Bonus Book #4 – Legend of the Amazons (July, 1988)
Writer – Dan Littleford
Pencils – Palmer Worley
Inks – Brian Thomas
Letters – Dan McKinnon
Colors – Danny Vozzo
Edits – Karen Berger
Before we begin, a few things about today’s feature. First, it’s a Wonder Woman-adjacent story… so, that doesn’t bode well for your humble blogger. Second, this is the first of two of these we’ll be getting during our Bonus Book excursion… though, the next time out, it will be called Legends (plural) of the Amazons as opposed to today’s Legend (singular) of the Amazons.
Third… this was a book I had to drive all over creation last week to locate! Just like the All-Star Squadron and Batman and the Outsiders Insert Prevues… I just assumed I had this one. And… I didn’t! Now, Wonder Woman books are often among the hardest to find “in the wild”… at least in my neck of the woods. Sure, they’ll be in the bins… but, it’s hardly ever anything resembling a “full run”. This might be due to low print runs… because, as much as we might like to think otherwise, Wonder Woman, with very few exceptions, is never really a “hot” book. I’d blame the movies… but, Wonder Woman bin-rarity goes back way farther than that.
I did manage to find it… after many unsuccessful dives and probably around 75 miles of diameter driving. Best of all, I found it for a buck-n-change and in excellent condition, so, can’t really beat that.
This story can be found in Wonder Woman (vol.2) #18 (July, 1988).
One more thing before we hop into the spoilery synopsis… I finally got around to compiling all of our Bonus Book/Insert Prevue discussion into an easily navigable page. Click the image below, if you’re interested:
We open in 4500 BC, in a strange (and annoyingly poetic) realm. There’s light, there’s darkness… there’s madness. We’re about a half-page in, and I’m already confused. After even more pseudo-poetry, a woman awakens. She has a white streak in her long black hair.
We learn pretty quickly that this woman is being kept against her will, by a King. She is his lover and his slave. She rises out of bed and walks toward a door… where, with her mind’s eye, she imagines herself free… a warrior on horseback. Not sure if this is a flashback… or just her imagination running amok. This confusion will only get worse as we continue.
Still on horseback, this warrior woman runs into another. She, the dark-haired one, introduces herself as Mesopee. Wait a second… I don’t think I can skip this one panel. Our gal describes her feelings here as… orgasmic? Really now? Checking the cover… yup, the Comics Code Authority let this slide… which makes me think they just had the good sense not to read this insert. I wonder how many children asked their parents what “orgasmic” meant after reading this? Ehh, who am I kidding… nobody read this.
Anyhoo, the women begin this friendly rivalry, wherein they race each other toward an oncoming storm. The other woman, by the way, is called Verona.
Back to “reality”, where our captive leaves the breezeway before succumbing to… a headache? Okay… this triggers another trip into her mind’s eye… but this one, I’m almost certain, is an actual flashback. In this one, she, as a young girl, is sold into slavery by her a-hole father. She is referred to here as Larabeau. So, who the hell is Mesopee?
In the “present”, Larabeau is visited upon by the specter of her father… who she asks why he sold her to the King. He explains that the King’s offer was too good to pass up… and, it’s not like he wanted to spend the rest of his days looking after her! We learn here that Lara never knew her mother. Maybe that’s Mesopee?!
After shaking off the vision, Larabeau wanders into the King’s trophy room. Helmets from all he’d defeated adorn the walls… naturally, triggering another flashback. Here, Mesopee (who, I think we gotta assume is Larabeau? Maybe?) and Verona engage in a sort of mutual admiration society. Lots of talk of sisterhood and what-not.
This flashback/flash-sideways is interrupted by the King bellowing out that he requires drink. Larabeau, being his servant, fetches him a goblet of somethin’ or another. Wouldja believe it… even this triggers another maybe-memory!
Mesopee has a late night drink with a warrior called Hermitus. Maybe he’s the one she was sold to? I really haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going on here.
Back in the present, Lara presents her King with his drink. He asks if she sees anything in it… I’m assuming he means like a “vision” or something. She confirms that she does not… only “still liquid”. Apparently, there is one called Kaleece who can see things in goblets… for whatever that’s worth to us here.
Then… get this… the King reveals that he’s missing his left hand… and he’s rather troubled by this fact! What the hell is going on here?! Is this another vision? Did he forget he only had a wrist-stump on his left side? Is he just a nut?! Good Lord. The King insists that, get this, Larabeau is hiding his hand. Whaaaaaaat? It would appear that he beats the bejeezus out of her for her assumed transgression.
