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Cover date: November 2012
"The Secret of the Cheetah" - Part One
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Tony S. Daniel
Inker: Richard Friend & Batt
"On the Outs"
Writer: Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire
Penciller: Brad Walker
Inker: Drew Hennessy
Reviewed by: Ralph Silver
Superman and Wonder Woman are locked in a passionate embrace, which is where we saw them at the end of issue #12. As their lips part, Diana looks uncomfortable, says she needs to go, and rushes off leaving Superman standing alone atop the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
Five days later, in Manhattan's Central Park, Wonder Woman and Cheetah are engaged in battle, while also carrying on a conversation. Wonder Woman wants to save Barbara Ann Minerva from the curse that has turned her into the Cheetah. But Cheetah does not want to go back to being human, saying that people are animals. Cheetah says that if Wonder Woman used her lasso on people and asked them about their darkest desires, it would reveal perversions that would turn her stomach. Cheetah says that civilization is just a mask that people wear. Cheetah says that Diana grew up surrounded by violence, and is still drawn to it. Cheetah slashes with her nails, and opens up a bad wound in Wonder Woman's throat.
Diana wakes up in the Watchtower, with several of the heroes surrounding her. She insists that she has to find Barbara, and must not fail her again.
Batman and Aquaman visit Colonel Steve Trevor at the Medical Care Unit of A.R.G.U.S. in Washington D.C. They are looking for information on Cheetah.
At the Watchtower, Flash expresses surprise that Wonder Woman was on the losing end of her battle in Central Park. Superman says Wonder Woman was holding back due to her friendship with Barbara Minerva. He implies that Barbara was the first friend that Diana made outside of Paradise Island. Through alternating scenes at A.R.G.U.S. and Watchtower, we get details of Cheetah's backstory, as told by Trevor and Wonder Woman. Barbara Minerva, working at the Smithsonian, was cut by a ritual dagger from a lost tribe in the Amazon. The dagger was brought in by Wonder Woman. Barbara was possessed by the Goddess of the Hunt, and turned into the bloodthirsty Cheetah. Diana blames herself for what happened.
At Watchtower, Superman approaches Wonder Woman in the Monitor room. He asks Flash and Cyborg for a bit of privacy. After they walk out, Superman and Wonder Woman talk. Wonder Woman wants to hunt for Cheetah alone. Superman wants to help. Wonder Woman brings up their moment at the Lincoln Memorial. Superman acknowledges that what happened was a kiss, not a commitment. But he says it was nice, and Diana agrees. They stand in silence for a while, looking through the large viewing window at the Earth below.
Flash and Cyborg are waiting right outside the door. Flash is bothered by recent events within the Justice League. Green Lantern resigned. Batman and Aquaman are arguing about who is leading the team. And now Superman and Wonder Woman have a private issue going on. Flash is concerned. He thinks it may be related to the hard kick Wonder Woman gave Superman recently.
Cyborg says that if the League goes away, he has nowhere to go. He says the others have lives, but he does not. He regularly spends time at Watchtower when the others leave. He does not need to sleep. He says that maybe he is just a machine, not really a person. Flash is sympathetic. He makes a persuasive case that Vic is as human as anyone.
Although Cyborg wants to respect their privacy, Flash wants Cyborg to eavesdrop on Superman and Wonder Woman's conversation, using his enhanced hearing to listen through the door. We are not sure how much Cyborg hears or does not hear. But it is possible he is aware of the brief romantic encounter between Superman and Wonder Woman.
Diana wants to find the lost tribe associated with the dagger that transformed Barbara. Flash and Cyborg enter the room and offer their help. Wonder Woman says they do not have to do this, but seems pleased she has friends who are so willing to help. Cyborg speaks to Batman remotely, telling him that a proposed plan is taking form.
We shift scenes and now see the Justice League in the Congo, initiating their search. Batman and Aquaman ask Wonder Woman if removing Trevor as Justice League liaison is the right thing to do, for the League, for Trevor, or for Diana. Flash arrives and says he has been unsuccessful so far in finding the lost tribe. Superman and Cyborg are able to hear some chanting across the nearby gorge.
Batman detects movement behind them, and then abruptly they are attacked by the Cheetah. Cheetah slashes Batman with her claws. She must be traveling very fast, because she manages to slash Barry in the leg.
Cheetah attacks Superman, biting him in the wrist. We get two surprises. The first surprise is that Cheetah's fangs are able to pierce Superman's skin. The second surprise is that the bite affects Superman much the way the initial cut from the knife affected Barbara. Superman has been transformed into a male version of Cheetah, and lets out a load growl in menacing fashion.
