“Fury” (season 1, episodes 16-17; originally aired April 7, 2002 and April 14, 2002)
It’s not the best time to be a female superhero. Marvel just cancelled the last of their female solo ongoings with the last issues of X-23 and Ghost Rider shipping in January, and DC’s relaunch hasn’t portrayed the ladies in the most flattering light. There are exceptions like Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman and J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman, but these are rarities in a genre dominated by male characters and creators (notice both of those writers are male). No superheroine has successfully launched a film franchise, and even though Black Widow has a lead role in Avengers, the camera is glued to Scarlett Johansson’s ass in trailers and movie posters.
Female heroes haven’t gotten the exposure of males, so they haven’t become ingrained in pop culture like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. Wonder Woman is easily the most popular, but I’d guess that most people are completely unaware of her origin or even her real name. Cartoons have done a lot for superheroines; X-Men made Storm and Rogue household names, and Teen Titans introduced Starfire and Raven to an entirely untapped audience: tween girls. Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl were the only women on Super Friends (teen sidekicks don’t count), and Justice League is the first time the two characters are featured in substantial stories outside of comic books.
“Fury” pits the dame dynamic duo against Aresia, a renegade Amazon on a mission to rid the world of men with a killer allergen. Aresia is voiced by Julie Bowen, Emmy Award winner for her portrayal of neurotic imperialist mother Claire Dunphy on Modern Family, and this is the first time I’ve noticed just how stern and commanding her voice is. That power is always on display as Aresia takes over for Lex Luthor in the new Injustice Gang, and she has no fear when speaking to Batman, and openly taunts the Justice League, challenging them to try and stop her.
Diana’s friend on Themyscira, Aresia was not born an Amazon. As a child she was a political refugee from a war-torn country, and while trying to escape, her ship was robbed and bombed by pirates. The only reason she survived is because the ship’s captain sacrificed himself to get her to Themyscira, where Hippolyta found them on the shore. Hippolyta never mentioned the captain when telling Aresia the story of her rescue, and the combination of Amazon philosophy and personal experience creates a hatred of men that drives Aresia to gendercide.
Stan Berkowitz breaks the mini-movie mold with this episode’s story, although I guess there’s an argument that could be made for “Fury” being a superhero outbreak drama. Dwayne McDuffie is credited for the teleplay of the first half, but there are touches in the second part that sound distinctly McDuffian, particularly in the Wonder Woman-Hawkgirl dialogue. It’s a solid episode with strong action sequences from director Butch Lukic, and shows why the DCAU Wonder Woman is one of my favorite interpretations of the character.
Last month’s Justice League #3 had Wonder Woman as a fish out of water, adjusting to man’s world with a brutishness that was more Thor than Diana. The DCAU Wonder Woman has a confidence and class befitting of royalty, and even though her mission isn’t diplomatic, she has a sincerity that makes her a natural ambassador, not just for Amazons, but all women. She doesn’t quite understand why women would want to cover up their natural beauty with makeup, and she will pick up your truck if you are blocking a lady that is trying to get to work. Yet while Diana carries herself like a woman, at heart she is still a girl.
It’s ironic that Hawkgirl, the more experienced female on the team, has the more diminutive name. And by experienced I do mean sexually, because as we learn this episode, Hawkgirl loves a good lay. We know Hawkgirl’s mind is in the gutter (Flash prejac joke, anyone?), and when Wonder Woman asks her why men would be so important to her, Hawkgirl replies, “Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it, Princess.” BOOM! Wonder Woman just got called out on being a virgin.
Hawkgirl loves men. She believes the Amazons preach hatred of men and that Aresia’s mission is the natural extension of that philosophy, and Diana doesn’t have much to say in response. When Aresia asks Hippolyta why she was never told about the courageous sea captain, Hippolyta says, “I didn’t think it was important. I didn’t think he was important.” Unlike the rest of the Amazons, Aresia has seen the horrors that mankind is capable of, and the thing she needs most is to see that men can be heroic and good, something that the Amazons never teach her. Hawkgirl would probably suggest Aresia slip into something more revealing, have a couple drinks at a bar, bag a cute guy that she’ll never call, and find out what men are really good for. Unfortunately Aresia just decides to kill all the men, and she ends up getting blown up.
It’s interesting to watch early episodes knowing that Hawkgirl is a scout for the Thanagarians, and it gives added significance to seemingly throwaway lines. After learning about Aresia’s past, Hawkgirl tells Batman, “She’s an orphan. It’s hard to imagine what that kind of trauma can do to a child.” How much does Shayera Hol know? Is she extending an invitation for Bruce to open up to her and give her more information on the League’s most formidable member? Probably not, but I like to imagine story seeds are sown way in advance. It gives me more confidence in writers, even when they don’t deserve it.
- When Green Lantern is stricken with Aresia’s allergen, he collapses directly into Diana’s cleavage. Marines have great aim.
- Hippolyta is such a weakling on this series, how did she become Queen of the Amazons?
- There’s a great shot after Wonder Woman throws a cannon at Star Sapphire, following Sapphire as she flies toward the horizon, then crashes into the ocean. It really captures the force and speed of the hit, and shows off Wonder Woman’s strength.
- Female firefighters? Good. Female helicopter pilots? Bad.
- “I answer to no man, not even you.” Gotta give props to anyone that’s going to talk smack to Batman’s face.
- “Believe me, I don’t need a stick.”
- “I like you, but not that much.” One again, selfishness proves to be the undoing of a superhero team.