For one of the DC Trinity's archenemies, Ares is strangely overlooked in the pantheon of DC villains. Ask anyone with a cursory interest in comics to name the archenemies of Superman and Batman and you'll hear the answers Lex Luthor and Joker faster than the blink of an eye. Ask about Wonder Woman's main foe, and you're more likely to hear about Cheetah or simply "The World of Man" before getting to Ares.
It's a strange revelation, especially since Ares has been there from the beginning, both in pre-Crisis Wonder Woman #1 (published in 1942!) and post-Crisis Wonder Woman #1 (published in 1987). Some of the underrated ranking may arise from Ares' complex relationship with both Wonder Woman and the Amazons. At various times throughout Wonder Woman's publication history, Ares has been Wonder Woman's grandfather, Wonder Woman's brother-uncle, the God of War, the God of Conflict, Mars, and a New York crime boss (among others!).
Through it all, Ares has remained fascinating, expressing a multifaceted rage and respect towards Wonder Woman during their many battles. Tracking down the best or most essential Ares comics can be tough, but below you'll find 15 incredible showdowns between Wonder Woman and Ares in DC Comics!
15 INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US
After playing a major role in the video game story mode of "Injustice: Gods Among Us," Ares finally made his presence known in the comic book adaptation of "Year Four." At this point in Injustice, Batman's resistance to Superman's totalitarian regime has faced major losses, and Bruce is forced to negotiate with the God of War for the aid of Olympus in turning the tide. Unsurprisingly, Ares is playing both sides of the battle, and beating the drums of war between the Gods of Olympus and heroes of the DC Universe.
Earlier in the series (during "Year One"), when Superman first began conquering the world, Ares and Diana got into an actual battle. She taunted the Olympian over how Superman might succeed in eliminating all conflict in the world, which means there would be no war for him to be a god of. Not appreciating her taunts, he attacks her, but with the help of Superman, she cuts off his hand and impales him to the ground with her sword.
14 AMAZON ATTACK AGAINST ATLANTIS!
In Wonder Woman #215, a story by Cary Bates, John Rosenberger, and Vince Colletta, Aquaman testifies on behalf of Wonder Woman in front of the Justice League that Ares (going by the name of Mars) is an irredeemable rogue. The issue occurs during a transitional period for Wonder Woman, as DC editorial moved the hero out of her '60s de-powered mod fashion phase and back into regular Justice League membership. Aquaman evaluates her worthiness, and uses the phrase "my finny friends" no fewer than three times in doing so.
Wonder Woman and Aquaman find themselves embroiled in Mars' plot to pit Atlantis and Paradise Island at war with one another. The entire issue is as Bronze Age as it gets (Aquaman uses a rare "lung-fish" like a tape-recorder to play back Mars' own words to incriminate him), with a neat and tidy resolution for the Justice League to confirm Mars' guilt.
13 ARES & HIS DRAGONBORN ARMY
DC Comics' Digital First initiative produced some wonderful reads, including the Wonder Woman anthology series Sensation Comics from 2014 to 2015. The new look Sensation followed allowed for a variety of creators to take on different aspects of Wonder Woman's mythology, and in Sensation Comics #33 to #35, we get to see a version of Wonder Woman vs. Ares.
While Wonder Woman attempts to negotiate a peace treaty in war-torn Africa, Ares responds to the nation's cries for vengeance and raises an army of dragonborn Spartoi to crush the treaties. After Wonder Woman makes short work of Ares' lizard army, we are treated to one of the best hand-to-hand clashes between the two in recent memory. Wonder Woman ultimately bests Ares, running her sword through his back (although not his black heart).
12 GREG RUCKA'S ARES VS. WONDER WOMAN
If you're looking for great modern Wonder Woman comics to check out, Greg Rucka's time writing Diana in the early 2000's definitely stands out. Following the graphic novel "Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia," in which Wonder Woman squares off with Batman, Wonder Woman #196 kicks off a story arc, "Down to Earth," largely centered around the machinations of Ares and the Gods of Olympus.
Rucka and artist Drew Johnson's Ares is a new, modernized look, forgoing the epic Roman armor for an open jacket, warriors scars, and the world's worst case of red eye. In a confrontation with Diana, Ares also forsakes his title as "God of War" and tells Diana he is now the "God of Conflict." Ares machinations in this new role involved striking Zeus with a love for Artemis (thanks for the assist, Eros), setting the Amazons on a warpath with the Thunderer himself!
11 THE DEATH OF ARES
Gail Simone lays claim to another of the best modern runs on Wonder Woman, and in "Rise of the Olympian" we see one of the most memorable (if short-lived) battles between Ares and Wonder Woman. After endless attacks from monsters and Zeus's new god-champions like Achilles, in Wonder Woman #33, Wonder Woman decides that Ares' schemes have finally reached a boiling point. Before the smiling God of War can greet her, Wonder Woman drives her axe through his skull, apparently ending Ares.
