be.

at right The cover variant by Adam Hughes, a Norman Rockwell-esque updating of Sensation Comics #1, part of the "classic covers" updates DC was doing at the time. Click it to see more.

By mid-2009 I'd gotten tired of hearing message boarders complain about how if the book would just return to its original numbering, we'd be nearing issue #600. I sat everyone down (metaphorically), told them they had a weekend to decide which issue should be #600 (by Monday morning we'd settled on #45, though I still think #44 would have been the right one) (issues zero and one million didn't help matters), and I started an official postcard campaign in time for DC to do something special if they wanted to.

The campaign didn't really get that much participation until Dan Didio mentioned these postcards that he'd been receiving on his "DC Nation" pages, those promotional comic book pages that few people usually read. After that the campaign heated up. (I'm still curious as to how many cards they actually got, or if the few postcards triggered an idea for a publicity stunt that meshed well with DC's 75th Anniversary. Didio said he'd give a follow-up report but never did.) On June 30, 2010, instead of issue #45, Wonder Woman got her 600th issue—and pulled off a huge publicity stunt of her own, publicity that DC not only timed right for once, but received significant mention around the world.

Wonder Woman got a new costume. The world gasped.

But wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves. This was issue #600, a return to the original numbering. I'm going to call this Volume 1.1 if I'm feeling picky.

The Gail Simone era had concluded the previous issue, but she was included for a short story in this issue. The J. Michael Straczynski era was just beginning, and he got a short first chapter included in this book. But we also got a few other short stories, a stack of pinups, and...

...an opening "Wonder Woman Can Save the World" essay by Lynda Carter. She wrote a nice bit about what Wondie meant to her. "She's the symbol of the extraordinary possibilities that inhabit us, hidden though they may be—that, I think, is the important gift Wonder Woman offers women," she says, and adds that the "Adaptable Empowered Feminine" is important in the modern world. It's a nice analysis, and encouraging that Lynda "got it" way back then, and still gets it now.

Adam Hughes' pinup of Diana lifting an elephantat right Next we have an even more Rockwellian pinup from Adam Hughes. In it, Diana is lifting an elephant over her head at some kind of festival. She is surrounded by six kids. Three are girls, and are looking quite impressed. One even tests her own bicep. One of the boys is turned away from us. The other two, including one who has a deformed head, look sad.

Why can't boys celebrate the idea of Wonder Woman? Ironically, this leads into the next short story, "Valedictorian," which we are told actually means a person who says, "Farewell." Writer: Gail Simone, Penciller and inspiration: George Pérez, Inker: Scott Koblish; Editor: Brian Cunningham.

Professor Ivo has sent cyber-sirens to seduce/abduct (or something) congressmen. And yes, they're all men, just as the force that Wonder Woman brings into the fray are all female, all relatively new to the ranks of DC capes. It's more than a little overkill for the villains involved, and of course it's that awful separation of the genders theme that I despise so much and has been used so often in the GS run (among other places, like the recent Brave and Bold #33).

A cyber-siren beheads a security personWe're not really supposed to logic out the situation, just sit back and enjoy George Perez filling his panels with cape upon cape. (And there's nothing better than seeing a master of the comic book arts being made to depict the on-panel, bloody slice-and-dicing of an innocent security person, is there? Ah, the new, darker DC! So avant garde!)

The "warriors" (as Diana calls them) participating are: Skyrocket, Lightning, Dove, Miss Martian, Black Alice, Supergirl, Cyclone, Terra, Manhunter, Stargirl, Grace Choi, Question, Ravager, Batwoman, Misfit, Bulleteer, Judomaster, and Batgirl. Almost everyone gets at least one punch in and the villains—who were they, again? And what did they want?—are dispatched quickly, which is a good thing because it must have taken forever to get this group together (while people were being slaughtered; see above). Perhaps Diana wanted some kind of group training exercise for some of the folks involved.

Anyway, everyone in the group gushes over Diana in an advanced state of hero worship as I wonder: why can't male heroes also find her an inspiration? Guess she's just a chick thing. Diana takes off and...

Ignores continuity. Well, I've been telling everyone that after she takes off, for some reason she goes into a flashback that she never comes out of, which fits in to the time-displacing stories of this issue, and makes what follows have some sense.

