The Many Faces of Barbara Minerva, part 7 (Leopard Print Pants)
Well, here we are, after admittedly quite a hiatus, with the final repost of my Cheetah series. This overlaps the prior Pfeifer chapter a lot in terms of publish dates, and actually all falls before the Salvation Run stuff as far as the in-universe timeline goes, but chronologically and thematically it's more recent, it's essentially consistent with the most recent Cheetah, and being the take in JLA, it's probably the one that's going to stick with the average fan for a good while regardless of anything Gail might yet do in the Wondy title, so "current" it remains.
Which is depressing, but more in a mildly melancholy way than the frustrating VU stuff or the outright stupid Pfeifer Cheetah. Because while this Cheetah is still clearly of that same ilk, she's at least got some nuance to her beyond the mindless cardboard sociopath, and a bit of a suggestion of what she once was.
The first we see of the all-new, revamped, updated, modern, what-the-hell-is-up-with-those-pants Cheetah is in the very first issue of v3; she is, appropriately, the very first Wondy villain we meet in the series. The context is, Donna, currently carrying the mantle of Wonder Woman, is trying to rescue Nemesis "Steve Trevor" from some unnamed "terrorists."
Why is Minerva not a redhead here? First time we've seen her human form since Jimenez, you'd think they could have put a little effort into getting it right. It's not like it's a hard guess with a Wondy rogue, they're all ginger or doctors or both.
Also, no, cheetahs don't look like that, but these are magic mutant freak cheetahs, and anyway, it's the Heinboot, there's a requisite fail-per-page quota that needs to be met and there isn't a lot of dialogue or action here, something's gotta take up the slack.
I don't know if this is Dodson's fault or Heinberg's, but that's some piss-poor storytelling right there. You can sort of assume that Minerva made some kind of hand gesture indicating to hand over the lasso or Steve becomes kitty kibble, but it pretty much just looks like Donna handed her most powerful weapon to the enemy for no reason at all like a big fucking chump. Course, pretty much everything in this story makes Donna look like a chump, so....
Anyway, note the outfit! See, she's wearing leather with leopard print, so that you can tell who she's supposed to be and associate her visually with cheetahs even though she's human. Makes perfect sense, although it's still a ridiculous outfit for a wealthy upper-class snobtastic middle-aged British professor (she owns a castle, let us not forget).
So Donna stabs Giganta and flees with Tresser (whose dialogue, by the way, sounds nothing like Steve Trevor, but Donna doesn't notice, because she's a fucking chump), and Cheetah and Giganta give chase.
This is not, of course, Diana. Not that she acts particularly more out of character than the real Diana post-Rucka anyway...
Note Minerva's hacking away at faux!Diana with a sword, and that her cheetahs are just kind of sitting there watching. (Note that she has attack cheetahs in the first place. Bzuh?)
Donna tries to stop faux!Diana, and they duke it out, and faux!Diana stabs Donna through the gut, at which point Donna begins to hazily suspect that it's a Psycho illusion and not the real Diana, because she's a fucking chump. Then the Terrible Three here string Donna around Giganta's neck like a pretty amazon medallion and start kicking buildings over to try to drag Diana out of hiding.
Diana does not, of course, suit up and go save her sister, because that would be responsible, and if there's one thing Diana isn't, it's responsible, but Cassie gives it a try, and Diana and Tim end up chasing after her and getting sucked into the fight anyway.
Apparently the glasses disguise Diana's smell, too.
Less than a page to drop her, and sweet Styx she's doing a bad job of hiding her secret identity if she just took on an alpha-class meta in plainclothes in the middle of the street. That little fight doesn't do Donna any favors, either...
That's pretty much it for Cheetah until the end of the arc - she tussles with Herc for a couple panels after he shows up, but he punks her as easily as Diana did, and as soon as they're beaten all three of the rogues vanish. A little later, Circe shows up and takes credit for the whole thing. (She took out Donna and Cassie off-panel, because - say it with me - they're fucking chumps. Though at least with Circe it actually makes sense, everyone's a chump compared to her.)
