Wonder Woman #38 Review: This Silver Swan Tale is an Ugly Duckling

January 10, 2018

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It’s a New Year, gang, and after spending the latter part of last year slogging through some truly horrendous Wonder Woman comic books, this first issue of 2018 offers us an opportunity for a fresh start. James Robinson remains the writer of the book, of course, for reasons no one seems to completely understand. But still, we’ve got the beginning of a brand new arc! Wonder Woman’s brother and all of the shenanigans with Darkseid and Grail are so 2017. Now it’s time for a different story, courtesy of the introduction of Silver Swan. Will it be a fun, new start for the book? (Spoiler alert: No). Will Robinson leave the sins of the past behind and tell a compelling story? (Spoiler alert: Also no). Will Wonder Woman finally get to take center stage in her own title? (Spoiler alert: Still, no). Let’s dig into it all and find out, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal the major plot points of this issue!

Look away if you have not read it yet!

But also, just don’t read it. It’s still so bad. I’ve read it for you. Spare yourself the pain.

I have to say, the first eight pages of this issue aren’t terrible. They aren’t good by any means, but there’s potential. We’ve got Emanuela Lupacchino pencilling the book, with inks from Ray McCarthy, and that’s a very fine start indeed. Lupacchino draws a great Wonder Woman, and the book opens with a lovely full page spread of our favourite heroine, beautifully coloured as always by Romulo Fajardo Jr. The fight scene with Major Disaster that follows is nicely done as well, even as the girl Diana saved, a new version of Vanessa Kapatelis, takes over the narrative. The writing’s still iffy, laden with Robinson’s bizarre punctuation choices and his utter inability to craft words that Wonder Woman would conceivably say. But the story as a whole is decent. Wonder Woman saves Vanessa, who is paralyzed during Major Disaster’s attack, visits her regularly in the hospital, and the two become friends. It’s a nice start. Easily the best eight pages of Wonder Woman we’ve seen since Robinson became the book’s writer.

Then he drives the issue right off a cliff. Wonder Woman visits Vanessa less and less, because she’s busy, you know, saving the dang world, and Vanessa gets bitter and angry. The senseless death of her mother compounds these feelings, and hate begins to set in. Meanwhile, Jason throws a party at Diana’s beach house and she has to give him a talking to, which means a) that her dope of a brother is still around, and b) Diana’s role in the back half of this issue consists solely of scolding the dope.

Let me just pause for a second here. WHO WANTS TO READ THAT?! I cannot understand how the writer and editors in charge of Wonder Woman thought that it would be a good idea to dedicate FIVE PAGES, a full QUARTER of the book, to Diana chastising her brother for partying it up and not properly dedicating himself to heroism. Granted, they’ve been making terrible story decisions for several months now. But still, NOBODY WANTS THIS. Nobody wants to read about her brother in the first place, much less her having to babysit him and try to keep him in line. When people buy Wonder Woman, they expect some Wonder Woman fun. Superheroing. Saving the world. Fun sisterhood. Smash the patriarchy a bit. Not this foolishness. Argh.

So after the scolding, a family Wonder Woman recently saved ends up dead. It turns out that Vanessa has become the Silver Swan and, fueled by her anger at Wonder Woman for abandoning her, flies into a jealous rage and murders them, then waits for Wonder Woman to show up so she can make a dramatic proclamation that she is her worst enemy.

This is all terrible, for several reasons. First, can Wonder Woman get a decent female friend at some point please? This is Wonder Woman. Sisterhood is kind of a big deal. We spent the last arc with her battling Grail, now she’s going to be battling Silver Swan, all the while the only people she talks to are Steve and her brother. Where’s Etta Candy? Where are her female superhero pals? Why is this book a sea of dudes, evil women, and occasionally, but only occasionally, Wonder Woman? It makes no sense.

Second, this is a very quick turn for Vanessa. To have her go from loving Wonder Woman to hating Wonder Woman in the span of an issue feels entirely unearned, doubly so because this is a revamp of a key character in the Wonder Woman mythos. During the George Perez relaunch in the late 1980s, Julia Kapatelis was Diana’s first friend in America, and she and her daughter Vanessa became like family to her. Vanessa’s relationship with Diana was lengthy and well fleshed out, and they went through a lot together. When Vanessa eventually became a new version of the villainous Silver Swan, it was after well over a decade of stories, and various fiendish machinations from other villains to brainwash her into the role. There was a deep history there by the time it occurred.

