My friend Hisham loaned me a couple issues of Greg Rucka’s Detective Comics: Batwoman run, and after reading through, I decided this series might be a gateway into the DC comics superhero world. I actually started scanning the interwebs for news of a series devoted to Kate Kane.
Sadly – this is not to be. At least not a version penned by Greg Rucka.
Many of you might have already heard – Greg Rucka has left DC Comics. Not just the Detective Comics series – he is dropping any books he was writing for them. Here is a post from his website explaining his reasons.
This follows quickly on the heels of my learning last week that the Spider-Woman series will be limited to only seven issues, as Alex Maleev, the artist is unable to continue with the demands of the motion-comic and the physical product. But Bendis assures us she’ll be in Avengers. Doesn’t that make you want to run out and pick up a copy?
Not me. Not really. If my post last week didn’t clarify my reservations about getting into female superhero comics, the blows dealt to heroines in the last month should help reinforce my hesitation. Not only are superheroes complicated investments of time and money, but the female-centric books are cancelled after brief stints, despite popularity, awards, steady sales and accolades heaped on them.
It’s sad to think that women may only fair well as characters in an alternate universe where we have equal standing with men. Perhaps my disillusion with superhero comic books these last few weeks is merely a symptom of my greater disillusionment with gender inequality in society.
It’s hard to blame dudes like Bendis and Rucka for trying to bring fully realized female characters into the spotlight. It’s not their fault they can’t rewrite reality.
But women aren’t asking male comic book writers to magically gift us equality, we’re simply requesting women characters with as much intelligence, strength and intrigue as men. We want women who are strong, like the mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, co-workers, and friends that surround us.
The kind of equality I seek is not in completely abolishing the unique aspects of gender that make men and women different. Those elements help create personality and character depth. What most comic books need is a writer who can create human beings with depth, nuances and character struggles. And then make an equal number of these human beings female.
Lastly it’s up to the artists to clothe them properly.
It’s a simple formula, but one that takes an incredible amount of work. It requires that you respect the experiences and viewpoints of people with whom you do not share the same sex. It might also require more females writing comic books. Sadly, it seems that none of these are things DC or Marvel or many of the smaller publishers want to commit their resources to.
That’s fine – I’ll commit my time and money to those who do.
She is the protagonist of the graphic novel Re-Gifters, which was bumped up in the queue by the recommendation of a friend. It’s yet another book from the now-cancelled DC comics Minx line of graphic novels aimed towards tween girls.
Our tween heroine, Dixie, is training in the art of Hapkido, a traditional Korean martial arts style. Of course there’s a romance between her and a fellow student, which plays a large part in the story, but the realizations brought about by this relationship ultimately end up empowering Dixie. It’s a nice change of pace from the typical romance featured in much young adult literature geared towards girls.
What struck me was how REAL the world felt. Even the side characters were full of life – Avril, Dixie’s best friend, plays a prominent role as comedic relief and helpful dispenser of advice, who is just as strong and interesting as Dixie herself. Her family are all lovable as well – her twin brothers are written to comedic perfection, as anyone who has spent time with twins can attest to.
Dixie helps her family keep in touch with their Korean heritage through her practice of Hapkido. There’s an important passage in which her father describes immigrating to the United States, and his father telling him to embrace the new culture, but never forget where he came from.
The cultural leanings of this book honestly led me to believe that author Mike Carey himself might have some Korean heritage or background. He doesn’t – but he does pose a triple threat – a truly excellent writer who can script real females AND assume the voice of another culture while still making it feel authentic (or at least well-researched). The article referenced at the bottom, in which the author brings up some of the Korean misrepresentations, only points out a few errors, rather than finding offense with the entire book.
The chapter titles are amusing (The Battle Fart of the Korean Dwarf Fighting Frog being a personal favorite), swiftly paced and the entire book is an entertaining read. There are deep elements swirling around in here – racial tension and class disparity – but none of them seem heavy-handed or over-played. It’s a bit Karate Kid meets American Born Chinese with some Mean Girls thrown in for good measure. The message we are left with for young-women is positive without being cheesy.
