Her·o·ine (noun \ˈher-ə-wən, ˈhir-, ˈhe-rə-\) - 1:a. A mythological or legendary woman having the qualities of a hero. b. A woman admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Scarlet #1 - #3
Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

I wanted to wait a bit before reviewing Scarlet because I wanted to give her a chance to develop. It’s sad to say that I'm still having trouble getting behind this comic.

Scarlet is writer Brian Bendis' newest creator-owned work, and although I believe it’s success is largely a case of the story rising above its thin premise, it's definitely different from everything else out there. It follows a young woman who sees the man she loves get killed by a crooked police officer.

When the "system" protects the policeman, she decides to change the world by taking on the corruption herself. As a result, in the first three issues of this comic we've now seen her kill three police officers. When you throw in the noir atmosphere and crisp dialogue that Bendis and Maleev have mastered, the series becomes more interesting than its basic premise. (Not to mention the character’s tendency to break the fourth wall and talk directly to the readers)

We've seen crooked cops in fiction before, and we've seen revenge killings, but the problem here is that we're only seeing part of the story and questions quickly arise concerning the character’s trustworthiness, as well as how Bendis plans on making the readers active participants in the story. (The protagonist repeatedly tells readers to get involved, but is that really possible?)

One part that is fantastic is the art by Alex Maleev - it's a combination of near-photographic images with a painted style that's like no other. It's amazing work.

For me, the jury continues to be out on this comic. For the art alone, I'm hanging around a few more issues. Hopefully, by then Bendis will give us some satisfactory answers because it’s those lingering questions that keep the series from exploding into fully formed life. As of now, the series reads more like an interesting experiment than an actual worthwhile story.

Supergirl #58
Written by Sterling Gates with pencils by Jamal Igle and inks by Jon Sibal

This issue isn’t the usual hero vs villain business. Instead, it's a story in which Supergirl joins journalist Cat Grant to track down whoever is kidnapping kids off the streets of Metropolis. The mystery has special resonance for Cat, as her son Adam was murdered by the Toyman (later needlessly retconned into a Toyman robot). The situation gives Kara a chance to learn why Cat hates her, and Cat an opportunity to hear Kara's point of view.

The Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle creative teaming ends after next issue and it’s sad to see them go. The people Gates writes and the relationships he fosters are among the most real in comics and they benefit hugely from the skills of Igle, whose storytelling choices are always spot-on, and followed through with style. Where lazy creators repeat panel after panel for talking heads scene, Gates and Igle like things more animated.

Gates and Igle have defined Supergirl for the modern era and while they're in the final stretch, they're not coasting. This month's mood is far from that of previous issues, but because characters are so well defined, we can comfortably plug into something different. Even Cat is allowed admirable qualities, such as her mother's devotion, and reporter's courage in entering her apartment when she knows the villain is likely to be inside.

The most intense scene of the issue is the Arkham Asylum interview with Winslow Schott, the toymaker turned menace. Having received creepy dolls on the days children vanish, Cat quite reasonably suspects he's behind the disappearances. However, the real villain appears (back from an earlier in the series) in just a single panel, but makes a big impression. (Yes, I could tell you more, but this comic book deserves extra readers - if you've some spare pennies, and haven't tried Supergirl as of late, give it a go.)

