Tag Archives: Brian Michael Bendis

New Girls in Town: Top 10 Toughest New Female Characters in Comics

16 Mar

I think a case can be made for any of these characters. Each one is tough, and thoroughly unique. Let’s take it from the top shall we? I wanted to look at characters with relatively short histories, so Barbara Gordon and Kate Bishop will not be making appearances on this list. This is strictly for the next generation of comic heroines. So without further ado, let’s talk about the top-10 toughest new girls in comics.

 

alanaAlana – Saga

It was hard to choose just one woman to represent the cast of Saga from Image Comics by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. The Stalk, Izabel, Gwendolyn, Klara, and even Lying Cat could have been on this list. I ultimately decided on Alana because she faces off with bad guys, pilots a space ship, and saves the love of her life with a newborn in tow. Despite her extreme circumstances she manages to be a pretty great mom to Hazel. She doesn’t allow herself to be defined by her maternal role, but she takes it very seriously.

 

 

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Izzy Dare/Smasher – The Avengers

Isabel “Izzy” Dare, or Smasher, gets her own issue in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers from Marvel Comics (Avengers #5). We learn that this incarnation of the hero is a small-town girl from Iowa. She is a brilliant science student who returns from her studies to help her father take care of the family farm and spend time with her ailing grandfather, Dan Dare (who had quite a few adventures of his own back in the day). After finding a pair of cybernetic goggles in a corn field she becomes an intergalactic defender, Smasher. She saves the world, rises through the ranks, and becomes an Avenger to boot. She also takes her responsibilities to her loved ones very seriously. She juggles superpowers and deep familial love quite well.

 

Harper_RowHarper Row – Batman

In Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for DC Comics we find a host of powerful characters, but Harper has captured our imaginations, well mine at least. She is a headstrong, brave, and intelligent young woman who believes in Batman’s power as a symbol of hope and does everything in her power to make sure he always makes it out of his conflicts alive. She recognizes his mortality and her ability to help him. Despite his warnings to stay away, she knows that she is an invaluable ally to the Caped Crusader, and continues to provide assistance. In addition to her complex relationship with Batman, she serves as a mother figure for her little brother, Cullen, and would stop at nothing to defend him. She is a dynamic new defender of Gotham.

Mara – Maramara

I think the reason that I am so impressed with the title character from the Image Comics series, Mara, by Brian Wood, Ming Doyle, & Jordie Bellaire is due to the surprise I experienced while reading about her. She is a seventeen-year-old superstar. She has access to unlimited resources, and fame enough to make a Kardashian feel like a nobody. She is beautiful, talented, wealthy, and adored. Yet she instead of being the primadonna one might expect; she is poised and unyieldingly brave. When she begins to manifest super-human abilities, she boldly confronts the public. She refuses to be terrorized into compromising her character.

 

hawkeye8Cherry/Penny – Hawkeye

I love a girl that keeps the men in her life on their toes. This redheaded force of nature from Fraction & Aja in Hawkeye from Marvel Comics does just that. She uses her sexuality to charm Clint Barton into taking part in her schemes. She is unafraid to take on a challenge or to stack the deck in her favor. She may not be the most independent woman in the world, but she does not shy away from danger. She’s a nice throwback to the comic book bad girls of days gone by.

 

 

 

pearlPearl Jones – American Vampire

From the Vertigo Comic series American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, comes this impossibly strong character. What I love about Pearl is that she starts out a victim, but refuses to remain one. Her evolution over the course of the series has been a journey of self acceptance, growth, and empowerment. The Pearl we know today is a far cry from the Hollywood hopeful taken advantage of in the beginning of this series. She has become intensely powerful force; knowing her vulnerabilities and her history makes her inspiring and endearing.