And in general – there wasn’t much exceptionalism present here. No one seemed to be overly shocked at Dixie being a female Hapkido student, or bat an eyelash about her entering the National Competition. Even her Master refers to her as his best student, without giving qualification to her gender. Yay for Carey developing an amazing, clever young woman for this novel – I’m intrigued now to see how deftly he handles Rogue, one of my favorite X-Women.
The art style by Sonny Liew is manga with black, white and shades of grey, and my only real gripe is that in a few scenes we lose facial features of characters, which draws me out of the story and reality of the moment. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they’re inexplicably missing an eye or nose.
This isn’t the first pairing of Carey and Liew – they worked on My Faith in Frankie together, and individually Carey pens X-Men Legacy (the only X-Book I could currently stomach) and Liew is currently working on Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation.
Another book to add to the “Appropriate and Engaging for Young Women” category. Hell, another book that anyone could enjoy, come to that.
*May Contain Spoilers*
The Plain Janes is one of those stories I know I’m not supposed to like that much, but I do anyway. There is just something compelling about it. Perhaps it’s the High School setting. Stories, movies, television shows, comic books about high school never seem to get old, even for people who are technically too old for high school. BTW – this is a product of the now defunct Minx DC label. It’s always a bummer now to pick up one of their books, really enjoy it…and realize that engaging comic books catered specifically to young adult women are a thing of the past. *sigh*
There’s elements to like here – the artistic rendering of the characters by Jim Rugg for instance. He creates a fascinating world – cartoony yet emotive that easily carries the story. There is never a moment in the art (except for perhaps the disastrous hairstylings of the main character) which seems out of place. Looks like he’s also co-creator of Street Angel comics, of which the title comic has been produced into a short film that was released in 2009. Here’s the trailer for said film:
It also looks like Rugg is now doing some work on The Guild comic book for Felicia Day, which is housed at Dark Horse. Definitely an artist to watch out for.
The writing itself wasn’t bad either – done by Cecil Castellucci, a scribe of young-adult literature. In spite of it’s overall appeal – there were just a few sticking points in the stereotyping of the characters. It’s hard not to fall into that with stories centered around high school, I suppose. The caricatures are so prevalent in this institution, and everyone is struggling to define themselves using stereotypical labels. It felt a bit forced here. I wanted the characters to be able to grow and expand – the other Janes all rang so hollowly throughout most of the story. The nerd, the jock, the drama queen, the Cheerleader, the artist and the sensitive boy Main Jane has a crush on. Yep, this is kinda plot and characters by-the-numbers.
But the context is so refreshing, and the artistic terrorism the Janes perpetrate in the sleepy town seem antithetical to the hotbed of stereotypes they grow out of. To put it more precisely, in order to make this story really work I needed to spend more time with the Janes as individuals.
I feel like the book was rushed, we were rushed through some of the best parts of the story, and I dreaded the insertion of the romance between Main Jane and Sensitive HS Boy, because it was un-needed. Main Jane was getting along fine without Sensitive Boy. He is helpful, but she is an interesting person outside of the interactions she has with him. And the meat of the story should be with the Janes. Ultimately, I wanted the work they did together to bring Main Jane to her life conclusions. It doesn’t always have to be the dude! What’s wrong with a little chick-mance now and then?
Dudes get bromances ALL the time. Buddy cop movies, the majority of comedies, and even a few action movies. Definitely war films – war films are like bromance on steroids. So, is it wrong to ask that every once in a while, a decent film about a woman overcoming a traumatic obstacle in her life does not feature a regular romance, and instead embraces the ability of women to help other women heal. Believe me, it happens.
So whatever – there is just too much stereotyping for me to love this book whole-heartedly and without reserves. The idea of art helping people overcome tragedy is a wonderful message to the piece, but the ending rang a bit false to me. I wanted Main Jane to take more of a stance, and take ownership of her actions. There needed to be more resolve for her then I felt at the end. The lack of a real conclusion is most likely also a victim of the rushed story. Really, this was a nice world to be in, and I didn’t mind spending more time there. I just wish the author would have allowed us the space to know these characters a bit more, and achieve a satisfactory resolution.