My only criticism is about the cover. The cover illustration by Amy Reeder, colored by Guy Major, is certainly gorgeous, but it doesn't do this issue justice. Smiley Supergirl is suited to a poster book or a first issue. But this issue's change of pace story should be represented on the cover to let potential buyers know there's a different flavor to the drama inside.
Birds of Prey #6
Written by Gail Simone with pencils by Alvin Lee and Adriana Melo
Overall, I've enjoyed the return of "Birds of Prey" courtesy Gail Simone. But with the "Two Nights in Bangkok" two-parter, the book has felt a bit off-kilter and it's hard to peg why.
The previous issue had felt slightly rushed, and this issue unfortunately continues that trend. We have a random background character suddenly turn into a trusted ally that's willing to switch sides at the drop of a hat, and it feels out of the blue, like this was part of a larger story that got trimmed down along the way. And the conclusion of Black Canary being forced to fight Lady Shiva to the death, likewise, is sped up and thrown on the table in the blink of an eye. It's not a bad solution, but it shows up in a hurried manner and is just as easily accepted, feeling rather anti-climactic. Simone is normally great on her pacing (recent issues of "Secret Six" being a prime example) so for this not quite working it a slight surprise. And with half of the cast (Oracle, Hawk, Dove) being sidelined to just two pages this issue, it's not helping "Birds of Prey" feel like a team book in the slightest.
On the bright side, there are some good bits in "Birds of Prey" #6 that stand out. Huntress giving her speech to Lady Shiva is the strongest scene in the book, although Huntress' narration in general is entertaining. For a character that seems to be a cast off and throwaway under other writers, she gets a chance to genuinely shine in "Birds of Prey" and I appreciate the work that Simone's put into her character. And even though they're barely in the book, Oracle's closing comment about Hawk is great fun, and makes me hope that he'll get something to do in upcoming issues so we can see more of Simone's take on the character. (Why come back from the dead if they're just going to sit around and twiddle thumbs?)
Even with the extra month, Alvin Lee and Adriana Melo's pencils don't look as strong as they normally do. The women look remarkably flimsy here, like a stiff breeze could blow them over; considering these women include Huntress, Black Canary, and Lady Shiva, that's exactly the wrong image they should be projecting. Hair is also suddenly prone to pulling into large locks and then having them all repel one another, like there's a massive case of static electricity going on. (I suppose the lack of conditioner is providing this rather unique hair style, because my other theory involving wind from a Stevie Nicks concert stage is even less likely.) The worst thing, though? The characters are often all drawn alike. There's a scene where Huntress is pulling on her outfit while Lady Blackhawk and Black Canary are standing behind her. If it wasn't for the outfits (and Huntress having a different hair color), there's no visual difference to tell the three apart.
I enjoyed the first four issues of "Birds of Prey," so this two-parter has ultimately been a disappointment. I'm not going to write off the book — this feels like it's the exception to the rule — but I am glad it's over, and starting next month Ardian Syaf comes on board to help the title move forward. This is a comic that we ultimately expect a lot more from.

Uncanny X-Men #529
Written by Mat Fraction. Pencils by Whilce Portacio with Harvey Tolibao

The "Five Lights" storyline continues as Hope and gang find the fourth light and Emma Frost tries to make up for past sins by sneaking Sebastian Shaw out of Utopia with the help of Fantomex.

This was the first issue in a while that left me feeling disappointed. It was more of an in-between issue to set up the story for the Generation Hope mini series than anything else. The fourth “light,” Teon, is a laughable character that storms the scene with animalistic urges. Fight, flight, and mate are his only emotions and words.

It’s been a few years since there was a fresh mutant character, something original or at least intriguing, and we are given Teon—a dog on two legs? A throwaway character like Teon degrades the significance of Hope as the savior of the mutant race and the importance of the “Second Coming” story arc. I really expected the five lights to bring something grand to the X-Men but now I am not so sure. But I digress.

This issue’s real appeal was in Emma Frost’s story and development. Fraction really tapped into the essence of her character and has made her better than ever by heightening her angst, fear, and sorrow. The dialogue among Emma Frost, Fantomex, and Kitty Pryde regarding her significance as a person and the pain she has endured are brilliant and reveals a part of Frost that I was convinced didn’t exist. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought so as Danger reveals that is let Emma take Sebastian Shaw as a test to show her true colors.

The artistry of the book was also lacking. Portacio did his usual, but Harvey Tolbao did the last four pages, seemingly for no reason. Not that he did a bad job, but there is nothing more annoying than the change of artists within a book if there is no reason!

It’s a somewhat dull issue, but the set-up for the next Uncanny X-Men accomplished what it was meant to.

