JUDGE JAMES'S COMICS COURT­ROOM

Ama­zons At­tack! A won­drous cel­e­bra­tion of fe­male war­riors or Won­der Woman’s least won­der­ful hour? Judge James Love­grove pre­sides...

Comic Heroes - - Comics Courtroom -

PROSE­CU­TION: Usu­ally, m’lud, the cases we try in this court­room are his­toric in na­ture, some dat­ing back as far as 50 years ago. In the dock to­day, how­ever, is an of­fence which oc­curred rel­a­tively re­cently, in 2007. I re­fer to DC’s Ama­zons At­tack! cross­over, which was cen­tred around a six-is­sue minis­eries with tie-ins to four other ti­tles, namely Won­der Woman, Cat­woman, Teen Ti­tans and Su­per­girl. The plot deals with the in­va­sion and de­mo­li­tion of the United States by a su­per­pow­ered hos­tile force, and is not to be con­fused with that year’s World War Hulk, which had much the same ba­sic theme but dif­fered on two sig­nif­i­cant counts, in that it was both crit­i­cally ac­claimed and com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful. DE­FENCE: If my learned friend is at­tempt­ing to cast as­per­sions on Ama­zons At­tacks! by im­ply­ing that it pla­gia­rised the Hulk cross­over, he should know – as I’m sure he does, if he has done his home­work – that it was orig­i­nally de­vised as part of the run-up to 2005’s In­fi­nite Cri­sis but then tem­po­rar­ily shelved. Marvel, per­haps, is the im­i­ta­tor here.

PROSE­CU­TION: The coun­sel for the de­fence is be­ing disin­gen­u­ous, in as much as he is per­fectly well aware that the orig­i­nal Ama­zons At­tack! con­cept saw Won­der Woman’s home is­land, Themis­cyra, un­der as­sault by the US mil­i­tary, not the other way round. In the ver­sion that even­tu­ally saw the light of day, an an­gry Queen Hip­polyta un­leashes her troops on Wash­ing­ton, DC, be­liev­ing that her daugh­ter Princess Diana is the cap­tive of the Depart­ment of Me­tahu­man Af­fairs and is be­ing tor­tured in or­der to give up the se­crets of the Ama­zons’ heal­ing de­vice, the Pur­ple Ray. It turns out that Hip­polyta is un­der the ma­lign in­flu­ence of the witch Circe, who is her­self be­ing ma­nip­u­lated by the god­dess Athena, who in the end is re­vealed to be sin­is­ter Apokalip­tian ma­tri­arch Granny Good­ness in dis­guise. It is, to say the least, rather com­pli­cated. DE­FENCE: So­phis­ti­cated and multi-lay­ered, I think my learned friend means. What un­folds is a bru­tal, bloody, no-holds-barred bat­tle, fe­male war­riors armed with swords, javelins, spears and bows pit­ted against Amer­ica’s high-tech war ma­chine and a smat­ter­ing of A-list su­per­heroes. This re­sults in the thrilling sight of jet fighters be­ing brought down by a sin­gle ar­row to the pi­lot’s throat and the Pres­i­dent’s plane, Air Force One, un­der siege in midair by war­rior women rid­ing winged horses. It’s all con­veyed, in the core minis­eries, by ex­cel­lent, clean art­work from Pete Woods that has a touch of Bryan Hitch and Kevin Maguire about it.

PROSE­CU­TION: I won’t deny that – wob­bly fa­cial anatomy aside – Woods’s style is pleas­ing, but what he is re­quired to il­lus­trate is bland, crass and some­times down­right dis­taste­ful. The open­ing scene sets the tone for what is to come. A fa­ther and son are vis­it­ing the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial. Ama­zons tele­port in, ac­com­pa­nied by gi­ant Cy­clopes, siege cat­a­pults and mag­i­cal rid­ing lions. The fa­ther is de­cap­i­tated in front of his son, who is then him­self sum­mar­ily dis­patched. The Ama­zons slaugh­ter count­less other civil­ians and al­most man­age to as­sas­si­nate the Pres­i­dent but are thwarted by the timely ar­rival of Black Light­ning. “JLA mon­i­tor duty is rarely this ex­cit­ing,” Black Light­ning quips, a line which scripter Will Pfeifer likes so much he has the char­ac­ter re­peat it al­most word for word in is­sue #2.

