There’s been lots of talk about Wonder Woman lately with the recent release of the new Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, including the first footage of Gal Gadot as the Amazon Princess (and Diana Prince!!), so for the “Avengers Assemble” team to face off against the Squadron Supreme’s own pseudo-Wonder Woman – Zarda – is rather timely. What does the polarizing Power Princess have in store for Thor? Meet me after the jump, for my review of this week’s episode, “Midgard Crisis,” to find out.
Wonder Woman is one of my favorite superheroes, easily top of the list alongside The Flash, the Avengers, and Hank Pym. But I don’t need to tell you that, here‘s a thousand words or so from elsewhere on this site to convince you. Now we have talked about the Squadron Supreme before, the evil power hungry Justice League wannabes from another planet (or dimension, depending on who’s telling the tale), well, Zarda, also known as Power Princess, is their Wonder Woman.
Power Princess, more recently is known more as Zarda (as here in “Avengers Assemble”), probably because of the awkwardness of the name, and to distance the character from She-Ra, Princess of Power. After all, she’s already an analog of Wonder Woman, why court even more legal troubles, right? Rather than bracelets and lasso, she wears a helmet and wields a shield – much like her counterpart however, don’t let it fool you, Zarda is super strong and nearly invulnerable.
Also, Zarda makes her first appearance, in 1982’s Defenders #112, well over a decade after the initial appearances of the Squadron Supreme/Sinister. This was to complete the JLA parallel. At the time of the first Squadron stories, Wonder Woman had lost her powers and was no longer a member. The Squadron did however have a counterpart for WW’s replacement, the Black Canary, called Lady Lark.
What’s really interesting about Zarda is that her origins and career mirror not just an alternate Wonder Woman, but one solidly built within the Marvel Universe, ahem, I mean Multiverse. She came from Utopia Isle, home of the advanced Utopians, who much like the Inhumans, had been genetically enhanced by the Kree. When mankind created the atom bomb, the Utopians fled into space (as the Amazons did when WW lost her powers), leaving Zarda behind as their representative.
As the eternally young Power Princess, she joined her world’s World War II superhero team, the Golden Agency, along with American Eagle and Professor Imam. Bonus points if you guessed Justice Society, Hawkman, and Doctor Fate. She also became romantically involved with Howard Shelton (think Steve Trevor) married him, and he died after aging normally. So Wonder Woman, yet so not.
While Wonder Woman’s arsenal was static, and perfect as far as I was concerned, for years with the golden lasso, bracelets, earrings, and tiara, among others – recent years have added winged sandals, armor, a shield, and a sword that can cleave atoms. Zarda has undergone a similar trade, as mentioned above.
When Power Princess first appeared she employed a translucent shield that she used in a manner similar to Captain America. Rather than a tiara, Zarda wears a helmet/mask, as she does here on “Avengers Assemble,” but rather than a shield, it’s a magical long handled sledgehammer she uses as a weapon, similar to Ronan the Accuser. The hammer makes her an almost obvious match for Thor.
A Day at the Zoo
As we open this episode, with the Avengers trying to round up mysteriously hyper-evolved zoo animals, it is Thor that Zarda suddenly confronts. The Power Princess helps the Avengers, or more accurately fellow warrior Thor, to corral the beasts without harming them. PETA would be proud, but the Avengers are naturally suspicious of a Squadron member helping them.
Zarda manages to charm Thor by telling him she was with him, not that he noticed, at the Battle of Muspelheim. Honestly, the idea that a theoretical Amazon from another planet fighting at the side of the Norse Thunder God against fire giants is a bit inexplicable, even for me or the Marvel Universe. Also I was kinda bugged Ant-Man got relegated to the sidelines in this battle. Giant-Man would have mucho useful. Can’t Iron Man or Falcon take readings?
Date Night with the Frost Giants
Where Stark’s technology fails to track Zarda when she takes a super-powered powder, Thor, again almost inexplicably, knows where she went, and goes after her alone, without telling the Avengers. He finds her, and joins her, in another realm battling Frost Giants. Again, I am puzzled by her knowledge of the Nine Worlds.
Despite my questions, the battle of Thor and Zarda against the Frost Giants is actually pretty cool, but not as cool as their conversation. The two warriors talk philosophy, believe it or not, and are getting along pretty well for a potentially quarreling couple on a first date. I liked this. Seriously it rivaled the chats Thor and Moondragon would have back during the Steve Englehart Avengers days, good stuff.
Second Date with a Dragon
Looking for another place to train for battle (oh, these wacky warriors and their mating rituals!), Zarda takes Thor to an island she built via her invisible spacecraft. More Utopian technology, and actually a pretty cool special effect – also original in that Wonder Woman’s Robot Plane/invisible jet/Wonderdome hasn’t been rendered in this way animated yet.
Once there, what at first appears a trap is actually a gift. It’s what Hercules on a good day calls ‘the gift of combat.’ Zarda unleashes a dragon on Thor, allowing him to test his full strength and power. Later she produces rock trolls for the two of them to battle together. Zarda can apparently do many things with that hammer, with its Abra Kadabra-like powers. What bugs me is that it should have become clear by now she was behind the zoo animals – but then again, Thor has the educational equivalency of a high school drop-out.
The Bet, The Battle, and The Beast
While the Avengers tackle a tidal wave (again?), the Hulk wonderfully hitches a ride on Mjolnir to find Thor. Zarda and the Thunder God have come to blows to settle a bet. If he wins, Zarda stands at his side with the Avengers, but if she wins, he goes with her and leaves his comrades. It’s a dumb bet, the kind you do when you’re in love.
Hulk’s attack on Zarda shows that she still has the shield from the comics, apparently willing it into existence when needed. A lot of Zarda’s abilities and arsenal are like that here – just happening, as if writers were pulling them out of their butts. Building islands, mutating animals, and whatever else was needed were inexplicable, like Zarda fighting at Muspelheim.
Avenging Odds and Ends
I am still bugged (pun intended) by the use (or non-use) of Ant-Man in the initial fight. You’d think the powers that be would make better use of the character on the opening weekend of his film debut, right? Also I really kinda dug one tiny aspect of Zarda’s character design. The ends of her eyebrows are stylized Zs. Hey, the devil is in the details.
On the bad side as well, the idea of the battle between Thor and Zarda causing tidal waves is, well, just kinda dumb. And did Iron Man turn a tidal wave to steam?? That and Hulk recognizing the sound of Thor’s blows made me groan out loud. This episode wasn’t perfect, but the dialogue between Thor and Zarda made it stand out from the rest.
Next: The Avengers’ Last Stand Against the Squadron Supreme!