“Maid Of Honor” (season 2, episodes 7—8; originally aired 10/18/2003)
Wonder Woman is a fascinating, complex character, having gone through multiple transformations since her debut in 1941. From her early days as a superpowered Axis ally in World War II to her contemporary role as the illegitimate daughter of the Greek god Zeus and Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, Princess Diana of Themyscira has been a war hero, a costumed crime fighter, a kung-fu-chopping mod-boutique owner, and a politician, among others. In the usual fashion of the DCAU, the Wonder Woman of Justice League incorporates elements from throughout the character’s history, making Diana a composite of her various comic book roles. There’s not much of the mod fashionista yet, but maybe Princess Audrey’s influence in “Maid Of Honor” will spark Diana’s interest in the more glamorous life.
This week’s episode is the second season’s first script by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, whose talent for combining action, comedy, and character-based drama made him one of the strongest writers in the animation business. More than any other character, Diana’s stories have greater political relevance, whether it’s the gender politics that made her an exile from her home in “Paradise Lost” or the global issues of “Fury” and “Maid Of Honor.” The latter sees Diana become an integral figure in the European country of Kasnia when she becomes besties with its debutant Princess Audrey, who just so happens to be engaged to immortal Nazi war criminal Vandal Savage.
Vandal Savage is a great foil for Diana, and it’s surprising that he’s not used as a rogue for Wonder Woman more often. While Diana was born to be perfect, Vandal Savage began as a primal caveman who has climbed up the evolutionary ladder thanks to the immortality granted to him by a mysterious asteroid. (Oh, comic book origins…) Because she met Steve Trevor when the Justice League went back in time to stop World War II Savage, Wonder Woman holds the villain responsible for the major heartbreak in her life, and she’s not going to let him take another loved one away with Audrey. Not only have Diana’s episodes had a more political bent, but they’ve also put a greater focus on her personal relationships. We’ve seen Diana’s relationship with her mother, her “sister,” her first boyfriend, and now we see her meet her first human best friend, although Princess Audrey might have feelings that go deeper than friendship.
It’s not too hard to pick up on lesbian undertones in a Wonder Woman story, but this episode goes a bit further than usual, with Princess Audrey falling (quite literally) for her beautiful superhero bodyguard. When Diana rescues Audrey from political rebels at an event, the princess puts her life in Diana’s hands, and gives the Amazon a taste of celebrity and luxury. I always enjoy when writers tackle the idea of superheroes as celebrities (best example: Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force/X-Statix), and making Diana the Nicole Richie to Audrey’s Paris Hilton exposes a side of the character we rarely see. Diana has never been one for expensive clothes and beefcake arm candy, but she embraces Audrey’s lifestyle for this episode. In her effort to find her place within humanity, Diana has no problem trying on a role to see how it suits her, and she really enjoys being Audrey’s girlfriend until it becomes something more serious.
Audrey is engaged to be married, and she views her time with Diana as her last big fling before tying the knot. Their night of partying ends atop the Eiffel Tower, arguably one of the most romantic (and phallic) places on Earth, where Diana tell Audrey that she’s never had this much fun before, to which Audrey responds that she quite enjoyed corrupting her new friend. McDuffie brings a real sense of intimacy to this scene that is emphasized by director Dan Riba, who makes Audrey’s body language suggest that she has a physical attraction to Diana. It’s not explicit in any way, but Audrey sure does love stroking Diana’s face, and when she begins to remember the arranged marriage waiting for her, she throws herself off the Eiffel Tower. Diana catches her, switching out of party mode to become the superhero that will save Audrey and her country.
While Diana and Audrey’s relationship is vaguely defined, Diana and Bruce Wayne’s attraction is on full display, with the first part of “Maid Of Honor” spotlighting only Wonder Woman and Batman. (Flash, J’onn, and Green Lantern show up in the second part.) Diana and Bruce share a dance at the event where Audrey is taken, and while they never get to finish their choreography, they continue their flirting in-costume. I’ve established that I’m a big fan of the Batman/Wonder Woman pairing, and this episode shows how well the two work together, whether they’re on the dance floor or the battlefield.