Here, Robinson bypasses all of that. He borrows the name but not the backstory, manufacturing a slapdash relationship between Diana and Vanessa that does no justice whatsoever to her past prominence. And then he turns it entirely halfway through, making her a villain because she was angry that Wonder Woman was too busy to visit her. That origin is a) weak sauce, and b) quite the change. Going from a brave teen persevering through her injuries to a stone cold murderer all in one issue is too fast a turnaround for it to have any emotional impact.

Also, we’ve had three villain origin stories in this run: Grail, Jason, and now Silver Swan. Each one featured a scene in which they see Wonder Woman on television and get angry over her being out and about and saving the day. It’s such lazy writing. All three villains thus far have been rage-fueled, jealous narcissists. Now, this could be interesting if the book served as a reflection on these traits and why Wonder Woman in particular sparks such anger, perhaps delving into how both men and women are conditioned to try to tear down strong women in our patriarchal society. That might be compelling. But this is not that. This is just lazy, hacky writing, recycling the same few notes and doing nothing new or interesting with any of it.

So basically, things aren’t any better now despite the new arc and the New Year. Shocking, I know. Being negative all the time brings me down; seriously, I’d much prefer to be gushing over how great Wonder Woman is and all of the little things I love about it. But the fact is, this run is awful and it’s just not going to get any better. We have to wait it out and hope for a better creative team and better editors when it’s done.

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Women & NB Creators at Marvel Comics Watch, March 2018 Solicits: An Astonishingly Low 9 Creators on 11 Books

January 9, 2018

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Let’s not beat around the bush here: Marvel’s numbers for female and non-binary creators in their March 2018 solicits are just embarrassingly bad. I mean, single digits? Wow. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen single digits from either DC or Marvel. While women and non-binary creators remain a small minority at both publishers, representation’s definitely grown over the past several years, as have the ranks of these creators. At this point, if one of the Big Two isn’t employing AT LEAST 20 female and non-binary creators to write and draw their books, then they’re not even trying. And to hit single digits, they’d almost have to be trying not to. These numbers are straight up terrible. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at Marvel in March. It won’t take very long:

  • Ashley Witter: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #18 (cover)
  • Emanuela Lupacchino: Doctor Strange: Damnation #2 (variant cover)
  • Erica Henderson: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #30 (interior art, cover)
  • G. Willow Wilson: Ms. Marvel #28 (writer)
  • Jody Houser: Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #17 (writer), Star Wars: Thrawn #2 (writer)
  • Kelly Thompson: Hawkeye #16 (writer), Rogue & Gambit #3 (writer)
  • Mariko Tamaki: She-Hulk #163 (writer)
  • Natacha Bustos: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #29 (interior art, cover)
  • Rainbow Rowell: Runaways #7 (writer)

All together, there are 9 different women scheduled to work on 11 different books at Marvel this March, 11 fewer creators than in February and 7 fewer books. As best I can tell, there are no non-binary creators listed in this round of solicits. These are appalling numbers. Last March, Marvel had 37 different female creators. THIRTY-SEVEN. And now they’re down to 9. That’s less than a quarter of what they had a year ago. This is a stunning decline.

The last time Marvel was in single digits was October 2015, when they had 9 female creators on 10 books. That was two and a half years ago, and since then their numbers shot up. Now, after several months of declines, they’ve essentially collapsed. And ironically, March has been a great month for Marvel in recent years. They used to celebrate Women’s History of Month with “Women of Marvel” variant covers and sometimes special issues, with tons of female creators in the mix. Now they’re celebrating Women’s History Month with their lowest number of female creators in ages. And, adding insult to injury, some of the books listed above aren’t long for the world, with Hawkeye and She-Hulk soon to be cancelled.

So, what is going on here? First off, Marvel’s already axed or benched several books that were mainstays for female creators, including America, Captain Marvel, Generation X , and Gwenpool. The publisher doesn’t appear overly invested in promoting books with female leads or creators. This slew of cancellations is not at all helping the publisher’s reputation either, which was already suffering after their higher ups suggested that diverse books and creators don’t sell on multiple occasions. If you add to this lack of support for female-led comics things like the Nazi Captain America foolishness of Secret Empire, the fact that the chairman of the company is a rabid Trump supporter, and a recent spate of relaunches geared toward appeasing old school fanboys above all else, it seems that we may have a situation in which the folks who run Marvel aren’t particularly keen to hire female and non-binary creators AND female and non-binary creators may not be terribly interested in working for the mess that is Marvel right now. It hardly seems a welcoming environment.