 

 

olivechewOlive Chu – Chew

The daughter of Tony Chu, the central character in Chew from Image Comics by John Layman and Rob Guillory, has recently started coming into her own. Olive was previously little more than an angst-ridden teen (albeit an incredibly lovable one). In recent issues under the tutelage of Mason Savoy, she has begun to hone her abilities and learn new skills that promise to give her a new role in this one-of-a-kind series.

 

 

 

tamaradevouxTamara Devoux/Captain Universe – The Avengers

So, she has the power of the entire universe coursing through her. Seems tough to me. Jonathan Hickman gives us another example of a strong and complex female character from The Avengers from Marvel Comics. Despite the awful things that happened to her before becoming the host for universal power, Tamara has already saved the world once in this new role.

fatalejoJospehine – Fatale

In the series Fatale from Image Comics by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips we are introduced to the mysterious and powerful character, Jo. She can bend any man alive to her will. Jo also seems to be immortal or at least ageless. She has a unique connection to supernatural forces, and a survival instinct that makes her a true fighter. She takes on physical challenges and devastating circumstances at every turn. Her resilience is truly remarkable.

 

 

 

Eva_Bell  Eva Bell – All New X-men Uncanny X-men 

Brian Michael Bendis’ contributions to Marvel’s X-men universe already shine in this new character. Eva can freeze time. As a young mutant, she is unsure of herself and her powers, but with each issue she appears in she grows more confident and bettered respected by the members of her team. She is a truly powerful new mutant.

 

I will be the first to admit this last is anything but complete. Write in and tell me who should have been listed that I missed, or let me know if you think there is a clear number one on the list. Be sure to vote. I will repost this list in the order that you vote in.

comment here or e-mail me comicsonice@gmail.com, and follow me on twitter @comicsonice

Review All New X-men #8

8 Mar

allnewx8All New X-men #8
Marvel Comics
Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Artist – David Marquez
Color – Marte Garcia
Letterer – VC’s Cory Petit

Issue #8 of All New X-Men delivers humor, action, character development, and the realization that these characters are asking many of the same questions that we readers have been mulling over these last few months.

Bendis’ storytelling remains engaging. He shows his skill at juggling a large cast of characters while simultaneously advancing this high-concept plot. This series makes each character’s motivation clear, and deserves credit for allowing these motivations to matter. Each member of the team has agency and narrative weight, but somehow does not bog down the overall momentum of the story.

In this issue we finally get the opportunity to learn more about Warren as he fights alongside Angel to protect the Avenger’s Mansion from Hydra’s forces. Warren’s anxiety about his future crystallizes as he learns more about this contemporary version of himself. Bendis incorporates character development and action expertly in this stunning sequence. Just as the battle reaches its pinnacle, the Avengers make their appearance.

The realization that Hank McCoy has tampered with the space-time continuum does not sit well with the Avengers. They travel to the Jean Grey School to confront the doctor, with Captain America serving as ambassador. A conversation about ethics and consequences of scientific principles between a genius and a moral straight-arrow should not bring about much laughter. However, Bendis finds a way to diffuse the tension; giving the story a moment of levity as Kitty and Bobby approximate the exchange out of earshot of Cap and McCoy.

Warren’s apprehension about the future, and desire not to know what it holds for him lead him to make an ill-advised attempt to go home. Thankfully, there is a voice of reason to stop him. Despite the high-flying action sequence, the confrontation with the Avengers, and the breakdown of one of the main characters; the most important moment of this issue may be its reminder that Jean Grey is a wild card. What are the implications of such a young version of Jean having access to so much history that has not yet come to pass? If you are not asking yourself that question, you might be missing the point. This foreshadowing casts a long, dark, ominous shadow that plunges the series into a new level of darkness.

warrenMarquez artwork is very well suited for this series. He consistently brings a youthful exuberance to the page, and captures character with a seeming effortless. He gets the outside of the heads so right, that it is easy for the reader to get inside them. His work truly adds to the narrative quality of the book highlighting its themes and nuances, not in an obvious way, but by nudging readers to notice what Bendis has already put into the writing. A two page spread of Warren and Angel fighting Hydra’s goons reveals a great deal of contrast between where this character started, and what he has become. Marquez’s visual representation of this idea brings new clarity to a beautiful moment.

