Friday, June 9, 2017

Tie-ins, Part XXV: Wonder Woman Plus Jesse Quick #1

Some random Wonder Woman books, Part 15
DC tries to cross-promote a female speedster…

…and Diana is sort of an also ran

Writer – Christopher Priest
Penciller – Mike Collins
Inker – Tom Palmer
Letters – Gaspar
Colors – Ian Laughlin
Assistant Editor – Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor – Paul Kupperberg
Group Editor – Eddie Berganza
January 1997

After first read-through, I almost didn't put this one in the Wonder Woman pile for review. Not because I have anything against DC's "plus" series from '97, but because this doesn't appear to feature Wonder Woman in a starring role. The true star here is Jesse Quick, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

But it isn't a Wonder Woman story, so I moved it off the review pile.

A strange thing happed as it sat there about to be refiled into whichever of the Crapbox's wild and wooly categories I determined it could be stuffed into. I decided I wanted, no…I needed to put it back.

Sure I have JLA and team ups here in my Wonder Woman run. However most of the time they are static affairs where we don't learn what another hero thinks about Diana. Not on a deep, personal level.

This book does that.

Sure it's not ever about Diana or her struggle. It is about Jesse with Diana thrown in to assist in this life lesson she is going through. That's okay though. This one...this story is kind of important too.

We start with background on "Who" Jesse Quick is and outside of The Flash books she hasn't been seen much. Jesse is the daughter of golden age superheroes. Her dad was sort of an also-ran Flash, a speedster by the name of Johnny Quick. Her mom was Liberty Belle, a super heroine who's power was activated by (get this) the ringing of the actual Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. She gained increased strength, speed and stamina. Jesse shares both parents' powers, but mainly is known as a speedster who taps into DC's "Speed Force" by speaking the same formula used by her Dad.

We enter this issue with Jesse still mourning the loss of her father to the Speed Force, as he vanished into it by going too fast battling one of the Flash's enemies. Her mother compounds the issue by proclaiming her lack of faith in their struggle against evil, the single solitary time she has ever backed away from being a superhero. Jesse has patterned her life after these two and she finds herself questioning everything.

Life doesn't want to give her any easy answers, either. First day at work replacing her father as the head of his company and thugs try to rob the building across the street. The good news is there is only one criminal left. The bad news is that he's this jacked up hooligan with a pistol and a hostage.

Oh, and all three of them are stuck in an elevator surrounded by cops with itchy trigger fingers.

"2Young to be doing this stuff" or whatever his street tough gangsta name is, looks crazy enough to kill the girl just because, which would give the cops outside cause to take their shot too, which would end up with everyone looking like swiss cheese.

It's a life-or-death equation that hangs on another equation. That being the one Jesse says to access the speed force.

But Jesse isn't relying on her speed to save the day. She distracts 2Young by deciding to walk away, distracting him so she can say the formula from the escape hatch before he has a chance to shoot her…

…saving all three lives. Or so it looks, until an overzealous officer tosses in a tear gas grenade…

…so she pops the door off and vents the gas while taking the younger child to her mother.

As Jesse retreats back home, her mother shows up. She chides her for getting involved in the police matter and says it was "useless super-heroics." Jesse can't take the verbal battering and retreats to the bathroom and finally out the bathroom window for a sprint to clear her head.

Meanwhile her mom is attacked by a female super-speed ninja wielding an energy sword.

Yeah, I hate it when that happens.

This is the remains of the cult that Jesse's dad was fighting when he got sucked into the speed force for eternity. While old lady Liberty Belle might be good for punching one speed-ninja, she looks to quickly meet her match here.

Jesse comes back home to find her mother in a heap on the floor, rushes her to the emergency ward and traces all this back to keeping a scroll purported to have been written by Hermes from the ninja boss's lair. 
And since it is written in Greek she heads to "Greeks'R Us" to get it translated. Or to just see Helena Sandsmark, who was a big co-star of the Wonder Woman book. Unfortunately Helena doesn't appear to be in her office…

…just this other lady who smiles way too much and acts far too happy. A lady Jesse refers to in a rather negative manner. She asks "What's she on?" in reference to this Diana-person's kind and helpful manner. 