Whatever is going on, it remains utterly baffling that the bulk of Marvel’s editorial departments seem fine with largely ignoring the massive, impressive ranks of female and non-binary writers and artists working in comics right now in favour of employing the same dudes over and over again. These dudes are not the future of comics. These women and non-binary creators could very well be. An inability to recognize changes in the industry as a whole is why Marvel went bankrupt in the 1990s, and it seems to be why they’re faltering again here in the 2010s. Case in point: The eight bazillion variant covers they do every month. They haven’t even learned from their past, so it’s no wonder that they’ve got no real vision for the future.

Women & NB Creators at DC Comics Watch, March 2018 Solicits: 26 Creators on 24 Books

January 2, 2018

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After a couple of months of slight gains, female and non-binary creator representation at DC Comics is set to stay about the same this March. Leveling off after a bit of growth isn’t entirely unexpected, but this current plateau is pretty underwhelming relative to the publisher’s past highs. DC’s been stalled in the low to mid-20s for several months now, and a new year doesn’t seem to be bringing much to change that. Let’s take a look at who is set to do what at DC this March:

  • Alisa Kwitney: Mystik U #3 (writer)
  • Amanda Conner: Harley Quinn #39 (cover), Harley Quinn #40 (cover), The Jetsons #5 (cover)
  • Becky Cloonan: Shade, The Changing Woman #1 (cover)
  • Cecil Castellucci: Shade, The Changing Woman #1 (writer)
  • Emanuela Lupacchino: Bombshells United #14 (cover)
  • Hope Larson: Batgirl #21 (writer)
  • Jenny Frison: Wonder Woman #42 (variant cover), Wonder Woman #43 (variant cover)
  • Jill Thompson: Scooby Apocalypse #23 (cover)
  • Jody Houser: Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #1 (writer)
  • Joelle Jones: Teen Titans #18 (variant cover)
  • Julie Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #20 (co-writer)
  • Laura Braga: Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica #6 (interior art)
  • Magdalene Visaggio: Eternity Girl #1 (writer)
  • Marguerite Bennett: Batwoman #13 (writer), Bombshells United #13 (writer), Bombshells United #14 (writer)
  • Marley Zarcone: Shade, The Changing Woman #1 (interior art, variant cover)
  • Michelle Delecki: Deathstroke #29 (variant cover)
  • Mirka Andolfo: Harley Quinn #40 (interior art)
  • Nicola Scott: Mera, Queen of Atlantis #2 (cover)
  • Paulina Ganucheau: Eternity Girl #1 (variant cover)
  • Rachael Stott: Motherlands #3 (interior art)
  • Rachel Dodson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #20 (cover)
  • Sandra Hope: The Silencer #3 (inker, cover)
  • Shawna Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #20 (co-writer)
  • Tula Lotay: Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica #6 (cover)
  • Vita Ayala: Supergirl #19 (co-writer)
  • Yasmine Putri: Nightwing #40 (variant cover), Nightwing #41 (variant cover)

All together, there are 26 different female and non-binary creators set to work on 24 different books in March, the same number of creators as in February though spread across 3 fewer books. This is a very ho-hum showing for DC Comics, who appear to be trapped in a bit of a rut. The bulk of the creators listed above have regular gigs at the publisher and should be back next month, which is great. Having a solid, consistent base is an important first step. The trouble is that a) these ranks don’t seem to be growing much, and b) more transitory gigs like fill-in issues, oneshots, and variant covers have been few and fleeting.

Speaking of this consistent base, there is no one listed above that we haven’t seen at DC over the previous few months. There are a couple of returning favourites who’ve been away for a little while, like Paulina Ganucheau pitching in with a variant cover and Vita Ayala co-writing Supergirl for what should be a great issue that introduces a new non-binary character. Everyone else is the usual crowd. Doing great work on great books, of course, but the ranks aren’t growing.