Artist Aaron Lopresi depicts Wonder Woman's flying axe chop as actually cleaving Ares famed helmet, in one of the most decisive wins for Wonder Woman in her history. Even Ares' father, Zeus, tells Diana that she need not feel remorse for slaying Ares, which is a solid indicator of the type of father-son relationship Zeus has with his children.
10 NEW 52 ARES VS. WONDER WOMAN
Brian Azarello and Cliff Chiang's New 52 run on Wonder Woman significantly redefines the relationship between Ares and Wonder Woman, with Wonder Woman becoming the surprise protege to the longtime God of War, as well as his younger sister! Chiang's Ares design actually moves away from the armored visage of war, and instead mirrors writer Azarrello, with a lanky, wizened old wizard beard perpetually stained in blood.
Ares and Wonder Woman face off several times throughout the lengthy New 52 run, but their most notable encounter takes place against Zeus's hyper-powered First Born. It's a brutal, bloody battle, with Ares ultimately sacrificing himself so that Diana could end the threat of the First born, and take on the mantle of God of War for herself. Wonder Woman would actually lay claim to the God of War title for much of the New 52, including appearances in Superman/Wonder Woman and "Future's End."
9 "ARES BUCHANAN" VS. WONDER WOMAN
The era of Wonder Woman immediately following George Perez's departure from the series doesn't get a lot of attention. Nonetheless, William Messner-Loebs and Lee Moder deliver a memorable 1994 story arc (with covers by Brian Bolland of "Killing Joke" notoriety) when Ares possesses the body of small-time criminal Ares Buchanan and rises to Kingpin-like status. In perhaps his greatest stroke of genius, Ares conceals his role in the street-level destruction by using the alias Aristotle Buchanan and developing a reputation as "The Warmaster." They'll never see him coming!
Ares is extremely brutal here, in Wonder Woman #78 to #84, capturing and chaining Wonder Woman (par for the course), and threatening to fire rocket propelled armor piercing shells directly into her brain. Worse, Ares shoots and kills his (maybe pregnant) human girlfriend for standing up for Wonder Woman. Definitely one of Ares' most vile and villainous appearances in Wonder Woman comics.
8 ARES, GOD OF DRAGONS!
Ares shows up for all of two pages in Sensation Comics #28, but that's all it takes for the God of War to have a devastating impact on Princess Diana. Appearing as "The God of Dragons," Ares convinces the last surviving Dragon of Sostratos that Wonder Woman and the Amazons are entirely responsible for the genocide of his race, and that the only course of action is war with the Amazons.
Wonder Woman tries to negotiate peace with the raging dragon, but inevitably has to fight Ares' pawn in an epic battle. The single issue never reaches the heights of Diana's fight with a dragon in "JLA: A League of One," but nonetheless, Wonder Woman is forced to reluctantly slay the beast. Wonder Woman suspects someone arranged this unfortunate casualty of war, but doesn't yet know that Ares claims the final victory.
7 THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN: ORIGINS
Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon's The Legend of Wonder Woman will go down as one of the best modern retelling of Wonder Woman's origins, and one of the more unfortunate victims of early series cancellation. Once Diana makes her way out of Themyscira she is confronted with the Duke of Deception laying waste across the fields of World War I.
Although De Liz casts the villain as the Duke of Deception, it seems clear that he is a stand-in for Ares, extending far beyond duplicity and into the realm of mass murder across all of Europe. As Ares' champion, The Duke promises to Wonder Woman that "Our first battle shall be our last," and very nearly succeeds. "The Legend of Wonder Woman" is one of the better reads for all ages fans of the 2017 Wonder Woman movie.
6 ARES TEAMS UP WITH HADES & ANTI-MONITOR VS. WONDER WOMAN
In the final issue of Wonder Woman before Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wonder Woman is faced with the threat of Ares (transitioning from being called Mars), Hades, and the Anti-Monitor. Wonder Woman #329, written by Gerry Conway with pencils by Don Heck, sets the stage for Wonder Woman's "rebirth" after the Crisis during the George Perez Wonder Woman ongoing. The issue is all-out war between Wonder Woman, the amazons and Ares, as Ares makes a pact with Hades to raise an army of the dead against the Gods and rule Olympus for himself.
The action leads to one of the most enraged Ares vs Wonder Woman battles, as Ares vows to kill Wonder Woman for himself once and for all. Ares comes close to victory, nearly smiting Wonder Woman with his ax before the cataclysmic betrayal of Hades (and, in secret, the Anti-Monitor) bring a statue tumbling down on Ares' head.
