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The goddess Artemis appears before Hippolyta and her armored Amazon horse. In form, Artemis is a child-like girl in a hide dress, with deer hooves and antlers. Her divinity is depicted with the tree branches, leaves, and the horse’s head and armor, which make the shape of a portrait of Artemis’ face and horns in Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #2 (2022).

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The Greek gods of DC’s new Wonder Woman issue have to be seen to be believed

Gene Ha absolutely off the shits

Is this page from Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons depicting two trees? Or a goddess’ face? Whatever your answer, it’s exactly what Gene Ha wanted you to see.

Ha is the second artist to collaborate with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick on Historia’s three issues — a retelling the origin of DC’s Amazons — following legendary Wonder Woman artist Phil Jimenez, who filled every inch of the 62-page book with with hugely detailed renderings of heavily researched character designs. It was an act that seemed impossible to follow, until Ha’s issue dropped this week, unveiling his technique for depicting the Amazons’ patron goddesses on the mortal plane.

Artemis watches over Hippolyta — Hippolyta rides in rags astride an armored Amazon horse. Artemis’ presence is known to the reader by the way the moon and trees in the background make the shape of her face and horns, in Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #2 (2022).

In the issue, the mortal woman Hippolyta comes face to face with the goddess of the hunt as she herself hunts for the Amazons. “I wanted Artemis to clearly be there, and to clearly not be there,” Ha wrote in the issue’s back matter. “Both a small figure, and greater than human, both fully true at the same time.”

Ha turned to the subcategory of optical illusions known as “ambiguous images.” You almost certainly know some of the more famous examples: Is it a vase, or two faces? A duck, or a rabbit? An old woman, or a young one? It’s a trick of our brains’ ability to make sense of patterns that’s been used in fine art, cartooning and Highlights magazine, but Ha’s point of inspiration was Ari Aster’s Midsommar, which uses the shapes of trees and leaves to create unsettling subliminal faces.

“It works okay in moving pictures,” Ha wrote, “but I knew it would work far better in non-moving pictures.” He doesn’t use it as a one moment trick, either, but a constant shifting of ambiguous reality.

A fearsomely armored horse approaches the antlered goddess Artemis, and nibbles berries from her hair — which is also the branch of a tree. Panels of Artemis alternate depicting her as a coherent figure, and a shape made by the placement of branches and leaves in Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #2 (2022).

“Is Artemis on this page?” Ha wrote. “Is the horse returning to its godly mistress, or simply chewing on some berries? Has Hippolyta been struck down by madness or raised by the divine? Yes.”

And it’s not just Artemis. In addition to using the technique to give Hippolyta’s god-touched moment a true unearthliness, Ha also employs it to communicate story events. See if you can find the goddesses Hera and Artemis, as they watch over the Amazons unseen.

Hippolyta wanders in the wilds, watched over by Artemis and Hera, who are represented in the shapes of clouds, tree branches, and birds in flight in Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #2 (2022).
Hippolyta cries for the Amazon Antiope to show herself, as the goddesses Artemis and Hera observe. They are depicted in the shapes of clouds and tree branches in Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #2 (2022).
In one panel, Amazons ready camp, and are observed by Artemis, shown as a nearby deer and rock outcropping that just happen to form the shape of a seated, deer-headed person. A panel later the deer is gone and the rock is just a rock in Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #2 (2022).

Honestly, I’ve got to say a mea culpa. I didn’t think anyone would be able to follow Phil Jimenez’s opening act, but judging by these goddesses, I should have had a bit more faith.

Is that a bad pun, or a truthful statement? Yes.

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