Tag Archives: Women in comics

Bad Romance: Poll-What is the Most Toxic Relationship in Comics?

7 Apr

With so much history behind them, comic book couples are bound to have some dark chapters, but these relationships stand out as uniquely detrimental for one or more parties involved. So, who do you think wins the title of the most toxic relationship in comics?

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Hank Pym (Ant Man, Giant Man, etc) & Janet Van Dyne (Wasp)

“Dammit Janet”

hank_pym_slapHank Pym has never been a model partner. He has kidnapped, beaten, and attempted to murder poor Janet over the years. While their drama makes for a compelling read, no good can come from this pair being together.

Hank has suffered from a variety of mental illnesses, some prompted by his exposure to unsafe levels of chemicals, some generated from his deep-rooted Napoleon complex. Whenever he is feeling down, Janet makes a perfect scape goat.

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Bruce Wayne (Batman) & Talia al Ghul

“She’s a Maniac”

deaddamianNo one has ever accused Bruce Wayne of making constructive decisions, but taking the daughter of one of his (many) mortal enemies as a lover may have be one for the books. Talia genetically engineered a son, Damian, by combining her own DNA with Bruce’s. As time past, she systematically abused the boy as part of his assassin’s training. After he came to live with Bruce, and formed a relationship with his father, Talia returned to kill the boy, robbing Bruce of the son he had come to know and love.

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Dinah Lance (Black Canary) & Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)

“She’s a Good-Hearted Woman in Love with a Good-Timin’ Man”


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So, Dinah and Ollie have been on-again, off-again for the better part their existence. Oliver Queen was a bit of serial philanderer, which never bodes well for a couple. Dinah also had great misgivings about the ethical ramifications of beginning the ‘normal’ life she so wished to have with Oliver. She believed that bringing children into the world was irresponsible for two people who led such dangerous lives. Oliver died tragically in a battle over Metropolis, but was later resurrected. The pair reunited shortly, but a combination of jealousy and apprehension in regard to the new young female ward in Oliver’s care caused her to break things off again. The two reunite and marry, at a ceremony that is (of course) interrupted by super villans. During the course of their marriage Oliver continually undermines Dinah professionally, and often uses his own judgment to dole out justice. Eventually his subterfuge goes too far, and Dinah dissolves the marriage, while Oliver sits in jail for murdering a supervillan.

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Mary Jane Watson & Peter Parker (Spiderman) … & Gwen Stacey

“Keep On Lovin’ You”

gwenmjspiderPeter loved Gwen Stacey with all his heart, until that one time he accidentally broke her neck while he was trying to save her life. I mean we have all been there, right? So how will he move on? Enter spunky, gorgeous, driven Mary Jane Watson. It should be a happy ending, but alas, Peter is a bit of a workaholic. He has great responsibilities to attend to after all. Mary Jane never fully moves out of the shadow of Gwen Stacey’s memory. Peter’s grief and guilt only exasperate the problem. Oh, and eventually he sells his marriage to Mary Jane to the devil (Mephisto) in return for Aunt May’s resurrection from the dead.

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Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) & Vision

“Just My Imagination”

scarletvisionShe is the child of Magneto, and he is the brain-child of Ultron, the pair seem wired for failure out of the gate. There’s another fact that foreshadows an ill-fated romance: Vision is an android (read robot). Initially the couple was unable to have children (because Vision is not human) but eventually Wanda acquires the psychic energy required to become pregnant. She gives birth to twin boys, William and Thomas.

Some time later, Vision tries to take over the world. This goes about as well as one would expect. He is eventually kidnapped and dismantled. When he was reassembled, his personality was severely changed, and things became strained. At the time of his destruction the twins were reintegrated to the soul of Mephisto and cease to exist. Wanda then becomes a bit unhinged herself.

Her mental breakdown eventually resulted in the manifestation of chaos magic powers, that cannot be controlled. She projected a world in which Vision was back to his old self and the boys were still young and in need of her mothering. She eventually used those powers to wipe out mutant powers across the globe leaving only a handful able to access their powers.

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Carol Ferris (Star Sapphire) & Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)

“Fly Me to the Moon”

halcarolIt’s a tale as old as time. Boy meets girl; boy gets ring becomes super powerful; girl gets gem and does the same; alien race hypnotizes girl into trying to kill boy because they want her as their queen… You know, just the standard romance stuff.

