Woman’s Eye View: Comics Week 05/26/10

The following is a selection of comics released this week (5/26/10)* that focus heavily on women in comics – whether that be characters, creators, or even readers.

The books are rated as BUY, TRADEWAIT, or SKIP.

Tradewaiting, for the uninitiated, is the act of not buying individual issues of a comic as it releases, but rather waiting for them to be collected in a trade paperback form (aka TPB).

*It should be noted that this list will focus on North American/English releases as that’s mostly what I have access to.  Additionally, as I am in general unfamiliar with Manga, I will not be including Manga titles in my lists.  For some great reviews and discussion of Manga titles I urge you to check out Danielle Leigh on CSBG.  I will do my best to include independent and graphic novel selections as they are released as well – but if I’ve missed something excellent feel free to let me know in the comments.

Here we go…

Dazzler (one-shot). Track 1:  Jim McCann (writer).  Kalman Andrasotszky and Ramon Perez (pencils).  Rick Ketchem (inks).  Jim Charalampidis (colors).  Track 2: Jim McCann (writer).  Francesca Ciregia (art).  Cris Peter (colors).  Marvel.  40 pages.  $3.99.

I will admit upfront my bias against and dislike for Dazzler, which makes any story starring her an uphill battle.  That said, I’m always looking for positive books featuring women, so despite my dislike of Dazzler I still hoped for the best.  This is not the best.  A frustrating and pointless story that really goes nowhere and ends quite unsatisfactorily.  The art was not bad overall nor was the actual writing, but the plot was horribly weak.  I much preferred the art in “track 2” by Ciregia, but it wasn’t enough to save a still weak story. Also bad in this tale is the objectification.  Dazzler is falling out of her top from the cover all the way through the first story (which is the bulk of the book) the T&A lightens up considerably in Ciregia’s story, but it was too little, too late. SKIP.

Detective Comics #865 (Question Co-Feature).  Greg Rucka (writer).  Cully Hamner (art).  Dave McCraig (colors).  DC.  40 pages.   $3.99.

Though Detective Comics no longer stars the excellent Batwoman, and is no longer written by the excellent Greg Rucka, the co-feature finishing out (I think this is the last installment?) remains excellent.  The rest of the issue is not bad either, but I’m only going to talk about the 10 page co-feature here.  Rucka writes Renee Montoya as The Question wonderfully (as he should, he “made” her) and this issue is no exception.  He’s also been doing a great job with The Huntress for the last handful of issues and it’s nice (and sadly refreshing) to see such a great female friendship playing out sans bitchy drama.  Cully Hamner and Dave McCraig continue to do an exceptional job with the art.  BUY.

Gotham City Sirens #12.  Tony Bedard (writer).  Peter Nguyen (pencils).  Jack Purcell (inks).  Tony Avina (colors) .  DC.  32 pages.  $2.99.

I’ve had a bit of a love/hate thing with Gotham City Sirens, wanting to love it and yet often cringing at the art by Guillem March which is far too T&A laden for my tastes.  It’s particularly frustrating here because Poison Ivy is a character that I feel like can and perhaps should be more free (read: naked or whatever) in her appearance as that fits her character, but there’s no real character reason for Catwoman and Harley Quinn to do the same…and yet the male gaze has been really heavy in Gotham City Sirens.  That said, if you can get past the cover (by Guillem March) inside, the art (by Peter Nguyen) is much more restrained from a T&A point of view and doesn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the story.  This is part one of a new two part arc, so if you’re remotely interested in these characters (Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn) it could be a good time to jump on board.  It’s nice to see three females anchoring a book and doing it well, but I’d fully be able to commit if March would reign himself in a bit or we could get a new regular penciller on the title.  This is a mild BUY.

Madame Xanadu #23.  Matt Wagner (writer).  Amy Reeder (pencils).  Richard Friend (inks).  Guy Major (colors).  Vertigo.  32 pages.  $2.99.

