Title: Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia
Author: Greg Rucka, J.G. Jones, Wade von Grawbadger, Dave Stewart
Genre: Graphic Novel
Why did I read this book: I had yet to read this graphic novel, and when I saw it in the store, I immediately scooped it up. Princess Diana of Themyscira is the shizzle.
Summary: (from DCComics.com)
WONDER WOMAN: THE HIKETEIA is a brilliantly orchestrated modern Greek tragedy of duty and vengeance. When Wonder Woman partakes in an ancient ritual called the Hiketeia, she is honor bound to eternally protect and care for a young girl named Danielle Wellys. But when the Amazon Princess learns that Danielle has killed the drug dealers who murdered her sister, she suddenly finds herself in battle with Batman, who is searching for the female fugitive. Caught in a no-win situation, Wonder Woman must choose between breaking a sacred oath and turning her back on justice.
I offer myself in supplication,
I come without protection.
I come without means.
Without honor, without hope,
With nothing but myself
to beg for protection.
In your shadow will I serve.
By your breath will I breathe.
By your words will I speak.
By your mercy will I live.
With all my heart
with everything I can offer
I beg you, in Zeus’s name,
who watches over all supplicants:
ACCEPT MY PLEA.
I must preface my review by saying that I really do love comic books and graphic novels, but I am by no means well-versed or an expert in them. So, please keep in mind I am very much a novice, but a novice with a voracious appetite, and intent on expanding my repertoire.
Gearing up for The Dark Knight next week (and yes, I am seeing that bad boy in IMAX, early next Thursday courtesy of some sweet free passes I still cannot believe I scored), I paid my local comic book store a visit this past weekend to pick up some new weeklies and monthlies, and of course while I was there I also had to check out the selection of graphic novels. And there was The Hiketeia, staring up at me. This slender hardback with its suggestive cover proved irresistible. Plus, the book is out of print in hardback, so I figured it was a good investment (and at $12, it’s hardly expensive).
The Hiketeia is not at all what I had been expecting. This is not a bad thing, however, as I found myself pleasantly surprised and drawn in by the slow-simmer of backstory, quiet character insight, and the strong focus on mythology as opposed to spectacular action.
The Hiketeia opens with Diana, a solitary figure in the Themyscira embassy, looking out the window onto the cold street below where the Erinyes , or Furies, hunch together below. The Hiketeia is explained to us, through a vivid depiction of Ancient Greece, with Diana’s narration. It is a ritual and law, a vow that binds a supplicant to a protector–if the Hiketeia is accepted, it is an unbreakable bond that obligates the supplicated to shelter, feed, protect and extend their own honor to his/her bonded. It is insoluble, and only can be ended when and if the supplicant freely decides to leave. For those supplicated that violate the sacred ritual, the waiting Furies will extract cruel vengeance.
But back to our story. A young woman named Danielle Wellys comes to the Amazon Princess seeking her aid and succor. She has studied the ancient ritual, and Diana, a character that is defined by her traditions and steeped in Greek mythology and religion, hears Danielle’s plea and accepts the Hiketeia openly. Diana does not force Danielle to speak of her plight, merely knowing that when the time is right, Danielle will come forward of her own accord and relate her tale. What Diana knows, however, is that Danielle is being followed by the terrible Erinyes. She confronts the Furies that lurk outside the Embassy walls, and they speak to Diana–warning her that soon ‘he’ will come, and when the time comes, the Princess-once-Goddess must hold to her bond or the Furies will enjoy their vengeance.
As it happens, Danielle is not only wanted by the Erinyes, but also by Batman–he follows her trail to Princess Diana’s home, and demands that Danielle be brought to justice. Batman is adamant that the girl be turned over to his custody, and that he takes her back to Gotham–for Danielle is a murderer. Bound by her oath, by religion and ritual, Wonder Woman cannot turn Danielle in, and she finds herself pitted against a close friend. She shuts Batman out, but knows it will not be enough. Danielle confesses to Diana then, crying, explaining how the men she killed had stolen her sister’s body, life, and soul, and Danielle was seeking justice. She runs away, and the story comes to a crashing crescendo–with Batman, Wonder Woman, and the onlooking Furies all playing their roles in this sad tale.
To be sure, The Hiketeia is a tragedy–a Greek Tragedy where honor, obligation, and circumstance pit the players against each other. Where other superheroes might be more fluid and open to compromise, Wonder Woman and Batman are two extremely stubborn, principled characters–and neither will back down. Diana cannot break the Hiketeia as she is a creature of her beliefs and ethics, in ritual and her religion. Neither can Batman turn away from his all-consuming passion for his own religion of dark justice. I felt that this aspect of the story was brilliantly written and executed on the page. Although it seems Diana has caught some flack for her open acceptance of Danielle Wellys without any question as to why she was seeking supplication, I do not see this as discontinuous with the story, or with the Princess’ character. She is caring and compassionate, and is a woman bound to her traditions. Of course she would accept Danielle’s plea. Similarly, Batman’s single mindedness and his refusal to let this one criminal go free is what makes him tick. It is these conflicting best intentions that makes this tragedy all the more poignant.
The Hiketeia is different from many other graphic novels in that it is not a collection of previously published magazine format comics–rather, it was written specifically to be published in a single book. As such, my one big qualm with this one is that it feels too short. I wanted more–more insight to Danielle Wellys perhaps showing us how she tracked down each man responsible for her sister’s murder and how she became resolute to kill them; more on why she emulated Wonder Woman so much and how she became so well versed in her rituals; I wanted more of the Dark Knight’s motivation, more of his tracking down of Wellys and perhaps a better plan of attack against Wonder Woman (who, for all intents and purposes, would be able to apply a little pressure to Bruce’s head and crack it against the pavement as though it were an eggshell).
That said, I found this graphic novel to be superb. The characterizations made sense to me, and I love the smart, flowing writing of Greg Rucka. He manages to imbue a wisdom and sensitivity in Diana’s thoughts and inner dialogue that makes her seem real–more than just a caricature of women’s rights, or an inaccessible super woman (for lack of a better term). The artwork is beautiful–stunning, dark, and boldly colored. All in all, a beautifully drawn and colored work.
I wish i had a scanner working right now so I could upload the panel, but since I don’t…the ultimate fight between Wonder Woman and Batman is stunning. Batman makes a sly attempt at manipulating Diana’s beliefs and the Hiketeia (ay, just like you, you cunning Batman you). The final resolution, the intertwined destinies of Diana, Danielle, and Batman (while the Erinyes watch on) is heartbreaking.
Here’s a quote from Diana’s thoughts in retrospect, when Batman first approaches the Embassy:
Greek Tragedy is always a story of the insoluble. The conflict of personal desire versus the demands of society. And Tragedies always begin long before the first scene is ever played…
They are born often enough of actions taken in purity, be it in intention or emotion…
Done more often than not for the best of reasons.
But all tragedies end the same way.
Batman and Wonder Woman. What a combo.
Rating: 8 Excellent – Missing out on a higher grade solely because I’m greedy and I wanted more.
Reading Next: Tigerheart by Peter David