"Wonder Woman #23.1: Cheetah" writer John Ostrander doesn't simply kowtow to some prescriptive formula dictated by "Forever Evil." He uses the opportunity of this issue to present a wholly enjoyable story supported by great art from Victor Ibáñez to add toys to the DC Universe toybox. This comes as a nice surprise, since Cheetah is, quite possibly, one of the hardest characters to truly add depth to.
Ostrander's writing is an instant sell to many readers, but the combination of that with a breakout at Belle Reve and the introduction of the New 52 version of Mark Shaw and "Wonder Woman" #23.1 quickly transcends being a Wonder Woman-centric story and becomes a DC Universe story. Shaw is introduced as a U.S. Marshal and colloquially referred to as a "Manhunter," a term Ostrander plays with and teases readers with more than once in the course of this comic book's twenty pages.
As a matter of fact, Wonder Woman only appears on one page of this issue without any significant contribution. Given the platform to run on, Ostrander narrows his focus on the Cheetah, who is on the run and barely able to control her bestial nature. The issue affords the writer the luxury of delivering the origins of the Cheetah unlike any other telling in what becomes a strong, independent prelude to "Forever Evil." Between his introduction of a set of characters who become familiar and comfortable by the end of "Wonder Woman" #23.1 and his ability to effortlessly freshen up older concepts, Ostrander is more than welcome back in the DC Universe on a regular basis. This story gives me hope for "Forever Evil," and readers should be so lucky to have that event draw inspiration and direction from the work Ostrander delivers.
In addition to a very solid, foundational story, "Wonder Woman" #23.1 features beautiful art from Victor Ibáñez with liquid coloring from Wil Quintana. The two visual artists melt nicely one into the other to make this book everything it should be from a visual perspective. From the opening page of Cheetah bounding through the Louisiana swamp to the gore of blood soaking Cheetah's claws and jaws as she offers the hearts of her victims to the goddess of the hunt, this book is geared towards making the feline foe of the amazing Amazon a visual force of nature.
Events like "Forever Evil" and its spawn Villains Month can only be as successful as the imagination of the creators delivering the goods. In this case, Ostrander and Ibáñez energize this story with the mixing of incongruous heroes and villains, like Shaw and Cheetah. It's an easy concept to plan, but a seemingly difficult one to master. Thankfully, "Wonder Woman" #23.1 is as close to a masterpiece as "Villains Month" is going to bring. I'm unsure where the story might go from here, but U.S. Marshal Shaw and the Cheetah now have history to share and stories that should combine their adventures at some point in the future. DC would be wise to bring this creative team back for that occasion.