Diana attends Vanessa Kapatelis' high school graduation. That's right, we've seen Nessie in college, but here she's finishing up high school. It does make a nice bookend for the Perez/Plastic Age of Wondie. If only it had been explained. On the CBR message board, Gail said that she knew it was out of continuity, but that paying homage to George P. was more important than keeping the reader in the story. And yet just one tiny Diana-narrative panel, something along the lines of, "These women fill me with such pride, just like I felt a few years ago..." could have taken us into a flashback that would easily have eliminated reader confusion and set everything straight. So often I just don't get what DC editors are doing.

Vanessa shouts "The freaking glory of freaking of her speech.Anyway, Steve and Etta also attend the graduation as Diana whirls into civvies. A very old-looking Julia is there, along with Cousin Stavros, whom I had completely forgotten. No one in the teary group is introduced to the reader except Julia, whose introduction comes only as "Ms. Kapatelis" late in the story. This is certainly not new-reader friendly. Diana recollects Nessie as Silver Swan, but since (imho) this is a flashback, she's allowed to do that, recalling from the present day.

Nessie is valedictorian, of all things. Never thought of her as being a brilliant student, myself. Diana congratulates her later and apologizes for all the chaos she brought into Nessie's life, and that she hasn't been a good friend. (So VERY true, especially later on during the Silver Swan time!) Nessie tells her to stop the self-recriminations, that she knows she's needed elsewhere. The story ends with a hug that is indeed worthy of the Pérez era.

Then we get a dynamic pinup from Nicola Scott, one of several variations she's done. Diana gives an Amazon salute as she stands over Paradise Island. An axe and sword lie at her feet. Sigh.

Next pinup is by Ivan Reis, in which Diana strikes a cutesy kitten pose over the severed head of Medusa. Diana holds a bloody sword and wears a cape.

Amanda Conner is a flat-out comic book genius of the Alex Toth school. I adore her work! Thus, it came as a pleasant surprise to see her be both writer and artist for "Fuzzy Logic." This story takes place toward the beginning of Power Girl's current series, and we see not only her but (unintroduced) Cassandra Cain as Batgirl working alongside Diana. (More separation of the genders.)

Together, Power Girl and Diana crack Chang Tsu, aka Egg Fu. Diana explains that there have been several incarnations of him.

"What, like a dozen?" Peege asks as Cassandra hides a laugh and Diana smiles. As Peege complains about these kind of guys and their "manga monster appendages," Diana trusses said appendages with cable so that authorities can haul the remains away. We get a sequence in which Cassandra and Peege decide not to explain the sexual connotations of male villain tentacles to Diana. She's such a Victorian virgin, you know, and must be protected from Sex. Sigh.

Diana goes with Peege to her company, where PG's living with Cat, in order to use her power of Unity with Beasts to perform as a Cat Whisperer. Diana has to explain why Peege is having problems with Cat. The upshot is that Peege should get her own apartment so as to provide Cat with his own territory, and that he's as attached to her as she is to him. Clearly this was the best story of the book, due largely to the lively art and humor, and hey, it's got Power Girl and Wonder Woman BOTH! And Cat!

PG's real, original cat, scrawny and one-eyedPower Girl's present Cat, all fuzzy and sweet


Far left, Peege's original and correct Cat: scrawny, one-eyed, and a hell-raiser to make capes fear his wrath. (The pantomime story that Walter Simonson did way back when is one of the most classic DC stories EVER!) At near left: Peege's current Cat (named "Stinky" mere weeks before this issue saw print), who is supposed to be the original. The creative team apparently hadn't done much research on Cat when they brought him in, but PG fans screamed bloody murder. Finally we got this much, which is better than how he first appeared in the current series.

pinup by Marchat left Next we get another pinup, this time by Guillem March. In his review of this ish, Martin Grey said, "Also worthy of mention is Guillem March's shot of Diana playing bullets and bracelets while apparently having a pee. Points for originality, there."

Pinups also come from Greg Horn, who gives a dark but very Greg Horn-ish pose, and Francis Manapul, who depicts Diana with sword and shield, running through a forest with three armed Amazons in tow.

