JUDGE JAMES'S COMICS COURTROOM
Amazons Attack! A wondrous celebration of female warriors or Wonder Woman’s least wonderful hour? Judge James Lovegrove presides...
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…?