In an attempt to jump-start my writing a bit I’m going to experiment with writing up my quick thoughts on my weekly comics every week. We’ll see how long I can keep this up.
Spoilers behind the Read More for: Hawkeye #12, Fearless Defenders #6, Young Avengers #7, Uncanny X-Men #8, Indestructible Hulk #10 & Killjoys #2.
There were some really fantastic comics out today. Uncanny X-Men v3 #5 was great, both stories in A+X #7 were fabulous, and Young Avengers #4, FF #6 and Journey Into Mystery #651 all just blew me out of the water. I want to try to talk about all of them, but first I so, so SO want to talk about FF #6.
First, some quick context for those who are unfamiliar with the book. FF is the secondary Fantastic Four title. In the current series the original Fantastic Four - Reed Richards, Sue Storm-Richards, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm, plus Reed and Sue’s kids Franklin and Valeria — have gone off to have a family vacation through time and space. They planned to be gone for only four minutes (yay, time travel), but just as insurance against something going wrong they each picked someone to replace them for those four minutes. This being comics, of course the Fantastic Four diidn’t come back in four minutes, and now the replacement FF: Scott Lang (Ant-Man), Jennifer Walters (She Hulk), Darla Deering (Ms. Thing) and Medusa are running the Future Foundation and School. The school has about a dozen students who are a mix of mutants, humans, moloids (an underground race) and Uhari (an aquatic race).
What I want to talk about though is the side-plot in today’s FF #6 where it’s revealed that one of the Moloid students is a transgender girl. It wasn’t announced before hand, and it’s not played up as huge, earth-shaking thing. There’s no Very Special Issue. The whole plot line takes up a page and a half of the issue, and that page and a half is perfect. Funny and sweet and accepting and everything I would want for a kid coming out in what’s already an incredibly diverse community. When it’s entirely accepted that most of the student-body isn’t human, why would it be so much harder for the kids and adults to accept that one of them is also transgender. And so, it isn’t.
Tong: Brothers. I have this thing, and now you will have it as well. It will be ours, and we will find out what ownership of this thing means. I have a girl inside of me. I tried to be a boy like you, but there in no boy here. And I do not wish to be what I am not any longer. This is unexpected? It is unexpected. And scary. And wonderful. It is new. Who I am…is new. My brothers: you have a sister. Are you still my brothers? Are you still my family?
Korr: Love my Tong.
Tong: I love you too. [crying] Oh, I love you all so very much.
At this point I had to stop reading just so I could clutch the book to my chest and go, “Ohhhh,” and grin, and grin, and grin. Then I kept reading and it just got better. On the next page we briefly see the response of the adult replacement FF members to the new Moloid status quo.
Scott: And while it looks like the Yancy Street Gang hacked you with the goal of being embarrassing, we need to make you secure and find any other digital incursions.
Darla: I…have kind of a thing happening at Carnegie Hall today. I can’t—
Scott: Wait. [He turns around. The Moloids walk by holding hands, Tong proudly leading them in her pink dress.] Is that a thing we’re doing now?
Darla: Good for her.
Jennifer [smiling]: Okay.
— From FF v2 #6 by Matt Fraction, art by Joe Quinones
And that’s it. That’s the big reveal. I’m sure in future issues we’ll see a bit more of the reactions of the various cast members to Tong’s announcement, but for this issue, that’s it. The kids go off to play and the adults get on with their business. No one gets visibly upset or concerned. Scott’s somewhat confused, but not in a judgmental more in an overwhelmed one. Scott’s still trying to get a hang of this whole running a school thing, and he’s not having his best of days.
There’s a lot else to love in this issue, which picks up half a dozen plot threads and character interactions and balances them seamlessly. FF is one of the best books Marvel is publishing right now. I’d rank it with Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and Young Avengers as one of the most smart and innovative books to come out of Marvel in years. It has a wonderfully distinct style, a great sense of humour and is written in a way that should be suitable and satisfying for kids and adults alike. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
And now it’s a mainstream comic from one of the Big Two publishers with an out, transgender adolescent cast member. How awesome is that?!
Some thoughts on Captain Marvel #9, and on female friendship and building a supporting cast in an ongoing comic.
Significant spoilers for the entirety of Captain Marvel #9 behind the cut.
Kieron Gillen has been writing a serious of really interesting entries talking about his take on each of the lead characters for his new Young Avengers series: Young Avengers: Meet the Team
They’re a great set of posts and I highly recommend reading them even if you aren’t interested in the book (although you totally should be) because they’re a really neat insight into the comics-writing process and the challenge of finding your own take on already-familiar characters.
Gillen is one of a handful of currently-popular comics writers who I feel really gets writing for a diverse audience, and that rcomes across in these entries. Talking about the character of Noh-Varr, Gillen says:
"Ever since our work on Phonogram, Jamie have strove to make our comics – for want of a better phrase – slash-fic-able. If you’re working in certain heroic fantasy genres, that’s part of the emotional churn. […] characters being sexy is cool but objectification in the process is bullshit. An inability to see the difference is a fundamental weakness."
