Rise of the Olympian has been anything but boring so far, yet things kick up a gear here, as writer Gail Simone gives a masterclass in pacing a story for maximum action and characterisation.
Sergeant Steel is not a man to sing the Wonder Woman TV show theme and that's the latest clue that he's not who he seems to be. This is the issue in which we learn his secret, and it's tied to our Faces of Evil-imposed cover star, the Cheetah.
Mind, she's not much present, with the bulk of the issue devoted, quite rightly, to Round Two of Diana's conflict with the monstrous Genocide. And, appropriately, she has seconds - Donna Troy and Wonder Girl in their own versions of the Alex Ross Screaming Chicken Armour (as dubbed by Carol Strickland). The spread in which we first see the Wonder Sisters together is just stunning, artists Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan, with colourist Brad Anderson, presenting them as so beautiful, yet fierce, that even the JLA looks on in awe.
This standard of art is maintained throughout the book, another highlight being the creepy scene in which Simone introduces the island of men from which the Olympian will spring next issue. The illoes make it obvious these guys have just been plucked from the arms of death by the mad god Zeus.
We see two sides of Diana this issue, the leader in battle, determined to regain the magic lasso Genocide stole from her, and the thinker, narrating her heroic journey to herself. Neither voice trips the other up. We see Diana as the terrible warrior she can be, but even though she wields an axe - something I hate - she uses it reluctantly, because she believes the situation demands it.
There's a ratcheting of tension throughout the book, and a couple of great cliffhangers. The only thing about 'The Blood of the Stag' that disappointed me was the continuing characterisation of Tom Tresser, Nemesis. I get that there's more to the WW/Nemesis alleged romance than meets the eye, and that all will be revealed in time, but meanwhile, does he have to be presented as a ninny? The man is a superspy, he's held his own in a team-up with Batman, survived numerous Suicide Squad missions - he's not one to puzzle over a borrowed spear (click for a better view).
That aside, Simone, Lopresti and co make producing great superhero comics look easy.