By: Andrew Fontana
Barbara Ann Minerva has been a crucial part of Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman run since the first issue. Showing up first as the deadly Cheetah, Rucka has gradually unspooled her back story over the course of the “The Lies” story arc. In a sense, then, I expected issue 8 to be a full-on origin story of Barbara’s transformation into the Cheetah. What we get instead is a glimpse of Cheetah before her unfortunate curse, and perhaps a connection to the larger story arc of finding Themiscrya.
The issue begins with a glimpse of Barbara’s childhood. She is completely enamored by Greek Mythology, and the Amazons in particular. There are a few panels of Barbara running around with a mock sword and shield purposely evocative of Wonder Woman while her father is lambasting the governess for “indulging” her imagination. At the close of this sequence her father casts the wooden sword and shield into the fireplace while Barbara looks on with saddened eyes. Barbara’s dogged pursuit of the Amazons as an adult is shadowed by her colleagues’ contempt that perhaps reflects patriarchal fear of what the Amazons could represent.
An exchange between Barbara and a fellow archaeologist confirms this reading of Wonder Woman #8. When evidence of something akin to the Amazons is discovered at a dig site, one of the archaeologist’s dismisses any potential connection as wishful thinking on Barbara’s part. She retorts that all Ancient Greek portrayals of the Amazons were propaganda crafted out of fear. The ancient Greeks were basically an old school variant of men’s rights activists is the point I believe Rucka is making, and ties in nicely with the feminist themes he’s laid out in earlier issues.
Another big plot point is Barbara’s hunt for the Amazons’ original home. She comes up empty like Diana in the main storyline, but the remarkable similarity between the deserted island she finds and Themiscrya portrayed in the Year One arc hint of something more sinister at work behind the disappearance of Diana’s home. Rucka deepens the mystery present in the main plot and fleshes out Barbara Ann in a satisfying detour between the main story lines.
Bilquis Evely does well setting the stage in this done-in-one tale, marking off Barbara’s origin as distinct as possible. Much has already been said about Rucka’s successful use of two different artists in crafting his Wonder Woman epic, but I was still anxious about the sort of quality a fill in artist would bring to the table. It’s safe to say that Evely exceeds expectations, creating scenes that range from a stormy Ukraine to arid Tunisia. Evely even captures the scale of Barbara’s journey with a large splash page that superimposes glimpses of various locales against the backdrop of a map. If Nicola Scott is indeed departing Wonder Woman, Evely could more than fill the boots she’ll leave behind.