By: W. Haden Blackman (story), J.H. Williams III (story & art), Dave Stewart (colors)

The Story: Old-school monsters versus new-school warriors—guess who wins.

The Review: This has been a pretty grand week for Wonder Woman.  Not only did her critically acclaimed ongoing series release a new issue, but she got her a personal arc in Justice League and a sizable guest role here.  This gives us the rare opportunity to examine her character from three different angles at once.  Brian Azzarello’s Diana is compassionate, classy, wise.  Geoff John’s Diana vacillates between blithe naivety and hardened conviction.

Blackman-Williams offer a Diana who winds up coming across as the most human of all of them.  If she appears at first blush as somewhat remote, it has everything to do with Batwoman’s anxiety at merely being in her presence.  While Kate makes a valiant attempt to keep it cool, her nerves manifest in little ways (the plane she pilots shudders every time Wonder Woman speaks).  Well aware of her comrade’s tension, Diana keeps quiet, wisely or not, and seems distant for it.

Diana has her own anxiousness to work through, though hers are perhaps a little more fantastic than the average mortal’s since hers revolves around her mythological nature.  This issue reminds us that in the Greek tradition, immortality and divinity did not generally equate to beauty and joy.  If anything, strife and tragedy characterized the lives of immortals, many of whom were monsters.  Seeing so many other deities live on in torment and disfigurement, Diana muses upon her own fate, wondering if she, too, will end up a hidden terror like the them.

As always, she sets those worries aside and strides forward to tackle the mission at hand.  In that regard, Batwoman makes the ideal companion, the Iolaus to Diana’s Hercules.  Against a foe even the likes of Wonder Woman has only a prayer to fight against, Kate keeps her cool and proves that 21st-century weaponry has more of an effect on gods and monsters than you might think.  Like the graceful lady she is, Wonder Woman is not embarrassed to admire her new pal’s ingenuity, and a mutual respect is born between the two.

Even without Batwoman around, the D.E.O. still plots over her shoulder, reminding you how very, very easy it is to forget that for all intents and purposes, they’re the good guys.  You can boil down their evils to two things: first, whatever influence or power they wield, they do like anvils; second, they don’t seem to view people as humans with lives, but as mere tools that they can always shape to their advantage.

Fitting that two of these would-be tools have combined forces.  Although Bette’s crisis drew her and her uncle physically closer, they’re still mostly strangers to each other and you can see in their inner monologues that they aren’t quite in tune just yet.  It’s an enormously interesting dynamic to observe because they’re both trying so hard to serve each other’s needs, and they somehow side-step each other nonetheless.  It’s like when you meet someone in a narrow hall and you both try to step aside and only block each other further, again and again.  At least they have a grand opportunity to stand on their own without Kate driving their lives.

At some point, it’s going to get old, me praising Williams’ art, but for now, I’ll settle for just saying that every issue he draws always looks different from the last.  You always know that he’s trying something new and stretching himself further and further, proving that his artistic mind really has no equal.  His spatial and storytelling logic is never predictable, but always makes sense when you see it, such that even a labyrinth bewilders and guides you at the same time.

Conclusion: If you want to see the World’s Finest women, Blackman-Williams are making a pretty good case that these ladies are it.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – See, an ordinary artist might go as far as to draw the individual stones of a labyrinth.  Williams draws every stone, covers them and the floors with Greek art, and fills every corner and dead end with corpses, treasure, and weapons.

– Okay, seriously—Batwoman may beat the Dark Knight himself with the cool gadgets.  She’s even got Wonder Woman jealous.