This is certainly a new take on the Cheetah, in terms of backstory at least. I’m sure the Cheetah will continue to be what we always get from the Cheetah when she sporadically shows up in supervillain team-ups and such: feral and ferocious, looking like a cat and clawing at people. That much remains. But she’s got a new origin. Whether or not it matters or will ever be brought up again is the question, though. And we’ll address it momentarily, but first:
I am about to tell you EVERYTHING that happened in this comic!!
If you haven’t read it yet, GO AWAY!!
Unless you’re a regular Wonder Woman reader who skipped this issue because it costs four bucks and doesn’t seem relevant to the main series and you just want a recap of what went down!!
I can understand that!!
Carrying on, from what I’ve read people saying about Villains Month, a major complaint is that the books don’t really seem to matter. (Also, that they aren’t good, but that’s subjective, I suppose.) For a month-long event setting up a major, Geoff Johns penned mini-series, people are expecting there to be a point to postponing all of the regular titles other than just “Hey, let’s tell a few stories about villains.” They expect the stories to be relevant, to either build on or build to something important in the hero’s series or to tie into Forever Evil and the Crime Syndicate’s machinations. Most of the Villains Month titles don’t seem to be doing that, and this Cheetah book is in the same boat.
Technically, the book does move some pieces around, but in an extremely minimal way. Instead of the Cheetah just showing up in Forever Evil crowd scenes, as she tends to do in these big villain get togethers, we see that she’s escaped Belle Reve and Warp shows up to transport her to where all the villains are. It’s information that we probably could have surmised on our own when we open Forever Evil and see the Cheetah there and not in prison, and obviously it doesn’t take the entire book to tell that story. Instead, we get the Cheetah’s backstory, seemingly for no reason other than they had to fill the book with something.
Her backstory is pretty bonkers, which made it mildly enjoyable. Barbara Minerva’s aunt is the head of a whacked out Amazon cult that is all about the hunt, and her niece is her protégé. She forces Barbara to kill her brother in a Hunger Games style showdown, complete with bow and arrows, and sends her off to find the God-Slayer Knife, which turns Barbara into the Cheetah, the avatar of the goddess of the hunt. So committed is Barbara to her Cheetah identity that when she escapes from prison, she kills her father and then returns to the Amazon camp to kill her aunt so as to eliminate all of the links to her past self. It’s a fairly bloody book.
All the while, Cheetah is being tracked by Mark Shaw, aka. the Manhunter. When I read the comic, I had no idea who Mark Shaw was. However, at the end of the book Cheetah calls him “Manhunter”:
And I knew that was a thing, so I wikied it and good lord he’s a character with a bizarre and convoluted history. In his New 52 incarnation, he appears to be a special agent working for the Emergency Command Center that’s hunting down the Belle Reve escapees. Maybe he’ll play some part in Forever Evil and its various tie-ins, but for this issue he’s a dude that interviews Barbara’s aunt so she can tell him all of this backstory. Perhaps not coincidentally, this book is written by John Ostrander, who co-wrote the Mark Shaw-starring series Manhunter from 1988-1990.
Thus the “loving DC Comics in the late 1980s” line in the title; Manhunter came out then, while at the same time the Cheetah was a regular villain in the early years of George Perez’s Wonder Woman relaunch. This comic can transport you back to the comic fan you were 25 years ago! Though I was only 2 then; I wasn’t into comics yet.
Anyway, now we know more about the Cheetah and her screwed up childhood. None of it struck me as at all relevant to the present, nor to anything that’s gone on in Wonder Woman or Justice League. Wonder Woman was only in it for two pages, and they were a dream sequence, and the Cheetah hasn’t been a part of the Wonder Woman series at all since the New 52 began. Nor did Barbara’s aunt’s Amazon cult tie into what we’ve learned about the Amazons in Wonder Woman. I reread the two New 52 Justice League issues that featured the Cheetah, and this issue builds on some elements of that story while contradicting some others, ultimately to no real discernible purpose. I didn’t read this issue after those Justice League comics and think “Ah ha! Now the pieces have fallen into place!” To me, it felt like just a story because it’s Villains Month. Perhaps it’ll turn out to be a lynchpin for Forever Evil or some such, but in and of itself it didn’t read as anything significant.
That’s not to say it was bad, by any means. The writing was fine, the art was decent; it’s a perfectly serviceable comic book with a brother and sister hunting each other to the death because their aunt is the leader of a crazy cult. It just didn’t have much beyond that, and I didn’t see a purpose for the book outside of it filling a spot in this Villains Month stunt. Next week’s First Born title is written by Brian Azzarello and apparently ties into what’s going on in Wonder Woman right now, but this Cheetah book just felt like a random story to me.