Excellent.  I haven’t always been 100% on Madame Xanadu, but this issue, the first I’ve read in a few months, really blew me away.  Amy Reeder’s pencils are quite frankly stunning and Wagner’s writing really worked for me in this issue.  This is the last issue in an arc, so if you haven’t been reading, I might recommend jumping on with issue #24 which will start a new arc.  It’s still a BUY though. 

Power Girl #12.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (writers).  Amanda Conner (art).  Paul Mounts (colors).  DC.  32 pages.  $2.99.

For almost a year now, I’ve been hoping that Palmiotti and Gray would step up and move past the easy jokes about Power Girl’s physique…they have let me down.  This book is definitely fun, it’s undeniable, it’s sharply written, funny, and beautifully drawn, but it could be so much more and better.  Conner’s art makes this hands down one of the best looking books on the stands these days, but it’s insulting that all three of these talented creators can’t lay off the slapstick adolescent visual humor and let Power Girl really be more than just her body.  If they could stop constantly undermining the great stuff they sometimes start to let her do by constantly returning to the same joke maybe I could have really fallen for this book, and advocated for it hard both here and on She Has No Head!, instead I find myself frustrated with the lost potential month after month.  She’s got big boobs guys…we got it.  Move on already.  There is some really funny stuff in the second half of this issue but all the great lines go to Galazorg and Vartox, not PG.  A shame.

Sadly, this is the last issue for this team, so I’ll never know if they intended to give Power Girl the stories she REALLY deserved…the stories that didn’t rely on huge boobs as an eventual punchline.  I have little hope that PG can survive a creative team switch, but if the new team has any interest in letting Kara be more than boobs I’m willing to give it a try. TRADEWAIT.

Sense & Sensibility #1 (of 5).  Nancy Butler (writer).  Sonny Liew (art).  Sotocolor (colors).  Marvel.  32 pages.  $3.99.

Great comic book.  I have not yet read the original Sense & Sensibility (it’s on my shelf to be read, I swear) but the Ang Lee directed, Emma Thompson penned film adaptation is one of my favorite films of all time…it’s good (quality) comfort food for me, and this felt much the same.  If the film adaptation is a good one (i.e. accurate and faithful) then Butler has done a good job here, as I recognized it all and it worked well as translated to yet another medium.  The cartoonish and crazy fun style by Liew works well too and was completely enjoyable.  One complaint…I don’t know where Marvel gets off charging $3.99 for a 32 page comic book…but that price point sucks.  Despite that one caveat, I’m still giving it a BUY rating.

Wednesday Comics Hardcover Edition.  Mark Chiarello.  Various Writers.  Various Artists.  DC.  200 pages (17 x 11 size hardback edition).  $49.99.

Not new this week, but releasing in collected hardcover format is DC’s exceptional Wednesday Comics.  I highly recommend this book (collected, and in the original newsprint if you can find them) as it’s simply some of the best and brightest talent in the comics industry coming together and telling stories THEY want to tell.  And it shows.  Conceived by the brilliant Mark Chiarello, I can’t recommend it high enough.  Check out this post from September to learn more. BUY.

Wonder Woman #44.  Gail Simone (writer).  Nicola Scott and Travis Moore (pencils).  Douge Hazlewood, Wayne Faucher, John Dell, and Hi-Fi (inks).  Hi-Fi (colors).  DC.  32 pages.  $2.99.

This is worth a buy if only because it’s the end to a brilliant 30 issue run by writer Gail Simone.  The title will be taken over by J. Michael Straczynski with issue 45/600 and you can feel Simone trying her best to tie up loose ends (the gorillas are clearly departing…which is a huge loss…I love those damn gorillas) and leave Straczysnki with a fairly clean slate.  The story itself, I have to say was not as powerful as I expected, considering the lead up, but it’s possible Simone was not able to do everything she intended, or possibly that she decided to end differently based on editorial input and the previously mentioned clean slate, or maybe this is just all the punch the story had.  Regardless, it’s still a good comic that stars a Diana that I’ve come to really love unreservedly.  It may not be the best issue Simone has ever penned, but especially in the face of such weak comics like Dazzler and Emma Frost out this week….sometimes all you have to be is better than everyone else on the shelf…this week Diana definitely is.  BUY.

