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.