5 GODS OF GOTHAM
If you've ever wondered what it would be like if Ares' children were actually Poison Ivy, the Scarecrow, and the Joker, this story arc by Phil Jiminez is the one for you. "Gods of Gotham," with a script by J.M. DeMatteis and inks by Andy Lanning, immediately precedes the well-known "Paradise Lost" story, in Wonder Woman issues #164 to #167. Ares' children, Demios, Phoebos, and Eris all inhabit the Gotham criminals in an effort to bring about the return of Ares on Earth.
Wonder Woman teams up with Batman and the Bat-family in an effort to stop these sinister divine forces, although when Batman is possessed by the god of fear (makes sense), Ares does make his presence felt in Gotham. Much like she did in their first post-Crisis encounter, Diana turns the tide of battle by appealing to Ares' sense of self-preservation and honor, proving the power of words is mightier than the sword.
4 WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH
The excellent "Wonder Woman: Year One" DC Rebirth arc by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott is another great example of Wonder Woman vs. Ares by proxy, with the militant terrorist group SEAR utilizing an Ares anagram to fuel their organized massacres. Stopping SEAR represents one of Diana's first attempts at heroism in our world after she leaves Themyscira, during an eerily and tragically realistic shooting spree at a local shopping mall.
Wonder Woman's sentiments echo many real world reactions to violence, wondering why these groups would make war when there is peace. As hard as it is to watch the tragedy unfold, the scene also allows for Wonder Woman to do all she can to prevent such senseless malice. It's still unclear from Rucka's world-building exactly the role Ares has played in conflict during DC Rebirth, but we can rest assured there's always more to come from the God of War.
3 RETURN TO PARADISE ISLAND
You might need to sit down for this one because Wonder Woman issues #183 and #184 are wild! The story occurs during the strange period in 1960's Wonder Woman when Diana (Wonder Woman) Prince was training as a mortal with the ninja master I Ching. Diana returns to Themyscira to find her mother in a coma, and the forces of Ares (going by Mars) placing the Amazons under siege. Diana concocts the brilliant plan to visit heroes of antiquity (Lancelot, King Arthur, etc) to get them to help the Amazons prevent Mars assault. Naturally, all the "heroic" men refuse, leaving Brunhilde of the Valkyries and only female warriors to join Diana in one last stand against Mars!
Sounds like a shockingly ahead of its time ode to heroic women, right? Well, it would be, except Diana and company are saved at the last second by the male heroes suddenly showing up to turn the tide of battle and take all the credit. The issue does at least redeem itself with Mars (here clearly identified as Wonder Woman's grandfather) returning Diana's beaten body back to the Amazons because she fought so bravely.
2 GOLDEN AGE ARES
Although he's introduced as Ares in 1942's Wonder Woman #1 by William Moulton Marston, by the second issue, the God of War has transferred to his Roman name of Mars. As only befitting a god by that name, Mars also has a supervillain base on the planet Mars, where he enslaves weak-willed humans and plots with his lieutenants, the Duke of Deception, the Lord of Conquest, and the Earl of Greed.
These earliest battles between Wonder Woman and Mars are beyond wonderful, with Mars playing the role of overconfident general, and Wonder Woman standing up for those who can't despite the immense risk to her own life. Ares (a.k.a. Mars) is also more clownish in these early appearances, laughing boisterously and choking out his own Duke of Deception for failing him, like a Roman Homer and Bart Simpson.
1 POST-CRISIS ARES VS. WONDER WOMAN
There's a reason you hear about George Perez's post Crisis on Infinite Earths run on Wonder Woman so much, and its because of his age-defining treatment of both Wonder Woman and Ares. Perez placed particular focus on the Gods of Olympus, with the power-hungry, war-obsessed Ares identified as the embodiment of all evil whom Wonder Woman exists to protect against. Plus, Perez moved Ares out of a Shakespeare in the Park rendition of Julius Caesar and into some gloriously menacing blue and black armor.
The beauty of Perez's first story arc (subsequently heralded "Gods and Monsters") is that it introduces Ares as our core antagonist in issue #1, but then steadily escalates the conflict before a final, ultimate showdown between Wonder Woman and Ares. After battling a demon of decay and Ares' children (primarily Deimos and Phobos), Wonder Woman has the pinnacle of god-sized battles against the all-powerful Ares. Wonder Woman risks life and limb, but in the end convinces Ares that his plot to provoke World War III between the United States and Russia would lead to his demise, as it would leave no one on Earth to worship him. It's an epic battle, perfect resolution, and stands the test of time as the greatest moment in Wonder Woman vs. Ares comics.
What's your favorite battle between Ares and Wonder Woman? Let us know which in the comments!