X-Men Origins:  Emma Frost (one-shot).  Valerie D’Orazio (writer).  Karl Moline (pencils). Rick Magyar (inks). Morry Hollowell (colors).  Marvel.  48 pages.  $3.99.

This is going to be a LONG one.

I have a great fondness for Valerie D’Orazio as I am/was a great fan of her blog Occasional Superheroine, and especially of her frank discussion of her experience in the comics industry as a woman, not to mention her involvement with Friends of Lulu, but I hated this book with a fiery passion.  It really stoops to the worst and most offensive cliches and it’s just across the board lazy.

If someone is going to show me the origins of ultimate badass Emma Frost, then you really do have to shock and awe me…or at least throw a surprise in there…or if you can’t do any shock or awe or surprise, then you have to write the hell out of that motherfucker…not just deliver a tepid uninspired story that someone likely slapped together in three minutes.

This is the most basic cliche ridden origin story you could imagine.  Abusive daddy?  CHECK.  Mousy girl that gets picked on?  CHECK.  Rich beautiful family and one mousy sibling?  CHECK.  Private school?  CHECK.  Power that appears suddenly and is uncontrollable?  CHECK.  Female character turns to stripping to survive?  CHECK.  Female character hooks up with a dude that abuses her on first meeting?  CHECK.

I could keep going…but instead I’ll try to summarize:  Poor little mousy rich girl that is disliked by her father (for all the cliche reasons) that is tormented at school by other girls and is held down just when she begins to excel turns out to be a mutant.  She begins exhibiting her power and uses it in absolutely mundane seen before ways (for example, lashing out at classmates that tease her).  When she leaves home she becomes a stripper (and is apparently starving – despite her perfect dyed blonde hair and giant fake boobs).  And here I must ask…why a stripper?  Am I really expected to believe that a character with Emma’s power (and obvious beauty) would settle for stripping when there are so many other ways that she could utilize her powers to bring her wealth (etc.)? Stripping (and the like) is just the most obvious and convenient of answers…and a hoop I am quite frankly absolutely sick and tired of writers going to when showing me the origin story of a female character.  I never expected Emma’s background to be innocent and rosy…but I certainly didn’t expect this mundane dreck.

When Sebastian Shaw show up at the club and plucks her from her pitiful stripping (and physically attacks her by the way) she ends up making out with him.  REALLY?  WTF.  In addition to believing that stripping is the best idea the brilliant Emma Frost came up with as a way to survive, I’m supposed to believe that she rewards a man that attacks her with hot sexy making out?   Seems unlikely.

All of this adds up to exactly zero insight into who Emma is and how she became what she became (which is um…the POINT of an origin story, right?)  To make matters worse, D’Orazio does not have a good handle on the strong voice that so many writers have recently nailed for Emma.  Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon spring to mind instantly, and now in Xenogensis…which, love it or hate it, Warren Ellis has absolutely NAILED Emma’s voice in and manages to give her more personality in one word balloon than this book can manage in 20 some pages.

You never really know with big two comics, how much of a story (especially in something like a one-shot) is being handed down and mandated to a writer.  How much they’re being required to do, whether they agree or not, and so I’m happy to give D’Orazio a pass on the horrible plot, but not getting the voice of Emma Frost…or at least showing how it developed into modern Emma’s voice is solely on her shoulders.  Cliche over the top dialogue is also solely on her shoulders.