The marvelous poster by Phil J, depicting Wonder Woman saluting amongst a comp of a zillion charactersat right Then... THEN we get a magnificent double-page pinup by Phil Jimenez! It's one of those pictures where every square millimeter is crammed with characters. The entire cast of Volume 2 is present, with many from Volume 1 popping in as well (Nubia and Wonder Tot!). I believe it was unanimous that reporting fans complained that this was not the center pages, so an extra copy could be bought and the pages plucked out to be hung on a wall. I lust after this, and feel certain that soon it will be a true poster. It's fabulous! Now, if only it came with a key of who is who in it...

The teamups in Diana's special issue continue with "Firepower." Writer: Louise Simonson; Penciller: Eduardo Pansica; Inker: Bob Wiacek. But this is a very special teamup: Superman! He represents one of the only THREE men in this entire oversized book who treat Wonder Woman with any kind of respect. (Two of those three are the cockpit crew Wonder Woman saves on the first page of this story.) Superman is the ONLY man here who isn't directly rescued by Diana who can look upon her as a person worthy of his approval and regard.

Why is that??

Do you think that might have ANYTHING to do with WW's sales levels to an audience that is primarily male? Discuss in 1500 words or more and turn your essay in at the end of the hour. Spelling will not count as long as you make a fair attempt.

Bonus question: Does constantly having (female) characters chant, "Oh, how we worship Wonder Woman!" make a reader start to question whether WW might not be worthy of such, since it has to be repeated so much, like Newspeak on Fox News? Does a more subtle "people show respect in many ways and on many scales" approach not work better to make the reader automatically assume that Diana is worthy of the name "Wonder Woman"? Worth ten points.

Okay, the story begins at National Airport in Washington, DC. Lightning has struck a plane from a clear sky and it now lies on the ground. People were trapped in the cockpit, and Diana saves them as Superman saves a bunch more of the crew. He warns the emergency responders to get everyone back, as fuel is leaking and—sure enough—there's an explosion.

Nikos Aegeus, a character we haven't seen since around 1982, says that the US must pay him $100,000,000 because of its crimes around the world. No payment means more hourly disasters. The two heroes catch up to him on his flying horse over a train bridge as the "Excela" high speed train approaches. Aegeus looses a stolen bolt of Zeus', utilizing a magical bow, and causes damage to the bridge.

Since magic affects Superman more than it does Diana (thankfully, there's no mention of goofy God-Forged Weaponry here), Supes halts the train while Diana plays bullets and lightning to "macho braggart" (sigh) Aegeus. Louise helpfully supplies new readers with all kinds of information they need to enjoy this story, subtly woven into the text. For example, Aegeus refers to Diana's "magical bracelets." (And he doesn't use the term "bracers" or anything like that. Bravo!)

Aegeus has the Knife of Vulcan (not Hephaestus), which can cut through anything, even the Magic Lasso. Now, this may have been the definition back in 1982, but NOTHING can cut the Magic Lasso since Crisis. That's the definition of the lasso. And no, I don't know why they didn't update the Vulcan thing either (it does have a nice rhythm), but hey.

While Aegeus is sawing away at the lasso that now entwines him, Superman comes up from behind as a distraction so Diana can belt Aegeus. Whom she already had trussed up. Whom she could have trussed up tighter and kept him from using the knife. But whatever. Remember, Diana murdered Max Lord while he was helpless within her lasso. (::ducks::)

"Whoa!" Superman exclaims in admiration.

"Hey, I pulled my punch," Diana tells him. "He'll still be able to take the WITNESS STAND."

"Minus several TEETH," Supes observes. When asked why he let Diana hit Aegeus, because she knew he wanted to instead, he says, "It's the GENTLEMAN in me! This was definitely a time for 'LADIES FIRST'."

A nice story. Diana comes off as very human, not an object or icon to be worshipped. She gets the job done using teamwork with Superman, who you've got to admit is THE superhero of superheroes, and he treats her like a respected equal.

Then we have a pinup by Jock, of which the less said, the better. Oh, wait. Let me just say that it shows a truly disproportionate figure and Wondie is in some sort of sex slut pose. Ick. The artist has used a tangle of glowing Magic Lasso to (it seems) cover up the mistakes of the anatomy. Wish it had covered the entire thing.

