Wonder Woman's greatest enemy, Cheetah, has killed Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. DC's "Year of the Villain" is a fascinating concept, with the various supervillains ascendant. Lex Luthor has granted them power beyond their wildest dreams.
For Cheetah, that means she's gained possession of the God-Killer, a mystic blade that was designed to do just what the name suggests. Worse still, the God-Killer has been enhanced, making it more powerful than ever before. Cheetah has launched a campaign to prove her might, and her first target was Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.
She's succeeded in that mission, and Wonder Woman #78 explores the consequences. For Diana herself, the death of Aphrodite means she instantly feels as though she's lost all motivation. "Love is a wild thing that fights even when death is certain," the comic reflects in text boxes. "Love is hope in the face of defeat. And without it... without it, we are alone in the universe." Wonder Woman has always been an embodiment of love, a fact that was stressed in 2017's Wonder Woman movie. Bereft of love, Diana finds her strength and resolve fading, and she's defeated by Cheetah with effortless ease. Even her Amazonian weapons fail her, and Cheetah takes the shattered fragments of Wonder Woman's bracelet, as well as her lasso.
But the impact is greater than that. An exhausted and defeated Wonder Woman returns to a world without love, without compassion. Accidents go unreported, because nobody cares enough to call in an injury; people stop turning up for work, because they don't love their family enough to get through the day anymore; mothers no longer care for their children, or children for their parents. Wonder Woman #78 is all the more chilling because it shows a world only a little different from our own, and reminds its readers that love lies at the heart of every human activity.
This is easily Cheetah's greatest triumph, and it's the most devastating blow that Diana has ever suffered. Without love, she no longer has the willpower to press on and ignore the pain she feels as her brutal defeat. Without love, she feels as though she's underwater, as though she hears and sees all things from a great distance. And she cannot be comforted, simply because nobody loves her enough to reach out with their heart, not even Steve Trevor. It's interesting to imagine how the death of the Goddess of Love will have affected other superheroes, too; Superman is motivated by love just as much as duty, and Batman's desire for justice is rooted in the deaths of the parents he loved. On the face of it, this looks like just another comic book plot; but it could be the biggest victory any supervillain has ever achieved.
Wonder Woman #78 is on sale now from DC Comics.