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Test of a Warrior: Wonder Woman's Greatest Battles

Test of a Warrior: Wonder Woman's Greatest Battles

By Alex Jaffe Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Like all the great figures of myth, Wonder Woman has been many things to many people. An ambassador of peace. A champion of truth. But also, in her own way, a 100% certified ass-kicker. She may not always resort to combat, but when she does, any enemy who would dare to stand in the way of her mission is up for a showdown of truly epic proportions. Starting with Wonder Woman’s life after Crisis on Infinite Earths, we offer you a look at ten of Diana’s greatest battles.
 

1987: Wonder Woman vs. Ares

Diana’s first confrontation with Ares in the Post-Crisis world, in 1987’s Wonder Woman #6, was one which would define their relationship for decades to come. No matter how strong you are, fighting with a war god is an exercise in futility: the harder you fight, the more he’s fueled by the conflict. So how does one fight the very concept of fighting? Diana’s answer, time and again is by doing anything BUT fighting.

In this first battle, Diana binds Ares with the Lasso of Truth long enough for him to recognize what the consequences of the nuclear war he seeks would be: a barren, desolate world with no one left to fight and no one left to fuel him. It turns out that if you’re a war god, the drawback to the war to end all wars is that afterwards…there are no more wars. In the future, when appeals to reason fail, Diana has managed to best Ares through pure emotion, proving that Diana isn’t just a master of logic, but pathos.
 

1996: Wonder Woman vs. Big Barda

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re Big Barda, former leader of Darkseid’s Female Furies and one half of the Fourth World’s hottest power couple. Lucky you, right? Except your husband has become the living Anti-Life Equation and it’s created a little bit of a rift in your domestic paradise. What can you possibly do to create some distance and blow off some steam? Well, why not fight the Champion of the Amazons?

That’s exactly what Barda did to take her mind off Mister Miracle in 1996’s Mister Miracle #6. Barda’s idea of commiserating with her girlfriends is high stakes, no holds barred combat. Not a word is exchanged for ten whole pages as every Amazon in Diana’s own Paradise cheers on the violence, until a winner emerges. Both champions left everything they had on the pitch, but Themyscira’s chosen proved stronger that day than Darkseid’s. Though if you ask Barda, she would have won if she were allowed to use her weapon…

Sure, BB. You call it a mega rod. I call it a crutch.
 

2000: Wonder Woman vs. The Justice League of America

Perhaps the greatest showcase of Wonder Woman’s strength, skill, cunning and heroism all took place in a single graphic novel by Christopher Moeller—JLA: A League of One. In this lavishly illustrated, high fantasy epic, Wonder Woman is determined to face the world-killing dragon Drakul Karfang, even though all who would challenge it are fated to die in the attempt. So, to spare her teammates that same fate, Diana does the only thing she can: defeat every single one of them, one by one, so they can’t intervene with her sacrificial destiny.

Martian Manhunter, Flash, Aquaman, and even Batman and Superman all fall before Diana through carefully laid traps and direct combat, before finally taking on the dreaded dragon herself…and defying destiny in the process.
 

2002: Wonder Woman vs. Batman

Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia is the first of three battles in a row on this list written by Greg Rucka, none of which could be omitted from a highlight of Diana’s greatest victories. In The Hiketeia, Batman and Wonder Woman come to ideological odds over the fate of a wanted girl, bringing them into direct conflict for the first time (dragon-centric graphic novels notwithstanding). The results of that conflict can be plainly witnessed on the book’s now iconic cover.

Sorry, Bruce. Turns out that even with all the prep time in the world, there are some fights you just can’t win.
 

2004: Wonder Woman vs. Medousa

The definitive conflict of Greg Rucka’s first Wonder Woman run wasn’t with any of her greatest enemies, but with a tragically misunderstood figure from Greek mythology: the wrathful gorgon Medousa, wronged and vilified by the world around her until she became the monster which society cast her as. But while Diana felt sympathy for her enemy, Medousa’s rage had taken a personal toll on her own loved ones, leaving the Amazon champion no choice but to meet her opponent’s demands for combat in Wonder Woman #210.

In this arena, Diana truly proved the depth of her conviction. Rather than be petrified by Medousa’s gaze, like a Greek tragic hero, Wonder Woman blinded herself and won her battle, sightless. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because a version of this battle was brought to the screen in the 2019 animated movie Wonder Woman: Bloodlines.) A later storyline would eventually repair her vision, but to Diana, the sacrifice she had to make was permanent, and one she performed without hesitation. There could be no greater sign of a warrior prepared to do anything it takes to win when it really counts.
 

2005: Wonder Woman vs. Superman

Nothing weighs heavier on the soul of a superhero than when they have to fight their friends. In Wonder Woman #219, a tie-in to Infinite Crisis, Maxwell Lord made this nightmare a reality with his final power play: using his mind-control abilities to use Superman as his personal puppet.

