If there’s a point to the story told in “Wonder Woman” #603, it escapes me. Maybe J. Michael Straczynski is taking the long road and a seemingly tangential and purposeless issue will become essential and mindblowing thanks to what comes next. And, if that happens, I’ll be the first to admit it and make an apology, but, right now, this issue is just a time-waster. It's a boring filler that seemingly acts as nothing more than a delaying tactic for the final few pages where a promise of things happening next issue is made. That’s all well and good for next issue, but what about the one that people have paid $2.99 for? How about something happening in it?
Things do happen, but the purpose or point is lost, if there is one. Diana, leading a group of Amazons away from the men hunting them, gets into a fight with the Keres, the female death-spirits in Greek mythology, has her soul stolen, and is taken to Tartarus, the Greek version of Hell. There, she learns that Hades is missing and leaves without too many problems. Learning that Hades is absent, leaving Charon in charge does relate to the larger story, hopefully; that an entire issue is built around that small detail is baffling. The change to the “Wonder Woman” status quo is still very new and in needing of strong stories that enforce why it’s necessary and an issue that has very little to say about how this world is unique or different or necessary this soon in is not a good sign.
With so much focus on Diana, thinking this is an issue to stop and show us something about her character would make sense. What we’re supposed to learn, though, isn’t apparent. The Diana here doesn’t behave any differently than the regular DCU version. Since her past was changed drastically, there should be some clear differences and there aren’t, except for the situation of the Amazons on the run. If this issue had been rewritten so that the regular Wonder Woman was helping the Amazons escape from a military group trying to kill them, got sent to Tartarus, and returned, the only thing different would be her costume.
Not helping matters is the art where, three-and-a-half issues into this run, back-up artists are brought in to help Don Kramer. Thankfully, the two extra pencillers draw in the same ‘generic DC house style’ as Kramer, albeit with less flair, so the transitions from one artist to the next aren’t too noticeable. The visuals are lackluster, particularly the fight scene between Diana and the Keres where the art looks more rushed and unpolished than elsewhere in the issue. Considering that’s one place where the art could shine and wow the reader, it’s a pity. Tartarus looks suitably hellish, but that makes sense since Charon refuses to take anyone across the Styx to Tartarus proper.
“Wonder Woman” #603 is a disappointing issue that provides a pointless detour from the main story, one that detracts so much that it questions the necessity of this change in the status quo. Why bother if this is the sort of story Straczynski wants to tell? The final pages are strong in the lead-in to next issue and that just reinforces how much a waste the preceding pages were.