Release: November 2016
Writer: Greg Rucka
Pencils & Inks: Liam Sharp
Wonder Woman is here which means it’s time for all the bad guys to get beat up. But more important, at least to the concerns of this comic, Diana frees the women taken from the Bwundan villages as the comic opens, crowding around her. I know that this is supposed to be like a moment of sisterhood, but it really looks like an uncomfortable tableaux of white saviorhood at the same time. I spoke a few comics back about not being really into the idea of war torn African nation as a setting for Western fiction, and it’s entirely because of things like this. I have no doubt that it was well meaning, especially given how the rest of the comic goes, but it’s just so easy to blunder into icky imagery like this.
Diana and Barbara Ann head deeper into the caves to confront Cadulo and unravel the secrets of Urzkartaga, as Diana begins to untangle the messy religion of this Bwundan cult. Diana listens to Cheetah’s story in a really stellar double page spread as seen below, but seems to sense a deeper meaning behind it. One of the things I find interesting about Diana’s potential is that, given that she’s been raised on myth-made-real, she has a sense for detangling legend and religion and getting at truths versus the words used to shape followings and zealotry. I can’t imagine there’s actually that much space given to Diana as a legend-scholar, but I think she’d actually be well suited to it if those stories were to be told. I also think it’d be interesting to have what is in practice a religious skeptic who not only worships multiple gods but actively interacts with them. That’s a cool dynamic.
By the time they reach Steve and Cadulo, Cadulo has already summoned Urzkartaga, a giant zombie plant monster who looks confusingly a lot like DC elemental occult character Swamp Thing, though I’m pretty sure he’s supposed to be unrelated from Swampy. Steve gets rescued in like two panels that don’t even really bear mention, and then they get to all the fighting that you’d expect for what seems to be the climax of this story arc. In the middle of this struggle, Diana needles Urzkartaga as she begins to put the pieces together from all the information she’s been told about this cult and its worship practices. You see, Urzkartaga isn’t the protector that demands sacrifice, he’s a leech that has taken advantage of Barbara Ann’s insecurities and hidden from her the truth: she is the real protector of the Bwundan people.
Which, of course, means that at least some number of people in this fictional African nation have a divine protector who used to be a white lady. Remember that bit about how messy this setting could be from earlier? Yeah. That again. Whoops. I’m curious how much of Barbara Ann in Bwunda we’re going to get in this story or in the future.
Either way, the racial politics of this kind of story noted and put aside for a second, I do appreciate the continued use of Wonder Woman as a galvanizing force to grant agency to women in a battle against the world, instead of her just being capable of punching the bad guys for those who need help. The idea that this religion was supposed to be a female-focused religion with a protecting animal matriarch, only to be co-opted by a rotting plant man, is a tidy bit of symbolic patriarchal oppression. And for as much as I roll my eyes at the unintended consequences of all of this setting, I do appreciate that after several pages of the old punchy punchy it’s women bound together with Diana’s lasso in sisterhood that forms a bond that simply dissolves the now-impotent threat of Urzkartaga and all his masculine menace.
It also seemingly grants Barbara Ann a reprieve from her curse, but we’ll probably save that for next issue, when it’ll undoubtedly be explained in more depth.