In terms of characters, after the “Young Animal” oneshots last month, the whole line is relaunching this month with new #1 issues and some revamped titles. Mother Panic will become Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. while Shade, the Changing Girl has grown into Shade, the Changing Woman. We’ve also got a new mini-series spinning out of those oneshots with Eternity Girl. All three books have female leads and a variety of female creators in the mix. The handful of other new releases for March across the line seem rather dude-centric.

All together, DC’s spinning their wheels a bit when it comes to female and non-binary creators. The numbers aren’t growing, and they remain far below the highs they hit in the recent past. Stagnant numbers across the line also combine with the publisher’s hyping of their “New Age of DC Heroes” books, eight new artist-centric series that feature barely any women or non-binary creators at all. It’s a bad look for a company that’s not doing very well with representation to begin with.

Wonder Woman #37 Review: Thunderbolts of Jove, This Book is Bad

December 27, 2017

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For Christmas this year, Santa Claus left me some Funko Pops in my stocking, both of them from the Wonder Woman movie. One was Antiope in mid-leap, holding a bow and about to fire three arrows in a recreation of an iconic scene from the film. The other was Etta Candy, holding Wonder Woman’s shield and sword. They’re both awesome and adorable, and they also encapsulate what was so great about the movie. Wonder Woman was the star, of course, but the film was packed full of amazing female characters. Between the Amazons on Themyscira and Etta in England, Diana had female allies everywhere. Sisterhood was a core theme of the movie, and it showcased female strength in a variety of forms.

The film was a massive hit, and yet for some reason, DC Comics has decided to ignore everything that made it successful. We’ve got an arc focusing on Wonder Woman’s brother, Wonder Woman herself has been little more than an afterthought in several issues, and there are no female allies to be found. The only other woman in the book is Grail, a villain, and now Wonder Woman’s father has come to the fore with this issue. On top of all of that, the book is terribly written and just painful to read. So yeah, let’s talk about it, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal everything that happened in this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

But also, do yourself a personal favour and maybe don’t read it!

It’s quite awful!

The bulk of this issue centered on Zeus fighting Darkseid, a battle of two titans that could have been interesting but turned out rather humdrum. The men bloviated the entire time, crowing about their own superior power as they traded blows. I don’t buy Wonder Woman to see two dudes duking it out while bragging about how big and strong they are, so I didn’t particularly care for this focus. I also don’t buy Wonder Woman to see a man fighting Diana’s battles for her, as Zeus did here, so that angle wasn’t great either. The battle itself was drawn capably, but there was nothing really interesting or compelling about the depiction of it all. The choreography was pretty straight forward superhero brawling, really. I do still enjoy Zeus’ glowing cape, though; that’s a nice stylistic touch that colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. makes look super cool. The rest was generally unexciting.

Also, I found it odd that Diana seemed so accepting of having her father back. She’s never met the man, ever, apart from perhaps in animal form during Year One. He’s not been a part of her life in any meaningful way, and owing to Rucka’s revamp we don’t know how she learned that Zeus was her father or what her perspective on her parentage is. Yet here, she’s instantly on board with him, calling him “Father” from the get-go. I understand her trying to save him from Darkseid; she’s Wonder Woman, after all, and would do her best to save anyone from Darkseid. But her instant acceptance of him felt very unearned to me.

I suppose they had to fast forward the relationship, seeing as Darkseid kills Zeus by the end of the issue in an entirely unsurprising twist. Turns out, Darkseid was killing Zeus’ kids partly to get their slices of divine power but partly to get Zeus to show up so that he could take his immense power and regain all of his strength. With Zeus not long for the world, there wasn’t much time to create a relationship with Diana or delve into their complicated past.

The execution highlights a key flaw of the book right now: None of this is really about Diana. The return of Zeus could have brought up a lot of stuff for her, and let her reckon with her past, her power, and her currently estranged relationship with her Amazon family. This development was potentially full of fascinating angles to examine and ways to dig into Wonder Woman’s character. But instead, it had nothing to do with her. Zeus’ return served as a shocking cliffhanger for the last issue, and a means to bring Darkseid back to his full strength in this issue. Diana’s feelings about her father’s return got minimal attention, and now he’s gone.