A moment to examine this apparent Circe-Cheetah allegiance, if you will, because it's really rather odd. After all, as you may recall from the first post in this series, Cheetah has had her powers altered by Circe once before. And that was... not a friendly time between them, to say the least. Circe made her a pet, a slave, a weak and dependent thing, stripped her of her dignity and self-determination and *used* her for her own ends and amusement. And then there was that thing with Ballesteros - Circe was his lover when he stole the Cheetah power from Minerva, and that plot can actually be made to make some sense if you assume that Circe is the one who suggested it and even helped him do it. So Minerva going to Circe *again*, voluntarily interacting with her (other than to kill her) at all, much less agreeing to be in her debt, is a bit of a peculiar plot point to swallow.
I mean, I suppose they could have taken a moment to chat and resolve all their differences and part as buds due to the mutual life-changing experience of being Diana's friend or whatever after Circe bamfed them away from the White Magician fight, but somehow that just doesn't seem likely to me, y'know? Especially considering how much both their characters have regressed since then. Also, you'd think she'd have learned her lesson about making deals with gods by now in any case.
Regardless, Circe steals Diana's power, yadda yadda, lots of unimportant and really bad writing, yadda yadda, Diana assaults Circe's home base and gets it back, just in time for the three from before plus a whole slew of rogues who don't actually exist in post-Crisis continuity (and several who do, but not in the form we see here, or as rogues to characters who are not Diana and have nothing to do with her, or both) to appear on Circe's doorstep and attack.
Behold, she's in cheetah form again! (But for some inexplicable reason, she's still wearing those pants.) And her three obedient cheetah minions are gone. Which one takes to mean that Circe's powerup is no longer in effect. The conversation about how and why they're all on Circe's side would tend to suggest that it's still up, though. Who knows. It's not like it even really matters.
So, fight fight fight, good guys show up, fight fight fight some more...
Look, Batman kicking Minerva's ass at hand-to-hand again, and just when I thought this story couldn't possibly make Donna look any worse. I do like Blizzard's comment there, though. Yes, you're so much more impressive and high on Diana's list than the Cheetah, guy who doesn't actually exist.
That's it for Minerva in this storyline, though - being choked by Bats, I mean. Nemesis later reports to Steel that "the worst of her rogues were rounded up," but we get no specifics on who, and the DCU is a vast collection of cardboard prisons anyway, so it's not like it's a real shock when Cheetah then shows up as part of the new Injustice League.
Credit where credit is due, this scene is hilarious. But I'm not really particularly convinced that Minerva should be here.
I mean, okay, to a certain extent, all "Injustice League"-type endeavors are going to require a lot of out-of-character writing. After all, why do you form a League? To fight enemies you can't handle yourself. That makes a lot of sense for heroes; their entire motivation is about the villains. If one bad guy is too much for you, it's nice to have other people who also fight bad guys who are willing to help.
It makes no sense whatsoever for the vast majority of villains, though. No one has the goal of ending crimefighting the way the Justice League has the goal of ending crime. They just want their scientific discoveries/mob maneuvers/ecoterrorism/what-have-you to go off smoothly. If everything goes right in most villains' lives, the capes never even show up. You certainly don't go looking for them, or sign on with a bunch of insane untrustworthy criminals with completely different goals and priorities than you on the off chance they might be able to protect you instead of backstabbing your ass and bringing down spandex heat of their own. Some rogues work well as the minions of others, but a vast allied brotherhood for cooperative crime just doesn't make sense.
Which mostly you can ignore by saying "well, it's a genre convention and the Legion of Doom is fun, so we'll just pretend." But I would tend to say it makes even less sense for Minerva than for most, because she has less reason to hate superheroes than just about any other rogue in the DCU. After all, the only hero she's ever even fought is Diana, and for 70-odd percent of their history she's considered Diana an ally and resource. The very first time she ever explicitly expressed specific hatred for Diana was in Rucka's run, a whole 200 issues after her introduction and under the pen of someone who was writing her diametrically opposed to what little remained of her consistently established character. So she doesn't even have the "enemy of my enemy" basis for considering herself part of the DCU's criminal brotherhood - she's got less reason to care what the superheroes are doing than Sinestro, and you're never going to see *him* at a Secret Society luncheon.
The generically sociopathic needs-no-motive-but-being-Eeeeeeeeevil Rucka or Pfeifer Cheetah would probably go for this, though, if she were smart enough, and for the Heinberg Cheetah it makes perfect sense, so like I said, we do seem to have achieved some consistency at last, if nothing else. Thus, onward, to the Injustice League doing their thing against Firestorm.
