Release: October 1987
Writer: Len Wein
Pencils: George Pérez
Inks: Bruce D Patterson
So we finally get a reveal of the Cheetah in this issue, and some idea of how the Cheetah works. In short: Barbara Ann’s servant Chuma puts her into a trance where he then cuts her with a knife. He gathers the blood, and offers it to the god plant. The blood mixes with the plant in some way, or becomes enchanted, and that’s then fed to Barbara Ann to give her supernatural strength. The spots and all, bafflingly, are just painted on?
Those are some mighty evocative pages, but honestly I really hate the look of Cheetah here versus the way Barbara Ann is portrayed in the ongoing Vol 5 comic. It just seems a little underwhelming when put up against a really strong motivation and image like we see in Barbara Ann today.
Anyway, the main plot of this book concerns Diana going with Myndi to meet Barbara Ann, to see the rumored second girdle of Gaea she has. When they arrive at her glamorous penthouse, Barbara Ann offers to take the lasso to make a comparison. Diana hands it over, but as they’re conversing Barbara Ann is compelled by the lasso into admitting her lie right to Diana’s face.
Diana, who was already downtrodden and ready to go home, is baffled at the idea that she could be lied to by another woman. The idea that that woman would get her hopes up in order to steal her lasso? Unthinkable. Diana blames Myndi and flies off in anguish, convinced that her time spent among the mortals is increasingly proving to be a waste, as she learns more and more about their faults.
Back at the Kapatelis’ home, Julia and Vanessa worry over Diana’s increasingly pensive nature. As Diana is just chilling by the lake, comuning with nature, she’s ambushed by Barbara Ann in her Cheetah guise. As the Cheetah, Barbara Ann is as fast and as strong as Wonder Woman, unable to be compelled by the lasso, and capable of damaging Diana with her claws. Their battle fells trees and draws blood on both sides, before Julia rushes to Diana’s aid and manages to scare Barbara Ann off.
Fight scenes are what they are, and rarely a reason for me to enjoy a comic, but I really do like the idea of Diana being immediately worried about the safety of her opponent. Not only does she object to Barbara Ann being shot, but she immediately dives into the lake after her, only to find the illusive opponent long gone. For all the discouragement she’s faced from the wider world so far, Diana remains really steadfast in her convictions.
Diana just chilling.
In fact, that moral center is really her best trait in this book (and honestly, in most others I’ve read). The fact that she could so let down by people lying to her, the fact that she can extend concern to someone who literally just dropped in to kill her, paints a picture of a young hero who isn’t quite naive but believes in a broad sense of good that can sometimes be mistaken for such. She simply doesn’t plan for dishonesty and ill will, concepts that were apparently totally foreign to Themyscira. It isn’t played up as cute, but instead a source of great misery, and I appreciate how honest the book is in grappling with that.
With Cheetah missing and Diana finally fed up with all the bullshit in man’s world, she preps to leave. In the final page of the issue, she says her tearful goodbyes to Julia and Vanessa before heading back home. Julia has proven to be a really great character in this comic, and I’m glad that the book stops to have a moment to acknowledge that her and her daughter have formed a surrogate family with their wayward hero before the story closes out.