The new creative team started strong in issue #26 of Wonder Woman, with writer Shea Fontana crafting a competent start to a new chapter after longtime writer Greg Rucka left the title on issue #25. Styled as Part One of “Heart of the Amazon”, it managed to set up the new direction of the series, while delivering a good story in and of itself. The cliffhanger at the end was suitably dramatic, and truth be told, I was optimistic heading into this next issue. I did not know what direction they would go with the story, but I had hopes that it would be good.
Unfortunately, it looks like they managed to cram all of their emotion and story depth into the first issue, as the second part of the arc is an inexplicable drop in both tone and overall sense.
Recap: Wonder Woman fights a new enemy for no adequately explained reason
The issue picks up immediately where the last issue left off, with the bomb detonating at the wedding of Etta Candy’s brother. Wonder Woman manages to suppress some of the blast by throwing her own body over the bomb, but this just lessens the devastation, it cannot stop it completely. This is a facet of the issue that I like, since unless you have some sort of specific bomb-suppressing or enclosing abilities, just being super-strong and indestructible won’t allow you to hug the explosion out of existence. People are injured and the building is unstable, so Wonder Woman must now work to rescue as many as she can.
Though it is not expanded upon, the fact that this is a wedding — a time of happiness and family — touches on the opening of the last issue, where Wonder Woman was particularly disgusted at the way people would attack even a refugee camp and people who most need a respite from war.
Thankfully, the little girl Diana was playing with is okay and reunited with her father, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for Etta Candy. She has been impaled through the stomach by flying debris, and Diana rushes to fly her back to Mega-Ultatech for Dr. Crawford to tend to her.
Dr. Crawford sees to Etta’s injury and assures Diana that she will be okay, but then — and this is where the issue suddenly loses control all at once — she injects Diana with a sedative and ties her down to begin performing medical experiments.
Yes, it seems that the kind, friendly Dr. Crawford we met in the previous issue is actually eeeeevil. She has a terminal illness, and she is planning to save her own life by splicing Diana’s Amazon DNA with her own in order to give her all of Wonder Woman’s powers and abilities. She is apparently the one behind the bombing so that she could get Diana in a position to subdue her, and she regards Etta’s injury as unfortunate collateral damage.
Well, Crawford’s experiments work and she winds up with a super-physique and all of Wonder Woman’s strength, and inevitably she and Wonder Woman come to blows over the situation. Wonder Woman ultimately triumphs through two basic elements: she has the training and experience which Crawford lacks, and she has the Lasso of Truth which is able to undo the “lie” of Crawford’s powers. With her new powers removed, Crawford kills herself rather than slowly die of her disease, and she tries to apologize to Etta with her dying breath.
In the aftermath, Diana visits Etta during her recovery (She brings her cookies and DVDs of Friends), she bumps into the little girl in the waiting room who is there to visit “Aunty Etta”, and then it ends with a final panel setting up the next arc: The Hunt.
I am going to be honest and up-front here: This entire story is not a development that I predicted. I had a lot of theories in the preceding issue that involved Dr. Crawford, but they all revolved around her boss Dr. Jensen, who I thought might be a new version of the Parasite. The reveal that Dr. Crawford was the villain was certainly unexpected, but sadly this is not the “good” kind of unexpected. It is not a brilliant twist…it is nonsensical.
The idea that Crawford set the bomb in order to lure Diana into her clutches does not hold up, since she already had Diana in her clutches (So to speak). As established in the previous issue, Diana visits Dr. Crawford regularly as part of her after-action check-ups, so Crawford did not need an emergency in order to gain access to Diana. Crawford was able to administer the sedative through a clever glove-injector by surreptitiously grabbing Diana’s arm, so she did not need Diana to be distracted in order to surprise her with an obvious needle. With these two bits together, she could have sedated and worked on Diana earlier in the day without involving a bomb at all.
The bigger picture of Crawford being evil also does not make sense. She is apparently a long-time acquaintance of Diana and Etta and neither of them had any sort of inkling or expectation that she was crazy. There is a reference to her disease impacting her mind as well, and during their fight Diana talks about how she has become paranoid, but there was nothing to indicate a growing psychosis when Diana spoke to her at length just earlier in that very day.
Taken together, the gratuity of the bombing combined with her apparent switch to villainy in five hours makes the entire story fall apart. It also does not carry any emotional impact for the readers, since despite the fact that Diana has apparently known her for months we only met Dr. Crawford for the first time a few weeks ago. When she turns on Diana we don’t think “GASP! This trusted friend has betrayed!” we think “Wait…who is she again?”.
The issue also left fallow a lot of the story with Diana’s history that they had set up last issue. They had spent a lot of time on a scene from Diana’s childhood where she overheard her mother and Phillipus discussing whether or not Diana was being raised too softly to become a warrior, which culminated in Diana metaphorically putting away her childhood. In this issue, there is only a single page flashback to a similar matter, and that is when Diana is unconscious from the sedative and she imagines her mother training her and telling her to get up and fight. It connects, yes, but not in any depth and certainly not in any way specific to the lesson discussed in the last issue.
Stepping away from this specific “Heart of the Amazon” arc, the issue also does nothing to answer any of the connectivity questions that came up with the change in the creative teams. Where is Barbara Ann Minerva? How did Diana and Etta rebuild their relationship? Who is “Marc” and why does he know Etta’s tastes better than Diana? Why is the Picket operating out of rented office space (Seriously, that boggles my mind)? These questions aren’t even addressed, and they leave me scratching my head.
After such a strong start in issue #26, this conclusion was sadly quite lacking.