We also have a rather mundane against-a-giant-flag pinup by Shane Davis and Jaime Mendoza. There are no swords or blood in sight, no sex kitten simpers! Hooray!

"jumped the shark" signOkay, here we go into the changing of eras. They do this in two steps. "The Sensational Wonder Woman" Writer: Geoff Johns, Artist: Scott Kolins (who hasn't researched the costume's =W= well). The story begins with a full-page, grimacing bullets & bracelets pose and continues into a battle between a sword-carrying WW (sigh) against thugs with automatic weapons, while innocents cower behind her, wondering why she doesn't drop the sword in order to keep both hands free to stop more bullets. Two voiceovers trade comments, talking about how strong and righteous Diana is. They claim that the world is "unbalanced" in righteousness, when I think the point they're trying to make is that it's unbalanced in wickedness.

"Righteousness." No talk of love or peace here. No talk of female energy. Sounds like we're going to get an old-fashioned sermon, doesn't it? Repent, sinners!

Blah blah blah, a tip of the tiara to her origin, and Diana races after a young girl dressed in a very odd tunic (its style changes for no reason), who is also being chased by the thugs. But the child, dressed in white with a golden eagle across the front and who looks like the kind of goofy kid John Byrne would draw (I think she's supposed to look like Diana as a girl), lures Diana to a glowing door as she asks, "Don't you wonder what's beyond the NEXT horizon? Let's go see!"

Voiceovers: "Diana is far too undervalued by this world. This must change. Let the odyssey of Wonder Woman BEGIN!"

Right. Undervalued, when this entire issue so far has been about the everlasting, worshipful glory of Diana of Themyscira, all hail. Oh well. A forgettable chapter that made me wonder why it was included, except to be there as a bookend when we emerge from this Bold New Direction.

(Anyone want to make a bet that the voices are Athena and Aphrodite?) Later note: Who knows? So much of this setup's questions went unanswered. This awful, terrible, ghastly story arc was planned for 12 full issues, but was (augggh!) lengthened to 14, at which point the Nottaboot took place.

"Couture Shock" (Yeah, they really named it that. It shows you exactly what they wanted this to produce, doesn't it? Not a good attitude with which to begin the era.) Listed as a prologue to "Odyssey." Writer: J. Michael Straczynski, Penciller: Don Kramer, Inker: Michael Babinski.

We begin in medias res as Diana, in generic urban fantasy gear, runs through dark city alleys, fleeing from a barrage of bullets. "I don't know who I am. I know only what I'm told. I don't know where I came from. I know only what I'm told," the adult (as in, not a toddler, whom we might expect not to have a memory) Diana thinks to herself.

A swarm of 7 suited men with electronic accoutrements, gloves, and automatic weapons faces Diana. Everyone conveniently pauses to eye each other. No one fires at her. Perhaps they've run out of ammunition. She jumps into their midst and, kicking and punching, takes them out as a radio conversation reports that "Target is stronger than indicated by file. Either file is incorrect or target is increasing in combat potential." Then it reports, "Team six now EXPENDABLE," and the little screens on the men's chests glow and a soundless explosion occurs, with Diana jumping just ahead of it.

A man's forehead is left with a scrolly "W" imprintMake note of the fact that we get a closeup of one of the guys Diana knocked out. See his forehead? That's supposed to be a "W" imprint left from Diana's bracelets. Think about this a while. Look at how the bracelets' design go around her wrist. Figure out what kind of move she'd have had to make to leave a tattoo of this kind on someone. Then go to Mythbusters to check their test of the old "Phantom ring imprint" trick, and then check out a viewer's reply about a more temporary result. Either way, this move takes deliberate maliciousness and a LOT of power behind it.

Diana retreats to a sewer tunnel, lined by statue-like, burqua'd women.

Billy Batson enters the subway tunnel with statues of the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man

No, no, not that tunnel. This one:

A sewer lined with frozen Amazons

Diana speaks to the statues or Amazons or whatever: "I refuse to live the rest of my life like I lived the first part of it, in a hole, afraid to stick my head out. Afraid because you MADE me afraid."

Disembodied voices reply, telling her that her survival is more important than anything. We discover that Diana's mother is no longer alive, she no longer trusts her keepers, and she left this "shelter" to... She changes the subject and says she wants to see the Oracle.

