Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman – Birds of Paradise

After the events of “Rise of the Olympian,” Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman run continues with “Birds of Paradise.”  Wonder Woman has had her personal relationships weakened by Genocide and has severed her familial relationships after choosing to cut off all ties with Zeus, but life continues.  Problems remain, and she’ll need the help of Bird of Prey member Black Canary to solve them.  This story takes place in issues 34 and 35.  Art in these two issues was done by Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, and Brad Anderson.

With her life in shambles, Wonder Woman travels to the North Pole, and finds herself in the middle of a Coca-Cola Christmas commercial.  She comes across a mother polar bear and her cub, who didn’t instantly try to maim her.  Guess she rolled well on her animal handling skill. (Sorry, have been playing a lot of D&D.)  Unfortunately, this sweet encounter isn’t very therapeutic, and just reminds Wonder Woman that she has cut ties with her mother and is now forced to make her own home and family.  There is a nice touch with the art of ice/frost building up on Wonder Woman as she is out with the polar bears in “full” Wonder Woman attire.  The ice is accumulating, but it doesn’t seem to bother her at all.

Wonder Woman - Birds of Paradise - icy

Wonder Woman flies home to find Tolifhar and his tribe watching their shows.  (That’s code for soap operas for anyone who never had to spend afternoons watching television with their grandmothers.)  Tolifhar notes that Wonder Woman’s scent has changed, and that she smells tribeless.  He also notes that Tom Tresser has been by numerous times, and he also smells differently.  His is that of anger.  This is all happening as Wonder Woman tries to get a shower, wishing that Tolifhar had any sense of privacy.  But, he’s a naked gorilla that has lived his whole life around other naked gorillas, so there really is no such thing as privacy.  I do like Tolifhar’s referral to shampoo as flowery sludge for the hair.

Post-shower, Wonder Woman meets up with the Toms, Tresser and Morrow.  She’d like to talk to Tresser about what she said previously, the whole I don’t really love and was just wanting someone to mate with bit, and is told that this is not the place for it.  Morrow tells her that Genocide isn’t really dead, and that Psycho has Genocide’s body and is in Japan.  When asked why he’s helping Morrow goes into a bit of his backstory about really being from Warsaw, and he can’t stand being attached to anything named Genocide.  Makes sense.  Wonder Woman can’t allow for the possibility of Genocide causing more harm, since she already had one opportunity to end things, and seeks out help to track down Psycho and Genocide.  That help comes in the form of Black Canary.

Black Canary is quick to help Wonder Woman infiltrate an underground arena fighting scene in Japan, but she does say that they can’t go as themselves.  So you know what that means?  Wonder Woman makeover.  Black Canary digs through her closet full of previous undercover attire to come up with something, passing along the observation that the sexier the costume the better, because there are usually fewer questions.  So, that means exposing the second most famous bosom among the heroes.  This entire scene is wonderfully funny, as Black Canary just goes through everything matter-of-factly, and Wonder Woman is kind of at a lost.  For instance, she tries to explain why she’s wearing her star-spangled bottoms, and Black Canary is having none of it.  Eventually, Black Canary decides on costumes for both of them, and Wonder Woman is having some regrets, both the exposing of the bosom and commenting that the choice of heels seems impractical in a combat situation.  See you can do commentary on the ridiculousness of some costume choices, while also having fun using it in a story.

Wonder Woman - Birds of Paradise - new costumes

Meanwhile on Themyscira, Achilles is having some issues with getting the Amazons to fall in line.  He is having some issues especially with Phillipus laying down her sword.  Achilles tries his best to sympathize with her position, pointing out that this isn’t really what he wanted either.  However, they both serve Zeus, and so they must do what Zeus commands.  Reluctantly, Phillipus relents and storms off.  Alkyone asks what of her and her companions.  Achilles says that he needs an advisor and personal guard, and asks Alkyone to be his queen.  Certainly did not see this coming.  No one must have told him what they had tried to do prior to fighting the monsters mere hours/days ago.

After getting into the fighting arena in Japan, Wonder Woman and Black Canary come across Psycho in a jester costume, but Wonder Woman points out that that is Director Steel’s mind in Psycho’s body.  In the arena, they both have some difficulties with their opponents, Lira and Muck, the Unknowable.  Lira ends up being a cybernetic organism created by Ivo, and Muck is just an ugly dude that is basically putty.  Eventually, Black Canary gets her hands literally around Muck’s heart, and he taps out.  Wonder Woman is at the mercy of Lira, until something happens with Wonder Woman, and she fries Lira with an electrical discharge.  I guess you could say hit her with lightning, but it didn’t exactly look like lightning.  Maybe that’s because they were in too close of proximity to really show what is going on.  Guess we’ll find out later.

