Issue: Wonder Woman, No. 215 (Jan/Feb 1974)
Title: "Amazon Attack Against Atlantis"
Theme: Superheroes confront mythical god
Writer: Cary Bates
Artists: John Rosenberger, Vince Colletta
Cover: Nick Cardy
Wonder Woman has always been a problematic character for DC. As their premiere heroine, she is important for DC's prestige and for marketing considerations. Her TV series in the late 70s was fairly popular and she has the potential to bring girls into comics reading. She was one of the super-friends. Yet, generally, sales of her comics are poor. So DC continually tries new gimmicks to get sales up.
The current approach is recruiting hot artists and/or writers to jazz her up. Among the approaches taken in the 70s and 80s were to place her adventures in the World War II era, to change her chest emblem from an eagle to the current double-W design, and transform her into a martial arts hero (sans super-powers) complete with a short, blind Chinese teacher named I-Ching. The latter approach was especially poorly received (at least, IMhO). When DC finally gave up in this lame attempt to cash in the popularity of the martial arts craze (like Kung Fu on TV), Diana traded in her white mini-skirts and returned to her traditional costume and powers.
A new gimmick was now devised to reintegrate her into the mainstream DC male superhero universe. She was told she would have to earn her right to rejoin the Justice League. Twelve members would surreptitiously trail her as she faced twelve crises (over the next two years, as WW was published bi-monthly in those days). This began in WW #212 and concluded with a unanimous vote for membership in #222.(I know that's only 11 issues, but one issue had two trials.)
Aquaman's turn in the spotlight was issue 215. However this particular spotlight was pretty dim. I remember Cary Bates as the capable writer of the Flash and Superman, but this issue of Wonder Woman was a big disappointment to me as a 14-year-old comics fan. The Colleta-inked art was stiff and flat and the story was lame.
The story starts with a Wonder Woman, five JL members, and Mars, the Roman God of War, around a conference table, in the "satellite headquarters of the Justice League of America." Wonder Woman has just concluded her testimony against Mars, which he angrily denies. However, Mars was unaware that Aquaman had secretly been tailing Diana and can verify her testimony entirely. He proceeds to do so.
Flashback to the East River outside the plaza of the U.N. (where Diana worked at the time), where Aquaman observes Wonder Woman using her magic lasso to stop a mysterious water spout that threatens the harbor. Later Aquaman changes into a royal blue leisure suit and trails Diana in the Big Apple, via fortuitously located tropical fish when she is out of sight. Three apparently normal dogs are transformed into monstrous hounds which attack Diana in her civilian guise. To hide her identity she uses karate (thanks apparently to her late teacher I-Ching) to defeat the pooches which soon revert to normal. (An example of the dumb dialog in this story comes from the man walking the dogs: "Heyy! How come I'm suddenly walkin' a monster-sized wolf-pack?")
Then Aquaman stupidly forgets his 60-minute time limit and has to rush to a water fountain for survival. But at that moment the fountain erupts into crude oil and then into a solid plume of coal which enmeshes Wonder Woman's invisible plane as she attempts to fly home to Paradise Island. She then flies out of the plane, lassos it, and with her Amazon strength, lifts it, coal and all, into the stratosphere where the cold makes the coal brittle enough to be shattered by an Amazon kick. (Why does she need a plane in the first place?)
Unfortunately, Aquaman's disguise was too good. Diana does not recognize her friend in his distress as he lies helpless on the ground near "only seconds away from air-death!" However, he gallantly kicks a boy's soda bottle from his hand. The spilled pop revives Arthur enough to get to real H20. Soon afterwards a minnow in a sewer relays a desperate message: the Amazons of Paradise Island are preparing to attack Atlantis! Sure enough, Hera leads Wonder Woman to the site of the coming conflict, and warns her that "the foe who awaits you is feared by the gods themselves!" (Cary casually mixes the Greek (Hera) and Roman (Mars) mythological names.)
It turns out that the Amazons are under the spell of Mars, who magically draws power anytime there is a war on the Earth. A war between these two races would give him power like never before: "The Amazons and the Atlanteans--the two mightiest races on earth--at each other's throats!" As Aquaman relates the story: "What a bizarre, nightmarish battle-scene, it was! My people advancing upward, prepared to die defending their home-- and the water-adaptable Amazons plunging downward possessed by Mars' spell and ready to kill!"
Fortunately Wonder Woman conceives a plan. Somehow aware of Aquaman's presence, she shares it with him and leaves to face Mars alone. Aquaman recruits a herd of nearby whales to intervene between the armies, and at the same time Wonder Woman literally leaps into Mars' grasp (he is now about four stories high), challenging him to crush the life out of her. Instead, with the war thwarted, Mars uses up his "last ergs of energy" and shrinks to the size of a mortal man. Another karate chop and Mars is helpless. Based in part on the eye-witness testimony of "a very rare species of lung-fish" with the power of human speech, Mars is convicted by the JLA and sentenced to a "top-security interplanetary prison!"
The plot is full of holes. Perhaps the silliest part of the story is that Mars, who according to Hera is feared even by the Gods, sits calmly and unfettered in the JL satellite throughout the trial and the most powerful leaguer present is Wonder Woman herself. With one punch through the hull, Mars could have suffocated the whole bunch. Where's Superman?
THINGS THAT MAKE THIS STORY UNIQUE:
Ratings (Scale is 1 to 5 starfish)
Cover Art: *****
|*||Not worth the newsprint it's printed on.|
|**||Maybe this "Crisis" thing wasn't such a bad idea...|
|***||Save for rainy day.|
|****||Darn good readin'!|
|*****||A true collector's item!|