The voices say Diana isn't ready to see the Oracle, but Diana objects, alluding to some kind of destiny she must be seeing to. (I sense a theme of The Chosen One.) The voices quickly back off submissively.

Under an ancient train trestle, Diana meets the blind Oracle, who looks like a drugged-out goth prostitute. I'd surely hate to think this was Menalippe. Anyway, this oracle expected Diana and says she can only see what's coming. She says that oracles are never believed, but I think that was just one oracle, Cassandra, who was specially cursed not to be believed. Then our oracle begins asking Diana if she's got any gum. If she's an oracle, shouldn't she know?

(For a great read of the oracle's dialogue, try listening to this, starting at the 1:32 mark. Hie-larious!)

The unnamed oracle says, "What you have to understand is that the world you see isn't always the world that IS, or HAS BEEN." She claims the gods are behind the change for unfathomable Didiic, I mean, godly reasons. We discover that Diana was "brought out of danger...eighteen years ago...[See below!] Your mother murdered—and the riches of that line and its people stolen by men turned to dark purposes who do not understand or question where their power comes from...whose orders they are following, why, and what it means to the future of the world. They care only for what they are paid."

Eighteen years ago, and Diana escaped when she was still too young to remember. This puts her at about 20 years old now, a long way from the 28 or 29 she is supposed to be. This world is therefore not only an alternate timeline, but a past one. It's somewhere around 2001 there.

The oracle hints of a man (of course a man; so far this story does nothing to counter the taint of sexism in the WW mythos) who is behind all the dark forces. Gee, I wonder who that could be. The building they imply he works at has a logo that says, "TAI." Then she asks for gum again and takes Diana's hands. She utilizes a power (as her eyes glow) to show Diana an image of the ruins of Paradise.

"To be continued..."

The story had very nice artwork, but needed firmer continuity control on the too-detailed (apparently) costume. The story itself seemed as generic as Diana's new outfit. I mean, I've seen all this before. Still, it's only 10 pages along and we've got a looong way to go before we get a conclusion in which Diana returns to regular DCU Earth in an outfit that looks much like the one she's been wearing for all these years, dealing with people and situations she's had in her life for all these years.

I consider it all a clever PR stunt, and expect a "Diana has sex!" stunt in the near future. I don't think anyone thinks that this is a situation or even ambiance that Diana will stay with. This is Vampire Slayer meets Batman meets generic Urban Fantasy Chick stuff. When the Urban Fantasy kick wears off (and it's on the downside of its peak now), where will that leave this version of WW?

Well, it's another era. WW has seen quite a few of those come and go. (And at this point we didn't know that yet another era, that of the Nottaboot, was looming 14 months ahead of us.)

the reprint of 600 sported a third version of the coverat left The issue sold out within days, if not hours. DC reprinted using a new cover, this by Don Kramer & Michael Babinski, highlighting Wonder Woman's humongous breasts, I mean, new costume front and center.

Then we get a 5-page preview of the new Superman-less Action Comics (why here? Why not a WW short story in her special issue?), and then we get two pages of text and costume pictures.

In a long paragraph, Jim Lee talks about the costume design: "Wonder Woman's costume is so infused into our understanding of the identity of the character.... Something new started to form. A design worthy of the mantle of Wonder Woman but one that didn't scream classic superhero!" Um, isn't Wondie a classic superhero? Whatever. This certainly got the attention of the world, and let's face it: that's what it was designed to do!

JMS gets to talk about the costume as well, citing the "substantial changes" Batman and Superman's looks have undergone over the years.

Really? They look pretty much the same now as when they started out. Then he says Wondie's look hasn't changed. Then why the HECK is my costume index now fifteen freaking pages long???

Anyway, he talks of the need to shake up Wondie and make her less staid. He confirms her age as being 20-ish (wouldn't 15 or 16 be a better age to show rebellion?), and says that her mission will be to find out who attacked Paradise Island and why, stop the people moving against the Amazons, find any more surviving Amazons, and discover some way to straighten out the timeline (while overlaying it against the world that once was, forming an amalgam character).

Well. Fingers crossed, I guess.

For a JMS interview about the new direction, with some very odd comments about writing as well as Wonder Woman, read this.

For a response to that interview as well as some opinions on issue #600, read Linkara here.

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