Almost all of the second half of this issue is devoted to the origin story of the post crisis version of The Cheetah.
Almost all of the second half of this issue is devoted to the origin story of the post crisis version of The Cheetah.
In a castle house set in the beautiful countryside of Nottingham, England, a rhythmic drum beats as a blood red moon emerges from the clouds in the night sky. Chuma sits cross legged before the Great Plant God, meditating and contemplating the rhythm of his own heart. It beats slowly at first, like the beating of the drum…
Somewhere outside in the misty countryside surrounding the castle, the mercenary leader and his colleague who had gunned down the officer during the raid, wait in the eerie silence. They have been instructed to meet Barbara Minerva hear but the soldier tells his commander that he feels uneasy. Why has she asked to meet them here when her place is just over the hill. The commander replies that she is the paying them and she calls the shots. The soldier is not convinced, asking why she would want to hire them after Chuma had made it quite clear that he was displeased about the fatality.
Just the they hear someone coming but cannot see anyone there. The sound comes again, this time from another direction and they spin round only to see nothing. They both draw weapons and the commander orders the soldier to circle round. As they split up, the soldier thinks that the sound is almost like some sort of animal. He suddenly hears the commander scream and whirls round…
The drumbeat in the castle quickens…
He rushes over to where their van is parked and finds his commander lying on the ground, torn apart. He sees that the tyres of the vehicle have also been slashed. Enraged, he opens fire on the surrounding undergrowth, yelling for his stalker to show themselves. As he unloads an entire cartridge and hears a yelp as he hits his target…
The drum beat gets louder and reaches a crescendo..
The soldier checks his handy work and finds he has shot a dog, but on closer inspection there is no blood on its teeth. This creature could not have been responsible for attacking the commander. Suddenly he hears a feral growl behind him and turns too late to see the Cheetah pouncing…
Inside the castle, Chuma hears his death scream as the drum beat slackens, descending into the comfort of its measured rhythms once more. The sacrament has begun!
Elsewhere, in the Chaos void between Man’s World and Themyscira, Wonder Woman and Hermes clutch the Caduceus, using its power to call for Hestia’s aid. For the Princesses’ part, she prays desperately for assistance, for an answer and more than anything, for forgiveness. As the power of the staff surges throughout the Chaos clouds, Wonder Woman says to Lord Hermes that this is futile. Hestia cannot hear them. None of the Gods can. He tells her she must concentrate. For such an important matter Hestia must hear them! The Amazon replies that perhaps she does and simply cannot respond or chooses not to. Maybe the sin of her losing the golden lasso is too much to forgive? He responds that the theft was not her fault. If his fellow Gods are too busy founding their new Olympus then he shall see to it that her lasso is recovered. She thanks him but adds that while she has always regarded the lasso as Hestia’s, he and the other Gods all refer to it as Diana’s. The silence from Olympus has clarified that fact for her. The magic lasso is her responsibility and it is she who must retrieve it.
She then asks Hermes to take her back to Man’s World and he asks her where she intends to start her search without the aid of a God. As they return back through the portal she replies that with all due respect she already has.
Meanwhile in Boston Police Department, Inspector Ed Indelicato and Lt. Shands are speaking with Julia Kapatelis, Christine Fenton, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy about the theft of Wonder Woman’s lasso. Shands holds a copy of “Archaeological Digest” that Christine has given the police, which has a photo of Barbara Minerva on the cover. Ed asks her is this is all she has on this “Minerva” woman. Christine replies that all she can tell them is what Ms. Mayer had told her and what was in the Agency files. She did not know Dr. Minerva was a fake until Wonder Woman told her that the professor was simply after her lasso.
She then says they have Barbara Minerva’s address so why have they not questioned her yet? Shands replies that England is beyond their jurisdiction, especially when there is no evidence. Ms Mayer’s files say nothing about the alleged subterfuge and all they have is the Princess’ word regarding Dr. Minerva’s motives. He feels they have already stuck their necks out enough following hunches. Julia responds that she knows Barbara Minerva. Her unethical reputation is famous. She would resort to any means to acquire a priceless historical artifact like a lasso forged from the Golden Girdle of Gaea. She then addresses Ed directly and adds that he has met Diana. He can surely see she is not the type to act upon unfounded hunches.
Shands pitches in again and says that Julia is trying to convince them that Barbara Minerva actually freed some extra-terrestrial prisoners of war, had them attack Wonder Woman and then killed them just to steal a lasso. He then suggests to Etta that this must surely be more a military matter. Etta replies that the Pentagon is already investigating but the mercenaries who freed the aliens did not leave any calling card. Even with the attack on Colonel Trevor, Etta and Wonder Woman by the Khunds, they have yet to prove any connection between these events and Dr. Minerva. Steve adds that he has so far had no luck tracing the unmarked helicopter. He is not going to give up though.