I’ll have to admit, after the Watchmen inspired frenzy the last few weeks – I’m surveying the rest of 2009’s movie playing field with only a few goals in mind – Wolverine: Origins and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
But fans are already shrilling that HPB is revolting, or at least revolt-worthy, sooo – what is a movie/fan-girl to do with all this idle screen time?
Plot her movie-going goals for the next three years, of course. Such a task is made imminently easier by this precious gem:
Marvel Studios Film Release Schedule. All the way through 2012, because you know our calendars run that long, and we all plan on being alive and financially solvent in time to catch The Avengers. But seriously, someone should tell IMDB to update to reflect these changes, you know, one of these days. 🙂
I can’t say I’m crying about the Avengers release date being pushed up, because it doesn’t feature any heroes I’m especially fanatical about, but it might make some folks cry and get up in arms. I just won’t be one of them. Plus, Marvel has been good to the nerd herd the last few years. They need a breather. It’s taxing to be that good.
And, it might give DC an opening to get their act in gear. And on that note – What’s up with the Green Lantern?
Apparently not much, but it would be nice to see DC offer up more from their catalog. The Dark Knight, while not my favorite, was a promising sign of things to come.
Anybody have interesting movies slated for 2009 so my fan heart can become inspired once again? I’d love to hear ’em.
Much Love, Mindy C
This review is going to be tempered with the admonishment that I consumed one shot of alcohol, an alcoholic beverage – and three slices of pizza JUST before seeing this movie.
So – I was a bit giddy and giggly as I entered the theatre, and may not have been in my right mind for much of the first half.
And as with Hellboy 2 – it might be a statement of the movie itself if one of my favorite aspects was “The Watchmen” trailer – which had me in AWE! I’m sorry, but this film has the potential to become my all-time favorite comic book movie. It’s finally a film that I know the source material well, and it looks visually stunning. There is so much meaty content to this picture, even Zak Snyder could not fuck it up.
Another fun aspect of TDK was going to a Friday night release in a packed theatre, with people who actually seemed genuinely excited to see the flick. As opposed to the last couple of screenings I’ve endured, where the general audience response was fairly lackluster.
Batman knows how to pack ’em in.
As for the film itself – I am going to say it is a worthy runner-up to Batman Begins. It’s following the trend of “serious” Comic Book film adaptations that don’t mince around too heavily in cheese-pot dialogue and too many shots of spandex.
In fact – remove the silly names like “Batman, Joker, Two Face” etc, and you pretty much have yourself a modern day action movie. There were heavy themes such as terrorism, and a commentary on heroes and villains that I thought was intriguing. I’m not very familiar with the Batman comic mythos, or even the TDK source material, but I felt like it was doing DC’s favorite caped crusader justice. Ah, justice was a theme too! How proper.
I will admit to liking the Villains better than the bat. Heath Ledger pulled off an amazingly eerie performance, with so many disturbing and somehow unique character ticks…I think his portrayal will probably be legendary.
Also notable – Morgan Freeman (when is he NOT good? Oh yeah, Wanted) as Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine as Alfred were charming. Together these characters had some of the meatier dialogue in the film. In fact, I would say they were almost scene stealing.
Thumbs up to Christopher Nolan for recognizing their potential to spice up these bit parts, and bringing real heart to a film that was overall very dark.
It was dark, insanely fast paced AND LONG. Holy crap – I had no idea this film was three hours going in, but it definitely felt like three hours coming out. Not that I would say three hours wasted. It was worth seeing, but it had a little bit of “Return of the King“-itis, in that I spotted at least three to four distinct endings that were not really endings.
I’m a bit bummed by the ACTUAL ending, which I won’t divulge here…but I was hoping for more screen time out of this particular character. Nuts to all that, I suppose.
It’s a Saturday two-fer.
In the Small by writer/artist Michael Hague is gorgeously conceived with delicious color and picturesque panels. The concept and plot are amazing too – a sudden and bizarre “flash” changes the entire world population into pint-sized versions of themselves. This seemingly eradicates a good chunk of humanity – those who are trapped in crashing planes, cars, etc.
It’s an intriguing concept – and one that seems to be popular not only in comic books but society in general. The Apocalypse makes for great entertainment.