Carol and Hal start out as a forbidden romance. She is the heiress to the company that employs him as a test pilot. However, when cosmic forces get involved, things get much more complicated. Hal became a Green Lantern.  Upon inheriting Ferris Aircraft from her father, an alien race, the Zamarons, chose Carol as their queen. They gave her a powerful gem which gave her extraordinary abilities, and she became Star Sapphire. Initially Star Sapphire was reluctant to leave Earth because of her love for Hal. The Zamarons then hypnotized her to believe that Hal was an enemy. Over the years a pattern emerged, Start Sapphire and Green Lantern would battle, Hal would win and then fix Carol.After getting rid of the Star Sapphire identity seemingly for good, Carol began a relationship with a male component of her own personality called, Predator. Throughout the series Carol tries to deal with the power associated with the Star Sapphire aspect of her identity, and grapples with her feelings for Hal. The two can never seem to get their footing.

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Betty Ross (Red She-Hulk) & Bruce Banner (Hulk)

“Monster Mash”

redhulkhulkBruce Banner was bombarded with Gamma rays, and turns into a giant green monster when he gets angry. This does not look promising for his love interest. Betty is the daughter of “Thunderbolt” Ross, and she loved Bruce before he had anger management issues. Aside from the obvious “getting caught in the crossfire” problems, Betty eventually became ill with radiation poisoning from prolonged exposure to Bruce’s Gamma rays. When he tried to perform a blood transfusion using his own blood, the Gamma particles in his blood killed her.

We are talking comics here, so of course Betty is not really dead. She reemerges as the Red She-Hulk. When Betty reappeared in the civilian world she refused to be reunited with Bruce.

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Emma Frost & Scott Summers (Cyclops)

“Grey Cloudy Lies”

scottemmaThis is another love triangle, or quadrangle, or other geometric figure yet unknown to us used by soap opera writers to construct their stories. Scott and Jean Grey were written for one another. Since the earliest days of the X-men, the two have been a steady center of romantic focus. When Jean exits, to go do her whole Phoenix thing, Emma enters beginning a telepathic affair with Scott. When Jean returns, Emma is reluctant to forfeit the bond she feels with Scott. She poses as Jean to confuse him, and continues to attempt engage him telepathically. Exit Jean again, and Emma and Scott are back on. Emma will never live up to Jean for Scott, despite whatever telepathic messages she sends from beyond the grave that the couple is making out on top of (Yes, really). She and Scott are constantly haunted by the memory of Jean Grey.

hawkeyeKate Bishop (Hawkeye) & Clint Barton (Hawkeye)

“I Hate Myself For Lovin’ You”

kateclintThe tension between these two is so thick you could cut it with a knife. They obviously have feelings for one another, but are too stubborn to let on. While Kate occasionally reminds Clint of the impropriety of his tendency to treat her like a romantic partner, she is guilty of the same thing. They rely on each other in real ways, and seem to feel a genuine respect for one another, but the fact remains that Clint is an indiscriminate lover who cannot take anything seriously. He cares deeply for Kate, but cannot see what is right in front of him.

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Anna Marie (Rogue) & Remy LeBeau (Gambit)

“Killing Me Softly”

Gambit5touchingAside from the fact that the couple cannot touch because it would result in Remy’s death, well no, that’s really it. Rogue’s powers would harm Remy in unimaginable should their skin come into contact. This equals endless frustration. For a brief time, when they are both powerless, the couple lives a happy, normal life. However when they regain their powers, the loss of physical contact proves very stressful for the pair. Oh, and Gambit becomes one of the four horseman of the apocalypse (Death) and tries to kill Rogue a few times.

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American Vampire’s Pearl Jones is the Toughest New Girl in Town – Poll Results

29 Mar

And the winners is:

pearljonesPearl Jones of American Vampire

Scott Snyder – story & Rafael Albuquerque – art
Published by Vertigo Comics

Maybe it’s the fact that we are given the opportunity to see Pearl grow and mature over the course of the series…

Maybe it’s the way she remains vulnerable and emotionally open throughout everything she faces…

Maybe it’s the giant claws and lethal biting power…pearl-hiss

Whatever the case may be Pearl is a testament to the power of strong female characters in the comic genre. Her resilience stands apart from her initial setting. We meet Pearl in 1920s Hollywood, hardly a time-and-place that fosters tough, independent, feminine strength. However she becomes a force to be reckoned with after a group of sinister old world vampires try to do her in. She is first a survivor; she parlays that positive energy into becoming a true fighter. She bravely protects those she cares about and maintains a sense of incorruptible humanity that makes her relatable and beautiful.

