Wonder Woman #23.1 by John Ostrander (Comics Review)

So here we are. When I reviewed Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman #13-15 earlier this year, I’d said that I couldn’t justify picking up the book anymore or recommending it for that matter. The plot was stuck in limbo, the characters were doing the same thing over and over again, and the process in which Azzarello was introducing new characters to the series was just getting frantic. Pointless things were happenning and my interest in the series was waning.

Fast forward to eight months later, now, and I’ve picked up my first issue of Wonder Woman since then. Thankfully, Brian Azzarello is nowhere in sight, which is just perfect for me. This issue here is written by John Ostrander and is part of the ongoing Villain’s Month line-up as the writer deals with one of Wonder Woman’s more iconic and recognisable villains, someone that we’ve briefly seen before in the pages of Geoff Johns’ Justice League.

Wonder Woman 23.1As far as I’m aware, Cheetah first made her appearance in Geoff Johns’ Justice League #13 and #14, where the Justice League helps capture her and returns her to Belle Reve, after a bit of a romp through Africa where we learn some measure of her origins, as well as learning about her ties to Wonder Woman. Those two issues happen to be amongst some of the best that Geoff has written for the series, presenting a very credible and thorough portrayal of the friendship and enmity between the two characters. While he got to explore Cheetah’s characters a fair bit in those issues, its taken John Ostrander’s Wonder Woman #23.1 one-shot to really delve into her psyche and her motivations, almost a year later.

What John Ostrander does is he builds on all the foundations that Geoff raised with his work, and then builds them up some more, really defining the look and feel of the character. From Justice League, we know that Barbara Minerva, an anthropological scientist and an ARGUS agent, stole the God-Slayer knife and that she was possessed by the spirit of the Goddess of the Hunt, the Cheetah. We know that because Barbara was already a criminal, she ended up corrupting Cheetah’s essence, so now the Goddess of the Hunt is a creature of evil rather than good, as the African tribe we see in Justice League explains. John takes all of that, and he explains how Barbara first met Diana, and what started all the hostilities between them. We learn why Barbara stole the knife in the first place.

The story here is absolutely brutal, in all sorts of ways. First, there’s the cover of course, with all the blood that Cheetah is spilling. Then, we see two distinct cases of fratricide in the issue, nothing implicit, but explicit. We see people’s hearts torn out and eaten. We also see some ritual suicide. John never holds back and his compatriot in arms, artist Victor Ibanez, is with him every step of the way.

Victor’s pencils are clear, sharp and precise. There are a few mildly irritating cases of where character faces are so… shadowed that their eyes are little more than just globs of ink, but on the whole, Victor displays a great sense of mood and style with his break-up of John’s story, the way each panel is structured together into the larger story with respect to how it is placed on each page. The story flows in all sorts of ways, but it always moves forward without stopping. And he also has a great sense of perspective for each panel, using a whole bunch of different ones to convey the story as per John’s script. Will Quintana’s excellent colours, with their dark and muted palette, and Travis Lanham’s letters round-up the art awesomeness of the issue.

Giving Barbara a tie to Amazons, indirectly, did a wonderful thing as far as I’m concerned. It established her as a serious enemy to Wonder Woman in that respect and it explained just why she’d turn on Diana, even beyond the obvious. So in a lot of ways, John Ostrander succeeds very well in writing one of the best one-shots of Villain’s Month. The issue takes place concurrently to the events of Forever Evil, and that really added to the experience. I wanted a good Wonder Woman comic after all my disappointments with Azzarello’s work in the New 52, and John Ostrander has done more than that, he gave him an excellent and enjoyable read that I’ll come back to again and again.

If there is one thing that I find to be at fault here (and this is not really anything to do with John Ostrander but more with Geoff Johns) is that the ending to Justice League #14 goes unaddressed. It was something that I thought, after reading the two issues again after this one, would tie in to the events of Trinity War at least, and most definitely Forever Evil, so I’m just slightly confused.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Wonder Woman: (New 52) #1-10, #11-12, #13-15, (Odyssey) Vol.1, Vol.2, (v3 – Post-Infinite Crisis) Vol.1.

Posted on September 20, 2013, in 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Writing Challenge, Challenges, Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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