The issue also left me wondering where this arc is going. Darkseid is repowered back to his former self, and he and Grail escaped at the end of the issue. The solicits suggest that they’ll be back after the Silver Swan arc that’s set to begin in two weeks time, returning to vex the Amazons, but to what end? I’m still hoping that Darkseid will Omega Beam Jason and rid us of his pointless presence, but now that Darkseid’s back to full strength I can’t see him ending up defeated or captured. He’s not a normal villain. He’s a major player in the larger comic book universe. Grail could end up properly defeated, but Darkseid is.

Ultimately, this is another bad issue in a terrible arc that has failed to center Wonder Woman in any meaningful way. It’s also a bizarre sequel to an event no on particularly cared for, tied into outdated continuity, and it just doesn’t make a lick of sense in general. And now we’re letting James Robinson have a crack at the Silver Swan too? Who okayed that plan? Silver Swan is a classic Wonder Woman villain, and she deserves to be in the hands of someone who’s actually demonstrated an understanding of Diana and her world. At least Grail won’t be around for a while? That’s something to look forward to. I’ll take that break.

My Top 10 Superhero Comic Books of 2017

December 20, 2017

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It’s been an interesting year for superhero comic books. DC’s been trucking along with “Rebirth,” telling a lot of fun stories in the mix. Marvel’s been more split, with half the line spending a considerable part of the year embroiled in weird Nazi/Hydra antics while several of the titles that avoided Secret Empire put out some very enjoyable adventures. When I sat down to figure out my favourite superhero comics of the year, I was amused to see my list split down the middle, half DC and half Marvel! While I’d definitely say that DC had the better year overall, qualitywise, Marvel’s good books were VERY good.

Before we get to the list, though, I should point out that it’s been a great year for non-superhero comics, too. The cape books are my main focus here, of course, but I’ve been enjoying all sorts of other titles. More specifically, Bitch Planet: Triple Feature was excellent, as was the latest “season” of Sex Criminals from Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I’ve also been enjoying Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams, the latest volume of George O’Connor’s Olympians was fantastic as always, and Paper Girls from Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang remains gorgeous if all over the place, storywise. I’m always down for Cliff Chiang art! There’s no lack of wonderful comics out there right now across all sorts of genres and styles.

But now, onto my favourite superhero comic books of the year! Check out the list, and let me know your favourites from the past year in the comments:

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10) Batman by Tom King, Mikel Janin, Joelle Jones, and more

I’m reading Batman in trade so I’m a little bit behind, but I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I was leery of it initially, since the premises didn’t grab me. Superpowered heroes in Gotham? More Bane shenanigans? I didn’t think it’d be for me. Then I read the books and was quickly proved wrong. King and his excellent array of artists make it all work beautifully. And of course, I love the prominent role that Catwoman has in the run. She’s become a major player here, and while she and Batman are bad ass and cool, as always, compassion seems to be the core of both characterizations. It’s good stuff, and often beautifully drawn.

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9) Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

This book has been amazing for a while now, and it showed no signs of slowing down on that front in 2017. Is Ryan North still writing it? Is Erica Henderson still drawing it? Is Squirrel Girl still eating nuts and kicking butts? Then it’s going to remain great. And it has! North and Henderson bring so much heart and humour to the comic. It’s just a joy to read, and served as a most welcome counter to the bleak storylines that took over a lot of Marvel books this year. If you like delightful things, then go start reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

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8) Green Arrow by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt, and more

I’ve enjoyed the stories in Green Arrow over the past year well enough, but I’ll be honest: The book made my Top 10 for Otto Schmidt alone. His art is SO GOOD. His pages just sing. The art isn’t terribly out there for a superhero book, but it’s absolutely unique and different and stands out from everything else on the stands right now. I think part of it is that he colors it himself, and everything on the page feels so cohesive and complimentary. It’s really remarkable stuff. Green Arrow cycles through a variety of artists, like most DC books right now, and while they’re all pretty solid, Schmidt’s work is just next level. I want him to draw every superhero now.

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7) All New Wolverine by Tom Taylor, Leonard Kirk, Nik Virella, and more

Step aside, old Wolverine. You were fun while you lasted, but the new Wolverine is so much better. She’s got everything we expect from a Wolverine: claws, ferocity, a propensity for going after anyone who threatens her friends with a berserker rage. But instead of being a mopey guy who’s been around forever, she’s a cantankerous yet endearing young woman. Plus she’s assembled a great supporting cast over the course of this run. It’s a fun, exciting book, and I’m completely fine with never seeing the old Wolverine again now.