Do not miss an issue of this series. It bubbles with action, fizzes with humor, and beats with the pulse of a phenomenal cast of characters driving the book ever forward.

This review is also published at bagandbored.net

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Uncanny X-men #2 – Review

2 Mar

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Uncanny X-men #2

Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo

Published by Marvel Comics

The sister book to one of my favorite Big 2 on-goings, (All New X-men) offered up its second helping this week in the pages of Uncanny X-men #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo. As of now, I am having a hard time falling in love.

Brian Michael Bendis, master that he is, constructs a lovely, intimate narrative involving the lingering tensions between Scott Summers and Emma Frost. The pair shares a history that would make most Lifetime movies green with envy, and that is apparent in the way they interact here.

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Emma is not only struggling with the ramifications of a life-altering split with Scott, but also facing the terrifying prospect of living without her mutant abilities. Bendis does an incredible job portraying the storm of emotions raging inside of her. Facing the age-old dilemma, best defined by The Clash, “should I stay or should I go?” Emma makes the decision to stay.  She decides to serve as a mentor to the world’s newest mutants, whom she, Scott, Magneto, and Magik have been collecting. As the group attempts to explain the mutant way of life to their new recruits, they encounter trepidation from the initiates. Eva, one of the newest mutants, is concerned for the safety of her family. In a display of compassion, Cyclops and his team transport back to her home in Australia. They are unaware that a double agent, Magneto, has called in back up.

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So with such a solid storyline, why am I still hesitant to give away my heart? The answer is simple: I cannot embrace the art. Not only does the style of the art seem incongruent to the tone of the book, I question some of the choices made by the artist in a general sense. For instance, I cannot understand why in some when a full figure is shown the proportions of the characters seem altered, while in three-quarter view they retain standard dimensions. I am also leery of the cut and paste style used in some of the ensemble frames. The work looks like a collage of paper dolls pasted on a photo of the sky, because they have a white outline and none of the figures interact. This also makes the figures appear very static. Some pages have large white borders while the panels on the page seem squished. Scott Summers here looks younger (and a whole lot more like John Karsinski) than his younger counterpart featured in All New X-men.

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As you read this be aware that these critiques involve stylistic choices. Bachalo does not do anything wrong, these decisions just does not appeal to my tastes. The art is not bad, and I suppose that for readers who enjoy an Asian-inspired art style, it will seem particularly successful. Two pages in particular did impress me, the full page of Emma Frost in profile and Bachalo’s rendering of the Xavier School.

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Another frustrating feature of the book are the layouts. Bendis apparently favors confusing panel distribution in his scripts; I have encountered these snares in his other work. However, if you persevere and find the flow of the panels, you will be rewarded with a great story.

So there you have it, Bendis tells a great story; and I personally can’t get into the slightly manga-inspired art style. The world will eventually recover from the shock I am sure.

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This review was originally published on bagandbored.net, go check out the site!

Greatest Hits: Sexism in Vintage Comics

11 Feb

 

 

 

I originally tracked down all these images to create the banner for my site. Every time I looked at them, I wondered if people who viewed the blog were actually able to make out what they said. I couldn’t stand the thought that people might be missing out on these spectacular instances of vintage sexism in comics. I am so glad that these are humorous now, women in comics have come such a long way.

 

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Here we see Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) using her superpowers for housework. Interestingly enough, this backup feature “The Female of the Species!” featured in X-men #57 in 1969, was written by Stan Lee’s assistant Linda Fite, in an attempt to include a feminine perspective. In this same piece Jean states that it doesn’t take telekinesis to turn heads. You’ve got to love that. Jean was the only member of the original team not given a backstory in these backups.  

