“Year One” by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott has been running in the even-numbered issues of Wonder Woman since the book’s “Rebirth” relaunch in June, but we’ve got a brief interlude this month with Wonder Woman #8. Scott is taking a breather while Rucka and guest artist Bilquis Evely delve into the pre-Cheetah days of Barbara Ann Minerva in an issue that ties into both arcs of Wonder Woman. The Cheetah is a major player in “The Lies,” which has focused on freeing her from the clutches of the evil god Urzkartaga, while Barbara debuted in “Year One” last month to help translate the language of the newly arrived Wonder Woman. A spotlight issue makes a lot of sense, and adds some valuable backstory to the two main arcs. Let’s dig into it all, but first:
If you hadn’t read the issue yet, look away!
All of the goings on therein are about to be revealed!
Don’t spoil yourself! It’s a really good issue!
I loved this issue top to bottom. We’ll get to the story and whatnot in a moment, but DANG Bilquis Evely killed it. I was excited when I heard about this issue because I’ve enjoyed her work elsewhere, and she did not disappoint. She brought so much to Barbara. I love the joy and determination she captured. As the Cheetah, Barbara is often fairly one note, just fiercely villainous without much in the way of interesting motivation. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of this incarnation of the character; I’m an old school, Priscilla Rich guy. But Evely’s rendition of nerdy archaeologist Barbara is a lot of fun. Rucka writes her well, of course, but Evely really brings her to life.
The rest of the art beyond Barbara is great as well. Evely captures a variety of locales with aplomb, all of the other characters are distinct and expressive, and she’s got some clever layouts in the mix, including a cool map/location montage. Romulo Fajardo Jr. adds a lot with the colours, too; he’s the regular colorist on “Year One” and he continues his fantastic work here. He always adds so much texture and depth to the page, and he and Evely pair beautifully throughout the issue.
But onto the story itself. Archaeologist Barbara Ann Minerva is trying to track down the home of the ancient Amazons, even though everyone around her thinks she’s crazy. And by “everyone” I mean dudes. Her stern, cold father tries to forcefully dissuade her from her interest in mythology, and her older co-worker at a dig in the Ukraine is a sexist ass who refuses to believe her when she makes a huge discovery that is subsequently buried in a landslide. Barbara continues on nonetheless in one of my favourite types of stories: women doing things after men tell them they can’t. And while the issue ends with disappointment for Barbara, as a reader we know she’s absolutely on track because we’re very much aware that the Amazons are real.
Also, shout out to Greg Rucka for the lengthy discussion of the potential historical reality of the Amazons and the different schools of thought therein. I could have read an entire issue of that; I love all of the theories that surround the Amazons, and I’m definitely with Barbara when it comes to side-eying the Greek accounts of the Amazons. The shutting down of the breast amputation was delightful as well. Those pages were great all around.
The issue also ties into some key aspects of “Year One.” First, we’ve got the mysterious tree from Wonder Woman #2 that housed the snake that almost killed Diana. It appears on the chest of an ill-fated man who steals Barbara’s research and goes after the Amazons, and shows up again at the issue’s end when Barbara thinks she’s found the home of the Amazons. That tree is clearly going to play a big role, and we got another clue from the dead guy: The tree was marked on his chest, and the word “sear” was marked on his arm. What that means remains to be seen. We’ve also got at least one goddess in the mix, with Athena secretly helping Barbara on her quest. We saw Athena last month in “Year One” and it seems like she may have some involvement in exposing whatever is going on in “The Lies.”
Ultimately, the issue is a fantastic showcase for Barbara Ann Minerva. It adds a lot of depth to a character that rarely has any. Originally, Barbara was kind of the worst. The basic elements were the same when George Perez created her 30 years ago; she was a wealthy heiress and an archaeologist, but she was a total jerk. She was arrogant and cruel and jealous of Wonder Woman. She just wasn’t pleasant at all. This rehabilitation of Barbara is still a wealthy heiress and an archaeologist, but she’s a lot of fun. She’s also a woman who’s clearly put in the work and effort to be where she is, and her trappings are in no way opulent. She’s out in the wilderness, roughing it and doing whatever she has to do to find what she’s looking for. This Barbara is motivated buy a love of mythology and the Amazons rather than jealousy, and as we’ve learned from the past few issues of Wonder Woman, she was friends with Diana before Urzkartaga screwed everything up. It’s a different, far more compelling take on the character.
In short, I would read a series about this Barbara, preferably with Bilquis Evely on board because she kills it. Barbara travelling the globe doing rad archaeological research and sticking it to dumb dudes would be amazing; she could be a female Indiana Jones, but with way more discussions of the patriarchal biases in our beliefs about ancient history. I fully realize that like 12 people would read it every month, but I would be ALL OVER IT. I absolutely loved this issue, and I love this new version of Barbara Ann Minerva. I know we’ll get more of her when “Year One” continues next month, but I’m very intrigued by her pre-Wonder Woman adventures. Go pitch it, Rucka and Evely! I’ll tell everyone I know to buy it!