In the world of many superheroes, killing a villain is verboten. Theoretically, doing so would undermine their moral authority and blur the line between angels and demons — even if the target is a cold-blooded murderer with no remorse and a high recidivism rate. Better to break a few of the bad guy’s bones and ship him or her off to the nearest prison or high-security facility for sociopaths. Right? Not always. Sometimes a character does something so heinous and/or is such a threat to society that a hero is justified in choosing the nuclear option.
I’m speaking specifically of Wonder Woman, who wisely took out evil mastermind Maxwell Lord in the events leading up to Infinite Crisis. Later, in a stunning display of self-righteousness, Batman and Superman castigated her for saving their asses and, possibly, the world. Worse, Wonder Woman eventually was turned into a remorseful sad-sack in post-IC events. Lord was a menace on a global scale. Out of paranoia, he hatched a deadly plan to destroy metahumans, and when Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) found out and refused to join him, Lord put a bullet through the Kord’s head. He then used mind control to sic Superman on Bruce and Diana, and Bruce was lucky to have escaped with his life. Did we mention that he was the driving force behind that scary OMAC cyborg army?
Under the influence of Wonder Woman’s lasso, Lord confessed that the only way to free Superman from his dark influence was to kill him. The lasso doesn’t lie, so Diana snapped Lord’s neck. Yet, she was immediately vilified by her fellow Trinity-mates when the act was broadcast worldwide. Batman, still paranoid from the mind-wipes (See: Identity Crisis), basically told her she should have stayed on her island and to get lost.Continuing the horse’s ass theme, Superman chimed in: “You’re trying to help people you can’t even relate to. … They’re scared of us. They’re scared of us because of you.”
V. and I have talked about this many times, and she has my back. Take it away, V.!
“Bruce is a giant fucking judgment ball. I hated that scene. The premier woman in the DCU was cast out for doing the thing that needed to be done — for being a warrior and perhaps being “masculine?”
Let’s review: Diana stops a maniac from manipulating an insanely powerful being who happens to be a dear friend, and she’s the bad guy? And if Superman was so worried about frightening mankind, why didn’t he consider how much more terrified people would have been if Lord had remained his puppet-master? Talk about bad PR.
I’m not saying that the incident should have been treated lightly. It’s a very big deal when a character as principled as Wonder Woman gets to that point. I can see her being somber and taking it seriously, but not being overly remorseful.
Back to Batman. If anyone should have put the drop on a pathological criminal, it’s him. In the case of the Joker, who has left a long, bloody trail of death, Bruce’s rigid no-killing code is ludicrous. That made his angry criticism of Wonder Woman all the more infuriating. And don’t get me started on Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor, another master of serial destruction. (The idea that the DC “can’t” remove the Joker or Lex because they’re legacy villains is another issue.)
One could argue that killing is a slippery slope; that if you start with Maxwell Lord it’s just a matter of time before you’re crushing Killer Moth. But again, this is extreme, relentless menace we’re talking about. Really, what else should Wonder Woman have done with so little time to decide?
This was undoubtedly a dramatic and controversial plot point that got fans talking, and from an editorial standpoint, a strong response is always better than the sound of crickets. But as far as we’re concerned, Diana was done wrong for doing the right thing. (On a side note, major props to Brian Azzarello for giving Wonder Woman her full Amazonian swagger in that first relaunch issue. It’s a beautiful thing.)