Posts Tagged ‘Laura Martin’

Wonder Woman #19 Review: Back in Action

March 22, 2017

ww19

It’s going to be an abbreviated review this week because your faithful reviewer is in the middle of an absolutely bananas week; so it goes, sometimes. We’ll still get to all the fun of the issue, just more succinctly. First, some good news: The reveal at the end of Wonder Woman #17 was everything we thought it was and Wonder Woman is totally back. The return of Ferdinand sparked her memory and she left the asylum to take on Godwatch. However, things went steadily downhill for her from there. We’ll get into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Details of this issue will soon be revealed!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

So Wonder Woman’s joyful return quickly took a dark turn when she learned that Barbara Ann had given herself up to Veronica Cale and became the Cheetah again. She also learned that nearly everyone from the Picket was killed. Oh, and that several of her top villains are working together against her. It was a bevy of bad news. Plus Dr. Cyber called her a “self-righteous, arrogant, simplistic little airhead,” which was rude. Then the issue ended with Wonder Woman getting shot through the chest, so yeah. It was a rough twenty pages for our favourite heroine.

It wasn’t the most action packed issue, with a lot of it dedicated to Dr. Cyber’s bloviating, but there were some key developments. There was Wonder Woman’s return, of course, but Etta found Sasha Bordeaux as well, which could mean that another member of the team will be back in action soon. That’s good news, because they need all the help they can get.

There’s also some exciting developments on Themyscira. Initially, the Amazons are unsure if Diana is still alive or not, but the appearance of the Greek gods in their animal form, just as we saw them back in “Year One,” sparked hoped in everyone. My guess is that rather than Wonder Woman returning to her true home for the first time, Hippolyta and a delegation of Amazons may go find her first. Again, she needs all the help she can get, especially after how this issue ended.

The art for this issue was a bit hit and miss for me. Liam Sharp had some great moments; there’s a panel with Diana wearing a red cloak that is just gloriously detailed, for example. But Sharp did this sort of morphing thing with Dr. Cyber where her appearance was constantly shifting and it was a bit odd. Some of them looked cool, but some of them looked a bit messy and overdone. There was also one incarnation of her that was a full body shot where she had metallic balloon breasts for some reason; it reminded me of Cyber-Cat from Jim Balent’s Catwoman run, which is never the best thing to hark back to. Still, when Dr. Cyber looked cool, she looked really cool, and Laura Martin’s colours added a great mood and style to the pages, and to the book as a whole.

Overall, this was a decent issue, if not the best one the team’s done lately. It was more a table setter, bringing Diana back into the mix, moving some pieces around, and closing with a dramatic cliffhanger. You need to have issues like this from time to time, and it was still an enjoyable read. The Amazon bits in particular continue to be great, and Etta’s love for Barbara and her fury over losing her again was really powerful stuff. Things look like they’re going to get intense in the next few issues, and I’m looking forward to it.

Wonder Woman #17 Review: Free Your Minotaur

February 22, 2017

ww17.jpg

Things remain bleak for Wonder Woman and the gang. Etta and Steve are on the lam, Barbara is in the clutches of Godwatch and Veronica Cale, and Diana doesn’t know who she is and remains in an asylum. While there is progress on one of those fronts in this second part of “The Truth,” there is a heartbreaking setback in another. All told, it is an issue about balance, about trading life for life and friend for friend, and in the end the gains and losses even out to leave the team no further ahead, except for one key element: Wonder Woman. It was a good issue and we’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I mean, if you’re reading this review then you’ve probably read the issue!

But if you haven’t look away!

I’m going to spoil it all!

So, balance. There was a lot going on in this issue, and it all felt like a scale tipping back and forth with each major action that ultimately ended up just as balanced at the end as it was at the beginning. Everything had its opposite, and Barbara Ann Minerva’s sacrifice was the lynchpin to it all.