 

 

 

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In this frame we see Batman telling his new wife, Kathy Kane (Batwoman), that she is not invited to join them on their adventure. This was published in Batman #122 in 1959. Prior to their marriage, Kathy had been an ultra-femme crime fighter. She carried a purse full of gadgets in lieu of a utility belt, and of course wore a dress. Batman seemed to find her more of an annoyance than an ally.  

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Sue Storm doesn’t see how she can be of help, but she is quickly reminded that she is always of help because she is beautiful! She can help keep morale up, of course, thank goodness. This panel comes from Fantastic Four #12 published in 1963. 

 

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This images are all from Detective Comics #371 published in 1968. Throughout the issue, Batgirl repeatedly jeopardizes the mission by worrying about her appearance. Silly Batgirl. 

Its nice to see that creator’s are willing to let the girls play now. Each of these characters has evolved to be an individual, with an independent motivation and personality. They are all tough in different ways, and have such a long way .

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Here’s Jean being dark and powerful.

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And Batwoman, being decidedly uninterested in Batman romantically.

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And Sue doing more than boosting morale.

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And Batgirl, not worrying about her makeup.  

As attitudes toward women continue to change, these characters will continue to evolve. Certainly now, they are great symbols for how far women have come in the last half century. 

“You Sexist Twit,” of Course Women Should be Allowed in Active Combat: All New X-men Makes a Point

10 Feb

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Brian Michael Bendis current run of All New X-men, published by Marvel comics, provides interesting insight to the way that views on women’s capabilities and function in society have changed over time. The art is currently by David Marquez. One instance in the last issue reminds me of the current ongoing chatter about women in the military being allowed to serve in active combat zones.

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In a heated exchange with “Old” Bobby, Kitty demands that he hit her. She says that if he does not need conditioning and training, he will be able to land the punch. He sheepishly replies, “I am not hitting a girl,” to which Kitty responds, “I’m not a girl, I’m a fierce competitor, you sexist twit!” Bravo Mr. Bendis, well said. 

On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave a briefing about the United States military’s decision to remove the ban on women serving in active combat.

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Our purpose is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the best qualified and the most capable servicemembers, regardless of gender and regardless of creed and beliefs.  If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job — and let me be clear, I’m not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job — if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation. – Sec. Leon Panetta January 24, 2013

As many of you know, women have been serving for years in a variety of positions, the removal of the ban functions primarily as a removal of roadblocks. It is important because it recognizes that women are capable of military service in a number of capacities. The premise of removing this ban does not function on some flimsy hypothetical; it invests itself in results that women serving in the armed forces have already produced. 

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It’s clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation.  Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000.  They’re serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield.  The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission. – Sec. Leon Panetta, January 24, 2013

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The idea that female super heroes face the same obstacles as female members of the armed forces is not novel. Neither is the apparent “discrimination” that Kitty faces in this brief exchange. In fact even within the X-men franchise there has another example of subtle sexism, even within the fan-base. Brian Wood is working on an X-men (Olivier Coipel will provide the art) book featuring an all female cast. Some readers are complaining that the book should be titled X-women. Wood expressed his disdain for this idea in a recent interview with Newsarama Wood said: 

And the title… I’ve been talking about this quite a bit online, because there are fans who can’t wrap their mind around the fact this book is called X-Men. I sorta can’t wrap my mind around that, that the absence of some alpha male somehow invalidates these six women’s identities as X-Men, identities that go back decades through continuity. As my editor told me early on, these women are X-Men. They just are, period, always have been. So we sometimes get accused of “segregation,” a truly ugly word, or whatever, but I truly feel that to call this book X-Women or something like that, only suggests that these characters are a subset, or a spinoff, or even just off to one side, when I think any X-Men reader would admit that these women have more than earned the honor of being called X-Men.