The two main characters are a brother and sister – Mouse and Beat. It’s fine that they have nicknames (they are really Hieronymus and Beatrice) but as the plot progresses…everyone starts having weird names. Mountain, Crazy Girl, Plant Man (I made a few of those up). That didn’t really work for me. Just because people shrink – it doesn’t mean they lose their names.
The dialogue was also somewhat stilted, but I’m guessing that has something to do with this being touted as “a children’s graphic novel.” There was no profanity, nudity, etc. Quite the change of pace from the content I’ve been reading lately.
I’m also not a HUGE fan of fantasy (though I’ve been known to dip into the fantasy barrel from time to time), and I suppose I didn’t realize what I was getting into from the onset. It’s important to mention my bias against the genre though – because I became increasingly less interested the more it slipped into the fantasy realm.
Despite the younger/fantasy audience the book was geared towards – I think “Mouse’s” visionary status came on too fast. I wouldn’t have had a problem with a flashback, or even a bit of foreshadowing. But we were pretty much crammed into everything within the first few pages. It all made sense and came off – but not without feeling awkward.
For the past month or so I’ve been reading through Trade Paperback Novels for “Fallen Angel” written by Peter David. It’s a dark, gritty and noir-ish tale about a fallen angel who takes up residence in a city called Bette Noire – which is one of three cities or so that the world is apparently modeled after. The idea is that, whatever happens in the city – decides the fate of the rest of the world.
Liandra has retained all of her angelic powers, and most likely some of her angelic rationalizing, but is decidedly human in many of her relationships, and her alcoholism.
She is a morally ambiguous character, so right away – it’s hard to determine which and whose side she will be on in any given situation. That’s a key element of any exciting anti-hero.
The first TPB that I read caught my attention right away, and I could barely put it down once I started reading it. The artwork was engaging and the coloring gorgeous – the main character Lee is visually arresting and almost fully covered in a cape – with only her arms and feet (she goes everywhere barefoot) visible most of the time. She looks tough, and talks even tougher. It’s impossible not to be intrigued.
Back when it was first published in 2003 by DC, it was quite a departure for them. And quite a departure for Peter David. I’m excited to see that so much of his talent and ideas have leeched over into his latest run on X-Factor, dark and noir with a hint of moral ambiguity.
“Fallen Angel” of course – is much darker than “X-Factor” could ever hope to be, and the heroism is a little harder to define.
For all the accolades I’ve heaped on the book – there are some issues I need to bring up. The first of that being the artistry.
Because DC dropped the book in 2005 – and it was picked up again by IDW in December 2005 – the artistic work of the book changed hands. And, I’ve unfortunately not been able to read the books in order either – so I got to watch the art switch back and forth between the fine penciling of David Lopez and Fernando Blanco, who had created a beautiful and harsh world in the original 6 issues of the series to the work of J.K. Woodward. Not that Woodward is bad – indeed, his paintings are even more gorgeous than the consistent work of Lopez.
My beef? The consistency. The art of JK Woodward bounces between painting, hand coloring, and the digital coloring that is most prominent in recent comics. Sometimes – in the same book, or on the same panel.
The latest collection – “Heroine Addiction” was probably the most attractive and most consistent throughout the story-line involving Shi and Liandra. Though the art style shifted between pages – I thought it flexed very well to match the story line. In the more dreamier sequences, the color was muted.
Unfortunately – later on in the book, during “Chapter 4” it took on a rough, sketchy and pixal-ated quality.
I don’t know how I feel about Woodward. I can’t get a handle on how he views the characters, because the style shifts, sometimes in conjunction with the story – other times with what appears to be a mere whim.
To me – consistency in art of the character is just as important as consistency in writing of the character. This is something I’ve taken umbridge with in the other regular books I collect too. It may sound stodgy, and like a strange complaint for someone who loves on-going series comics, but having a regular style of art sets the mood for the reader. The art and the story are integral.
I was going to complain about how jumpy the stories were, but I realize now that’s my own fault for reading out of sequence. Although for the sake of the entire series, it would be beneficial for DC and IDW to better label their books. I couldn’t tell them apart without doing some research on the net.
I will definitely be following the book in the future. The heroine, minor characters and the city itself are compelling…enough for me to overlook the erratic art.
Much Love, Mindy C