Barbara’s been one of the most compelling character’s of this current run of Wonder Woman, and a key player in all four arcs thus far. Her transition from the villainous Cheetah to regaining her role as a trusted ally has been a great story, and her relationship with Etta only made the story better. She even got her own solo issue during “Year One” that dug into her backstory. I’m now very invested in Barbara, which is probably what Rucka wanted; he’s gotten us all attached to her so that this issue would hurt all the more. Veronica Cale forced her to become the Cheetah again in order to save her friends, a sad but noble moment that juxtaposed poignantly with the rest of the issue.

First, we got the return of an old friend, Ferdinand the minotaur from Rucka’s original run on Wonder Woman. Steve and Etta sought him out to help Diana, hoping that her seeing a long lost, friendly face might spur her memory and remind her of who she is. Plus it’s always good to have a minotaur on the team; I think he’ll prove useful in the months ahead. But this joyful return had to have its opposite: The loss of an old friend as Barbara returned to her Cheetah guise and gave up her newfound humanity.

Next up, Etta, Ferdinand, and Steve survived a serious attack from Colonel Maru’s troops. They got blasted with a minigun and explosions; Poison wasn’t screwing around. They made it out alive but, again, there had to be balance. Their lives were spared because Barbara gave up hers to become the Cheetah again. She’s not dead per se, but being the Cheetah means that her true self is buried as her animalistic urges take over.

Finally, it looks like bringing in Ferdinand did the trick. On the issue’s final page, Diana appears to recognize Ferdinand, which would be an excellent sign that she remembers she’s Wonder Woman and is set to return to her heroic role. However, opposites. The return of a hero in Wonder Woman had to be balanced with the return of a villain in the Cheetah. The parallels run deeper as well; both women were trapped in a prison of their own making because they chose to return to their pasts. Diana was mentally shattered because of her journey to Themyscira while Barbara was ensnared because she went back to Godwatch. Moreover, an old ally led to their transformations, with Ferdinand bringing back Wonder Woman and Veronica Cale bringing back the Cheetah. And, of course, all of this action was shown in back and forth panels over the last few pages to underscore the dichotomy of the situation.

All of these gains being countered with losses should leave the team in about the same bleak spot where they began the issue, but there’s one key factor here. Yes, while the return of Wonder Woman is tempered by the return of the Cheetah, if Wonder Woman is back for real then it’s a whole new ballgame. The Cheetah’s a decent villain, but Wonder Woman is an amazing superhero. The scales don’t quite balance; with Wonder Woman fully back, she and her allies clearly have the upper hand now and can begin to move against Godwatch instead of playing defense.

This was a solid issue all around, and “The Truth” continues to weave a compelling tale in ways “The Lies” never seemed able to. I also like that we keep checking in on Themyscira; the Amazons are clearly going to play a part at some point in this story, and I’m excited to see what it is. I’m hoping for a reunion more joyous and less damaging than Diana’s last attempt to return to her family.

Liam Sharp continues to employ different styles for each part of the story, and it’s working well. His Nicola Scott impression on Themyscira is fun, the grit he brings to Etta and Steve’s adventures is fitting, and the combination of clarity and confusion in Diana’s scenes is well done, though I will say that I find the cartoon snake a little goofy. I much preferred that one panel with the skeleton snake; that was way cooler. Laura Martin’s colors remain great, as always, and match each style well. And Jodi Wynne continues to excel with the lettering. This issue in particular had a lot going on in terms of distinctive word balloons and speech; the Amazon language, Ferdinand, the snake, and Dr. Cyber are all unique, and Wynne integrated them seamlessly into the book. She’s done stellar work on Wonder Woman all through this run.

So, Wonder Woman seems to be back? Final page reveals can be tricky, but this one seemed pretty clear. Woe to Godwatch if she’s returned to her full power. And fingers crossed that she can save Barbara and bring her back! If anyone can do it, it’s Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman #11 Review: “The Lies” Are Sort Of Exposed?

