Monday, July 21, 2014

George Perez's Amazon Princess - Wonder Woman 9

Wonder Woman #9 (October 1987)
"Blood of the Cheetah"
George Perez/Len Wein-Perez/Bruce Patterson

Doug: Is the Wonder Woman series by George Perez the best of the post-Crisis DC offerings? You'd have a tough time convincing me otherwise. Of course I liked John Byrne's work in Man of Steel and Superman and Action Comics later. Maybe with Byrne's work, though, I was always a bit on edge -- I had such a prejudice against Superman and Superman comic stories that I may never have fully invested myself in Byrne's work (I need to set about getting the tpbs that reprint his run in the late 1980s). But Perez's Wonder Woman stories, based in the DC version of Greek mythology was a tabula rasa. I don't believe I'd ever read a solo Wonder Woman story prior to checking out this series. First off, the art was some of the best of Perez's storied career, and the tales he spun were interesting. There was an Elseworlds feel to some of the post-Crisis DC offerings, and maybe that helped to up the "Wow!" factor. I'm interested to read the reflections of those who will comment on their own experiences with this series, and perhaps how it compares to the rest of the post-Crisis stable.

Doug: I'll admit that I had to laugh as I began to read today's story. Obviously written several years before Todd McFarlane's turn as Spider-scripter in his own Spider-Man vehicle, I was nevertheless reminded of McFarlane's awful use of repetitive drum beats in his first issue. Thank goodness Perez only dwelt on it for two pages! An old man stands on the roof of an urban building, hearing drum beats that signal tonight as the night of the blood sacrifice. Walking inside, he approaches the unconscious body of a nude woman, prone on a slab covered in the skins of cheetahs. The woman's arms extend to her sides, where the old man takes a sharp dagger and cuts one of her wrists; the blood from the wound drips into a large bowl. Bandaging the wounds, we are told that the wounds will heal quickly. The old man takes the blood into another chamber, where he begins to mix it with other materials. There is a large plant in the room, and we see him feed the concoction to the plant. Apparently this makes the plant happy. The old man returns to the woman, and covers her with another cheetah skin. This is Dr. Barbara Minerva, the Cheetah.

Doug: Next we land in Wakefield, Massachusetts with a beautiful splash page of Wonder Woman in flight. As a kid I never knew Wonder Woman could fly without the invisible plane (which I have always seen as a dumb idea -- what good is an invisible plane if the pilot can be seen?) -- perhaps that is due in large part to my indoctrination through Super Friends. Keep in mind, we're jumping into the second arc in this series, so I'll try to pull you along as best my memory allows. When Diana had entered the world of men, she was treated as a celebrity, even taking on a publicist (Myndi Mayer). Diana was also befriended by a Dr. Julia Kapatelis and her daughter Vanessa. Myndi remarks to Julia that she's never seen Diana so happy -- news of a letter from a Dr. Minerva about the existence of a second girdle of Gaea has Diana thrilled. Dr. Kapatelis, Harvard professor, cautions Myndi on Diana getting her hopes up; all is not on the up-and-up with this Dr. Minerva. But Myndi poo-poos Julia's cautions, and readies Diana to head to Boston for a meeting with Minerva.

Doug: Once in Boston the pair head straight to the address Minerva had sent in her letter. They are greeted at the door to the penthouse by the same man who we saw performing the blood sacrifice at the top of the story. The women are invited in, and Barbara Minerva appears immediately. She asks Diana if she has brought her lasso, that she'd like to see it before she brings out the girdle. Diana rather innocently complies, even allowing Minerva to walk away with the mystical rope. But as Minerva begins to tell about the girdle, etc. she is overcome with the lasso's true power -- to make anyone tell the truth. Minerva begins to utter aloud words that give her away -- there is no girdle, there isn't even a Barbara Minerva... She hurls the lasso from her grasp. Diana is furious, and betrayed. There's a lot of dialogue about sisterhood here, which was an ongoing theme in Perez's run -- in this revamp, actually. Minerva insists that she meant no harm, that she only wanted to meet the princess. And Diana rails at Myndi for attempting to exploit her. And then she flies away.

Doug: Back at the summer home of Dr. Kapatelis, Vanessa answers the phone to pleas from Myndi to let her speak to Diana. But the Amazon is outside in deep discussion with Julia. Julia tries to calm Diana, to explain that all has not been a waste. Diana says she knows that she is unlike her sister Amazonians and that her defeat of Ares has signaled a greater importance to her mission to the world of men. But that mission will have been a failure if she does not teach people about virtue. Julia say it will take time; Diana walks away, still stung from Minerva's betrayal. Later that same day, at the penthouse of Barbara Minerva, the ritual we'd seen before is repeated. Chuma, the man-servant, prepares the magic elixir while Minerva paints her face. She asks Chuma if he saw the lasso, and its power. She says that it must be hers! She comes to him and asks if the potion is ready. He affirms and she drinks. As she finishes it her body begins to contort, and to change. And soon there is no Barbara Minerva -- only the she-cat known as the Cheetah!