Echo #26

Story and Art by Terry Moore
I haven’t read every issue, but what I’ve seen is remarkable. Moore is consistent with his beautiful artwork and character driven storyline. But I’m not too thrilled at the fact that every issue ends so abruptly. Most issues don’t even have a cliffhanger. Just an end.
I really like this book and I believe Moore is probably doing the best work of his career on this title, but it’s continually amazing to me that every issue just seems to cut off. Echo really reads like a long form story that Moore cuts off every 18 pages, whether it really works as a cut-off point or not.
However, this issue probably isn’t the best starting point because it’s driven more by the dialogue than anything else. Also, because it’s almost the end of the entire series.
We see the gang—composed of Dillon, Ivy, Vijay, and Annie whose mind/spirit lives on in Julie through the experimental and seemingly nuclear armor known as Alloy 618—searching for a government base in the outskirts of the Alaskan Arctic Circle. The base holds the Phi Collider and the four are attempting to stop its use, as it would destroy the planet.
Moore’s strength is certainly in his ability to handle people’s emotions and the interactions between people, and that is on display here as well, with some great interactions between our heroes. The language is so natural and it reads better than most comic books. They react like a normal people would to such insane situations.
Top notch work there by Moore.
This is a great comic book that’s well worth reading. With the plot and characters so concrete and defined, it’s easy to get hooked, even if there isn’t a lot of action going on in the panels.

The Cat's Out of the Bag

Gotham City Sirens #17
Written by Peter Calloway with pencils by Andres Guinaldo and inks by Walden Wong.

Official DC Synopsis: Catwoman’s been kidnapped, and now Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn must team up with Talia Al Ghul and Zatanna to free her before she gives up her most valuable secret – a secret that will force Talia to desperate measures.

With the return of Bruce Wayne taking center stage in all the other bat-books, it is nice to read something that isn’t weighed down by that story, but that’s about as far as my relief for this issue goes.

Continuing from #16, this issue begins with Catwoman in a dream-like state, being reunited with Bruce, until they are suddenly attacked by some strange sort of Clayface-like monsters. In the “real world”, Ivy, Harley, Talia and Zatanna continue to bicker over what Selina’s abduction is really about. (But as we already know, her abduction is part of a scheme to discover Batman’s secret identity)

Soon afterwards, the gang discovers in an underground cave that the person responsible for all of this is a former member of the League of Assassins, named Shrike. After a brief scuffle, the gang finds Selina, who has been under some sort of mystical spell by a sensei named Senpai. It turns out Senpai has a serious grudge against Batman, so he decided Selina would be his key to finding him. (And he was right, as he manages to pry Bruce Wayne’s identity from her mind)

I have to say that while I was not terribly excited by the last issue, this issue just felt even stranger. I wasn’t at all surprised that the villains turned out to be members of the League of Assassins due to Talia’s involvement in the story, but I’m still trying to figure out what exactly Zatanna is doing here.

More to the point, the story progression was awkward and hard to follow and the resolution(along with the cliffhanger) was a bit dull and lack-luster. I gave it a chance and, although there’s nothing specifically wrong with the portrayal of characters, I’ve never been a fan of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. And with Catwoman out of commission, this issue falls to the wayside.

Mean [Green] Girls

She Hulks #1
Written by Harrison Wilcox. Pencils by Ryan Stegman, inks by Michael Babinski, and colors by Guru eFX

My feelings about the Hulk (any of them, take your pick) have always been negative. They all remind me of the Jolly Green Giant… Only not so jolly and hyped up on steroids.

The same applies to She-Hulks #1. Admittedly, I only bought the issue because I was expecting it to be terrible. (I like to have a good variety of reviews) I mean really, take a look at the cover. I really don’t know how She-Hulk plans to throw a punch in that stance with her chest thrust forward like that. However, I’m happy to say that the cover artists and story artists are not the same and I really enjoyed reading this issue.