Rucka spends the final issues of his first run on Wonder Woman extolling the depths of Diana and Clark’s friendship. He shows just how painful it is for Diana to be the only one who can stand in his way when he’s turned into an instrument of evil. And in doing so, he shows us exactly how Diana came to the most controversial decision she’s ever made, ending the battle and saving Superman the only way the manipulative Maxwell Lord afforded her: by killing him instead. For Diana, it was a sacrifice far greater than her sight. To win this battle, Wonder Woman was forced to give up her heart.
 

2010: Wonder Woman vs. Power Girl

It was in Gail Simone’s tenure on Wonder Woman that her opinions on violence were codified and they’ve since been embraced as part of the character’s core: “Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify, and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve first extended it.” But when you’re fighting one of the world’s most powerful superheroes manipulated by the children of gods into believing you’re her mortal enemy, then the gloves have to come all the way off.

In Wonder Woman #41, the vengeful Children of Ares caused civil unrest and stirred up social tension throughout Wonder Woman’s home of Washington DC, and topped it all off by providing a formidable enemy to occupy the city’s hero: Power Girl, the last survivor of another universe’s Krypton. This time, with no Maxwell Lord to confront holding the leash, Wonder Woman was forced to go all out against her Kryptonian opponent—until the opportunity arose that Diana could force her to see reason. After all, no illusion in the DC Universe is perfect, and Wonder Woman has always been about revealing the truth.
 

2017: Wonder Woman vs. Darkseid

Wonder Woman’s longest battle over the past decade hasn’t been against some iconic villain, but a reckoning with her own identity. What did it mean to be an Amazon? To be a superhero? Was she a champion of truth, or a champion of war? Was she of the earth, or of the gods? Could she really trust her mother? Her sisters? The gods themselves? And did her heart belong to a man, or a superman?

Through the mythologically influenced work of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, a second character-driven run by Rucka, and finally a matter of family courtesy of James Robinson, Wonder Woman ultimately found that the answer to all of her questions was love. Love for the world, for family, for duty, and for herself. In a final, climactic battle against Darkseid himself in 2017’s Wonder Woman #37, Wonder Woman ultimately proves that she represents a love so powerful, it stops the very gods in their tracks—old and new alike.
 

2019: Wonder Woman vs. The Cheetah

If Wonder Woman has an archenemy, it’s the concept of war itself, as embodied as often as not by the war god Ares. But her mortal enemy, as it were, would have to be Barbara Minerva, the misguided archaeologist led down a path by a malicious god towards becoming the Cheetah. Cheetah and Wonder Woman have clashed many times over the years, but their most recent struggle was their fiercest: as part of the universe-wide Year of the Villain event which eclipsed the DC Universe in 2019.

In Year of the Villain, Lex Luthor grants the world’s greatest villains their heart’s desires in exchange for their fealty in a war for reality. Cheetah is given the Godkiller Sword, an artifact featured in 2017’s Wonder Woman film, and which does exactly what it’s described to do. But going right for Wonder Woman with that kind of weaponry is a good way to lose it, so Cheetah makes a pit stop first to kill Aphrodite, Diana’s patron goddess, and feast on her sacred blood. With the font from which Wonder Woman’s powers are derived slain, and those very abilities now coursing through Cheetah, Diana found the tables turned on her for the first time. The greatest of Wonder Woman’s battles against the Cheetah plays out in an epic ten-part story, from Wonder Woman #75-83 and culminating in Wonder Woman #750.
 

2020: Wonder Woman vs. The Batman Who Laughs

What made the Batman Who Laughs such a terrifying threat to the DC Universe was that he wasn't just a combination of Batman and the Joker...he was his own fallen world's Bruce Wayne. And the number one rule in the DC Universe is that no matter who you are, Bruce Wayne always wins.

Clearly, The Batman Who Laughs never read The Hiketeia.

As Dark Nights: Death Metal reveals, when every reality that has ever been or ever could be is on the line, when a wicked Batman has seized the power of the gods, only one hero is strong enough in virtue and character to defy him. In a series defined by eye-popping scenes, a titanic, golden Wonder Woman stands as the ultimate symbol of heroism against the indomitable evil of the Darkest Knight. And she does it all with a chainsaw forged from her own invisible jet, with a chord formed from the Lasso of Truth. And if that’s not metal, then we have no idea what metal is.
 

You can find many of these stories in the DC Universe Infinite library, or read about some new ones in today’s newly released Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular. In the meantime, head on over to the DC Community to swap your own favorite Wonder Woman fights and maybe even your picks for who the Champion of Themyscira should fight in the future. Personally, I’m rooting for Lady Shiva.


Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular, featuring work from dozens of acclaimed writers and artists telling new stories set within Diana's eight-decade legacy, is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.