DE­FENCE: There is widescreen ac­tion aplenty, as my learned friend so rightly points out, but there are also in­ti­mate, per­sonal scenes, such as when Hip­polyta’s two most trusted gen­er­als, Artemis and Philli­pus, dis­cuss whether or not to rebel against their monarch. There are mo­ments of in­trigue, too, such as when shapeshifter Neme­sis ex­poses

Circe’s child was taken from her, so she is en­ti­tled to have an extinction-level hissy fit

an­other shapeshifter, Ev­ery­man, who is im­per­son­at­ing Neme­sis’s su­pe­rior in the DMA, Sarge Steel. Pfeifer at­tempts to de­pict both the prac­ti­cal and emo­tional cost of war­fare.

PROSE­CU­TION: It re­mains hard to be­lieve that the Ama­zons would throw away their paci­fist prin­ci­ples just on their leader’s say-so and go on the ram­page through “Man’s World”, let alone kill de­fence­less chil­dren. Even when it is re­vealed that their ri­val sis­ter-race – ruth­less mer­ce­nar­ies known as the Bana-Migh­dall – is be­hind some of the worst atroc­i­ties in the con­flict, the Ama­zons don’t repu­di­ate them. On the con­trary, the two fac­tions end up join­ing forces against their hu­man en­emy. This is surely not what Wil­liam Moulton Marston in­tended when he dreamed up Won­der Woman as a pro­gres­sive, fem­i­nist icon all those decades ago. DE­FENCE: Circe, as vil­lain, at least has a valid, cred­i­ble rea­son for stir­ring up hos­til­ity against hu­mankind: her daugh­ter was stolen from her by men, and the gods con­nived in the kid­nap­ping. She is wreak­ing her vengeance against both mor­tals and im­mor­tals, and against the Ama­zons too.

PROSE­CU­TION: That is a male writer’s idea of mo­ti­va­tion ap­pro­pri­ate to a fe­male. Her child was taken from her, so she is en­ti­tled to have an extinction-level hissy fit. Circe’s self-jus­ti­fy­ing rant about the loss of her daugh­ter is one of the cross­over’s many un­in­ten­tion­ally funny mo­ments, fore­most among which is the now-fa­mous line de­liv­ered by Bat­man as he kneels be­side Neme­sis, who lies near death, hav­ing been stung by one of the Ama­zons’ swarm of “Sty­gian killer hor­nets”. Grimly the Dark Knight in­tones: “A deadly bee weapon… Bees. My God.” DE­FENCE: Ama­zons At­tack! was in part de­signed to draw at­ten­tion to cer­tain sec­ond-string DC ti­tles in the hope of rais­ing their pro­file and sales fig­ures. And surely you have to agree that that’s a no­ble aim?

PROSE­CU­TION: But in­stead it had the ef­fect of low­er­ing them, which is vir­tu­ally un­heard-of for a cross­over event. The main trou­ble is that the core minis­eries is all but in­co­her­ent and can­not be read in isolation, which is surely a pre­req­ui­site in this kind of en­ter­prise. The ma­jor­ity of the cru­cial in­ci­dents hap­pen else­where, in the tie-in ti­tles. Char­ac­ters come and go, act­ing in­con­sis­tently and of­ten in a man­ner con­tra­dict­ing their own stated in­ten­tions in a pre­vi­ous is­sue. One mo­ment Won­der Woman re­fuses to go and fetch the an­ti­dote which will save the dy­ing Neme­sis; the next, she goes back on her vow and does ex­actly that. DE­FENCE: It’s a woman’s pre­rog­a­tive to change her mind, of course.

PROSE­CU­TION: Clearly my learned friend has missed the en­tire point of Won­der Woman. Per­haps he should con­sider en­rol­ment in a sex­ism aware­ness course…?

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