You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. It turns out that there’s quite a lot that needs to be explained though… so we’ve had to bring in some real experts to help us out!
We’ve heard repeatedly that Wonder Woman did something bad, and it turns out she killed somebody called Max Lord! The same Max Lord who – according to Steve Lacey – murdered Ted Kord? Emma Houxbois, please explain what’s going on here!!
Emma! Wonder Woman is all about peace – so why is she seen murdering Max Lord here?
Emma Houxbois: Is Wonder Woman really all about peace, Steve?
There’s two main things going on here. The first is that Diana’s characterization since Crisis on Infinite Earths has been like someone flicking a light switch on and off really fast until you get a headache. It’s a big part of why I remained deeply suspicious of the character until very recently, but this was a period of intense, sustained chaos in which you couldn’t really pin down who or what Diana really was. Prior to Infinite Crisis, which is where Diana killed Maxwell Lord on television for the entire world to see, there were two long stretches of stability for the character. The first was Phil Jimenez and Joe Kelly’s sublime run that established the Themysciran embassy and Diana reframing her mission in “Man’s World” as a diplomatic one rooted in feminist and post-colonial ideologies.
Greg Rucka followed that team with the Hiketeia graphic novel and his own stint on Wonder Woman, that reframed the embassy as more of a base of operations for unilateral regime change in third world countries in line with the foreign policies of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. So when you ask if Wonder Woman is all about peace, I think it’s important to point out that Diana has almost always been more about sustaining Pax Americana than enacting a genuine praxis of global liberation or decolonization. Which is just as true of William Moulton Marston as it is any contemporary writers short of extreme outliers like Grant Morrison and Jill Thompson. We can’t paper over the fact that wherever we tell ourselves Diana is from she’s always been decked out in a militaristic interpretation of the American flag. As breathtakingly feminist and queer as much of Marston’s vision of her was, the ease of interpreting Diana’s struggles with Nazis as an expression of American nationalism was a key ingredient of her success and cannot be ignored. As long as the United States as a country enforces the ideology of Pax Americana and Wonder Woman is a copyrighted character controlled by a corporation, her commitment to a pacifist ideology will always be tenuous at best.
So the idea of Diana’s lasso telling her that the only way out of the situation was to kill Lord is both stunningly repugnant and sadly expected given the specific context it happened in. The general principles that the average person expects out of Wonder Woman as part of the Trinity would tell us that Wonder Woman doesn’t kill people, but this was in an era where DC comics were extremely narrowly filtered through a military-espionage framework where phrases like “threat to global security” got thrown around in the context of killing Lord. It’s the logical endpoint of a chapter of Wonder Woman continuity that started with Diana using the embassy as a cover for overthrowing the government of a faceless third world country.
The second thing going on here is the 2004 Brad Meltzer/Rags Morales miniseries Identity Crisis that every single major storyline at DC had to position itself against until Flashpoint in 2011. That story was passed off as an allegory for eroding faith in institutions in America and a much clearer understanding of the gruesome projection of American power abroad during the Cold War, but it ushered in a cynical era of every major DC superhero behaving their absolute worst. Which in turn resulted in Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman all abdicating their roles between Infinite Crisis and the concurrent 52/One Year Later events that explored those absences. Diana killing Lord was the nadir set out for her that caused her to withdraw from the world. There’s a clear sequence of events there, such as it is.
Batman says “you don’t belong here” to her on the page before. Is he particularly pissed off by this all for some reason, then?
Houxbois: Yeah, yeah he is. Bruce is really big on his no kill rule, which he sometimes goes to some really contemptuous lengths over. This is kind of one of those irresistible force, immovable object situations because apparently Diana couldn’t not kill Lord but Batman can’t ever condone murder. It’s deeply silly, but Final Crisis ended up requiring Batman to break his ultimate taboo, killing someone with a gun, in order to save the universe so it all came full circle on him eventually.
Whoa whoa whoa! Batman SHOT somebody? Emma, I have to cut you off there. Batman shot someone!? I’m going to have to find out more about that before we can go any further. Come back on Friday and we’ll find out what’s going on!
Véronique Emma Houxbois is a trans woman cartoonist, drag queen, and youtuber based out of Vancouver, Canada. You can find her on Twitter here and Instagram under her drag name Judith Slays. She also makes comics on her Onlyfans which you can find here.