Wonder Woman by John Byrne Volume 2 (2018)
Reprints Wonder Woman #115 – 124, Annuals #5,6
Written by John Byrne
Art by John Byrne, Norm Breyfogle, Dave Cockrum, and Tom Palmer
The one thing that can’t be denied about John Byrne’s run on Wonder Woman is that he most certainly made it his own thing. At this point in his career, his name carried tremendous clout, and he could essentially do what he wanted. In the early 2000s, he rebooted the Doom Patrol during his run on JLA and completely scrambled established continuity that rippled through characters in the Teen Titans and didn’t care. His run on Wonder Woman definitely carries on George Perez’s rebooted version of the heroine and the Amazons, but he seems much more interested in pitting her against very different foes.
This collection’s opening arc pits Wonder Woman and her tenuous ally Mark Champion against animal-headed humanoids stealing ancient artifacts from the Gateway City museum. It’s a three-issue storyline that could have been done in one honestly. It’s not very intriguing and ultimately serves to reintroduce the Invisible Jet dropped from continuity post-Crisis. The Lemurians, animal people, are not very compelling, and the whole story is a bit of a slog to get through.
The next is a two-parter that brings back The Cheetah, albeit in more animal than human form. Chuma, the servant & sorcerer who imbued Barbara Minerva with the Cheetah’s power, returns for the first time since his early appearance in the Perez run. That moves into the tenth anniversary of the series, which recaps the entire history of post-Crisis Wonder Woman and sets up her revelation that Hippolyta is still alive and leads into the next major arc.
Since Byrne started his run, he’s continually shown that Hippolyta was living in Lousiana with amnesia, working at a diner. She suddenly began to turn to stone, and her co-worker Anjelica, an amateur psychic, began to sense the truth about her friend. Wonder Woman and her allies travel to Themyscria to find the inhabitants have all turned to stone, Mark Champion’s true identity is revealed, and Wonder Woman dies and is resurrected by the Olympian gods.
Byrne decided to resurrect Artemis as an assassin for hire, a role more suited for the edgy 1990s character she was. Artemis is hired to kill Jason Blood, aka The Demon Etrigan, who just happens to be part of Wonder Woman’s inner circle now. This leads to the reveal of Neron, the villain from DC’s crossover Underworld, as the culprit behind Artemis’s resurrection and hiring to kill Blood. Wonder Woman and her allies all go to Hell in this story but, of course, escape.
All the while, in the background, Hippolyta regains her memories and shows up in Gateway City too late and finds out Wonder Woman is pulled into the underworld by Neron. At the same, former Wonder Girl Donna Troy experiences a massive tragedy in her life and heads to reunite with her former mentor. The collection is rounded out with themed annuals: the first about a future Wonder Woman on a space ark whose inhabitants have gone primitive and a pulp-style horror story of Wonder Woman discovering a subterranean necropolis.
I don’t think anything Byrne presents here is entirely exciting. Most of the challenges Wonder Woman faces the structure of the stories feels very repetitive. Wonder Woman gets into a confrontation, and then her allies get pulled in as well. This is how the Lemurian story goes, the Cheetah/Themyscria story, and the Underworld story. I know the third and final volume’s direction will go in a very different direction, but this collection is average.