It does struggle with getting things in motion, (despite the action sequence detailed in the first few pages) but anyone familiar with the events of Civil war and World War Hulk will be able to follow along relatively easily. Not to mention, the plot has been focused on one primary goal: Catch the Intelligencia.

Again, I wasn’t too impressed with the progression of the story, but the characters were interesting enough to keep me hooked throughout. The only part I would like to change is when Lyra attends public school. The sequence of events at school almost mirrors “Mean Girls.”

Not that I hate “Mean Girls,” but really? Wilcox couldn’t think of anything different?

Speaking of differences, the characters could benefit from a little more diversity. Besides the red hair, both She-Hulks look relatively the same. (Even the costumes are similar) And in the comic’s only two-page panel, the same two bikini-clad women are drawn over and over again.

And can I just say that it’s nice to see She-Hulk looking normal? Still green, but not overly-muscled like this version:

Been There, Done That

Morning Glories #2
Written by Nick Spencer with art by Joe Eisma.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Morning Glories,” but the premise of a prep school mystery is certainly one that I’ve seen before: Morning Glory Academy isn’t what it seems.

The series kicks off with an escape attempt from the prep school, which involves blowing up part of the school. There’s no explanation for what’s going on and Spencer makes sure to keep the readers predominantly in the dark, only granting us with small details to this mystery.

So here’s what we know: The comic consists of six newly enrolled students at a new-age, highly successful prep school known as Morning Glory Academy. All of our protagonists share the same birthday, hinting at some revelation later on in the series. Their parents no longer remember who they are and, in the case of one student (Casey), her parents were murdered by the cliché, sadistic, librarian-esque teacher responsible for the children.

#2 opens with a sequence of panels detailing Casey’s torture at the hands of the dominatrix teacher. After refusing to answer her question, she’s thrown in detention, where she finds the other protagonists. I can honestly say that seeing all the characters at once is a bit disappointing. The guys are stereotypical, only chasing after barely-clad girls afterhours. The girls are even more disappointingly flat. Throughout the entire issue, the girls are subjected to an attempted murder, torture, and then almost drowned, all in the interest of the dominatrix establishing power and authority.

Spoiler: She wins by flooding the detention room. (Probably because the students are more interested in getting laid than getting out of a place that’s obviously not safe)

This issue is supposed to be about Casey, but she’s literally drowned out by the flashback stories of how the other students wound up in detention. And because the comic changes perspectives each issue, #3 will focus on Jade, a girl for whom I’ve already developed distaste,. But I’ll hold my judgments until then. It has potential if written well, but with the amount of female torture in these 26 pages, something tells me not to hold my breath.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And Now...

For the bad news:

X-Men #3
Written by Victor Gischler. Penciled by Paco Medina. Inked by Juan Vlasco. Colored by Marte Gracia.

We won't really focus on the plot the of this issue. In fact, the only background information you should know is that the X-Men are fighting a lot of vampires that Dracula's son is leading. And when I say the X-Men are fighting vampires, it's true. Not much fighting from the women. But I guess it doesn't really matter since the bulk of this issue is about Wolverine's search for Jubilee.

Jubilee used to be one of my favorite X-Men back when the TV series was airing. She was a Chinese-American girl, who lived in Beverly Hills with her wealthy immigrant parents, but then her parents were murdered. Later in life, she discovered her mutant ability and joined the X-Men family, but then she lost her power and went back to being a human. (Which, with the way mutants are treated in the Marvel universe, I was somewhat happy for her, but it did mean that she would probably only ever make cameo appearances from then on) But the torture didn't stop there, Jubilee went from being human to a hungry, sexy, dead thing.

And wow, did they make her sexy. She's not even recognizable to me. It really can't be the same girl so instead, we'll call her Boobilee:
And look at her legs! They're almost double the length of her torso and head. But more importantly, look at these two pictures:

Okay, okay. Now that you're over the shock that Boobilee bit Wolverine, let's actually take a look at how similar these two images are. The one on the right is a WWII propaganda poster. This particular poster shows a Japanese terrorist who's been likened to the vampire myth. Notice the fanged teeth, the obvious sex-and-death intent to a poor American victim, and the implication that if you don't invest in war bonds, it's like inviting this vampire into your home.