November 24, 2016

ww11a

I’m a day late with this Wonder Woman review; I was on the road all day yesterday and didn’t get a chance to read the book until today. I’ve been really looking forward to this issue, though. Last month’s Wonder Woman #10 finally took us to Themyscira and, shockingly, it was the brutal home of the New 52 Amazons rather than the utopian home of the current “Year One” arc. Clearly some shenanigans were afoot and it looked like the conclusion of “The Lies,” i.e. this week’s issue, would give us a few answers about what’s going on with Wonder Woman. As it turns out, we didn’t really get any answers. Yet, anyway. The next arc of the odd-numbered issues is called “The Truth,” and presumably we’ll find out what’s really going on there. But for right now, we’ve got confirmation that there was a very big lie going on in the “The Lies.” That’s cool and all, but dang this is a slow burn story. We’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILERT ALERT!!

I am about to tell you everything that happened in this issue!

Go buy it for yourself and read it first!

Get it on Comixology if your shop is closed for Thanksgiving!

So here’s the big reveal: The New 52 Amazons are not the real Amazons. This has been pretty obvious since Rucka took over the book, between the arc being called “The Lies” and the completely different version of the Amazons we’ve been seeing in “Year One.” That it took six whole issues to confirm what has been rather clear for the past six months makes this a bit of an unexciting conclusion to the arc. When Wonder Woman tearfully realizes “This is not my home” on the issue’s last page, I’m sure most readers responded, “Yeah, we know. This is old news.”

Look, I absolutely LOVE what Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott are doing in “Year One.” It’s amazing, and will definitely go down as one of the best Wonder Woman stories of all time. But “The Lies” is not as good. And having read the whole arc now, nor is it very good on its own merits. It’s not bad by any means. It’s just fine. Okay. Decent. There were some good moments, but it’s been SO SLOW. This issue is a perfect case in point. It was immediately clear that this Themyscira was not Wonder Woman’s real home. I mean, we’ve known that for months, but even within just this issue itself, we knew something was wrong straight away. And it took Wonder Woman the entire issue to put it together. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of explaining what we’d already seen and put together. Comics are supposed to be show and tell, but this issue was a whole lot of show and then tell. And tell and tell, until the last page sets up a new arc to give us the story that we all expected to get in this arc. It’s all so drawn out, and the arc as a whole has been kind of a frustrating read.

Luckily, the interminable Wonder Woman storyline was supplemented by Etta Candy being a super bad ass. When we saw Etta realize that Sasha Bordeaux was a spy in the preview released earlier in the week, I assumed that this, like everything else in the arc, would be a slow building side story. I was wrong, and happily so. Etta goes right after Sasha, tracking her to her drop off with Veronica Cale and confronting Cale and her evil hounds. It’s so much fun. Etta is resolute and fearless, taking on Cale directly. When Cale arrogantly thinks she’s played her ace in the hole by bringing in Sasha to attack Etta, Etta just shoots Sasha straight in her cybernetic head and forces Cale to move to Plan B. The side story ends with the dogs coming after Etta, and we don’t know how that confrontation ends. Given how tough she is, my money’s on Etta, but Etta going missing would probably make for better story fodder. It could go either way. Regardless, it was nice to have something actually happen and have part of this arc progress at a solid clip.

I really don’t have much else to say about this issue apart from that I was hoping for a lot more, and that’s how I’ve felt about this arc as a whole. It was an arc that tried to do several things; re-introduce Barbara Minerva, Etta Candy, and Steve Trevor, along with the organization they work for, as well as setting up the Big Bad and Wonder Woman’s false history. That’s a lot of balls to juggle, and it wasn’t handled with much finesse, particularly not with the skill I expect to see from veterans like Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp. Again, it’s not a bad arc. It just took its sweet time and didn’t really deliver the story it promised.

Hopefully “The Truth” will proceed with more focus and direction. There were lots of good bits in the “The Lies,” especially the characterizations. Rucka knows how to write Wonder Woman and her friends, and does so enjoyably. Just somewhat meanderingly in this run. And the art is pretty solid as well. It felt like Sharp got a bit bogged down midway through and the art suffered for it, but over the past couple of issues it’s felt like he’s found a good balance between his hyper-detailed style and the constrictions of hammering out 20 pages a month. Laura Martin’s colors are gorgeous as well. In this issue especially, she makes some dull, exposition-heavy pages visually striking with some cool color choices. All of the pieces are in place for the odd-numbered issues of Wonder Woman to be great and rival the heights of the even-numbered outings. The writing just needs a bit of urgency and excitement rather than a slow, wandering burn.