Firestorm gets admitted to a hospital, and Diana and Kendra hear about it and head down to find out what happened. They leave his room and are promptly jumped.
Christ, this art.
You guys know how this goes after that - the whole League gets picked off one at a time, stupidly, like amateurs, and put on big T&A racks for broadcast to Superman, until Firestorm gets up and frees Bats, who frees everyone else, and then there's a big scrum, during which Cheetah has a moment of smart.
The white hats start winning fairly handily, which leads us to this deeply odd little scene:
I really don't know what's happening here. The closest thing there is to a precedent for this behavior would be Byrne Cheetah - this scene almost reads as the realization of the potential of his Minerva, with Cheetah doing Diana's dirty work and Diana having to stop her. And the interaction between the two is very pre-Rucka as well - note how neither of them actually seems particularly motivated to fight the other, at least until they've worked out where they stand. But it just comes out of nowhere, and it's very strangely blocked and dialogued even if it *were* a natural character beat.
After this, of course, Minerva gets collected with all the other black hats and shipped off to planet Australia, where Pfeifer butchers the hell out of her a bit. But as far as publish dates go, that's the last that was seen of the Cheetah prior to Gail's take, which per the conclusion of the Genocide arc at least, remains basically consistent with the Meltzer/McDuffie/Heinboot incarnation.1 So, as it stands, what has Barbara Minerva become?
Well, she's fairly generic. She doesn't seem to have a real motive for her wrongdoing at any point; there's that weird bull about being a revolutionary when she's part of Circe's Did Not Do The Research Party, but basically she's just being a bad guy Because. She's a mid-tier combatant, good enough to take Donna without a fight after only a mild powerup or to not even black out from a full-bore Lightning attack to the face, but not capable of taking down the absolute upper-tier guys like Diana and Firestorm without help. She's actually reasonably intelligent with decent leadership skills, enough to be one of the founding members of the Injustice League and to be in charge of the attack squads she's part of, but she doesn't scheme or seem particularly clever or devious and she's clearly content to take a backseat to Luthor.2 The speed she learned from Zoom is gone, with no explanation, as is her mindless, animalistic sociopathy; she speaks normally at all times and doesn't seem to bloodlust at all. Barring one moment of illusion courtesy of Circe (or maybe it wasn't illusion - after all, why use the sword if she had claws under there somewhere?), she's stuck as the Cheetah,3 but she also seems to be free of Urzkartaga again, and Chuma is certainly nowhere in evidence. Basically, while there's nothing particularly offensive about her, there's nothing particularly interesting about her either - except for that strange moment with Dr. Light, which was not given enough context to make any sense.
Also, she has really stupid pants.
1 There are a few differences between RotO!Cheetah and this one, but none truly salient. As canon stands now, this version of Cheetah is still essentially in effect. There are ample enough signs that Gail's take will eventually be a distinct eighth chapter's worth on its own that I'm not including it here - the dramatic disparity between SS!Cheetah and anything contemporary, including RotO!Cheetah, for one - but that's an eventually. At the moment, pretty much everything here applies just as easily to the kitty last seen wrapped in rebar as it does to the one who tried to tear out Light's throat. 2 Or in RotO!Cheetah's case, Ares. Whether she knows she's taking a backseat to him or not isn't clear to me, but in any case her position relative to him in terms of the plot is the same as it is to Luthor here. 3 My usual phrase here would be "Athena knows how we got from Jimenez' Minerva who can't transform to the VU Cheetah who can't transform back, but I sure don't." Except, I do have a suspicion. I think probably a handful of people who didn't know the character just assumed that the cheetah shape was permanent, and then other people assumed *those* people knew what the hell they were talking about, and it just became de facto by repetition. That seems to happen a lot, after all, and unfortunately this is more of a "Catwoman's origin" instance of the phenomenon than an "Icemaiden is Tora Olafsdottir."
Elegantly and fittingly, Gail appears to have solved this problem by the exact same method.
I have no further chapters to promo the way I usually do after the cut, but dedicated Cheetah fans, if there are any left after this tremendous fall from grace, may be interested in checking out the current Grand Unified Theory of Cheetahs, which achieves the extraordinary by reconciling all seven chapters of this series into a single coherent character arc by dint of massive unsupportable fanwank.