pearl-sketchEven before she becomes an American Vampire, she is a free spirit. Moving away from home to follow her dreams of becoming an actress, she has a sense of agency that would have been rare for women of that era. She is bold, as evidenced by the fact that she dons a large tattoo between her shoulder blades in the early 20th century. She is uncompromising, and willing to work hard to make her life what she wants it to be. Pearl holds down a couple of jobs in addition to working as an extra on big Hollywood films. She is focused, initially rejecting the advances of would-be suitors. She is human, unable to stop herself from falling in love. Her character is well-developed, admirable, and identifiable even before she is anything more than an aspiring actress. Personally, I think that is why she remains so successful after her transformation. If we were not introduced to Pearl, the woman, I do not think that we would be so enamored with Pearl the vampire.

We see Pearl struggle with her power, her immortality, and her own feelings as she grows throughout the series. Her efforts to reconcile what she is with the person she wants to be gives her a vitality and vibrance.

Pearl is a strong character because of her complexity, humanity, and strong will. She is sure to endure the test of time.

Thanks to those who voted, stay tuned for more polls in the near future. Let me know what you’d like to see on the site! Leave comments, send me e-mails (sam@comicsonice.com) or track me down on twitter (@comicsonice) Its always great to hear from y’all!

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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

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Mind the Gap and Self-Generated Identity: The Clues We Choose

16 Mar

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Mind the Gap and Self-Generated Identity: The Clues We Choose

I’ve written a new Mirror Image feature for Image Addiction, about Image Comics’ Mind the Gap by Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, and Sonia Oback discussing Elle Peterssen’s amnesia, the clues that lead her back to her identity, and Facebook. Are we what we buy, read, watch, listen to, wear, eat, drink, and like? What do our friends tell us about who we are?  Check it out! Tell me what you think.

http://imageaddiction.net/mind-the-gap-and-self-generated-identity-the-clues-we-choose/

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Swamp Thing’s Abigail Arcane as a 21st Century Persephone

14 Mar

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In Swamp Thing #18 by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette, Abigail Arcane evolves to become the Avatar of Death. An avatar is defined as a deity in bodily form on the earth. Through her acceptance of this role, she becomes one of the most dynamic and courageous women in comic history. I would like to take a moment to compare Abigail to another Queen of the Underworld, Persephone. Fair warning, if you’re not caught up on Snyder’s complete run, this contains *spoilers.*

The mythological tale surrounding Persephone’s coronation as Queen of the Underworld begins with her abduction. As the daughter of Zues and Demeter (goddess of the harvest) she spent the early part of her life surrounded by nature. One day, she was alone in a field when the earth cleaved and Hades (god of the underworld, and brother of her father) appeared in a fiery chariot. He then grabbed the maiden goddess and returned to the Underworld.

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carryLet’s look at the parallels so far. Abigail was born into a lineage connected with the rot, while she is not the daughter of the king of the gods, her family tree does seem a deciding factor in regard to the role she will play in the future.

Her uncle, Anton, is similar to Hades. He is connected with death, and serves as her connection to it as well. He also takes her against her will to be his queen early in this series It seems the same thing might have happened when she was younger, to a lesser degree.

Now back to our story. During Persephone’s time in the underworld, her mother, Demeter, is heartbroken. She wanders the earth looking for her daughter, during this time no crops grew, famine and hunger were widespread and the crops rotted in the field. Demeter refused to let plants grow while Persephone was missing.

This might be a stretch, but the takeover of the rot after Abigail’s death might have ties to this part of the myth. Here’s where things start getting tricky, lets talk seeds.

pomWhile Persephone is in the underworld with Hades, she eats a handfull of pomegranate seeds. Zeus commands Hades to set her free, so that her mother, Demeter, will allow the fields to bear crops and the people of earth will not starve. Hades agrees, and Persephone is released. When her mother realizes that she has consumed the food of the underworld, she is heartbroken. By eating the food of the dead, Persephone unwittingly bound herself to the underworld. Because of this she must return to the underworld for a few months (sometimes three sometimes six depending on the text) each year to reign at Hades’ side

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Now you might say I am comparing apples to oranges (or pomegranates to orchids) but do you recall one Dr. Alec Holland sneaking something into Abbie’s peaches? He slipped her a few orchid seeds before she was transformed to become the Queen of the Rot by Anton Arcane and his minions. In this case, the seeds became an agent of life, growth, and resurrection. The seeds help pull Abigail back from the darkness. They still act as the force negotiating her ties to life and death. We begin to see a schism in Snyder’s work and the mythic text here. It’s no longer a perfect mirror, but an evolution of this story that has stood the test of time.