Wonder Woman #7 Review: The Fall of Urzkartaga

September 28, 2016

ww7a

The gods lie. Every divine system has a trickster deity, of course, for good or ill or sometimes both, a Loki or a Puck or an Anansi. But more than that, systems of gods are a reflection of the humans who created them, and thus they have the same foibles and flaws. They tend to use their followers as tools for their own gain and glory, capriciously abusing their powers to satisfy their momentary whims. Zeus took different forms to trick women and have sex with them. Yahweh sent lying spirits to his prophets to deceive the Israelites when he wanted to punish them. Ishtar promised men wealth and power only to bleed them dry and leave them broken. The gods are deceivers.

This is what “The Lies” seems to be exploring, though Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp are delving into these themes in a world in which the gods are quite literally real. For us, the vast majority of the deities out there are just stories; even religious people believe in their particular pantheon and think the rest aren’t real. In the world of Wonder Woman, there are actual gods, and they’re just as bad as our mythologies make them sound.

Let’s dig into Wonder Woman #7, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal key plot points from this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

So we’ve been assuming that “The Lies” are about Wonder Woman and her deities, and whatever power has compelled her to remember false Amazons and a false pantheon. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of those lies four issues into the arc; instead, we’re spending a lot of time with the Cheetah and her complex, abusive relationship with her patron deity Urzkartaga, and it turns out that Barbara Ann Minerva has been the victim of lies as well. She was told that the scores of girls delivered to Urzkartaga were there to worship him, and that he imparted some of his power to one of them. She became the Cheetah, the Protector who enacted his will throughout his realm.

But Urzkarataga’s worshippers weren’t powerless followers. They were his wardens. The women held all the power, and Urzkartaga deceived them by convincing them that they had none, and that only through him could one of them approach the divine. It was a ruse to hide his true weakness and immobilize a potential threat: The girls could destroy him if they worked together to do so. Which they did, at the end of the issue when Wonder Woman exposed the truth. Urzkartaga was vanquished and Barbara Ann Minerva was freed of her Cheetah persona.

In last month’s installment of “The Lies,” the Cheetah told Wonder Woman, “Your paradise was made by your gods. Perhaps they play games with you the same way Urzkartaga plays with me.” With Urzkartaga’s deception now exposed, there may be an additional layer to that sentiment: Perhaps Wonder Woman’s gods lied to her the same way Urzkartaga lied to the Cheetah. And it will be interesting to see which gods were involved. The Urzkartaga plot relied on reinforcing patriarchal authority, ensuring that men were in charge and that girls were seen as expendable so that his chief weakness could be contained. Depending on which gods have deceived Diana, we could be looking at another critique of patriarchy once she gets to the bottom of “The Lies.” Which would make sense, given that in her false world the Amazons had turned against each other, female deities persecuted them, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was nowhere to be seem. Retconning this as a nefarious patriarchal plot would be a fascinating reimaging of the largely disastrous New 52 era.

Now, the Urzkartaga reveal was interesting, and I’m curious to see how it plays out for Wonder Woman, but the journey to get here was very long. Even if there are parallels with Diana’s gods, this was a slow story that, while it’s had it’s cool moments, has been a bit underwhelming. I like the ideas behind it, and I’m all for the rehabilitation of the Cheetah. The execution thereof just hasn’t worked so well for me. It’s not been bad, but it’s not been particularly compelling or entertaining, especially compared to the amazing work we’ve seen in the “Year One” storyline.