After the fight, Psycho (Director Steel’s body) is in an office talking with someone that is demanding a fight to the death with Wonder Woman.  When asked why, the lady says that she’s the Goddess of Violence, and Wonder Woman killed her father.  Well, she doesn’t name Wonder Woman, but we have to assume that this new fighter knows exactly who she is.  It’s unclear if Psycho knows who the new fighter is.  I hope he’s still in the dark, otherwise these new disguises would have been for naught. 

Black Canary is determined to show Wonder Woman a good time in Tokyo, and it starts in a toy store.  This leads to some interesting observations, and Wonder Woman deciding to be a bit more choosy with how she signs away her likeness.  Or better, how her agent decides it to be done.  There’s also a Mindi Mayer reference here, which is a call back to the early days of George Perez’s run on Wonder Woman.  Seeing that this is just depressing Wonder Woman and reminding her of more failures, Black Canary decides they need to go out for ramen, as that will fix everything.  Over ramen, Black Canary tries to convince Wonder Woman that she spends so much time with the burden of being someone everyone can look up to, but now is the perfect opportunity for her reassess what she actually wants and life and do something for herself, for once.

Wonder Woman - Birds of Paradise - black canary noodles

The underground fighting continues to go well, seemingly easier than their first night.  Then suddenly back in the locker room, Steel (Psycho’s body) enters and Wonder Woman decides that now is the time to act.  Against Steel’s wishes, and Black Canary’s recommendation, Wonder Woman touches him with the lasso.  After much pain, Steel remembers everything Psycho and Cheetah put him through.  It looks like some kind of serious ritual.  

Even though Steel remembers everything now, all three of them go forward with their next fight.  They still need to find Psycho and Roulette, after all.  And we see Psycho in his office on the phone with Roulette, certain that one of the fighters is Wonder Woman.  Guess the costumes were fairly useless after all.  Oh well.  Back in the arena, Wonder Woman and Black Canary aren’t comforted by the fact that they only have one opponent in this fight.  Wonder Woman tries to throw the first punch, and just hurts her arm.  The hooded figure reveals that she’s the Goddess of Violence that had been talking Psycho previously, and magically transforms Wonder Woman and Black Canary’s attire into their more traditional outfits.  My first time reading this, I thought she had blasted away their clothes, revealing that they had their costumes on underneath.  Looking at the image above, there’s no way to really hide anything under those costumes.  It reminded me of a joke in the episode of Futurama where they get super-powers, and Leala tells her parents about being a superhero.  She has her normal clothes on, rips them away to show her superhero costume, then rips that away to show her normal clothes.  It’s a funny bit in a really funny episode.  Go watch it on Hulu.

This Goddess of Violence engulfs Wonder Woman in flames, and transports their minds to a tropical island.  We learn that this Goddess is named Pele, and is the daughter of Kane Milohai, who we last saw when Zeus was ripping his heart out.  She blames Wonder Woman for her father’s death, in that Wonder Woman brought him into her affairs without really thinking about the consequences.  Wonder Woman acknowledges that, and feels awful about not paying respects to him after his passing, but if Pele doesn’t stop punching her, she’s going to have to really fight back.  Well, Pele doesn’t stop punching, so Wonder Woman fights back, eventually leading to another electrical discharge coming from the bracers.  This time, she recognizes it as the lightning of Zeus, but still has no idea how she got it.  This does stop the fight long enough for Wonder Woman to apologize for the death of Kane Milohai, and transfer her oath to him on to Pele.

Wonder Woman - Birds of Paradise - lightning powers

While this was going on, Psycho saw that Wonder Woman was defenseless, and sent everybody after her.  However, Black Canary was easily up to the challenge of defending Wonder Woman.  After everything returned to normal, the three of them, including Steel confronted Psycho.  I assume they captured him, as it doesn’t really show anything else, and immediately goes to Wonder Woman meeting up with Tom Tresser.  She tries to get things to what they were before Genocide, but he immediately ends things by giving her back the spear that had been presented to him.

This was a very fun story to follow up the seriousness of “Rise of the Olympian.”  By introducing Black Canary into the mix, you give have a charismatic opposite to Wonder Woman that can lighten the mood, without forcing Wonder Woman to step away from the previous events.  It’s a great way to allow us readers to take a breath, and not hammer dreariness after dreariness.  My questions coming out of this story is what promise has Wonder Woman made to Pele.  Is it a favor to be called in at Pele’s choosing?  Promising the Goddess of Violence a favor seems awful.  Also, what’s happened with Psycho?  Did the switching of bodies cause him to actually lose his psychic abilities?  It seems like there were able to take him in far too easily.

Up next, “Warkiller.”

Wonder Woman - Birds of Paradise - japanese toy

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