At Audrey’s engagement party, Diana meets Vandal Savage, who says that he’s the grandson of the man the Justice League encountered in the past. Diana is suspicious, and for good reason: Vandal poisons Audrey’s father and takes the Kasnian throne, allowing him to become the world’s foremost military authority when he creates an asteroid-shooting railgun in space. Kasnia could be a stand-in for country in the Soviet Union, a territory where the impoverished populace is upset about the money being used for orbiting space stations rather than feeding hungry mouths. Vandal is the tyrant who rises to power and decides to take on the world, but he chooses the wrong country to takeover when he marries Prince Audrey.
After taking down an enraged Wonder Woman, Savage shows his power by shooting an asteroid at a U.S. battleship, creating an epic tidal wave that destroys the vessel. Riba zooms out to show the asteroid making impact with the water, and it’s a great shot that really captures the catastrophic effect of the attack. The action sequences in season two have been generally much stronger than season one, and that’s likely due to a new name on the storyboard team: Joaquim Dos Santos. Dos Santos’ anime-influenced direction results in some incredibly dynamic episodes of Justice League Unlimited, and he has gone on to direct The Legend Of Korra, which features the most breathtaking action sequences on television.
This episode’s most standout action sequence occurs during Audrey’s wedding, as scenes of the ceremony are cut together with Wonder Woman and Batman fighting Savage’s troops. As “Here Comes The Bride” plays, Diana smacks a group of goons with a tree trunk; Bach’s “Air” accompanies the Batwing as it’s shot down. The contrast between the music and action lends some humor to the intense sequence, which ends with Wonder Woman throwing a tank through the church when the preacher asks if there are any objections. When J’onn, Flash, and Green Lantern destroy the space station, Flash gets to cut loose when he’s thrown out the airlock and comes back with an urge to punch everything, running through the entire station and knocking out every armed guard. These are godlike characters, and the action on this show is becoming more extreme to capture just how powerful they are.
Batman saves Wonder Woman while their teammates work in space, and when they track down Savage, Diana goes after the dictator so that Batman can change the railgun’s targeting coordinates to aim for the Kasnian royal palace. With the space station and palace gone, Audrey sees an opportunity to rebuild her country, and as she walks through the rubble with Diana, she has hope for a new beginning. Then Vandal Savage comes crawling out of the wreckage in wonderfully creepy fashion, emerging as a mass of broken bones that crack back into place. He’s taken into custody and Audrey leaves to attend to her royal duties, giving Batman and Wonder Woman a moment to breathe after all that drama. “We never did get to finish our dance,” Diana reminds her partner, revealing that she knows his secret identity, and while Batman tries to play ignorant, she doesn’t buy it. After all the time they’ve spent together, she doesn’t need a lasso to know he’s lying, and she’s probably caught on to Bruce’s feelings for her before he even has.
- I love the fashion in this episode and how the styling emphasizes the differences between Diana and Audrey.
- J’onn badass combat moment this week is when he stretches Mr. Fantastic style and constricts a thug until he passes out. He’s just the coolest.
- Batman: “Who are you working for?” Goon: “You can’t understand a word I’m saying and I wouldn’t tell you anything if you could.” Batman: “I can… and you will.” No matter how funny Batman gets, he’ll always be scary as hell when he needs to be.
- “Look what I found: party favors!” Of course, Diana goes for the hunk who looks like Steve Trevor.
- “Would you be a dear and pummel them mercilessly?”
- Audrey: “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone that the great hero has feet of clay.” Diana: “You have no idea.”
- Batman: “You go there uninvited, you’ll be breaking international law.” Diana: “I get my hands on Savage, that’s not all I’ll be breaking.”
- “They really are a girl’s best friend.”