Julia says to the two police officers that she knows how far fetched this all sounds. But reliable sources inform her that Minerva may not be as mentally or emotionally competent as she would have them believe, particularly since an African expedition a few years ago.
Just then the Police Chief bursts in and demands to know what the hell is going on here. Indelicato and Shands act all innocent but he wants to know why they are wasting valuable police time. He then gestures outside and says that there are a couple of people waiting to see them. As they all step out of the office they see Wonder Woman and Hermes standing there. The Amazon Princess tells her friends she has had no luck in her quest to reach Hestia and asks if they have fared any better. Julia replies that they are unfortunately back where they started. The furious police chief demands to see Indelicato and Shands in his office and the others watch through the window as the two officers get an earful!
Julia suggests that it is about time they left. Wonder Woman asks her about Dr. Minerva and is handed a copy of the magazine with the archaeologist on the cover. Julia says that she firmly believes Minerva is the culprit but they have no proof. She has tried calling her in England but with no luck. Wonder Woman stares for a long while at the photograph and decides on her next move.
A few days later the English Newspaper headlines are full of the fact that Wonder Woman has arrived on her first visit to the country. The “buzz” reaches the depths of the Nottingham countryside as Chuma ponders whether it is merely coincidence that Wonder Woman’s has decided to visit England. He knows the Amazon Princess is no fool but as yet she still has no proof to connect his mistress to the theft of the lasso. Wonder Woman must be trying to trick his mistress but she is too smart for the Amazon. Barbara is still recovering from her exertions a few nights ago and Chuma is determined to rid her of her enemy, for that is his sacred duty. Whoever threatens the Cheetah, threatens him.
Back in Boston in the home of the Kapatelis family, Julia, Steve, Hermes and Vanessa read the newspaper headlines about how Wonder Woman is “wowing the UK!”. Julia explains to Steve that it had been Diana’s idea to go as she wanted to speak with Dr. Minerva personally. Not wanting to make unsubstantiated allegations, she opted to make it appear like a side trip as part of an Ambassadorial visit.
An annoyed Hermes snaps that the Princess should have let him handle the matter. Julia tells him she is not comfortable with Diana going there alone either but they all know has tenacious she can be. He responds that there is a fine line between tenacity and insolence! She in turn replies that Diana acts on her beliefs and takes responsibility for them, no matter what the obstacle. She believes that to be the right and duty of all living creatures. To Julia, that is respect, not insolence. She then congratulates him and the other Gods and Goddesses for creating a truly modern woman!
Hermes says that the term “modern woman” is an enigma to him. He then asks Steve how he has survived these so called “modern women”? He tells the Messenger God that he likes to think that women have not really changed all that much. It is just that society is finally catching up to them. Hermes is still unconvinced and Steve adds that he cannot really explain modern women to the God; he will just have to experience them.
Vanessa, who has been reading the newspaper during this debate chips in that she does not understand why they are all so worried. Barbara Minerva is supposed to be some sort of cripple. Diana will make sofa stuffing out of her!
Deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, a taxi pulls up along a quiet road and Diana gets out. The driver asks why she has asked to stop four kilometers away from the castle. She simply smiles and pays. As he drives away she begins to walk down the lane and thinks to herself that she could not allow the driver to get any closer to Minerva’s home. She feels something dangerous about the place. She can almost smell the blood. Something horrible happened here a few days back and the closer she gets the more apprehensive she becomes. Meanwhile her approach is watched through binoculars by Chuma.
A short while later Diana is sitting in one of the drawing rooms inside the castle as her host, Chuma, asks if she would like a tea. She declines but he tells her that Dr. Minerva may be some time and that he makes very good tea. She tells him that she has bad reactions to caffeine but as he places a steaming cup of tea by her side, he assures her that there is no caffeine in here. It is only a herbal brew.
As if to reassure her, he takes a sip from his own cup and asks her what her business is with Dr. Minerva today. She replies that it is a private matter that she wishes to discuss with his mistress – assuming of course Dr. Minerva is really here. Is she? He tells her not to worry and to drink her tea. Dr. Minerva simply wondered whether Wonder Woman would want to explore the fantastic treasures throughout the castle first, collected over many years. As Diana takes a drink from her tea, she says that she felt them as she walked through the castle gate. The memories they embody thrill her senses. Perhaps at a later date she would love to study them further but that is not why she here today.
