Girl Comics #1
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Vincent S. Moore
Ever since the middle of last year, the purchase of Marvel by Disney has sparked tons of speculation in comics shops across this land. If the bulk of the speculation was similar to what I heard and overheard at Comics Ink, then most of what it boiled down to was this: Disney’s got cooties and they are going to give it to Marvel. So much of this fear of cooties infecting “our” superhero comics comes from Disney’s primary marketing focus, girls, through the various princesses in the animated movies and merchandise. Some, but not all, fanboys of all ages would express fears of toning down the violence or putting out “girly” projects a la Twilight no matter how much I and others tried to say that no one really knew or could speculate safely as to what the new owners would do. If anything, Disney bought Marvel to appeal to the one group that the House of Mouse had lost decades ago: boys. After much dialogue and pontificating, the conversations would shift away to the minutiae of the latest crossover event and other topics of interest.
For a while at least.
Then Marvel announced their plans for 2010 to focus on the Women of Marvel. Which would spark the fears all over again.
Now, I like women that read comics. I also like women that make comics, at least the idea of it. It’s cool to me, as a longtime fanboy, to see women enjoying what I enjoy, namely the medium of comics. So when the Girl Comics anthology was announced as part of Marvel’s plans, I was at least curious to see what developed.
This past Wednesday, the first issue, Girl Comics #1, finally arrived at local comics shops. And I satisfied my curiosity.
I only wish that was all that was satisfied.
I did not expect perfection nor was I completely expecting, given some of the talents listed whose names I had never heard of (I tend to stick more in the mainstream waters of the comics industry), slam-bang superhero fiction of the type of which I am familiar. But I did hope to be entertained and perhaps enlightened.
We shall see.
Let’s start with Amanda Conner’s wonderful cover. I am a huge fan of her work. Her cartoony style brings a dynamics back to superhero art that’s been missing for some. The overall design and storytelling — of an arm wrestling match between Iron Man and She-Hulk — are great. But I have to pull the serious geek card on this one. Unless this situation has changed without anyone making note of it, Iron Man’s armor doesn’t work if the helmet is off. No helmet, no cybernetic control over the suit. No control over the suit, no enhanced strength. No enhanced strength, there is no way Tony Stark in a couple hundred pounds of dead weight is a match for She-Hulk. So, as staged, the match is not a fair contest. Was this simply a mistake neither Ms. Conner nor the editor caught? Or was it a subconscious statement about the premise behind the whole book? That the deck was being stacked in favor of the women to give them an easy victory? I don’t know.
Moving on to Colleen Coover’s opening 2 pager. I found her art as lovely and fun to see as usual. Too bad the preachy message — that of justifying why superheroines are superheroines, as if that is really necessary — ruined it. At this point, I wondered who was this comic for, besides the creators and editors themselves?
The second story is entitled “Moritat” by G. Willow Wilson and Ming Doyle. At least I hope that was the title. The lettering of the title was a bit difficult to decipher. It dealt with Nightcrawler taking in a bit of evening entertainment in a German speaking club. I liked how Ms. Wilson used the lounge singer’s song to frame the bulk of the story. She also pulled what is now the standard reversal of the knight rescuing the damsel by having the young dancer Nightcrawler dashed in to help save him in the end. Cute, if it were done for a women’s studies class by a freshman. But this feels so incredibly forced and completely ignores Nightcrawler as a character with powers and skills. If he been completely overpowered or defeated, perhaps this twist could have worked. Not likely, but perhaps if executed well. Meanwhile, Mr. Doyle’s art style fits in with current waves of books like Strange Tales and the alternative side of the industry. I’m definitely not a fan of it and it left me disconnected from the story and almost disoriented.
The third story by Trina Robbins and Stephanie Buscema was a charming piece, in complete contrast to the first two tales. This story shows Venus, the goddess of love, — one time Golden Age Marvel Superheroine — returning to Earth in the modern era. Accepting a bet with Zeus, she attempts to resume her old role in the human world and use her powers of love in the fashion industry once again. This take has shades of The Devil Wear Prada. A very good touch. By the end of the story, love does indeed conquer all, and a very happy ending for the goddess herself leaves open the possibility of telling other stories. Ms. Robbins keeps true both her own long expressed interests in comics –beauty and fashion — and to the nature of the Greek Gods in that Zeus and Ares would cheat to win the bet. Ms. Buscema’s retro cartoony visual approach works with with Robbins’ script. My only problem was there was no title for the story that I could find. And I wished the story was longer because it was a pleasure to read.
There are also two sections spotlighting women who have worked for Marvel as pioneers. The first features Flo Steinberg, longtime staffer from the heyday of Stan Lee and the birth of the House of Ideas. It was nice to read that she’s still alive and even contributed to this anthology. It is always good to recognize one’s elders while they are still alive to receive the praise.
The fourth story is “A Brief Rendezvous” by Valerie D’Orazio and Nicki Cook. If I wasn’t completely sure about this anthology up to this point, this tale of The Punisher trapping a cyber predator did little to make me feel good about this book. Even with it in the distance, I don’t know what to make of this story. I know cyber predators are big news these days. I also know protecting all children online and otherwise is terribly important. But putting The Punisher on the case? That’s like using a nuclear weapon to get rid of a mouse. The story’s punchline hit, well, like a girl, and not in a good way. Ms. Cook’s art continues the trend of using alt comix folks in mainstream books. Blah.
Now, the She-Hulk pin-up by Sana Takeda is gorgeous. Until you see the left foot is attached to the right leg and facing the viewer! Where was the editor on this one?!?
The fifth story is “Shop Doc” by Lucy Knisley, features Doc Ock, longtime Spidey foe, out for a grocery run. Yet another alt comix take. It’s a cute two page romp. But merely cute.
The second spotlight is on the great Marie Severin. Again, another more than worthy lady to mention.
The sixth story is “Clockwork Nightmare” by Robin Furth and Agnes Garbowska. This one features Franklin and Valeria Richards of the FF in a Hansel & Gretel/Through The Clockwork Tree adventure. It is told mostly in a fairy tale manner, with text mixed with illustrations. A neat little story. Nothing dazzling about either Ms. Furth’s script nor the art by Ms. Garbowska. Just a really nice tale.
The last story is “Head Space” by Devin Grayson and Emma Rios. This one is an X-Men tale playing on the the love triangle between Cyclops, Phoenix, and Wolverine as seen through Scott Summer’s worried mind’s eye and dreamscape. The ambivalent ending, while fitting with the wispy nature of the piece, left me wondering what was the point of the whole thing. Nice to see a new comics story by Ms. Grayson but Ms. Rios’ art is typical of the upcoming generation influenced by manga. In her case, it’s the branch that mixes European and Japanese influences. It’s okay to look at but doesn’t wow me.
For the book as a whole, Girl Comics #1 gets a total grade of C+.
But as my father used to tell me, everybody can appreciate a C student. They are willing to work harder than anyone else. My hope is the remaining issues of the anthology show some improvement. I would actually like than one out of seven stories.
Until next time, Namaste.