Beyond even all of that there are just the errors…or at least what I would view as errors.  Professor Xavier comes to recruit Emma once her powers manifest and offers to change her father’s mind for her, so that she can come to the school.  I tried to give the story the benefit of the doubt and figured that Xavier was testing Emma to see if she’d ask him to invade her father’s mind in such a way, but as it’s never mentioned again or addressed, I can only assume that in this version of reality, young (fairly innocent) Xavier just runs around raping the minds of others to get what he wants.  Doesn’t seem likely.  Additionally, in the same scene, Moira and Xavier show up at the Frost household doorstep as if it is just one of any million suburban households…not the massive wealthy estate that has always been suggested for the Frost family (and that is suggested elsewhere here…like with servants and giant dining rooms with throne-like chairs).  Lastly, and if you don’t love “new Emma” maybe you won’t care about this, but I have much enjoyed Emma’s admission that she spent a fortune on plastic surgery to get her body (and beyond) looking the way it does…I find her honesty refreshing.  Yet in this book, as a stripper, she pretty much looks the same way we see her for the rest of the book (and as she looks in our present reality) so am I expected to believe she had all this plastic surgery while she was starving to death by her own admission?  Sloppy, sloppy work.

Really it’s a crime to see a character that has come so far in recent years, treated so shabbily.  As for the art, I generally like Moline’s pencils but found this issue pretty inconsistent…it felt…rushed perhaps?  SKIP.  HUGE SKIP.


  1. NB’s avatar

    Yes, I wouldn’t really blame the writer for the plot elements in the Emma Frost story, all of those (Including meeting Xavier and Moira. Xavier as well wiped out the memory of Beast from his relatives and friends in Beast’s own origin story last year for his and their own good, so that seems consistent here, lol) were already established by previous stories and flashbacks the last few years.

    Haven’t read it myself yet, so i cannot comment upon getting the dialogue right.

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    NB: Agreed. I seriously doubt D’Orazio is responsible for much of that plot/story or the the giant cliche set pieces. However she is responsible for dialogue balloons like “I am a Frost! And so are you!” as uttered by Emma’s father. Cue eye roll.

    It’s disappointing to hear that other origin one shots are portraying Xavier the same way, as that seems like a huge departure for the character. Then again, one-shots are almost universally terrible…if I wasn’t writing the column (and on here) about women in comics, it’s never something I would buy.

    Let me know what you think if you do check it out.

  3. NB’s avatar

    Well, now I’ve finally read it.

    Sadly, it didn’t really wow me and fulfill all my high expectations, but I thought it did a good job of picking and mixing all the previous established facts (using the term loosely here of course) about Emma’s past into a single coherent story.

    The dialogue may have been over the top, but it might be hard to be subtle with your characterization when you only have relatively short space to cover so many events and important moments as these origin re-tellings seemingly have to do. Even so, some – like her enhancements – were left out as you noted. Perhaps it would have been better to pick up where her solo series ended and continued from there, but then it wouldn’t have been a one-shot I guess.

    Some things I liked:
    – Emma sending Xavier away with his tail between his legs
    – Emma growing up to be her father (and hooking up with him as well with Shaw as proxy). Yes, it might be a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason I think.
    – Small nods to old and new continuity, like “diamond in the rough”, Emma and Shaw killing the previous Inner Circle and caging the X-Men (but Wolverine should have been nude as in the original :)

    Not my favorite Emma story (origin or other), but I don’t regret reading it. A more Morrisonian or Whedonesque voice would have been nice, but those have been in short supply in the X-titles overall lately sad to say. At least this Emma has the excuse of being young and callow.

    Regarding Xavier again, as I already said it was pretty consistent with his other skeletons being unearthed during the last few years (Astonishing X-Men – enslaving Danger, Deadly Genesis mini – mindwiping Cyclops, Beast origins – erasing Beast from the memory of his hometown, X-Men Legacy – Beast again (same writer), as well as taking in Rogue under false pretenses by holding out a cure he did not have). He’s after all a jerk, just ask Kitty :) Anyway, in this issue he was practically a saint in comparison. At least he asked first this time.