Larabeau crawls out of the room… and into a hallway, where a great blade hangs. Guess what happens next? If you said “another flash-back/forward/sideways/wherever”, you’d be correct! Mesopee and Verona have been imprisoned… not sure if they’re in the same place… or elsewhere. Hell, I’m not sure it even matters anymore.
The “mind’s eye” bit continues into Mesopee and Verona’s uprising. They slaughter their captors, break their chains, all that good stuff. In the present, Larabeau has retrieved the sword off the wall.
Homeboy charges in, still looking for his damned hand… but, Larabeau can’t help but be elsewhere mentally. As he rants, she flashes back to the uprising… and to Verona’s death.
In the present, Larabeau is carving up the King pretty good. This jackass is still ranting about his missing hand. Is this some sort of Greek Myth reference that I’m just not aware of? Talk about tunnel-vision… dude’s being slaughtered, and still going on about his hand! Looks like Larabeau has killed her captor at this point… and a gaggle of geeks enter the scene to check on the King. With a smile on her face, she raises her blade at them. We can probably assume this didn’t work out so well for the Royal Guard… or, maybe for Larabeau herself.
We (mercifully… finally) wrap up with a woman… maybe Larabeau… maybe Mesopee… maybe both… maybe neither, rising from the still waters of some sort of paradise. Whoever she is, she’s lacking that white streak in her hair. There’s a brief flashback of… Larabeau’s death. So, this is a sort of rebirth? I have no idea how Amazons “work”… is this part of their gimmick [yes, it looks like in the post-Crisis it was their gimmick!]? Oh well. This woman, whoever she is, is alive… and in search of a “Virgin Land” that awaits her.
What… wha? What the hell did we just read?
Ya know, anytime I read something that I just plain don’t like, I always assume it’s because I’m just too dumb to properly appreciate it. It’s that odd mix of Catholic guilt with 40 years of paranoia and next to no self-confidence. I always just figure that everything is genius (heck, just look at “current year” comic reviews… everything is touted as “genius”)… and that I’m just far too dense to receive, process, and enjoy whatever it is that I’m engaging with.
This though? I’m not sure. I’ve been doing this little blogging gig for near on 1500 days (in a row!)… I don’t think I’ve ever been as confused and detached as I am in writing today’s piece. Over the past few days, I’ve read this story no less than four times… hopeful each time that it might begin to make some sense. It didn’t. Am I overthinking it? Am I looking for answers where there are none?
Are Mesopee and Larabeau one in the same? Is Larabeau the result of Mesopee’s death and rebirth? Is it the other way around? Are they completely different people entirely? And, that’s the deal with the King’s hand??? I thought I was having a fever dream there… that panel was bananas! Where did his hand go? Who took it? Did he ever have one? Is he just insane?! I’m gonna guess he’s just crazy. Also… who the hell is Hermitus? Is he the King prior to bleaching his hair and mustache?! So many questions… yet, not enough interest to pursue any answers.
I’ve done some light-Googling… all of the names we’ve read today… even Greek Myths about “left hands” or “missing hands”, but all of those results come back with images of aged and broken statues! The only thing I actually learned, that made a lick of sense during my research was that the Amazons were reincarnated souls of women slain by men. I guess there’s our means to an end.
So, if I were to make a guess… and make no mistake, this is just a guess. I’d say… Larabeau came first. Her death led to the reincarnation as Mesopee… who met Verona. They referred to one another as Amazons… which, stands to reason with the post-Crisis origin of the race. From there, they are captured… Verona is killed… Mesopee goes on to look for, what will ultimately become, Themyscira? Sound good? Ehh, who the hell knows? This is like that flash-sideways season of Lost.
One thing I will say about this story… if you ignore the confusing and overly-flowery captions… we get some amazing artwork. Really pretty stuff here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Palmer Worley before this… but, we’ll get to him in a bit.
First though… Dan Littleford, our writer. According to Comicvine, this was his only story at in comics, let alone at DC. Worth noting, this Bonus Book doesn’t even get a mention at the DC Wiki! Not sure what he may or may not have gone on to do. While I found his work to be a bit “much”, I’m sure he could’ve flourished in some early Vertigo-style stuff. He’s not a bad writer… just, too pseudo-poetic… and maybe a little lacking as a “storyteller”. This just wasn’t clear enough.
Palmer Worley… another creator who did not go on to much in the field! Besides this story, he is credited with Pencils and Inks on Ex-Mutants #14 (1990) from Eternity Comics and some Battletech from Blackthorne. In my Googling, not much else, comics-related, came up for him.
Overall… a very pretty story, but also a very confusing one. I’d say this one’s probably for Wonder Woman completionists only.
(Not the) Letters Page: