After a slow beginning to “The Lies” in Wonder Woman #1, the second issue of the arc picks up a bit. There’s more action, more story, and a quicker pace, though it’s still a little languid all around. The book also has yet to dig into “The Lies” in any actual way, something that would be more irksome if Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp hadn’t crafted some powerful scenes between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah. Their exploration of Cheetah’s curse and her relationship with Wonder Woman is compelling and poignant, even if it’s not quite the story we were expecting yet. We’ll dig into it all, but first:
I am about to tell you EVERYTHING that happened in this comic!
Look away if you haven’t read it yet!
Based on all of the pre-release interviews and descriptions and such, I was expecting “The Lies” to dig into the false gods and false Amazons of the New 52 era, and it really hasn’t done that. We’ve seen mention of it, with Wonder Woman unable to get to Olympus or Themyscira and coming to get the Cheetah’s help to locate either, but the arc has been a Cheetah story so far. On the one hand, this is kind of disappointing, because I was all excited for the story that was advertised. However, on the other hand, the story we’re getting has been decent, and had some particularly strong moments in this issue.
Wonder Woman needs the Cheetah’s help, but Cheetah’s got her own problems. Her Cheetah form is the result of being sacrificed to the god Urzkartaga, and it comes with terrible compulsions, like a desire to eat humans. Barbara Ann Minerva didn’t choose this state for herself, and she hates what she has become. She also hates Wonder Woman for not preventing it, though it’s a hate tinged with love because of their friendship before. Needless to say, the Cheetah’s very conflicted, and the feral nature she’s trying to fight only furthers the conflict.
Sharp’s redesign of the Cheetah captures her personal discord well. This is one of the most animalistic Cheetahs we’ve ever seen. Since the comics left the costumed Priscilla Rich behind for the half-human, half-Cheetah hybrid Barbara Minerva, her usual depiction has been more human than cat, a shapely lady with long hair and a fairly normal human face who happened to be yellow and spotted. Hair was rarely rendered on her body; she was just a sexy cat lady. This new look has far more cat in the mix. The entire shape of her face has changed, Sharp’s left behind the typical long, human hair, and she’s completely covered with fur. In some panels, her humanity comes through, while in others she almost looks like an actual cheetah.
The cover reveal a couple weeks back had me concerned that we’d get a sexy Cheetah yet again; the head was different, but the body was fairly typical, particularly the large, globe-like breast. I was cheered to see that the art inside the book was very non-sexualized. She’s not posed to be on display in any way, and her curves are diminished and often covered by word balloons. Her animal nature is emphasized above all else. Laura Martin’s coloring completes the look beautifully. Sharp draws in a lot of hair, but Martin’s coloring emphasizes it throughout the book, suggesting individual hairs throughout in spots where there is less line work.
Wonder Woman’s attempts to re-connect with the Cheetah lead to a scene that hammers home why Rucka is such a great choice to write Wonder Woman. While wrestling with Wonder Woman, the Cheetah cries about how Urzkartaga controls her, and how he punishes her because of her own faults. There’s an implication that he’s especially harsh on her because she wasn’t a virgin when she was sacrificed to him. Throughout their struggle, Diana repeatedly tells Barbara that she’s her friend and says, “That is not why he punishes you. That is never why any like him do.” She makes clear that none of this is Barbara’s fault, and that Urzkartaga’s behavior is due to his own cruelty. It’s a powerful refutation with real world ramifications; no one reading the book has feral cheetah powers, but many women are often shamed by men who try to tell them they’ve done something wrong or shameful, particularly when it comes to sexual assault, and that however they are punished for it is deserved. Wonder Woman makes it clear that there is no call for shame, and that women shouldn’t let men hold this power over them.
In the end, the Cheetah decides to help Wonder Woman, with the condition that she help her kill Urzkartaga, ending the Cheetah’s curse and saving future women from it as well. Wonder Woman agrees; she’s not one who likes to kill, but she’s also not one to stand by while someone cruelly abuses innocents. And the plan is good news for Steve Trevor, who’s been captured by the warlord Cadulo, a worshipper of Urzkartaga. In the issues secondary story, he and his soldiers went after the kidnapped girls from Wonder Woman #1 and ended up deep in the jungle, where they were nabbed by the warlord. Steve’s not worried at all, though. He knows Wonder Woman is in the country and will likely be on her way to him soon.
All together, this was a strong issue, though it continues to be a very slow build to “The Lies” that this arc is supposed to be about. Two issues in, we’re no further along than we were with the Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 special. I also remain a little put off by Wonder Woman and the Cheetah’s adversaries in this issue; the worshippers of Urzkartaga are African men in stereotypical jungle attire, turned into beastly creatures. Black men as animalistic villains is a tired, unpleasant trope that I wish the book had avoided.
The Cheetah’s storyline is compelling, though, and it’s always good to see Wonder Woman trying to help a fellow woman, especially one who’s turned against her. It looks like any answers about “The Lies” will still be a while off as there’s lots for the duo to do in Africa yet. This story may be a slow build. Luckily, we’ve got “Year One” every other issue bringing classic Amazon fun and a storyline with some more forward momentum. The joy and excitement of “Year One” pairs well with the darker, slower “The Lies”, creating an enjoyable one-two punch each month.