While Persephone served her time in the Land of the Dead, her mother mourned. During this time there was no growth on the land. The winter months were a time of rot on the earth. This myth serves to explain the seasonal changes that ancient humans experienced. While the similarities are obvious the contrasts between Persephone and Abigail make a beautiful comment on power and agency.

Abigail_Arcane_010 (1)Firstly Abigail is not a queen, defined as the wife or widow of a king; she is an avatar, a god made flesh. She briefly bore the title of queen, which was forced upon her against her will. She was a beastly terror, no part of her personality or essence remained. Though she retained power, her consciousness was all but absent.

This is a powerful statement, as the queen, an extension of the king; her power could only serve as an extension of his. All of the qualities that made her remarkable disappeared. Persephone was a queen, who indeed retained little agency. Both the decision to take on the position, and the actual ruling of the Land of the Dead were out of her hands. It was a position of submission, even as a goddess she was unable to escape her fate or change her circumstances.

Abigail’s episode as Queen of the Rot much more closely resembles the Persephone myth. In her second encounter with Anton she turns the tables and becomes something completely new.

comeAbigail goes looking for Anton. Because of her love for Alec, and her commitment to balance in the world. She knows that he is evil, and that he must be stopped at all cost. Unlike Persephone she is not captured while looking the other way. She goes pursues her destiny, despite her trepidation, because she believes it is the right thing to do.

headThis confrontation costs her her life. Through the intervention the Parliament of Decay, Alec is able to intervene and give her a second chance at defeating her uncle.

abby-and-alecAlso, Abigail is given the opportunity to willingly accept her role as avatar, while Persephone was never given the same chance as Hades’ queen. It seems that both Abigail and Alec were destined for the roles that they play as avatars and for one another. Ultimately it is their choice to accept these roles that gives them their power.

Another interesting feature of Snyder’s version of this story is the inversion of traditional gender associations. Swamp Thing, Alec Holland represents the traditionally feminine aspects of nature, the life-giving forces. Conversely, Abigail Arcane is associated with death and destruction, extensions of the traditionally masculine pursuits of war and nation-building, and also the binary opposite of feminine life-bringing traditions.

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Abigail and Alec shed their human bodies, becoming fully identified with life and death. The love that sustained them and gave them the strength to become what they have become loses any chance for unity, as they now represent one another’s destruction. Where life exist, death cannot be; and where there is death, life stops. They have become a paradox, both depending on one another and repelling each other by their very nature.

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While Persephone is a victim, Abigail is triumphant. She accepts her fate, ask for her power and ultimate emerges as the victor. Persephone’s tragedy is her powerlessness. Abigail’s tragedy is that of a Capulet without a dagger. She cannot uncross the stars. For a pair like this, that could be a fate worse than death.

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Review Swamp Thing #18

8 Mar

comics-swamp-thing-18Swamp Thing #18
DC Comics

Scott Snyder – writer
Yanick Paquette – artist
Colors – Nathan Fairbairn
Letters – Travis Lanham

Snyder and Paquette’s final issue gives us the bittersweet ending we were all hoping for. Swamp Thing #18 proves that when these two work together, it is magic.

Alec Holland and The Parliament of Decay bend space and time to allow Abigail to take her place as the avatar of death. This issue follows the climatic end of that quest. The final battle with Anton Arcane, who must be stripped of the mantle before Abigail can take it up, is the kind of outstanding action that sustained this series success in the beginning of this run. Full of tenderness, Snyder’s star-crossed lovers are given the treatment they so richly deserve. It is a satisfying conclusion to this eighteen issue run.

Abigail Arcane is given a chance to shine in this issue. Her character grows, as she becomes a powerful force to be reckoned with. The redemptive tone of issue #18 reveals Abigail to be strong and courageous to an even greater extent than we have seen preceding this point. She is capable of immense sacrifice and bravery. In addition to Snyder’s direction of Abigail’s story, Paquette quite literally paints her in a new light as well.  His character design in regard to Abigail is truly inspired, and singularly beautiful.

Snyder’s swansong is a near perfect ending to his epic saga; equally strong is the work of Paquette. Deftly personifying both death and rebirth, Paquette’s expressive artwork reaches new levels of intensity. Organic layouts and comprehensive aesthetic environments bring life to the story. Nostalgic symbols like orchids fill empty space, reminding us of all that Alec and Abbey have been through.

