John Ostrander already has plenty of experience writing villains with runs on Suicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy under his belt, so he's a good fit to tell the tale of not only how Barbara Minerva came to be the Cheetah, but what she's been up to since the Secret Society went on their recruitment drive. Cheetah's never been anything near my favorite villain, even Wonder Woman villain, but since getting something of a boost in both power and visibility since the start of the New 52, she's definitely blipped on my radar. But while she was mostly a blur and a force of nature in her appearance in JLA, this gives us a look in her mind at what makes her tick, and it's actually pretty interesting. From her twisted upbringing to the events that caused her transformation to the modern day hunter trying to track her down, the character is fleshed out and says just enough to be menacing without being too stoic.
Victor Ibanez handles pencils and inks while the ever prolific Wil Quintana provides sharp, distinct colors with a wide palette, despite the story taking place almost exclusively at night or in the dark. The line work is also very solid with characters and settings being extremely distinct and standing out beautifully. The flashback events even have a slight tint to them, I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it sepia, but it's very close, which helps make it clear when they happen without hitting the reader over the head with "THEN!" "NOW!" captions every single time. The filter looks very natural as well, making it an integral part of the story.
Like so many Villains Month titles, this one seems extremely scattershot and either should have been longer or split in two issues. We're introduced to a lot of new characters and concepts, the FBI marshal especially, who get extremely short-shrift, despite being set up as a significant new player, while also getting shorted on a lot of the content that takes place in the past. It's definitely an origin issue, but since there are only 20 pages, we get 14 in the present and 6 in the past. The present has to juggle far more content and characters while the past just seems half-baked. With some of these issues, I really wish the concept would either fully commit to an origin or fully commit to exploring what the character is up to in the present because the issues that do that tend to be the most successful.
There's some pretty severe cognitive dissonance that happens in the cult that gave us Cheetah where they're completely dedicated to the hunt, to the extent that Cheetah won't even hunt someone if they're already wounded, but they turn someone loose in the woods with no weaponry whatsoever while they're armed with a weapon they're greatly proficient with. I understand that a great many times a real hunt is between two sides with vastly different means of defending themselves, but this comes off much more as a protracted execution.
There are definitely some pacing and content issues, but the book is still ultimately very well written and makes me really hope that we'll be seeing a lot more of Cheetah in the future. The art makes this book extremely easy to recommend, but the writing is no slouch either and does a great job of illustrating a character who isn't exactly sympathetic, but she's definitely well and realistically motivated, which goes a long way to making her more fleshed out and, more importantly, interesting to read and follow. It's always great when a B-lister makes it to the A-list, so let's hope that's the case here.