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6) Detective Comics by James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Marcio Takara, and more

Team books can be a tricky thing. There are a lot of characters to manage, and a few always end up taking a backseat while a handful come to the fore. Tynion and his rotating teams of artists have struck an impressive balance here, largely by backseating the character you’d expect to see more than anyone else: Batman. He’s a key figure, but doesn’t dominate the book. Instead, Batwoman leads the team and the spotlight gets shared by Azrael, Batwing, Clayface, Orphan, and Spoiler. The degree of attention ebbs and flows, but no one goes too long without a good storyline or an important role. The book also manages to tell its own stories while weaving in and out of the bigger events at DC over the past year. It’s a solid Bat-team book that I always find myself looking forward to.

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5) Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and more

I’m a big fan of the classic Thor, but what Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman have done with Jane Foster as Thor is far and away my favourite take on the character yet. It’s been a huge year for her, with an intergalactic war and darkness spreading through the nine realms, not to mention the return of Odinson and the emergence of the War Thor. But amid all of the epicness, the story of Jane battling cancer and sacrificing her well-being to be the hero the world, nay, the universe needs has been so beautifully told. The heart Aaron and Dauterman bring to their crazy action and adventure is what makes this one of the best books on the stands.

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4) Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka, Shea Fontana, Mirka Andolfo, Bilquis Evely, and more

Not right now, obviously. Wonder Woman has been garbage since James Robinson et al. took over a few months ago. But before that, the book was having a great year. The wrap up of the “Godwatch” and “The Truth” arcs was a powerful, well-executed conclusion to an excellent run that provided a much needed revitalization of Wonder Woman after a rough few years. Then we got “Heart of the Amazon,” which was an awesome team up between Diana and Etta Candy that pitted them against superpowered assassins and evil scientists. Now the book is about Wonder Woman and her brother and it suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, but up until then it was a really great year of stories.

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3) Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads

People were raving about this book before the first issue even came out, and with all of that buzz building and building, I came into this with high expectations. Mister Miracle beat those expectations with ease. The first issue especially is just masterful storytelling. It’s intentionally disorienting yet it pulls you along, and when you finally realize what’s happening it’s a gut punch that is heartbreaking yet so perfect for the character. Subsequent issues have been fascinating in their own right. It’s a unique, compelling book that is a worthy vehicle for Mister Miracle and Big Barda, two of Jack Kirby’s best creations.

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2) Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Marco Failla, Takeshi Miyazawa, and more

Ms. Marvel has been stellar for years now. Introducing a Muslim, Pakistani-American, teen heroine was no mean feat, and yet the book has never taken a step wrong. And this year was no exception. Kamala went through a lot, both professionally and personally, and as the year went on the book began to echo a lot of the issues facing America as a whole in 2017. Ms. Marvel is grounded in our reality in a way most superhero books aren’t, and that led to some incisive storytelling that still paired beautifully with all of the usual fun and action we expect from the series.

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1) Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Michael Walsh, and more

The Fraction/Aja/Wu era of Hawkeye is easily one of the best superhero runs of the past decade, and set a massively high bar for any and all Hawkeye stories moving forward. Thompson, Romero, and Walsh have reached that bar and more with Kate Bishop’s new solo series. The book is an absolute joy, from Thompson’s sharp and hilarious dialogue to Romero and Walsh doing an amazing job with all of the archery action and comedic beats packed into each issue. Plus there’s some serious heart and pathos beyond all of the fun, with Kate dealing with some heavy stuff. Things are rarely cool and chill for a Hawkeye, as much as they may pretend otherwise. The book is a dang delight, each and every month, and I love it to bits.

Wonder Woman #36 Review: Can We Just Not, With Any Of This?

December 13, 2017

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Let’s begin with a story. Last Wednesday, I woke up prepared to begin my usual bi-weekly Wonder Woman review routine. Buy the comic. Read it a couple of times. Think about it a bit and formulate some opinions. Then sit down and write out my review. However, I was mistaken. Yes, it had been two weeks since the last issue of Wonder Woman came out, but November was a five-Wednesday month. The issue wouldn’t be out until the following week, because Wonder Woman comes out on the second and fourth weeks of each month. I was amused at my error, and tremendously relieved. I didn’t have to read Wonder Woman! It felt like a reprieve.