  4. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    @NB: Thanks for coming back! I have to say, though I disagree and stick to my angry analysis :) – I’m kind of glad to see that someone didn’t hate it as much as I did…it’s a good reminder that everyone likes different things. For example, I found the reference to being “a diamond in the rough” groan inducing…like a terrible forced in pun that someone is repeatedly nudging me in the ribs to make sure I “got”…but I’m glad that works for someone!

    I do agree that Shaw is definitely a stand in for her abusive father, and I could have bought this, but not with such a shallow (and quick) take on the story.

    I also agree that it’s nearly impossible to do what you need to do with a one-shot. You can’t show an origin that spans 15+ years in this many pages and do it justice…and that’s not D’Orazio’s fault…and almost all one-shots suck as a result of trying to do too much and thus glazing over really important stuff that could be interesting or emotionally powerful if given enough time/pages.

    One thing I DID like and should have mentioned in the review, was that I thought Emma’s mother was very interesting…and the fact that Emma has clearly molded her current look/persona/etc., on the woman that she perceived her mother to be when she was a child. I thought THAT was interesting…unfortunately it was about one page. :(

  5. Margaret’s avatar

    Young Emma, or a somewhat more PG Marvel Adventures-verse version of her, appeared as a supporting character in about the last six or eight issues of the all-ages Marvel Adventures Spider-Man title. As adeptly written by Paul Tobin, this Emma blithely used her powers to scam her way through life by just telepathically “persuading” people to give her everything from fancy restaurant meals to a rent-free apartment for herself and her best friend Chat, another teenage girl whose mutant power enabled her to communicate with animals. These scams usually involved Emma’s telepathically tricking her targets into believing that she’d already paid for whatever it was she wanted from them. Judging by her appearance, unless Marvel Adventures-Emma is supposed to look more or less like her mature White Queen self even as a teen–we’re not given any real background on her beyond the fact that she’s a mutant–she may have already played the same trick on a plastic surgeon by the time she first shows up.

    At one point Marvel Adventures-Emma also used a variant of Professor Xavier’s out of character mindwiping trick to make her friend/roommate Chat forget that she, Chat, was dating teenage Peter Parker. (He’s still in high school in the Marvel Adventures Spidey book.) She also further disrupted their relationship by making Peter’s platonic friend (in this iteration) Gwen Stacy believe that she, Gwen, was actually Peter’s girlfriend. Emma’s motivation for this turned out to be that she had fallen for Peter herself, having been interested in him one way or another since coincidentally discovering his secret identity as Spider-Man while idly mentally eavesdropping. Chat developed romantic feelings for Peter shortly after Emma shared this intriguing secret with her, but up until the last couple of issues, the cheerfully amoral young Emma seemed to be more curious about the obsessively altruistic Peter than attracted to him. (Emma’s crush on Peter actually plays out more plausibly than you might expect in context, although it does seem to manifest a bit suddenly.)

    At any rate, in this version of the story Emma really is smart enough to figure out ways of getting by, however unethically, via her mental powers without counterintuitively resorting to stripping. Of course, if Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man weren’t an all-ages title, the powers that be might well have ordered the writer to include that element of her convoluted “mainstream” backstory.

    The Marvel Adventures Spidey title was recently cancelled, then restarted–the most recent issue in the current volume is #2. To my surprise, the restart did not involve a complete reboot. Although Tobin’s original character Chat didn’t appear on the first-issue cover with all of Peter’s other once and future girlfriends, so far she’s still in the book. Emma, on the other hand, has yet to reappear, although this actually makes sense, considering the awkward situation she’d gotten herself into by the end of the final issue in the book’s previous volume.

  6. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    @Margaret: For a variety of reasons both valid and not, I’ve never read much Spider-Man…but this sounds great…I’ll have to seek it out…if only to see an interesting take on teen age Emma. Thanks for the heads up.

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