This might have been my favorite ‘Villains Month’ issue yet! The Cheetah is widely regarded as Wonder Woman’s archenemy, but with the direction writer Brian Azzarello has taken with her regular ongoing book, there hasn’t really been room for typical super hero/super villain interaction. Cheetah was relegated to a confrontation with the Justice League which didn’t reveal much about her backstory other than she, as Barbara Minerva, was Wonder Woman’s first friend when the Amazon warrior arrived in “Man’s World.”
This issue really delves deep, revealing that Barbara was raised by a “cult” that worshiped Artemis the goddess of the hunt and modeled themselves on an idealized interpretation of the Amazons.
The issue kicks off after the big break out at Belle Reve prison in Louisiana after Power Ring and Deathstorm smash it, freeing all the super villains inside. But rather than immediately rendezvousing in Happy Harbor with the other criminals, Cheetah takes off on a revenge mission.
ARGUS dispatches Mark Shaw, a “Manhunter” (which should ring a bell with longtime fans) to bring Cheetah in and attempt to save those upon which she may seek revenge. We get flashbacks to Barbara’s past, including a telling dream sequence that explains her falling out with Wonder Woman and a dark turn of events that may explain why she became such a bloodthirsty monster later.
There are some cool (possible) references to DC continuity. Barbara’s aunt, the cult leader, is named Lyta, as in Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mother’s name as well as the Golden Age Wonder Woman’s daughter’s name. (A.k.a. the no-longer-in-existence hero Fury.) Cheetah’s mother is named Thena, presumably short for Athena, while her brother is named Alexander (as in The Great). Overall, there’s just a lot of nice details in the story that should please longtime fans.
The art is quite solid. Most pages feature rather normal page layouts, but at other points, illustrator Victor Ibanez deviates and takes more chances. His facial expressions, while good tend to be a tad one-note with all the scowling and frowning, but if that’s what the story calls for, I guess I can’t complain.
The one critique I have is that chronologically, the story doesn’t work. I think the idea is that all the villains were broken out of Belle Reve (and the other prisons and asylums) and immediately hightailed it to Happy Harbor to meet the Crime Syndicate. In every other book I’ve read, this gathering seems to have occurred mere hours after the jailbreaks. In this book, Cheetah takes a several day side trip to mete out her revenge. Also, this is the first time I’ve seen the Syndicate pay special attention to one particular character. Early in, they specifically address her via their coin communicators and request her presence. Later, they send a particular super villain to collect her and bring her to them. This just doesn’t jibe with what’s happened before. I mean how would they even know who she was, having just arrived on our world? So those little things didn’t work in the grand scheme, but with as large an event as this, there are going to be some conflicts. The book is still very good!
Like I said, this was probably my favorite ‘Villain Month” issue so far. If you’re not feeling this whole event, this may be one to take a chance on. It’s well drawn and very well written.
WONDER WOMAN #23.1/Cheetah #1
Written by John Ostrander
Art and Cover by Victor Ibanez