However, the image on the left is slightly different: The roles are reversed and now the Asian woman is depicted as the soulless vampire. Essentially, this image represents how our culture feels about women: They will kill you, even if you're the strongest, most masculine, and one of America's most favorite superheroes. (And if you know anything about comics, you know that Wolverine is that man) Also, this image represents how our culture feels about Asians. Yes, Jubilee is a Chinese-American woman, but she's also a stand-in for North Korea because she's one of the more popular characters with Asian heritage and Marvel doesn't have a North Korean comic book character.

To take things a step further, it's important to note that Boobilee wasn't turned into a vampire by being bitten. No, she was infected with a virus that Dracula's son created and released into a crowd of people. (Kinda like bio-terrorism) The sex metaphor is absent in her vamp story, but is certainly present in the image above with Wolverine. In this instance, Asian/woman rapes/kills man.

And that's all you really need to know about this story. It's sad to see one of my favorite superhero teams take such an awful turn. I don't plan to continue reading and I advise against anyone else picking it up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Following in Daddy's Footsteps?

It’s time to review another X-Man comic and, despite my early reservations, this comic pleasantly surprised me.

X-23 #1
Written by Marjorie Liu. Art by Will Conrad and color art by John Rauch

X-23 is a mutant first introduced back in 2004. Her past is, not surprisingly, very similar to her father, Wolverine. (Marvel insists that she’s actually a genetic twin, but more about that later) I’m not a fan of Wolverine so I don’t expect X-23 to be much different. She was created in a lab and trained to kill like the femme fatale that every comic book nerd loves. Even in her origin story, the word used is “dehumanized.”

X-23 was supposed to be a clone of Wolverine, but the scientists were unable to reconstruct the Y chromosome and one of the scientists provided the X chromosome. (Hence, Wolverine is more of a father than a twin) So basically, women are an alternative to men in the comic book world, but what else is new.

When she eventually escaped the lab, Laura Kinney (the name her surrogate mother gave her) made her way to the X-Men. Although a teenager, her assassination skills instantly prompted Cyclops to recruit her into the X-Men’s black ops team.

After a brief time with the black ops team, Wolverine dismisses her, saying that it’s time she made her own decisions instead of always following orders. That’s where X-23 #1 picks up.

Besides the cliché character, X-23 is often described as feral (in fact, she can’t even control her actions sometimes) and incapable of doing anything without being ordered. She’s also been a prostitute, is commonly depicted cutting her wrists, and her origin story screams sexism.

With all that being said, I don’t have any complaints about this issue. Sure, Laura is messed up, but what child of Wolverine wouldn’t have problems or Daddy issues? What’s most striking about this comic is the potential it has for real character development.

The advertisement leading up to this issue was for a crossover event involving Wolverine, X-23, and Dark Wolverine. The headline reads, “Wolverine goes to Hell! And everyone must pay for his sins!”

Clearly, Laura’s got some tough times ahead of her, but it seems that this new series will give her the opportunity to grow and escape her father’s shadow, hopefully with less merciless killing involved. She has potential.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blood-Sucking Feature

I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone how crazy the vampire trend is right now. I've never understood people's obsession with sexy dead things--or the fact that people actually wish they could be one of those sexy dead things.

Vampire imagery is becoming more and more common in pop culture. And just as more and more vampire fiction or vampire TV shows are written, you can bet that comic books are doing the same thing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #36
Written by Joss Whedon with pencils by Georges Jeanty. Inks by Andy Owens, colors by Michelle Madsen, and letters by Richard Starkings.

I think I've mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer several times in this blog, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I've been reading the season eight comic books which, sadly, is almost over. This this is the first of the final five-issue story arc before fans are going to say goodbye to Buffy... Again!

