The Trial of the Amazons is back in session! Not too long ago, at the dawn of the Infinite Frontier, the Paradise Island of Themyscira crowned a new queen for the first time. With the temporary absence of Wonder Woman from the mortal plane, Queen Hippolyta took her place in the Justice League while selecting a new Amazon to rule in her absence. Her choice was one that no one on the island saw coming: Nubia, guardian of Doom’s Doorway.
Back in the 1970s, Nubia was introduced as a twin sister to Diana, molded from clay and blessed by the gods just as Diana was. Now, after decades of existing as little more than Pre-Crisis trivia, Nubia has returned in a big way to the ever-expanding world of Wonder Woman.
And none too soon because just as Hippolyta returns to Paradise upon Diana’s own return to the world of mortals, the Amazons’ long-reigning queen was slain by an unknown assailant. Now, three tribes of Amazons—the Mediterranean Themyscirans, the Middle Eastern Bana-Mighdall and the South American Esquecida—are competing against each other to determine the shared future of the Amazon people.
Yet, as competition heats up and the mystery of Hippolyta’s death lingers, we should bear in mind that the Amazons’ lost queen has already chosen her successor. In fact, one of the last actions she took before her death was to assure Nubia that she had no intention to return to the throne and that Themyscira was Nubia’s to rule. We haven’t known this latest incarnation of Nubia for long. But from what we’ve seen, this last decision may prove to be among the wisest Hippolyta has ever made. As the Trial of the Amazons proceeds, let us make the case for why Nubia is the perfect candidate to guide the future of the Amazon people.
To be sure, the Amazon culture is one which prizes art, history and intellect, but that’s not what they’re known for. After all, Wonder Woman herself earned the right to be ambassador to Man’s World for the Amazons only by besting all other would-be candidates in a tournament of martial skill. While Diana is known as the greatest of all Amazon warriors, Nubia and the Amazons #2 shows us that might not be the case in all categories.
In the Victor’s Circle, an open secret fighting pit where Amazons test their skill against each other, Diana holds the record for most wins by submission…but Nubia has her beat in knockouts. In her combat record, Nubia proves that when you need a threat unquestionably neutralized, she’s the leader you want in charge. And with Hippolyta’s killer on the loose, that may just be the leader Themyscira needs right now.
According to her revised origin, Nubia was reborn as an Amazon on Themyscira on the same day that Diana herself was born, hundreds of years ago. For all of that time, since taking her own trials to determine her role among the Amazon people, Nubia has been charged with the greatest responsibility of all.
When the gods granted the Amazons the island of Themyscira, it wasn’t merely as a paradise to live out the rest of eternity: it was a duty. Below Paradise Island is Doom’s Doorway, a permeable membrane between our mortal world and the realm of Tartarus, where the greatest monsters in history are kept after death—and through which those monsters are always attempting to escape. Shouldering the burden of guarding Doom’s Doorway by herself has proven Nubia to be the most dedicated, steadfast and dependable of all Amazons, qualities which Hippolyta recognized in selecting her successor.
A more connected world requires a more connected monarch. Wonder Woman’s continued mission in Man’s World has created in-roads into mutual recognition between Themyscira and our own culture. To foster this connection, a queen experienced in both worlds is an ideal choice for the Amazons.
Centuries ago, Nubia was reborn on Paradise Island through the Well of Souls—a device on Themyscira which allows women of our world who were killed violently before their time to be reborn as an Amazon. We don’t yet know much about Nubia’s life before her rebirth, but it’s an important part of her identity. And the connection doesn’t stop there. Unlike all other Amazons, Nubia’s duties as the guardian of Doom’s Doorway took her far ashore from Themyscira whenever an undead beast would escape. This duty has granted Nubia unique insight on the progression of Man’s World and how humankind might interface with the Amazons should their veil of secrecy someday be lifted.
From the very beginning, the Amazons have always been great warriors, but they have also been a people of great mercy and strong believers in restorative and reformative justice. Golden Age Wonder Woman stories often saw enemies of Wonder Woman and the Amazons taken to “Reform Island,” where the once-villainous could find redemption through the encouragement of their natural talents for productive means. Sadly, this element of Amazon culture has fallen by the wayside in recent years, as modern Amazons have expressed tendencies towards xenophobia and capital punishment towards the unfamiliar. But with the Well of Souls reopened for the first time in centuries, that may be about to change once more.
With the help of a newly minted crop of Amazons, one of Nubia’s first great feats as queen was the reformation of one of the most notorious monsters in Greek mythology: the petrifying gorgon, Medusa. By hearing Medusa’s side of a story so often told by her oppressors, Nubia reversed Medusa’s curse and offered her the gift of sisterhood. Many Amazons are as shocked as you might be to hear that Medusa is now walking among them as a welcomed citizen of Themyscira, but that’s the sort of thing that can happen when you have a queen who believes in your ability for good.
With the arrival of the lost Bana-Mighdall and Esquecida Amazon tribes, Paradise Island may be more open than ever before, but it’s also open to new sources of contention. The titular Trial of the Amazons was actually underway before Hippolyta’s death. Originally, the competition was meant solely to determine who would be Nubia’s successor as guardian of Doom’s Doorway upon her ascension as queen. But with Hippolyta’s death, the future of the Amazon people as a whole is now in question.
It was the Bana-Mighdall who proposed that whichever tribe wins the tournament not only accept the responsibility of Doom’s Doorway, but also have their tribe’s own queen recognized as the true ruler of the Amazons. Recognizing the Bana-Mighdalls’ competitive culture, Nubia accepted these terms. And ever since both of their scattered tribes returned to their homeland, Queen Nubia has done everything in her power to reach an understanding with those lost tribes—proving that even when her crown is in contention, Hippolyta makes her choices for the future of the Amazons wisely.
The identity of Hippolyta’s killer, and how relations between the three Amazon tribes will survive her death, all remain to be seen. But through it all, Nubia has maintained a position of leadership and clarity which even Wonder Woman herself cannot help but recognize and admire. And with the next chapter in her story, Nubia: Queen of the Amazons, scheduled to begin this summer, we can tell that Nubia’s reign is just getting started. The Queen of the Amazons is dead; long live the Queen.
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.