Anyway, now it’s the correct week and here we are. Let’s dig into this nonsense, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

This review reveals key plot points from this issue!

Don’t read this if you haven’t read the comic yet!

Though I can’t in good conscience recommend that you read this comic book!

So we’re in a bit of a catch-22 here!

Here’s a positive thing to start with: I like the new corner box on the cover. It’s an old school affectation brought back with a modern feel. I’m into it. That “Rebirth” bar was getting tiresome after a year and a half, and this is a lot cleaner and more compact. I think it might hint at some coming changes for the line, too. DC’s been doing a lot of multiverse stuff lately, and that “Universe” designation might be significant. Spinning out of “Metal,” I wouldn’t be surprised to see new books set in different universes, with corner boxes that marked them as such. Could be cool. But whether that’s coming or not, I think it’s a good look.

And here’s even more good news: Wonder Woman is actually in this issue of Wonder Woman! On nearly every page, even. You wouldn’t think that’d be something we’d even have to celebrate, but there’s been a substantial lack of Wonder Woman in this run thus far.

That’s where the good news ends, though. The book is still really bad. The story is still really dumb. There are a few twists in this issue, none of them good or particularly unexpected. I will say, the art is nicer than it’s been lately. While Emanuela Lupacchino’s done fine work on her villain backstory issues, a misuse of her talents but excellent art nonetheless, the main story has been decidedly subpar. Carlo Pagulayan’s pencils with inks from Jason Paz and Sean Parsons are a definite step up, and of course Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s colours are fantastic, as always. While the story remains a trash fire, at least it’s nicer to look at this time around.

So let’s dive into the story itself. Grail and Jason have Wonder Woman trapped, and the issue begins with them all yelling at each other. Jason is bitter about his upbringing for no good reason, Grail just wants to kill folks, and Diana wants her brother to see reason. No one really breaks through with anyone, largely because all the speechifying is just there to lay the groundwork for Wonder Woman busting free and starting a big fight scene. I will say this for Robinson: I did enjoy the reveal that Diana could have broken out of her bonds at any time, but she stayed trapped and took Grail’s abuse to try to reach Jason. I mean, Jason sucks and all, but that’s a very Wonder Woman thing to do.

The fight takes a turn with the inevitable arrival of Darkseid, who has now grown to be a young man. Grail’s god killing seems to be feeding him well. Then we get the not at all shocking turn in which Jason finds out that Grail has been lying to him. Combined with Darkseid’s brutal treatment of his sister, Jason’s no longer sure he’s on the right team here and tries to stop him. This will likely lead to Diana and Jason teaming up to defeat Grail and Darkseid later on which, ugh, of course it will. I don’t know about you all, but I was cheering for Darkseid to blast Jason with an Omega Beam and free us from his tedious presence. No such luck this time around, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for future outings.

Then finally, the twistiest twist of them all! Hercules’ weirdo lawyer is actually Zeus in disguise! Gasp. A story about two children of Zeus features an appearance from Zeus. Who saw that coming? Anyway, he’s in the mix now, threatening Darkseid to close out the issue. And he’s got an all new design, too. It’s not great, though I do enjoy the glowing white cape. That’s kind of cool. His armour bits are a little too Magogy for me, and I don’t care for him copying Wonder Woman’s bracelets. Also, that crown could be better. Still, on the larger spectrum of Zeus designs in Wonder Woman, I’d say this is one of the better ones. Zeus has never looked particularly cool. I mean, the dude showed up in a space unitard at one point

(HOT TIP: For an excellent take on Zeus, and the Greek gods in general, go read the Olympians series by George O’Connor! They are excellent comic books with really smart, clever takes on all of the gods, and it’s got far and away my favourite Zeus ever.)

So a bunch of things happened, none of them particularly interesting, all of them poorly written. The art was a little bit nicer, at least. And it looks like we’ve got a big fight coming, with Zeus and Darkseid set to battle it out in an Old God versus New God showdown. That could be a good thing, if only because the brawl might take up a lot of the next issue and thus cut down on the words therein. I’m all for anything that will make this book a quicker read and spare me from Robinson’s horrible dialogue.