The culmination of this year-and-a-half long run brings the skills that Paquette and Snyder have shown over time to a new level of perfection. Swamp Thing #18 is full of high-quality action, strong character development, and emotional depth. In other words, it brings together the best parts of what we have come to expect from this incredible team.

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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!

Icebreakers: Mindy Wara Mackiolek Introduces Comic Books in the Classroom

19 Feb

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Mindy started collecting comic books with her husband as a hobby they both could share with the DC New 52 relaunch, but recently she has started getting into more indie and digital comics as well. She is 26 and grew up in Wisconsin, but currently lives in Saskatchewan. Mindy graduated with a degree in English and Theatre Education and Creative Writing. Most of the time she can be found reading, knitting, drawing, watching New Girl, listening the the Talking Comics podcasts, or spending time with her husband and two cats. Her favorite super heroine is tied between Batwoman and Barbara Gordon as Oracle and Batgirl.

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I love comic books for so many reasons. They are not only pieces of literature, but pieces of art as well. Because of my literature and education background I tend to focus on the same things I focus on when reading a full text book – women’s issues and/or how this might translate in a classroom setting. I used Maus to teach about the Holocaust during my student teaching and the kids loved it. I have also done a lot of research on character origins and general comic book history (in case I ever get the opportunity to teach a class on comic books). Comics are a less intimidating form of reading with the added challenge of interpreting pictorial representations – what more could you want in a book?

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Find out more about Mindy! 

Read her blog here: 

Or find even more information about Mindy and comics in the classroom at these URLs:
 
 
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Review Batgirl #17

16 Feb

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Something Old, Something New, Something borrowed, Something better?

So, here we are, sans Gail Simone. I expected to be outraged, disappointed, and then finish off my pout by feeling an intense sense of relief that Simone would return to the title soon.

Instead, I read the book and realized what BATGIRL has been missing. Fawkes’ third person narration stuck me as emotionally rich and thought provoking. This story, told from the perspective of James Gordon, Junior, made me do two things I haven’t done when I read the title in the past: think and feel.

It’s really not fair to compare this issue to what Gail Simone has been doing on the book. It’s such a departure, residing inside the mind of a villainous character, and only partially concerned with Barbara’s self-affirming internal pep talks. When James, Jr. tells us that Barbara is ‘fascinating,’ it’s the first time in a while that I have considered that a possibility in a long while.

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I love Barbara, but recently I feel our relationship has devolved to one of those where I take her calls because imagining what happens if I don’t makes me very anxious. I listen to her talk about the same old things over and over, trying to seem interested—even though we’ve been over this and she is clearly making no progress. She never asks me how I feel about important issues, or makes me think about things in a different way. My love for her is very one-sided; I am not getting a lot out of the time we spend together. I expect at member of the Bat-team to be a bit more complex than the Barbara we have been presented with thus far.

This issue was very successful. It had a clear rise and fall in action. The twists and turns were thoughtful and surprising; and the voice used to tell the story was genuinely inspired and original.

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Sampere’s artwork is dynamic and visually appealing. I would love to see him stay on the book, I really love the way he draws Barbara. His representation of The Firebug helped characterize the villain even though he only appears in a few panels. The medals on his chest tell us that he was not always a menace, but in a past life might have even been a hero.

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The highlight of the issue for me was the large panel featuring James, Jr. sitting on a hotel bed in the dark. He looks just like his father here. The clear nod to BATMAN: YEAR ONE reminded me of everything the Gordon family has been through, and how truly horrifying it must be for Barbara and the commissioner to see their own flesh and blood as a force of evil. This scene had real resonance.

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This issue by Fawkes and Sampere was thoroughly successful. I am interested to find out what happens next month. Perhaps in the myriad of Bat-titles, one focusing on James, Junior could support its own weight. I’ll stick by Barbara and Simone, for all they have done to promote strong women in comics and female readership; I just hope to see ‘something better’ soon. If anyone can realize the full potential of BATGIRL, I believe it is Simone. I will be waiting and reading in the highest hopes that she will do so.

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

The Encomium of Josephine: The Exoneration of a Disastrous Woman

14 Feb

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In the series Fatale, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips published by Image Comics; the main character Josephine, or “Jo,” is a moral gray area. Is she a hero, or a villain?

