Wonder Woman Vol 5 #3

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Release: September 2016
Writer: Greg Rucka
Pencils & Inks: Liam Sharp

Back to the present, and we have Diana dealing with her long time villain Barbara Ann Minerva, supposedly someone who can help her figure out what happened to her and how she can get back to Themyscira. There’s one problem, though: Barbara Ann Minerva is almost totally lost in the persona of Cheetah, struggling with the animalism that’s been forced upon her and the awful realities of how she ended up here in Bwunda as a were-cat.

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See, Barbara Ann Minerva is the wife of a mythical figure named Urzkartaga, a sort of animal death god that the people of this Bwundan forest worship. She was married to him, but at some point was unfaithful, and thus Urzkartage cursed her to be forever in this cheetah form. Like this, she’s eternally hunted by those who worship Urzkartage, both as a prize animal and as an unfaithful woman, and in return she has to feed upon those men to survive. It’s an endless torment for Barbara Ann Minerva, and she is in a state of constant rage and fear because of it.

I don’t know any of the origins of Cheetah. It’s a character I remember as a Wonder Woman villain from popular media, but we haven’t gotten to her origin in Vol 2 and this feels like it’s building from something prior (that something prior could just be the Year One comics running every other week, though). So without any prior information on Barbara Ann or Cheetah, I’m left to take her story at face value. At some point, back when she was a human woman, her and Diana were friends, and now she blames her for her condition. Moreover, it seems as if some part of Diana blames herself, too.

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There’s something truly sad about this book, even as it includes a big fight scene of Diana and Barbara Ann taking on the beast-men who worship Urzkartaga and are currently hunting down both women. Diana sees in Barbara Ann a woman who has suffered under the hands of men as much as anyone, far more than even she could. There’s a deep sense of compassion to her, a sense of sisterhood extended, offering her what little emotional comfort she can even as Barbara Ann is overcome with rage. Diana is here, she understands and recognizes herself in Barbara Ann, and won’t let this woman fall forever into the abyss as long as she’s there to be an endless well of strength for a woman in need.

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This page mostly speaks for itself, but I can’t emphasize enough how important this vision of Diana is against not just current DC, but all the rest of superheroes. She might be as strong as Superman and an incredible warrior, but she’s capable of a compassion and love that can defeat problems that no mystical weapon or metagenic punch could conquer. Her sense of the world is tied inexorably to womanhood, and what that means for her and other woman.

The secret to the best Wonder Woman stories is that her strength doesn’t come from her Amazon blood, but from the earnestness of her self-actualization as a woman without the baggage of patriarchal upbringing. That is the power that makes her the spirit of truth, one of the cornerstones of the Justice League, and all else besides. It’s that power that allows her to feel Barbara Ann’s pain here in the jungle, to hold her and acknowledge it and bring them to a place that change is possible when before there was despair. That’s pretty damn effective stuff.

Anyway, the rest of this comic is the Steve Trevor stuff. It turns out that in chasing down Cadulo he finds himself in the same giant, spooky forest that Diana is in (what are the odds?) and as the issue wraps up him and his team find Cadulo, only to find that he was expecting them and that he’s another servant of Urzkartaga, ready to offer them up as sacrifices to his god. Good thing his super powered ex is probably within throwing distance. That’s throwing distance for Diana, not for Steve.

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