Anyway, there’s some encouraging news for us to end on: We’re halfway through, gang. This ridiculousness is scheduled to last for twelve issues, and this was this sixth. By this time in March, we’ll have reached the grand finale and will be eagerly anticipating whoever is set to take over next. Will we get returning favourites? Will it be an up and coming team with a fresh voice for Wonder Woman? Will it be some random people they just grab off the street? Whoever they choose, it can’t be worse than this run.

Women & NB Creators at Marvel Comics Watch, February 2018 Solicits: 20 Creators on 18 Books

November 30, 2017

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We’re two months into 2018 with Marvel’s comic book solicits, and it doesn’t look like the New Year is going to be great for female and non-binary creator representation at the publisher. While the numbers ticked up in February after a relatively terrible January, they didn’t tick up much; the new totals are definitely terrible adjacent, at least. Marvel’s female and non-binary creator numbers remain at roughly half of their recent highs, with few signs of any substantive improvement on the horizon. Let’s take a look at who is doing what at Marvel this February:

  • Anna Rud: Black Panther #170 (variant cover)
  • Ashley Witter: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1 (cover)
  • Bilquis Evely: Captain America #698 (variant cover)
  • Christina Strain: Generation X #87 (writer)
  • Erica Henderson: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #29 (interior art, cover)
  • G. Willow Wilson: Ms. Marvel #27 (writer)
  • Gabby Rivera: America #12 (writer)
  • Gurihiru: Gwenpool, The Unbelievable #25 (interior art, cover)
  • Jen Bartel: Gwenpool, The Unbelievable #25 (variant cover)
  • Jody Houser: Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #16 (writer), Star Wars: Thrawn #1 (writer)
  • Kamome Shirahama: Gwenpool, The Unbelievable #25 (variant cover)
  • Kelly Thompson: Hawkeye #15 (writer), Rogue & Gambit #2 (writer)
  • Margaret Stohl: Captain Marvel #129 (writer)
  • Mariko Tamaki: She-Hulk #162 (writer)
  • Natacha Bustos: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #28 (interior art, cover)
  • Rainbow Rowell: Runaways #6 (writer)
  • Stacey Lee: America #12 (interior art)
  • Stephanie Hans: X-Men: Blue #21 (variant cover)
  • Yasmine Putri: Tales of Suspense #102 (cover)

All together, there are 20 different female creators set to work on 18 different books at Marvel in February, 2 more creators than last month but the same number of books. As best I can tell, there are no non-binary creators scheduled at Marvel this month. A gain of 2 creators is better than nothing, of course, but January marked one of Marvel’s lowest months in recent memory, so a small gain from there still leaves the publisher quite low. Moreover, in 4 of the past 5 months they’ve failed to post more than 20 female creators. Marvel is in a rut right now, one they don’t seem particularly keen to get out of.

In terms of new names, there aren’t many. I’m pretty sure that February marks Anna Rud’s first Marvel gig, which is very cool, and I can’t recall if we’ve seen Bilquis Evely at Marvel yet; she’s usually doing stuff at DC. Both are doing variant covers, which brings up a larger point about the sustainability of the numbers. A quarter of the creators listed above are doing variant covers, and while they’re an excellent way to get a foot in the door at a publisher and showcase their talents, they are also onetime gigs. That means a quarter of the women listed above are unlikely to be back next month unless they land a new cover or interior art gig. There are maybe 12 or 13 people up there that I am confident will be back next month for sure. Everyone else is a maybe. Marvel needs more female and non-binary creators, and they need to get them on some long term jobs.

It’s a pretty quiet month for new books at Marvel, but we do have the debut of X-Men: Red, a new team book that’s set to feature a newly returned Jean Grey (in a really ugly costume, I have to say) and Wolverine (the Laura Kinney version, i.e. the far superior Wolverine). As always, the X-Men team books are pretty solid at having a few women in the mix, at least fictional ones. Everyone writing, drawing, or doing covers on X-Men: Red is a dude.

Overall, February looks like it’s going to be another poor month for female and non-binary creator representation at Marvel. This is just the norm at Marvel now, I guess. Maybe having a new editor-in-chief will change things, though given all the news about C.B. Cebulski lately we might just get male creators using female pseudonyms! I kid, but also, the publisher is a dang mess right now. They need to right the ship, and bringing in more women and non-binary creators would be a smart first step.


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