The art hasn’t helped things either. When I reviewed last month’s outing, I was critical of Sharp’s work and said it felt a bit rushed and sloppy. All of those elements are even more pronounced this month. There are a couple of really lovely panels where he clearly took his time, but there are scores more where the inking feels slapped on and rough. Moreover, backgrounds are nearly nonexistent. They’re in a cave, so there’s not a lot of exciting stuff that can be done, but the roots and such that run behind them are pretty slapdash. Sharp’s skills lie in his lush, detailed renderings, and the timeline of a monthly schedule doesn’t seem to be allowing him to do dig into his artwork in this way. Laura Martin does what she can with the colors, but it’s always awkward to put smooth, blended coloring over blocky, rough artwork. It just looks incongruous. I think she singlehandedly salvaged a few backgrounds with some cool effects that broke up the perpetual brown of the cave, but the overall visual appeal of the issue is limited.

Ultimately, if the Urzkartaga reveal is foreshadowing for what Wonder Woman is facing with her own deities, that’s a clever touch. But the execution thereof has been somewhat lacking. The story is too drawn out, the art is flagging, and everything good about the book is getting a bit lost in how it’s been presented. There are two issues left in the arc, of course, and what comes next may well prove that every seemingly slow step along the way thus far has been a key moment for the larger story. That would be lovely. But while there are a lot of cool ideas in the mix here and some genuinely great moments, the pacing and deteriorating artwork of the first four issues are stopping “The Lies” from fully living up to the intriguing vision behind it.

Wonder Woman #7 Preview: “The Lies” Continue

September 26, 2016

We’ve got a new issue of Wonder Woman this week, and while I was skeptical of DC’s double shipping plan when it was first announced, it’s grown on me. It’s kind of fun to get a double shot of a good series each month or, in the case of Wonder Woman, one spectacular issue and one that’s fine. This week, we get the fine issue; Wonder Woman #7 continues “The Lies” by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp. It’s been a bit of a slow burn, a Cheetah-centric story that has barely mentioned the titular lies at all. But things appear to be coming to a head now. Let’s take a peek at the issue, courtesy of Comicosity:

ww7a

ww7b

ww7c

ww7d

ww7e

ww7f

So we’ve got Wonder Woman and Cheetah on the scene where Steve, his fellow soldiers, and the missing girls are being held. With the girls freed, I’m guessing the rest of the book will be a confrontation with the villain Cadulo and his evil deity benefactor, Urzkartaga. And then maybe “The Lies”? It’d be nice to get to them sooner than later, but it’ll depend how long it takes Wonder Woman and the Cheetah to defeat a warlord and a god. It shouldn’t be that hard, really.

Wonder Woman #7 will be available in comic shops and online this Wednesday! And keep your eyes peeled for the Jenny Frison variant cover because it’s super gorgeous. I mean, take a gander:

ww7g

The issue’s worth picking up for that story alone. I hope DC’s talking to Frison about maybe doing some interior stuff in Wonder Woman. Even just a short story would be fun. She’s just so good!

Wonder Woman #5 Review: The Slow Burn Continues, The “Lies” Remain Far Off

August 24, 2016

ww5a

Wonder Woman has been a creative stand out in DC’s “Rebirth” initiative and is selling extremely well, at levels the book hasn’t hit in decades. Over the course of the “Rebirth” special and the initial four issues, the series has largely lived up to the hype of writer Greg Rucka’s return, but Wonder Woman #5 is the first issue that’s fallen a bit flat. It’s not bad by any means, just a little dull and lifeless, especially compared to the spectacularness of Wonder Woman #4 two weeks ago. Rucka’s writing feels languid, Liam Sharp’s art looks scratchy, and the overall story is moving toward “The Lies” the title has promised at a snail’s pace. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

All of the happenings in this issue are about to revealed!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

So this issue was disappointing, and continues the trend of “The Lies” being several orders of magnitude less enjoyable than “Year One.” The first issue of “The Lies” was fine if a bit slow, but it had to set the board. The second issue of “The Lies” was also slow, but had a moving conversation between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah that was nicely done. This third issue of “The Lies” continues to be slow, with very little in the mix to counter the dullness of the pacing. In fact, the writing and art both feel like a step down from the previous two issues.