She doesn't see what we the audience do. That's Wonder Woman.

Helena doesn't answer her, just continues to work on deciphering the scroll, eventually calling Diana back in as an "expert." Jesse still isn't "quick" enough to pick up on what's really going on here. Nor does she have time as super-speed ninjas attack…although they aren't quite super-speedy anymore.

In a sequence I love, Jesse races to take care of them only to find Diana following her…and matching her speed while she puts on her tiara…and Jesse finally getting it. Getting that she's been talking to her childhood idol.

…that Diana is actually Wonder Woman.

There are some great moments there where we see the awe Jesse has for the Princess. And yet she still feels compelled to do her best when fighting beside her, not spend her time standing around. Jesse is inspired by Diana. So Jesse and Wonder Woman take out the ninjas, who are no match for their speed since they are all depowered. 

However as they question one, Jesse is suddenly knocked out for a moment. She recovers quickly to find the ninja dead and Wonder Woman gone.

Which leads her to realize that ONE of the ninjas ISN'T depowered and is still connected to the speed force. As she rushes out to help, she finds Wonder Woman struggling with her.

For all her skill, Wonder Woman can't match the ninja's super speed and skill at using it. Upon learning the ninja was a woman, Jesse has a moment of clarity and realizes that she must be someone she knows.

While Wonder Woman friend and series regular Julia Kapatelis works on figuring out what the scroll might contain and what the ninja's last words of "circle of light" might mean, Jesse explains about Christina.

I vaguely remember the Red Trinity arc from the Mike Baron arc waaaaay back when Flash was in single digits. I don't care that these villains turned heroes have one of their number now turned villain again. Also note that we have a reference to Taco World, a restaurant that somehow got Wonder Woman's endorsement during the Messner-Loeb years.

Jesse takes time to chit-chat with Diana as they track down leads. She also fills her in on how she lost her dad to the speed force in just a bit. Here however they touch on the tricky subject of mothers and then what Christina's goals might be.

That prompts an answer of "not exactly" and then a short summary of Johnny Quick entering the Speed Force forever.

Wonder Woman takes the lead in flying them across to the Dominican Replublic and Jesse reflects on how she never wavers in her good natured smile.

When they land, Jesse runs off and tries to take down Christina alone, mainly because she wants to kill her and doesn't want Wonder Woman stopping her. The loss of her dad is just too much.

But before she can wade through all the normal speed ninjas, Christina has used the scroll to open a magic portal to the Speed Force. After a brief monolog telling how she will pull Savitar out to screw up his plans of being one with the Force, she enters the portal.

Jesse gets back the scroll, but only after they both have reached terminal velocity, a near "tipping point" speed where they both are a hair's breadth away from never coming back. Wonder Woman runs through the portal and Lassos Jesse in an attempt to slow her down and talk sense into her.

She also tries to save Christina, which is admirable. But Jesse still has a chip on her shoulder. Wonder Woman pushes…

…and Jesse is forced to admit that she feels betrayed by Wally and unsure of being seen as "worthy" of being a superhero. All of which stemmed from Wally offering her the mantle of the Flash in a effort to…

…get Bart Allen to understand that he needed to act more responsibly. Wally never intended for Jesse to be the Flash, it was all a ruse to get Bart to straighten up and fly right.

But this left Jesse without any strong positive male role models to look up to as she lost her dad, eroding her confidence. And making her feel more abandoned than ever.

It's only then that she slows down and realizes that all these revelations are due to Diana's Lasso of Truth working its magic on her. She exits the speed force and puts her demons to rest.

We exit with hope for a brighter future for both Jesse and her mother, as Jesse visits her in the hospital. With a friend.

Very long issue with kind of very little going on with Wonder Woman. She faces no crisis nor even has a troubling battle aside from being thrown into a bus. However she makes a huge impact in Jesse's life and her mother's too, perhaps. Diana is shown as a stabilizing influence and as someone who never wavers in her support of her friends or in the cause of justice. She acts as wise counsel and a steadfast friend.

There's a lot being said here about Diana's importance in the DCU and none of it has to do with how hard she punches people.

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