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

The Story: Suddenly, the rampage of a sadistic clown seems the least of Gotham’s problems.

The Review: If Brian Azzarello has given us the prototype for what Wonder Woman’s core character should be for the current generation (and it really should be, given how strong and nuanced it is), then it’s up to all other writers to follow his lead and portray her as closely to that core as possible.  I’ve already made it clear that Geoff Johns hasn’t done so hot in that respect, but Blackman-Williams have done a model job in being faithful and creative at the same time.

In a lot of ways, their Wonder Woman falls into the same kind of self-doubt that Johns’ does.  Here, she doesn’t know if she’s done the right thing.  You can say her grim choice of action toward Pegasus is rational, even justified (“It will take eons for my wounds to heal,” he pleads, “Every day will be anguish…”), but is it the right thing to do?  She doesn’t go so far as to say that, but she can confidently say that she did it out of “mercy.”

And that’s the difference between what Johns does and what Blackman-Williams do.  Even in a bitter moment of regret and anguish, one producing tears from the Amazon, Wonder Woman remains in control.  She decides her course of action with little hesitation, but with much consideration.  She sets aside her fears—and there are many and they are very compelling, for an immortal—pulls herself together, and focuses on the mission: “[Medusa] will regret ever leaving the safety of her cell.”

Even though Batwoman herself feels small and amateurish next to her companion, the fact is, and Wonder Woman would agree, that Batwoman has every reason to stand just as tall.  I’m not talking about her physical capabilities, although they’ve gotten some impressive display in this arc.  Her detective work in this issue, using every one of Pegasus’ injuries to piece together what happened to him, is first class, bar none.  No, the really standout moment for Kate is when she declares that if believing will bring back an immortal unjustly perished, “I chose to believe.”

It’s a noble sentiment that contrasts against the way Medusa and Maro have twisted the beliefs of others to produce only monsters and destruction—and what monsters and destruction.  Actually, Medusa herself proves a little flat an antagonist.  Her rambling soliloquy summarizes recent events rather than delves into her history or ambitions, though she does claim she wants to “make the world safe for all my kind.”  What really makes her worthy of taking seriously is her intimate knowledge of myth, which to her is “history,” and using it to summon beasts far more impressive than those of urban legend.

Blackman-Williams engage in a little narrative trickery to avoid the question of where Batman is in all this chaos.  They show Nightwing, Catwoman, even Mr. Freeze on the front lines, trying to defend Gotham against a supernatural onslaught.  Heck, even Maggie and Harvey Bullock get a few good shots in, showing Gotham Central’s finest at their finest.  But all of it is just groundwork for the final, glorious page of two great heroines flying in to save the day.  It makes you want to render the kind of cheer you’d usually save for a more famous couple of icons.

If we can believe that Pegasus’ death was an act of mercy, it’s because Williams shows the gangrenous pain of every wound.  If we can believe in the terror of the Hydra, it’s because Williams pays attention to every scale on the many-headed beast’s body.  The transformation of Killer Croc into “the Beast of Babylon” is genuinely horrific, no less because of Stewart’s sickly blend of colors as you see the nascent monster heads bursting forth, Alien style, from his bubbling, dripping, disfigured body.

Conclusion: While the big baddie isn’t quite the threat you thought she’d be, she’s definitely a threat of the world-ending degree.  Our writers honor their chosen heroes with the scale of this story, and our artist depicts it with a mythic beauty.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Okay, in the background of Medusa’s parade, you can see a movie house with a showing of Night Terrors.  Stuff like that makes you love Williams that much more.

– Man, I love the balls on Bullock.  Ready to shoot an ancient monster in the back.  What a guy.  What a hero.