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To begin, there should be no ambiguity regarding the meaning of the term, “femme fatale,” which translated from French literally reads, “disastrous woman.” The dictionary goes on to define the term  as, “a seductive woman who lures men into dangerous or compromising situations,” or “a woman who attracts men by an aura of charm and mystery.” Using this definition as a rubric, how does Brubaker’s leading lady, Jo, stack up?

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Jo is certainly mysterious; she is certainly beautiful. She has power and influence over the stronger sex, which she seems capable of wielding to various degrees of accuracy and deadliness. She does seem to enact Murphy’s Law on the men who cross her path. Once she is a part of their lives; anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. However, to this point in the series, Brubaker has lead us to see Jo as a reluctant vessel for this power. While manipulating the men who surround her, she often develops strong feelings of affection, if not love, for them. When calamity consumes her lovers, she seems to feel genuine remorse and sorrow. So, that leads naturally to the next question I will ask: is there such a thing as a reluctant femme fatale; or does the term by definition imply intent?

Case Study: Helen of Troy

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“…she had godlike beauty, which having received she not inconspicuously retained. She produced the greatest erotic desires in most men. For one body many bodies of men came together…”
-Gorgias “The Encomium of Helen”

According to ancient Greek legend, Helen was the most beautiful woman ever to have lived. She belonged to Sparta; she was their queen. Her lover, Paris, was a Trojan prince. He took her away with him, to live happily ever after. As is so often the case when a young man takes a bride, an epic war broke out; taking the lives of countless men, destroying families and permanently altering history. Helen has been given the monicker, “The face that launched a thousand ships.” She has been vilified and berated for centuries.

Was she to blame for the effect she had on the men of her day?

Between 480-380 B.C.E. a Greek Sophist, called Gorgias, set out to accomplish the great feat of exonerating Helen in his speech, “The Encomium of Helen.” He posited that Helen’s actions (leaving Sparta and starting the Trojan War) were the result of one of four things: fate, force, persuasion, or love; and the if any of these were the culprit, she was blameless. Could the same be said for Josephine, the heroine in Fatale?

FATE:

“For the will of a god cannot be hindered by human forethought.” – Gorgias

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It is clear that Jo is a piece of a much larger puzzle. Brubaker takes care to establish that she is cursed, and this curse touches every facet of her existence.

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There are worldly forces controlling her fate…

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And that the rules of this mortal existence do not apply to her.

FORCE:

“But if she was abducted by force, unlawfully constrained and unjustly victimized, it is clear on the one hand that the abductor, as victimizer, committed injustice…” – Gorgias

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It is clear time and again, that Jo is motivated by her fear of violence and victimization. The consequences she would face if she fell into the hands of her adversaries are great enough that she will do anything to avoid facing them. Her fear suppresses her conscience. The threat of violence is tantamount to force in this case.

PERSUASION:

“Persuasion belonging to discourse shapes the soul at will,” – Gorgias

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The truth is, we still do not know how Jo came by the power she possesses. Did she willingly acquiesce, was she tricked into it, or did she come into existence already endowed with this fatal beauty? The panel above seems to indicate that she was somehow initiated into this life.

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However, we learn later that she was not fully educated on her power, or the potential harm she could generate. This might suggest that there was an element of trickery or deception in her initial encounter which led to her acquiring this power. If she was deceived in the beginning and not made fully aware of the devastation she could cause; can she be held responsible?

LOVE:

“If Love, being a god, has the divine power of gods, how could the weaker being have the power to reject this and to ward it off?” – Gorgias

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Time and again, Jo thinks of her affectionate feelings for the men who come in and out of her life. She never takes for granted those who come to her assistance, and seems genuinely invested in her partners.

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She never discounts the sincerity and earnestness of her lovers feelings for her. In fact, she seems as incapable of stopping herself from reciprocating those feelings as she is of inspiring them.

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Jo even puts herself in harms way to protect those who love her, braving bullets and a fiery crash to save Nicholas Lash.

How then is it necessary to regard as just the blame of Helen, who either passionately in love or persuaded by discourse or abducted by force or constrained by divine constraints did the things she did, escaping responsibility every way? By this discourse I have removed infamy from a woman… – Gorgias

Jo is a force of nature, not a malicious temptress praying on the innocent. Find it in your heart to pardon her, and pick up this beautiful series from Image comics here: http://www.comixology.com/Fatale-1/digital-comic/NOV110354

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

And find more of my writing at http://imageaddiction.net/ 

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