Doug: The Cheetah hits the streets with a purpose. As she prowls, we look in the window of Lt. Etta Candy, who is on the phone with Col. Steve Trevor. In the background a newscast is on, and the anchor tells of a Bostonian criminal killed last week, apparently by a wild animal. Trevor tells Etta that he won't be coming to Boston, that he must go tend to a family matter in Oklahoma. Let me interrupt myself to say that the use of real places is very refreshing in a DC mag. I've long been a proponent of Marvel's real-world settings as opposed to DC's melange of fictional cities. Cut to the outskirts of Boston's suburbs, where the Cheetah is moving fast, and with a purpose. We peek inside the Kapatelis home to see Vanessa questioning the whereabouts of Diana. Julia tells her daughter that Diana is still outside meditating on her circumstances. The low sound of a growl is heard, and Julia rises to look out the window. Nothing. Cut to a stream a short distance from the house and we find Wonder Woman sitting, leaning against a tree and asleep. This isn't going to be good.

Doug: The Cheetah has maneuvered to a spot in a tree directly above her slumbering victim. Diana rests, a raccoon asleep in her arms. The small rodent starts, and leaps away, stirring Wonder Woman. A second later a prehensile tail drops from a low branch, encircles the princess's neck, and hurls her against a tree. The force of the attack splits the tree and topples it. Before Diana can discern the attack, the Cheetah is on her, and slashes Wonder Woman across the chest -- drawing blood. Diana is incredulous that she is bleeding, and questions what manner of beast must be attacking her. The battle rages, until Diana decides that she must strike forcefully. One blow drives the Cheetah back, and into the brush. Diana calms herself, using the senses gifted her as a daughter of Artemis. She listens intently, seeking  the heartbeat of her assailant. Suddenly she throws her lasso, and drags her enemy from concealment. But the magic of the rope has no effect -- incredibly, the Cheetah is able to physically resist the muting effects of the golden lasso. Wonder Woman pulls hard, but the Cheetah resists all the harder. Then the Cheetah charges Wonder Woman, again toppling a tree. Wonder Woman lies on the ground, pinned. As the Cheetah moves for the death blow, a shot rings out. Julia Kapatelis fired a rifle, hitting the Cheetah in the abdomen. The she-creature fell into the stream, still tied with the lasso. Wonder Woman frees herself from the fallen tree trunk, and pulls the rope -- to find the looped end empty. Diving into the murky waters, a short exploration of the stream proves to be a failure. The Cheetah is gone.

Doug: Vanessa came running on the scene when she heard the shot ring out. Her mother told her to stay inside -- you know how that goes. But there's no news -- no Cheetah. The next day, Diana decides that she will return to Olympus. There are tears, and pleas from Vanessa to stay. But Diana is hearing none of it, and despite the emotional good-byes, takes her leave. She doesn't know it, but she's off to face the challenge of the gods in the next issue.

Doug: Aside from the pencils of George Perez, there have to be some kudos tossed the ways of inker Bruce Patterson and scripter Len Wein. Both play their roles well, augmenting the wonderful base that Perez provides as the centerpiece of this series. And that's the thing about it -- if I still had all of the original issues (I am reading from the second tpb, which I purchased in Chicago a couple of summers ago), I am sure I'd go back to them again and again to admire the pretty pictures. But the stories themselves are surely worth a second look as well.


Edo Bosnar said...

Nice review, Doug. Don't know when I'll find the time (or, perhaps more importantly, the funds), but I'd really like to finally read Perez's Wonder Woman all the way through.

By the way, for shame: as Rocket, whose arch-enemy is a buck-toothed, gun-wielding hare, can tell you, raccoons ARE NOT rodents!

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for reviewing this, and reminding me that this is a series I still need to read. I'll get to this after I've read every Bronze Age reprint book!

Anonymous said...

Does something about this cover scream the 80s? Maybe it's because Diana looks like she has a major perm job here!

Yeah Perez's art looks gorgeous here. Never knew WW could fly without her invisible plane either. I just chalk it up to her powers never being truly defined; in some versions she's as powerful as Superman, in others she's not, like in this story.

- Mike 'Rodent Raccoon' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Garett said...

I like the shot of WW flying here. Ross Andru drew some great WW covers in the '70s, and I wish he'd done more interiors. I see Andru drew WW for many years in the '60s, but I haven't read them and the art doesn't quite look as appealing as his '70s stuff.

I'm not a big WW fan, but I'm a Perez fan, so it's good to see this review. Has anyone captured the Lynda Carter look in comics?

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