Suddenly she groans and collapses onto the floor, clutching her head. Her body is on fire and she cannot control her shivering! Too late she realises the tea has been spiked with something. As she lies on the floor in agony she finds her limbs starting to paralyse as Chuma stands over her. He apologises for drugging her, adding that he cannot let her harm his precious mistress. He tells her the pain will pass and she must already be feeling the paralysis taking over. She stammers that he had drunk from the same brew and he explains that he has developed an immunity to the deadly herb. She weakly asks why he has done this and he states that his mistress had ordered it. It is his destiny to serve her, just as it is Wonder Woman’s destiny to die in order for the Cheetah to live!
Realising Barbara Minerva and the strange cat woman that had attacked her several months ago were one and the same, she asks how the frail, lame doctor could transform into such a powerful creature. Chuma looks up at a painting on the wall which depicts Barbara dressed in a beautiful gown. He tells Wonder Woman that his mistress had instructed for the poison he had administered to be slow acting, in order that she the Amazon can learn how it all began – the glorious night when the Cheetah was born!
It started during an expedition in the dense jungles of Africa, where few white faces have ventured and none ever returned. Barbara and her colleague, Dr Tom Leavens were leading an expedition to locate the Temple of Urzkartaga. After two months they had found nothing but Barbara was determined to carry on. One day a local tribal priest, whom she had bribed to act as a guide, indicated something up ahead. The hooded little dwarf showed Barbara an Urzkartagan prayer necklace lying on the ground and the priest gestured that the city was close. He warned them that it was very dangerous though as the Cat God lived there.
Uninterested with superstitious nonsense, Barbara had ordered her expedition to proceed. After a few minutes trekking the priest had instructed them to stop. With no sign of any city Barbara demanded to know what was going on. Suddenly the jungle had filled with the fury of war cries and they had found themselves surrounded by warriors wearing the distinctive markings of their Cat God, the Cheetah! One of the expedition opened fire in panic but was struck down by a spear. As the tribe attacked the party defended itself. Despite overwhelming odds Barbara had not panicked like the others. Her face did not show fear – only hate.
Lobbing a smoke grenade, she and Tom managed to make an escape and were chased to the edge of a precipice overlooking a river. With no other options open to them they both dived in as arrows and spears peppered the water around them.
Barbara was always a powerful swimmer and Chuma explains that this is how she had escaped after Julia had shot her during the night the Cheetah had attacked the Amazon Princess. He adds that the lasso that had been tied around his mistress at the time had deflected most of the bullet’s impact. Suddenly, remembering Wonder Woman is dying and that her time is short, he continues with the story…
The two professors had managed to make it upstream unscathed and an excited Barbara had told Tom that they must be close to the city. Tom could not believe how callous she was being after having just seen their colleagues killed. She had replied that compassion was a waste of time and that she had come here to find treasure. As she sprinted off she yelled back that he could either share in the discovery or make his way back to safety – alone! Reluctantly, he had raced after her to catch up.
Later that night the blood red moon had been high in the sky and the drums were beating. Barbara and Tom surveyed a tribal village below them where a secret ancient ceremony was taking place. Behind where the tribe danced around a raging fire they could see the entrance to the Temple of Urzkartaga. They could also see standing next to a covered altar the priest who had betrayed them. They had watch transfixed as he had raised a knife and sacrificed one of the captured expedition members, draining the blood into a cauldron. Having seen enough, Tom suggested they make a quick exit but Barbara instead started to make her way down for a closer look.
Meanwhile the priest had removed a sheet covering the altar to reveal a withered female dressed in the markings of the Cheetah. She was obviously weak and dying but now was the time for her renewal. The priest held aloft a potion mixed with the fresh blood. The Cheetah opened her eyes and slowly her cracked lips parted to accept the sacrament. But a gun shot rang out and shattered the cup of potion, followed moments later by a second shot that hit the Cheetah in the chest, killing her.
All hell had broken lose as an armed force attacked the village and mowed down the tribe. Barbara had watched the massacre from her hiding place and wondered how the invaders had found the Temple. She suddenly recognised two of the attackers as bearers from her own expedition team and realised she had led them here! As bullets had flown every which way, the priest grabbed the lifeless form of his mistress and waited for death. As his cloak fell away the priest revealed himself to be none other than Chuma. One of the attackers lobbed a grenade at where he stood but Barbara dived and shoved him inside the Temple just in time. The resulting explosion had then caused the entrance to collapse.
Chuma then pauses in his story and sees that Wonder Woman is no longer moving at all. The poison must be reaching the end of its journey so he must hurry to finish the tale.
He tells the ever weakening Wonder Woman that according to his mistress, she had only been trying to get inside the Temple to get to the treasure. But he knew better. Urzkartaga was giving Chuma another chance. After the rock fall there had been an eerie silence in the blackness of the Temple interior. But as his eyes had become accustomed to the darkness he could see Barbara standing there, aiming her pistol at him. And she was very angry…