Let’s start with a quick rundown of the issue: Not much happened. Steve and his fellow soldiers are still captured, the villain Cadulo goes on about his evil god Urzkartaga, and Wonder Woman and the Cheetah show up to save them. The only real twist is that Etta Candy goes to visit Sasha Bordeaux, an enjoyable guest star, and it turns out that Bordeaux might be working for some sort of fiendish operation. I didn’t recognize the symbol on the bizarre object that showed up; it looks like Hydra, but that’s the wrong universe completely. And Sasha mentioned a doctor, so maybe it’s Dr. Psycho? He’s the most obvious doctor with a Wonder Woman connection. Anyway, that was about it for twists and turns. The rest felt like a lot of treading water.

And not in a fun way. We got a villain monologue, which can sometimes be a good time, but Cadulo is a boring foe. There’s no nuance to him at all; he’s a megalomaniac under the thrall of an evil god. There are no layers to him, just one-dimensional villainy. And the lack of nuance continued with Steve, who served as the enlightened white knight to Cadulo’s misogynistic bad guy. I’m all for Steve standing up to sexist rhetoric, but dialogue like, “You’ve got some toxic ideas of masculinity, dude,” is a little too on the nose for me. It’s pretty clear that Cadulo represents toxic masculinity without Steve having to spell it out for us.

There were a couple of fun bits in the issue. In particular, I liked the flashback to Diana leaving Paradise Island, a scene we just saw two weeks ago in “Year One.” One of the cool things about the alternating storyline format is that there can be references and call backs across the years that unite the disparate storylines. And we did get a hint of information about the titular “Lies” when Wonder Woman talked about her false memories and we saw scenes from past incarnations of the character, like the gorillas from Gail Simone’s run and an Ares that had a George Perez vibe. We’re getting to the lies, just very very very slowly.

But the bulk of the issue felt uninspired, on the art side as well. Liam Sharp’s first two issues were strong, but this one felt scratchy and sloppy, as if he were rushing through the pages. Which may well have been the case; the alternating storylines give each artist a full month to do an issue, but even that’s quite a grind. It’s hard to keep up high quality work at such a pace, and that may explain the messiness of this issue. For whatever reason, Sharp’s usual detail is replaced with thicker, slapdash lines that don’t look great. And his choices are odd as well; on one page, he draws Wonder Woman’s hair in detail, as if he’s aiming to render every strand, and on the very next page her hair is drawn as more of a solid mass with few strands at all. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition and it feels like two totally different artists drew the pages. Plus, neither image of Wonder Woman is particularly good, and she’s the star of the dang book. You’ve got to make Wonder Woman look nice, at the very least.

The colouring is muted as well and adds to the flatness of the book. Laura Martin’s colours complimented the first too issues of “The Lies,” highlighting Sharp’s detailed line work without overshadowing the intricate art. But with sloppier art this time around, the colours fail to lift the panels like they’d need to in order to compensate for the drop in quality. To be fair to Martin, she doesn’t have a lot to work with, but the colouring on several of the pages feels overly monochromatic and dull, and merges with the messier art to create a rather muddied look overall.

Again, this isn’t a bad issue. Just a step down from the first two parts of “The Lies,” which were only in the good range for me. It’s not terrible so much as forgettable, an uneventful outing in a story that will hopefully pick up soon and turn interesting. We’re only halfway through the arc, but it’s hard to see its purpose right now in the greater context of “The Lies.” Wonder Woman’s trying to get home and discover what’s wrong with Paradise Island, so here we are stuck in a slow-moving outing in the middle of an African jungle? It would be fine if it was a more exciting and compelling story, but it hasn’t been thus far. Especially compared to “Year One,” which has hit it out of the park with its first two issues. It’d be nice to get out of this jungle at some point in the next installment, or at the very least to learn that this lengthy jungle adventure is key to a larger plot. Because so far, it’s been a bit underwhelming. The first two installments had other redeeming qualities, but this issue was just kind of lifeless.

Wonder Woman #3 Review: Ending the Unwarranted Shame of the Cheetah

July 27, 2016

ww3cover

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:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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.


%d bloggers like this: