Sidenote: These issues (and the next two) were scripted by Len Wein, so if the dialogue is more hammy and Bronze Agey than usual, that’s why.
1: The challenge was interesting, though I think it takes up more issues than it warrants for being mostly monster fights, which we already saw a pretty substantial amount of back with the introductory arc.
2: The gods were the ones who abandoned the Amazons in the first place, and then they have the gall to say the Amazons have to prove themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous, but their hypocrisy and bizarro logic seems to be both intentional and very much in-character.
3: This is probably my second-least favorite part of the reworked Post-Crisis origin (after the “Diana is a newbie” retcon). It’s convoluted and unnecessary.
4: While this is probably the weakest story arc in this run as far as I’ve read (especially with the Millennium tie-ins feeling very out-of-place), I will say it has a ton of cool, trippy imagery during the challenge. I think my favorite is actually Cottus right at the beginning, with the staircase turning out to be his spine and the hundreds of hands reaching out of the darkness.
5: I’m aware that Artemis existed but have never known nor cared that much about her. I still don’t. I’m aware that Aztek existed and saw some of him in Grant Morrison’s JLA (which I didn’t like), but have never known nor cared that much about him (in the original’s case)/her (in the new one’s case). I still don’t.
6: It could be an interesting idea, but it felt rushed. There’s just suddenly this new ultimate threat that’s dumped in our laps with very little development. As much as I hate what decompressed storytelling has done to comics’ pacing, this thing felt like it went too far in the other direction, rushing from plot point to plot point with only the bare bones of characterization or tone. I think I’d need to go read the original series to actually figure out what’s going on, and when you have to read a Grant Morrison comic to figure out what’s going on, you may as well not bother.
7: I’m actually not quite sure what you mean by “deep cuts.” Could you clarify this question?
All in all, while I found Justice League Dark #1 and Wonder Woman #51 to be pretty enjoyable, I think this is the first new issue we’ve covered that I actually disliked. Aztek is bland, Artemis is generically edgy, and Diana just kind of follows the two around. This feels like the kind of story that would be an overarching plot for a longer run, or at least a six-issue miniseries, and Orlando decided to charge ahead with it anyway even though he only had four issues. It led to a lot of telling-instead-of-showing, like Wonder Woman saying she’s friends with Artemis, but neither of them actually demonstrating that, or characters mentioning their connection to Atalanta but not having any flashbacks to generate any actual impact from the fact that she’s in peril.