Story - 5: This is another great issue; and the beginning of a new story arc that I am excited to watch unfold in these pages.
What makes a great Justice League story? Well, a strong plot, for one. A great story should have a plot that is cleverly conceived, logically presented, and interesting to read.
But that is only for starters. What really makes a story great, and elevates it from a 3 to a 4 or 5, is characterization. The human interactions, the relationships, the dialogue; these things reveal small bits of characterization that help us to know the main characters better, or reinforce things about them that we already know. Characterization is what makes the story shine.
In that spirit, let's talk about the **THE KISS**. The kiss was a tender and passionate moment. But quickly, things went from passionate to slightly uncomfortable. Let's dig deeper, and see why.
We know that Wonder Woman is a very passionate person. We have seen this over and over, such as during the fight scene with Green Lantern in issue #11. But we also know she is a very independent person. This was revealed during the David Graves arc, when Wonder Woman wants to go it alone instead of accepting help from the League. This mix of traits, passionate yet independent, is likely to combine to make her feel very conflicted after her moment of romance and lust, and then the moment of realization afterward. Anything that may lead to commitment is bound to be rather scary to her; at least right now, before she has a chance to think about things. Add to this the fact that she grew up on an island without men; an island where men were probably spoken of only in disparaging terms, and you see why this whole episode is very confusing for her. And we can see on page one that Diana actually is so uncomfortable and awkward that she offers no other explanation than "I need to go." before bolting and leaving Kal-El alone with his thoughts.
Superman is inherently less conflicted. He is a positive person, and sees the good in people. While she grew up on an island with many others just like her, he grew up on a farm developing powers that made him feel more and more separate from mankind. He has always been a loner. So while she is wary of a romantic relationship, he welcomes the chance at deep connection. Although she initiated the kiss, it stirred up strong feelings in him that he probably did not realize he had. He is probably discovering that he really cares for Diana. Superman is being cautious, because he does not want to blow it. So he realizes that the absolute worst thing he could do would be to crowd her right now. But her reticence is going to cause him some frustration.
I liked the scene in the Watchtower, where Superman and Wonder Woman begin to discuss what has happened between them. Diana is on a path to learning to be comfortable with her feelings. And Superman is learning that patience will be his ally.
I enjoyed the scene with Flash and Cyborg in the Watchtower. They are both dealing with feelings of their own about recent events. Cyborg still has not fully adjusted to his transformation after the accident. He is the only Justice League member who can never take his costume off. Because he no longer needs to sleep, and because half of his body is now robotic, he is beginning to question whether he is human at all. This is a serious and difficult adjustment for him, and Flash works hard here to make Vic feel comfortable and accepted.
Flash just seems like a nice guy to me. I gather that he is uncomfortable with conflict on the team, and would just like to be in a Justice League where the members get along really well. So the resignation of Green Lantern, the rivalry between Batman and Aquaman for leadership of the team, and the secrecy of Superman and Wonder Woman are disturbing to him. We will watch to see if he learns to accept those feelings or express them to the other team members.
I miss having Green Lantern on the team. I hope he comes back.
Regarding the villain in this issue, I previously did not think that Cheetah was powerful enough to take on the entire Justice League. Maybe I did not realize how powerful she is; or else they amped up her powers for the New 52. I did not think she would be able to catch the Flash. And I certainly did not think she was powerful enough to bother Superman. I guess her powers are magic-based...
Art - 4: We welcome Tony S. Daniel to these pages. His pencils are strong. A couple of great images jump out at me; the splash on pages 2 and 3 showing Wonder Woman and Cheetah fighting, and the splash on the final page showing Superman transformed into a male version of Cheetah.
"On the Outs"
Steve Trevor sits in a bar watching a news report that says that he has been cut as the Justice League liaison. Amanda Waller has just been recruited by the President as his replacement.
Oliver Queen arrives. He has promised to watch for new threats for the Justice League. He returns now with word of a new villain called Multiplex. Green Arrow has already tangled with Multiplex and his duplicates.
Trevor says he has got a dangerous mission for Green Arrow, and says that the Archer must leave his arrows at home.
Story - 3: This 6-page story is mostly a teaser for a new series. The caption at the bottom of the last page says it will be continued in Justice League of America #1. The DC Comics website says that this new book will be available in February, and will feature Steve Trevor and Oliver Queen.
Art - 3: This art is just average.
Cover Art - 3: Superman and Wonder Woman tangle with the Cheetah. This cover is too crowded for me, but I like how the lasso is used.
Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: Wonder Woman and Cheetah face off in battle. Nicely drawn.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.