So let me start off by saying that this issue is okay. It's certainly not the best Buffy comic I've read, but it is nice to read Whedon's work. It's his connection to the comics that really makes the translation from TV actually work. But for the story-telling this time, I wasn't uber-impressed.

The comics have recently reintroduced Angel (as the initial masked villain, Twilight) and Spike (as his usual self, but traveling with giant bug things). Whom can Buffy trust, if either? It's a scenario I was hoping Whedon would avoid because now Buffy's all weird and superwoman-like, and she created a higher plane of existence, and the Buffyverse as we know it is falling apart.

I was a bit disappointed that the majority of this issue is focused on the men even though it's Buffy's comic. However, it does serve to finally explain Angel's mysterious history and connection to the entire story line. It also gives the backstory to Spike's sudden arrival in the previous issue. Also, I love the jabs that Whedon makes at other vampire narratives: Angel's villain name is Twilight (I don't have to tell you the obvious reference), but yet the world supports him and rallies for vampire rights, similar to True Blood.

So while it's not exactly a woman-motivated issue, I recommend the entire series. Even the four issues still to come. Yes, I'm biased, but Buffy's a good role-model and she's a badass vampire slayer.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Batgirl's Comeback

Batgirl #12
Written by Bryan Q. Miller with Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, and Walden Wong on pencils and inks.

So I've always been a Batgirl fan. Well actually, a Barbara Gordon fan. If you grew up in the 90s or have family that grew up in the 90s, you might recognize her from Batman: The Animated Series. And even as an old lady, Babs was pretty awesome. But the comic books are where she really shined. Alicia Silverstone's portrayal of Batgirl in Batman & Robin? Not so much. But then, the Joker shot her severing her spinal chord and rendering her paralyzed.

Needless to say, I was very upset with Alan Moore, but he later apologized to the fans of one of America's favorite comic book characters.

But that wasn't the worst of it. They introduced Cassandra Cain. She's you're typical femme-fatale ninja assassin. But no need to talk Ms. Cain, we don't want to listen to you. Yes, they created an abused and conflicted ninja assassin who can't talk.

Needless to say, I stopped reading.

Until I came across the new Batgirl cover in the comic book store. And guess what? She's blonde!

I had to do a bit of homework since I left Batgirl a while ago and apparently this is Stephanie Brown. Cassandra Cain passed the role to Brown when Batman supposedly bit the big one. Stephanie even used to be one of the dark knight's [girl]-wonders, Robin. So naturally it was time for a promotion.

Right from the beginning, I was captured by everything. The art is fantastic, but the storyline really manages to pull you in almost immediately (even for a guy who was jumping in at the end of the story). Basically, Barbara Gordon became The Oracle of Gotham City, a genius hacker who heads the Birds of Prey. Well she's been captured by her one of her nemeses, the Calculator and it's Batgirl's job to save her mentor and save the day.

But don't think Oracle is your standard damsel in distress. The Calculator is holding her captive inside a kind of mind-link between them. Babs is so smart, she learned how to fight back and his hol
ding her own until Batgirl comes to help her out.

What I found most appealing about this story is Batgirl's quirkiness. This is still a training period for her, even with her experience as two previous superhero identities. She makes mistakes, and Miller depicts them comically. She reminds me of my favorite super heroine, Buffy Summers (Of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame). Her inexperience will also provide readers with the opportunity of actually seeing her develop as a character.

On Oracle's side of the fight, we get a bit more gritty as Barbara delves deeper into the twisted mind of the Calculator and we discover the reason for his insanity; I'm a bit disappointed that it's pinned on women, but it's only a minor detail in the shining roles the Batgirl and the Oracle play.

Overall, I really enjoyed the comic. It was a good mixture of comedy and drama and it kept me interested and invested in all of the characters. My only recommendation is to watch for the text boxes. They're so oddly placed in certain panels that it's easy to skip one and get lost.

But other than that, I would recommend Batgirl #12 to anyone.