The first time I read that I just sort of flailed at my phone and went, “YES. THAT.” a lot. Because yes, that’s it exactly. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear a successful mainstream comics writer say point blank “sexy is cool but objectification in the process is bullshit”. And it’s absolutely amazing and completely unexpected to see see that approach specifically referred to as “slash-fic-able”. God, can you imagine ten years ago seeing a straight male creator use the phrase “slash-fic-able” as a positive descriptor???
All of his entries are fascinating reading. He compares Billy and Teddy, the canon gay couple in the book, to Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings in a way that’s both an incredibly cogent four-sentence analysis of Sam’s relationship with Frodo and made me look at Billy and Teddy’s relationship from an angle I’d not previously considered.
"Despite all that Sam physically does, he’s not a robot. He loves with a pure intensity and serves that best. And in the end, when Frodo’s been corrupted, he just collapses, watching the man he loves be consumed by the thing he’s fought against so long. And Sam’s been thinking about that all along, every step since he realised that things were darker than he could ever suspected back in that garden, wrestling with weeds. It’s what he’s been dreading. Because he’s not an idiot. And even if he was one, idiot’s feelings are as as true and important as the greatest poet who ever lived…
Teddy’s not Sam and Billy isn’t Frodo. They’re actually having sexytimes for one thing. But I look at that kind of dynamic, and recognise just enough of it to make me raise an eyebrow.”
He also spends a lot of time talking about superhero comics as metaphor and specifically about how his Young Avengers is “firing everything about being 18-20 through a superheroic filter.”
And he distills one of the things I love most about comics into a single sentence: “It doesn’t matter if it’s realistic or factual. It only matters if it’s true.” Which is true of all fiction really, but especially worth remembering in a genre and medium that trades upon the absurd and the impossible as much as comics do.
I loved Ed Brubaker’s entire run on Captain America, and so was very nervous when I found out he was leaving the series. Brubaker’s run and specifically the Winter Soldier arc was my gateway into the entire non-X-Men side of Marvel comics. I’ve been reading X-Men stuff for years, but had made the firm decision to not even peak into the rest of the universe for the sake of my wallet. And then I fell in love with Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes and…yeah. There went that one.
When Rick Remender was announced as the new writer for Cap and interviews and stories started appearing describing the completely different direction he planned to take the series in I became a bit more hopeful, but still decidedly trepidatious.
I think it would have been a mistake for any writer to try and follow Brubaker’s run with more stories in that same style. A clean break and new direction makes it easier for readers to evaluate the new series on its own merits, rather than in direct comparison to the Brubaker’s issues. I also loved the idea of a more pulp SF take on a Captain America story because, well, I’m a total sucker for that kind of thing.
But I was nervous about that take too, you can’t get much further away from Brubaker’s gritty, street-level take on the character than to take him into a crazy alternate dimension. And I’ve always been somewhat hit and miss on Remender’s writing. I know a lot of people love his run on Secret Avengers, but I ended up dropping the book from my pull list because I found it muddled and slow-moving and it just wasn’t holding my interest. On the other hand, I unreservedly adore John Romita Jr.’s art. Although again, it’s about as far away from the great art from Steve Epting, Butch Guice and others that so epitomized Brubaker’s run as you could get. So, I was nervous, but intrigued enough to keep Captain America in my subscriptions and give the first couple issues a go.
Issue #2 came out today, and so far the series has completely surpassed my cautious hopes. It’s new, and unexpected, and wildly different and I’m completely hooked.
Daredevil: End of Days shouldn’t be my kind of comic. It’s darker than I prefer, bloodier and more violent than I prefer and rather more dystopic than I prefer as well. And yet, I think it’s one of the best comics coming out right now. And I say that at a time when I think Marvel has a really strong slate of monthly comics, with more fantastic surprises debuting every week.
End of Days is the story of Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich attempting to investigate the last days of Matt Murdoch. It posits a dark future for Matt filled with blood and death. First, he murders the Kingpin, and later he is murdered himself, in broad daylight, by Bullseye.
I first picked up End of Days for the art. It’s a gorgeously drawn and colored book. With art Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz & Matt Hollingsworth, as well as David Mack on issue #3. And it’s very red. Red for Daredevil, red for blood, red for the violent world in which Matt Murdoch lived and died.
But what’s kept me reading is definitely Brian Michael Bendis & David Mack’s writing, and particularly their characterization of the many complicated women who’ve been part of Daredevil’s life. As we follow Urich’s investigation a picture starts to form of Matt’s life, as seen through the eyes of the women he loved. But while ultimately Matt is defined by the people he loved, it’s also clear that none of the women have let Matt define them.
Elektra Natchios, Maya Lopez, Typhoid Mary, MIlla Donovan, Matt Murdoch had an impact on all of their lives, but Bendis and Mack make it clear that they are not defined by those relationships. Which is not to say their time with Matt didn’t effect their lives - some more than others to judge by the truly terrifying number of small red-headed boys who keep showing up - but they’ve all moved on, made their own choices, chosen their own lives outside the world of super-heroes and vigilantes..
In fact, it seems the only one who didn’t move on, the only one who fell deeper into that world, was Matt. And it got him killed.
Do I believe that this is what the future holds for Matt Murdoch? I certainly don’t want to, I’m really not a dystopic kind of girl. But, Bendis and Mack have made me believe, if not in this future, then certainly in the possibility of it.