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Again we see that women have already earned the right that is now being called into questioned. The cast of that book have earned the right to be called “x-men;” the women of the armed forces have earned the right to serve in active combat. These are rights that were not handed out blindly, and that makes them all the more important as reflections of the struggles and successes of all women. 

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Read the full transcript of Panetta’s press conference here: http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5183

Read Brian Wood’s full interview here: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/x-men-brian-wood-marvel-now.html

Find All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1 

And look for X-men #1 in April. 

Jean Grey And Pants: The History of Modern American Women in a Flash

7 Feb

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In Brian Michael Bendis’ series All New X-men, Jean Grey, along with a team of  her peers travel to the modern world from “the past.” Bendis remains purposely vague about when exactly the team hails from. I suppose, judging from the costuming choices, we are to associate them with the original 1963 team. However, Bendis is smart, and realizes that readers can do math, and readers will realize that no man who was old enough to legally drive a car in 1963 could look like Scott Sommers does now.

So let’s follow Jean’s costumes over the years and see what her appearance tells us about Women’s History.

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Jean Grey’s original uniform was a utilitarian garment, not unlike swimwear popular in 1963, but with the added coverage of tights and long sleeves. She wears pants, in that she does not wear a skirt, but it is function over form. When not on duty with the X-men, Jean wears shirt waist dresses, and occasionally hats.

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For the time Jean’s appearance is not out of the ordinary, Title IX which prevented public schools from prohibiting girls to wear trousers was not enacted until 1972. It is likely that most women at that time were wearing pants only for function, not for fashion. Pants were considered “loungewear,” and deemed inappropriate for wearing in public among most circles. In fact in 1960, a judge ejected a woman from his courtroom for wearing slacks; not in the Deep South, but in New York City.

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So it is no surprise that When Jean later takes it upon herself to update Marvel Girl’s appearance, a sensible, albeit short skirt injects some femininity into her ensemble.

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Marvel Girl’s new look premiered in X-men Vol 39 in December of 1967.  That is the same year that the Supreme Court ruled that states banning unmarried women from purchasing birth control pills were unconstitutionally invading those women’s privacy. It was beginning to be acceptable for women to possess their own sexuality. Perhaps this has something to with Jean’s gams and décolletage being so prominently displayed.

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So time moves on, women stop connecting their worth to housework, and start taking ownership of their sexuality. Jean evolves, becoming Phoenix in 1976. In the nine years that passed had seen everything from the Summer of Love (1969) to the landmark decision of Roe v Wade (1973), more and more women were delaying family life in lieu of pursuing careers, the phenomenon of single motherhood was on the rise, and there was disco. Jean returns from the dead, empowered with a new force, much like her real world female contemporaries.

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But as good things will, the Phoenix Force went the way of disco, leaving people scratching their heads, wondering why they ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. Women began to demand equal pay for equal work; it became clear that two working parents in a household meant more out of home child-care, threats like AIDS loomed right around the corner (1981). All of these things meant that the novelty of the women’s liberation was wearing off and the patriarchal society was left making the walk of shame, from the one decade stand they shared. So, Jean gets dark.

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Jean came back too powerful, so naturally she was corrupted by evil. She steps in place as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club in mid-1980. Scantily clad in black leather, she may represent a woman, left to her own devices, unchecked by social mores. She is hyper-sexualized, incapable of dealing with her own power, and hopelessly impressionable.

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Jean is ultimately corrupted in this arc as she becomes the Dark Phoenix

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Jean is planning on consuming the world, but in the end, decides to sacrifice herself so that things can continue on the way they were. If that is not a comment on the modern woman’s dilemma I don’t know what is. There is more of course, but lets stop there, and just consider for a moment, what face’s Bendis’ Jean as she learns her future.

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These women exist, the ones that watched our world change, they were Rosie the Riveter, and June Cleaver, and bra burners, and workin’ 9-5; they were our mothers and grandmothers, and us… and for some of them; I imagine they felt they watched the changes happen at this speed.

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And find Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1

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